Samuel Newitt Wood (December 30, 1825 – June 23, 1891) was an American attorney, politician, and Free State advocate in Kansas.
Wood represented Chase, Morris, and Madison 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.
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.
After the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed on May 30, 1854, Samuel moved his family to Lawrence, Kansas. After the murder of Charles Dow, on November 21, 1855, Samuel took part in the Rescue of Jacob Branson which occurred on November 26, 1855.
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.
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.
On November 18, 1852, Samuel's mother, Esther Ward (Mosher) Wood served as President of an Ohio Women's Rights Convention held at the Presbyterian church in Mount Gilead. The Vice-Presidents were; Charlotte Cook, and Mrs. A. E. Gurley. Phoebe Spencer was secretary and Mrs. Frances Dana Gage gave an address. On January 21, 1860, S. N. Wood introduced House Bill No.6, entitled "An act to prohibit slavery or involuntary servitude in Kansas", and it was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, of which he was chairman. On February 2 it passed the House by a vote of 30 to 6. On February 11 the Council passed it by a vote of 9 to 4. This bill called out a veto message from Governor Medary of fifteen pages in length; and on February 21 it was passed over his veto by a vote of 30 to 7 in the House, and 9 to 4 in the Council. In 1866, Samuel was one of the leaders who proposed an amendment to the Kansas State Constitution which would strike out the words "male" and "white". On April 2, 1867, Samuel organized the Impartial Suffrage movement in Topeka, Kansas. Through this group he brought in the speakers; Henry B. Blackwell, of New Jersey, Mrs. Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Olympia Brown, Bessie Bisbee and Susan B. Anthony.
Involved in politics from an early age, Wood was chairman of the Liberty Party Central Committee of his county in 1844. 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. 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.
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, 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. His murderer was never prosecuted for the assassination. His brother, Indian Agent, Rev. David John Mosher Wood spoke at his funeral.
Woods County, Oklahoma was named in his honor.
"Song of Samuel Wood" © words & music by Carl Reed 2014, performed by Tallgrass Express.
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.
Sister Mary Berard McKenna wrote her 1968 St. Louis University dissertation on Sam Wood, entitled "Samuel N. Wood: Chronic Agitator