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Benjamin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow (September 3, 1816-April 26, 1891) was a Missouri Attorney General, a high ranking border ruffian and one of the organizers of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

Early life[]

He was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He attended the University of Virginia and was admitted to practice law in Louisville, Kentucky in 1837.

In 1839 he moved to Boone's Lick, Missouri and practiced law in Keytesville, Missouri. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives serving from Chariton County, Missouri.[1]

He was Missouri Attorney General from 1845 to 1849.

Border ruffian[]

In 1853 he and his brother John moved to Weston, Missouri in Platte County, Missouri just across the Missouri River from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1854 after four slaves from Platte County ran away to Leavenworth he was among the organizers of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association to attempt to prevent Free-Stater settlement of Kansas.

Benjamin and his brother then stumped western Missouri organizing "blue lodges" along the entire Kansas border.

In 1854 along with David Rice Atchison he attempted to get residents of Southern states to move to Kansas with their slaves to counter settlements by the anti-slavery Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company.

Failing to convince southerners to move to Kansas, he issued the "Stringfellow's Exposition" which said it was legal for Missourians to vote in Kansas on deciding whether the state should enter the Union as a free state or a slave state. Stringfellow's position was reinforced by his title of General in the Missouri Militia and his capacity as publisher of the Squatter Sovereign newspaper.

The New York Tribune quoted him in an 1855 speech in St. Joseph, Missouri:

I tell you to mark every scoundrel that is in the least tainted with free-soilism or abolitionism and exterminate him. Neither give nor take quarter from the damned rascals. I propose to mark them in this house, and on the present occasion, so you may crush them out. To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, state or national, the crisis has arrived when such impositions must be disregarded, as your rights and property are in danger, and I advise one and all to enter every election district in Kansas, in defiance of Reeder and his vial myrmidons, and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and the revolver. Neither give or take quarter, as our cause demands it. It is enough that the slaveholding interest wills it, from which there is no appeal. What right has Governor Reeder to rule Missourians in Kansas? His proclamation and prescribed oath must be prohibited. It is to your interest to do so. Mind that slavery is established where it is not prohibited.[2]

Fight with Kansas Governor Andrew Reeder[]

On July 2, 1855, he was accused of attacking Kansas Territory Governor Andrew Horatio Reeder at Reeder's office in the Shawnee Methodist Mission in Fairway, Kansas. The free state version of the encounter says:

Stringfellow sprang to his feet, seized his chair, and felled the Governor to the floor, kicking him when down. He also attempted to draw a revolver, but was prevented from using it by District Attorney Isaaks, and Mr. Halderman, the Governor's private secretary. And this the origin of the term, so common on the Kansas border for so many years, of "Border Ruffian" [3]

The slave state version said that Stringfellow told the governor:

I understand, sir, that you have publicly spoken and written of me in the East as a frontier ruffian, and I have called to ascertain whether you have done so...Then, sir, you uttered a falsehood, and I demand of you the satisfaction of a gentleman. I very much question your right to that privilege, for I do not believe you to be a gentleman; but nevertheless give you the opportunity to vindicate your title to that character, by allowing you to select such friends as you may please, and I will do the same, and we will step out here and settle the matter as gentlemen do...Then I will have to treat you as I would any other offensive animal.[3]

Bloodshed would occur on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas border in the Bleeding Kansas skirmishes as attempts were to influence how the state entered the union with 5,000 Missourians voting in one Kansas election alone.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad[]

In 1859 after the matter was settled with Kansas entering as a free state, he moved to Atchison, Kansas (named for his cohort David Rice Atchison) to practice law. He worked with former adversary Cyrus K. Holliday to form the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.


Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #DDCEF2;" | Legal offices

|- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Samuel Mansfield Bay |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Missouri State Attorney General
1845-1849 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
William A. Robards |- |}