There have been many versions of the Bloody Bill Anderson and Judge Baker story passed down through the years. Many of which are incorrect in their accounts. Some of that is due to the account in the Emporia paper which had names and other details wrong. What I am about to set before you I believe is the most accurate as it comes from historian John Malloy. Not only was he living in Council Grove at the time, he was also acquainted with the people involved and therefore had the details first hand. He was also an attorney and at one time newspaper editor in Council Grove. He was a man for gathering and presenting the truth. Therefore, I am inclined to believe that Maloy is most accurate in his relation of the story.
This story is very difficult to tell as the exact location of Agnes City in relation to the county line is unclear. I will assume that Maloy is right in stating that Baker lived in Morris County for the telling of this tale. I will however have a follow up article dealing with Agnes City in more detail.
Arthur Inghram Baker came to Kansas as a blacksmith in 1846 with the Sac and Fox Indians and settled on the Marias Des Cygne River in Miami County. He moved to Wise County in1854*, now Morris, and lived on Rock Creek. He founded Agnes City in 1856, named after his mother who moved to Council Grove and became involved with the Kaw Indian Mission. Agnes City was nothing more than a post office (which he became postmaster of in 1858), mill, blacksmith shop and Baker’s home and store. This doesn’t necessarily mean there were that many buildings. This site is approximately due east of Council Grove north of highway 56 on this side of the county line.
Baker appeared to be a man always striving for greatness. Besides politicking and supplying freighters on the Santa Fe, he also purchased and edited the Council Grove Press. In this paper he denounced the South regularly and pushed for union. He also bought the only hotel in Council Grove thinking it a good investment. He did not own these businesses very long before he was forced to sell them at a considerable loss. On top of his financial debacle his wife Susan died leaving him with daughter Sarah. Every historian has their theories, but for unknown reasons Baker headed south. Some thought it was out of anguish for the loss of his wife, others believed it was to join the Confederacy.
In Jasper County Missouri the 6th Kansas cavalry fired upon and intercepted a party that Baker was with. One man being killed and Baker captured. Baker was taken to Fort Scott court-martialed and released as there was no evidence that he was disloyal to the union. It is puzzling however that Bill Anderson and Bert Griffin were found in company with Baker but they managed to escape capture. Bert and Lee Griffin were known to have been in Anderson’s gang around Council Grove. It is even more perplexing that John Maloy saw Baker the morning of his capture and said Baker “exhibited a paper which he claimed was commission as Colonel in the Confederate army. He seemed to be laboring under some kind of abnormal excitement, and we were at a loss to understand the man.”
The Anderson family came from Missouri in 1857 and settled in Lyon (then Breckenridge) County near Baker. The family consisted of father William C., mother Martha, William T. (Bill), Ellis, James M., Charles, Mary, Josephine, and Martha. In 1860 the mother was struck by lightning while gathering wood. Ellis had shot an Indian in the head and fled to Iowa where he was said to have been killed. The older two boys were known to have wantonly killed a few Indians. In one case Bill had shot a Kaw that allegedly tried to rob him outside of Council Grove. There are also various stories of the sisters. Something to the effect of a building collapsed killing one girl and injuring another for life. The Andersons had a very unfortunate existence.
As a young boy, Bill was said to have been very well behaved. Eli Sewell, who had employed Bill west of Council Grove, said he was ‘like clockwork’. As the Anderson boys grew older their character for whatever reason grew shady. They were generally looked upon as outlaws and feared by those in the area. Several people in Morris County had their horses stolen by these boys, and it was horse thieving that started the hatred between the Andersons and Baker.
Baker was also said to have been romancing 15 year old Mary. The Andersons were under the impression that Baker (in his late thirties) would marry their daughter since he had paid her so much attention. His preference however was for another, and this caused something of a breach of honor which the men folk were required by custom to defend. Oral history passed down by families in the area claim that Baker may have gotten Mary pregnant. If this is true, it may have helped escalate contentions.
Arthur Baker married Annis Secor on the 14th of May, 1862. Annis’ parents were living on Baker’s farm. Two horses were stolen from Secor, Baker’s father-in-law. You can guess who stole them. Of course it was the Anderson boys. Arthur and a friend or two set out after the party and caught up with them west of Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail. They recovered the horses and immediately filed an affidavit and warrant for the arrest of the Andersons.
The Anderson’s father was more than a little irritated about this and decided he would prevent Baker from appearing as a witness against his sons. Anderson went to Baker’s house and with gun in hand called Baker from his room. Baker came out prepared, and in self defense shot Anderson dead on the spot. Some accounts claim that, unknown to Baker, Anderson had stopped at Baker’s store for a drink of whiskey before going to his home. While there, the clerks removed the percussion caps from his shotgun making it useless.
The next night Bill Anderson went with his gang to Baker’s home and called him out. Before Baker showed himself, he put on his guns and had a friend accompany him and they were able to prevent Bloody Bill from carrying out his intentions. Bill kept an eye on Baker for the next couple of weeks, and not finding an opportunity to put a period to him, left for Missouri.
On the third of July, 1862, Bill returned to Rock Creek accompanied by a stranger to help set the trap for Baker. The stranger (who resided in Morris County several years afterward) arrived at Baker’s door in the evening under the guise of a wagon train boss. He told Baker he had a train down the road a way that would be coming up soon and he needed supplies for it. This was a common occurrence for Baker and did not raise suspicion in the least. Baker strapped on his revolvers and with his brother in law George Secor, walked the stranger to the store house.
As Baker and Secor were gathering the things, four men rushed from the woods firing two shots, one hitting Baker and the other Secor. Upon hearing the shots, those in the home fled to the woods and hid. The two wounded men made for the cellar, the door of which was behind the counter. The murderers tried to follow but Baker fired a shot hitting Jim Anderson in the leg. Wanting to ensure they would not have to deal with Baker in the future, they blocked the cellar door and set fire to the store house.
Baker was mortally wounded and encouraged Secor to escape if he could. With much struggle Secor managed to get out of the burning building and related the events of that evening before he died. Flames from the store caught the house afire and it was also burned to the ground. So ended Arthur Baker and the first Agnes City.
Addenda: Arthur Baker served as the first post master of Miller post office, established February 26th 1855 in Wise County. It closed February 12th the following year, 1856.
*Arthur came to Morris County before 1854 because his sister who came with him and his family was married in Council Grove in 1852.