Samuel Newitt Wood

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Samuel Newitt Wood
Samuel Newitt Wood.jpg
Samuel Newitt Wood
Nickname(s) The Fighting Quaker
Born September 30, 1825 (1825-09-30)
Mount Gilead, Ohio
Died June 23, 1891 (1891-06-24) (aged 65)
Hugoton, Kansas

Samuel Newitt Wood (December 30, 1825 – June 23, 1891) was an American attorney and politician.

Wood represented Chase, Morris, and Madison[1] counties in the Kansas Territorial Legislature in 1860 and 1861, was a member of the first Kansas State Senate in 1861 and again in 1867, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives in 1864, 1866, 1876, and 1877, and speaker during the last session.[2]

Early life & family

Samuel Newitt Wood was born at Mount Gilead, Ohio, December 30, 1825, fifth child to David and Esther Ward (Mosher) Wood. His paternal grandfather was a leader in the meetings of the Orthodox Quakers until his death. His maternal grandfather became a leader in the more progressive wing of the Society of Friends known as the Hicksites. Having been raised a Quaker, Wood’s hatred for slavery grew very strong. His family home was the site of a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1849, during one of his many attempts to carry runaway slaves to freedom, he met his future wife, Margaret Lyon, daughter of William and Elizabeth Lyon. They were married on October 3, 1850. Their children were: David, born August 25, 1851; William Lyon, born March 10, 1853; Florence, born January 20, 1857; Dearie, born July 7, 1865.

Political career

Involved in politics from an early age, Wood was chairman of the Liberty Party Central Committee of his county in 1844.[3] He was admitted to the bar in Morrow County, Ohio in 1854 and when the Kansas-Nebraska act was passed, Wood and his family moved to near Lawrence at Wakarusa, Kansas where he joined the Free State Party. He also participated in Jacob Branson's rescue which brought about the short-lived Wakarusa War in 1855. Wood was a delegate to and spoke at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Convention which organized the Republican Party in 1856. [4] He was a delegate to the Leavenworth Constitution Convention in 1858. On July 27, 1861, he was appointed and commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln as Collector of Customs at Paso del Norte, New Mexico, he resigned this position at the start of the Civil War. In 1867, Wood was appointed Judge of the 9th Judicial District.

Newspaper publisher

In the 1850s Wood was part owner of the Kansas Tribune of Lawrence. In 1859 he established the first newspapers at Cottonwood Falls, The Kansas Press, and at Council Grove, The Council Grove Press. In 1878 to 1879 he was connected with The Kansas Greenbacker of Emporia. He was also associated with The Topeka State Journal, The Woodsdale Democrat, and The Woodsdale Sentinel of Stevens County, Kansas. In 1881 he was editor-in-chief of the Kansas State Journal.

Military career

Wood's service in the Civil War began as captain of Company I (nicknamed the "Kansas Rangers"), 2nd Kansas Infantry, which fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Afterward he was assigned to a battalion of Missouri troops, "Fremont's Battalion," which he had recruited, serving as major and subsequently lieutenant colonel. He fought at the battle near Salem, and formed a part of the command of Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis in his campaign through Arkansas. In 1864, Wood was appointed brigadier general of the Kansas State Militia.

Stevens County seat war

As the founder of Woodsdale, Kansas, Wood strongly advocated that his town would become the county seat of Stevens County, which locked him in a contentious battle with the rival town of Hugoton. One of the events of this confrontation was the Hay Meadow Massacre, [5] in which Hugoton supporters disarmed and murdered four Woodsdale supporters. Wood attempted to prosecute the men, but it was ruled that no court had jurisdiction in "No Man's Land" (the Oklahoma Panhandle) where the event took place. Woodsdale is now a ghost town, with nothing remaining of the settlement.


As a direct result of the vicious county seat fight, Wood was assassinated outside the Hugoton courthouse on June 23, 1891, by James Brennen. Wood was buried in Prairie Grove Cemetery in Cottonwood Falls. [6] His murderer was never prosecuted for the assassination.


Woods County, Oklahoma was named in his honor.

"Song of Samuel Wood" © words & music by Carl Reed 2014, performed by Tallgrass Express. [7]

Sister Jeanne McKenna wrote her dissertation on Sam Wood, entitled "With the Help of God and Lucy Stone." It was printed in the Kansas Historical Quarterly 36 (1970), pages 13–21. Although it contains many false assumptions and inaccuracies.


  1. Madison County was one of the original 36 counties of the Kansas Territory. It was dissolved in 1861 to form Breckenridge County (renamed Lyon County) and Greenwood County.
  2. "Kansas State Library".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "U.S. Cities Bio".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. New York Times, February 22, 1856, Page 4
  5. New York Times, July 29, 1888
  6. Topeka Weekly Capital, June 25, 1891
  7. ""Song of Samuel Wood"".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>