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Many, if not most, Tuscarawas County residents are probably unaware that an individual labeled as "the bloodiest man in the early annuals of American history" was born and raised in Dover, Ohio (then known as Canal Dover).
William C. Quantrill was infamously known for Quantrill's Raid that took place in Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Quantrill, and his gang of ruffians were responsible for the mass slaughter of 180-plus men, and young boys that resided in Lawrence (considered to be an abolitionist strong-hold in the Midwest). Their intention was to wipe out the male population, crippling the authority and protection of the citizens of Lawrence.
Quantrill gained his infamy during the years of the Civil War. According to historical accounts, he was noted as an enigmatic, intriguing character. Although he lived only 28 years he achieved his notoriety in a brief period of time, and his story continues to have mystery and conflict according to historians.
Many accounts have been written on Quantrill over the years, and his name has been spelled in different variations. Quantrill, himself even used a variety of spellings on his name, and also used alias names during his violent life. Among the alias names was the name of Charlie Hart, and Captain Clark (his middle name was Clarke, and his mother's maiden name was also Clarke).
Quantrill was born July 31, 1837 at the family's residence that was located at the corner of Tuscarawas Avenue and Fourth Street in Dover. Tuscarawas Avenue was known as Factory Street in 1837. His parents, Thomas H. & Caroline (Clarke) Quantrill were respected citizens of Dover. Both parents were natives of the state of Maryland. His father was a school teacher, and began teaching in the Canal Dover Union School in 1851, later becoming the school principal, a position he held until his death. His father is now regarded as the first school superintendent of the Dover school system. Young Quantrill followed in his father's footsteps, also becoming an educator in the Tuscarawas County schools. Quantrill completed the requirements for a school teaching certificate, and became a teacher at the age of sixteen. He taught in the Canal Dover Union School for one year, then transferring to a country schoolhouse the following school year.
Quantrill taught in Tuscarawas County country schools until the spring of 1856, leaving Ohio and moving to Illinois that summer. He began teaching in the Illinois schools in the fall of 1856, but Quantrill's life suddenly changed, a change that seemed to mark a turning point in his life. He had written a letter to his mother, but said he could not disclose the nature of an incident that had taken place. He left Illinois, moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, teaching there very briefly. Quantrill then ended up back in Tuscarawas County, and took a teaching position in a country schoolhouse near Uhrichsville, but did not finish the term. He left Ohio again in March 1857, this time moving farther west, settling in Kansas where he took a teaching position.
Quantrill never returned to Dover and spent the remainder of his life in Kansas. He later became less involved in the education field, and more involved in the Kansas-Missouri border raids that were in progress during the years of the Civil War. There were various legends about Quantrill, however the preponderance of evidence is that he had no real moral perceptions during the years after he left Dover. He later became known in Kansas as an individual that brought terror to the plains of the Midwest. Quantrill was technically a nineteenth century, American terrorist. Historians have concluded that Quantrill clearly had latent characteristics that came into full development in the last few years of his life, characteristics that seemed to take full possession of him.
Quantrill's notoriety began when he engineered an ambush for three abolitionists from Kansas who made a raid into Missouri for the purpose of liberating slaves of a wealthy farmer, Morgan Walker. Quantrill secretly forewarned Walker who proceeded to set a trap for the abolitionists. Quantrill remained in Jackson County, where Walker resided, gaining the confidence of the residents by explaining his part in the ambush. He had told them that he had sought revenge for the murder of a brother that had supposedly been committed by Kansas jayhawkers (guerrilla fighters who clashed with pro-slavery advocates).
The outbreak of the Civil War gave Quantrill his opportunity to join Missouri bushwackers (ruffians that fought against the jayhawkers). Quantrill later formed his own army of bushwackers who operated in their own lawless fashion. Quantrill and his men became known as the most formidable revolver fighters the West ever knew.
Lawrence, Kansas was a known area comprised of many abolitionists, a place the western Missouri bushwackers wanted to obliterate. After careful planning, Quantrill and his gang of nearly three hundred ruffians completed a ruthless act that has been documented as one of the bloodiest slaughters in the history of the American annuals of crime.
In the pre-dawn hours of August 21, 1862, the sleeping town of Lawrence was awakened by galloping horses, gunfire. The gang, comprised of hundreds of bearded, long haired, wild-eyed men, yelling, shooting guns.
At first, Quantrill informed the defenseless townspeople that nobody would be harmed if they did not resist. Later, the owner and guests of a hotel were lined up on the street and the ruffians helped themselves to any valuables that were surrendered, and not surrendered. The hotel was them set ablaze, and the killing then began. Shrieks from the wounded, and cries of the dying soon filled the air, women were heard crying, pleading for the lives of their husbands, sons, and fathers. At a second hotel, the male guests were lined up and mowed down through gunfire, one by one. This hotel was also set on fire, and any wounded men were thrown into the burning structure, left to burn to death.
Pillaging, destruction was everywhere. Small bands of the ruffians were assigned by Quantrill to each street throughout town. Every house was thoroughly searched for valuables, the houses plundered, and any male persons, including youth, were killed. Only a few men were able to escape, but very few. What items pilfered that could not be used, or carried was burned. Less than a hour later, the town was utterly silent, the sounds of the crackling fires from the burning structures was all that could be heard.
Miss Sophia Bissell, a Lawrence resident, later shared her experience of the horror. She said that whenever the men surrendered, they were shot. She said one man was being chased all through his house by several ruffians. He stumbled and fell, and his wife threw herself on top of him to shield him from harm. Finding no place to shoot him, the ruffians lifted the wife off of him just enough to find target, and shot him. Miss Bissell recalled there were approximately 180 men, boys killed. The event left the town with no male citizens, and eighty-plus widows.
The raid was considered one of the most atrocious events of the Civil War, yet it was not really part of the war. After the raid, the bushwackers scattered. Some were later captured by Union forces, but Quantrill managed to escape. By the fall of 1864 were killed in another Kansas raid, one that was unsuccessful. Quantrill, and a small band of his followers fled to Kentucky, continuing small skirmishes with the Union forces. Murder, and robbery continued to be the object of his life.
In the town of Hickman, Kentucky, Quantrill raided and then burned part of the small town. He also killed citizens, this time nobody was spared. Men, women, and children perished in the raid. The deadly raids continued until it all finally caught up with Quantrill. Union forces relentlessly pursued him. On May 10, 1865 Union forces surprised Quantrill and several of his gang as they hiding in a barn in Louisville, KY. Quantrill was shot multiple times, and severely wounded; several of his gang were killed. Quantrill was transferred to a Union forces military hospital, and later succumbed to his injuries on June 6, 1865.
Quantrill was originally buried in the St. John's Catholic Cemetery in Louisville, his body remaining there until 1887 when his mother requested the body be relocated to the family burial plot in Dover, Ohio. There were later rumors that some of the bones, mainly the skull of Quantrill, had been removed, and the whereabouts are unknown.
Another interesting fact is that Jesse and Frank James, and Cole and Jim Younger, cold-blooded, murderous, ruffians of later years, actually trained as guerillas with some of Quantrill's early forces, and learned many of their tactics from him.
Much research has been done by historians over the years, but much remains a mystery concerning the true life of Quantrill, and the event(s) that formed his ruthless, murderous character.