SAMUEL W. GREER.
MEMBER OF THE “FRONTIER GUARD.”
Frontier Guard mentioned in the following:
HISTORY OF KANSAS STATE AND PEOPLE
Written and Compiled by William E. Connelley.
Volume II, 1928.
The Frontier Guard.
Kansas, A Cyclopedia of State History.
Edited by Frank W. Blackmar, A. M., Ph.D.
Volume I, 1912.
An Interesting Reminiscence of That Historic Organization.
Winfield Courier, December 7, 1882. The Troy Chief notices the death of Hon. Samuel W. Greer, of Winfield, and alludes to the fact that “he was a member of the company formed in Washington in April, 1861, known as the ‘Frontier Guard,’ and which occupied the east rooms of the White House as a barrack.”
Hon. D. H. Bailey, late consul-general to China, who was a member of that famous company, happening to be in this city, we called his attention to the death of Mr. Greer and asked him for some reminiscence of that celebrated organization. He has kindly furnished us with the following.
A large number of Kansans were in Washington City at the time of the fall of Fort Sumpter. General James H. Lane, then recently elected United States Senator from Kansas, was, of course, the central figure of this group.
His rooms were at Williard’s hotel, and were constantly filled with excited and determined men who were gravely considering the events then taking place. On the 18th of April, the anniversary of the battle of Lexington, the Sixth Massachusetts regiment was attacked by a rebel mob in Baltimore, the railway tracks were torn up, and all communication between Washington and the north—either by rail or telegraph—was cut off. The capital of the nation was completely environed and filled with secessionists everywhere—on the streets, in the hotels, in saloons, in private residences; and in the public offices, secession was rampant. It was a period of infinite danger to the beleaguered capital, and the excitement was more intense than can be described.
Little knots of Union men gathered here and there, and although hemmed in and scowled upon on all sides, moved quickly about, if with blanched cheeks, yet with steady purpose and firm resolve. On the day following the attack upon the 6th Massachusetts, Major David Hunter (then on Gen. Scott’s staff) called upon Gen. Lane and informed him that by direction of Gen. Scott and Secretary of War Cameron, he was instructed to inform Gen. Lane that owing to the turbulent condition of the populace and the very few troops then in the city, as well as from secret information, there were serious apprehensions of an attempt to seize the president and overturn the government; and therefore General Lane was asked to immediately form a company of Kansans for the especial protection of the president. He also said that as the men of Kansas had been tried “under fire,” and were known to be true and brave, that they, with Gen. Lane at their head, would be a tower of strength in the crisis then existing at the capital. Lane with his wonderful energy and fiery soul unhesitatingly assumed the task. Immediately runners were sent out in every direction requesting all Kansans to report at once at Gen. Lane’s rooms.
Within twelve hours one hundred and eighty names were enrolled and the Frontier Guard was organized with Lane as captain. That night at about 9 o’clock the company marched out of Williard’s hotel and proceeding direct to the White House, filed into the east room. In a few minutes case after case of Enfield rifles with sword bayonet, ammunition, and accoutrements were placed in the blue, red, and green rooms, and the work of arming commenced.
Many amusing incidents occurred. Senator Pomeroy, who was large of girth, was in great perturbation about a belt long enough to reach around his aldermanic proportions, and many a laugh was had at his expense until the writer came to his relief with a bit of leather, which enabled him to look as true a soldier as ever was Sir John Falstaff.
By 12 o’clock at night the company was fully equipped, and after surrounding the White House and its grounds with trusty sentinels, the men stacked arms in the east room, each member lying down with head to the wall, touching elbows, without covering, to dream of “war and rumors of war.” Sentinels were placed at each door.
The writer was stationed at the north door of the east room. At about 1 o’clock in the morning, there was a rap on the door. It was opened and President Lincoln and the Secretary of War walked in. Silence reigned; it was a weird scene. The lights turned down were dim, and shadows of gloom seemed to flit over that historic room. The men were asleep and breathing heavily; the glistening of the polished steel under the sombre light; the tramp of sentinels in the halls and on the outer flagstones, gave ominous token of the great drama of blood then coming on. Not a word was spoken for some minutes. The president was wrapt in his own thoughts and there passed across his face a sad, weary look, an expression of deep but troubled thought, as if he were trying to solve the great problem before him. He stood in the midst of a military camp in the Executive Mansion of the nation; but while there was dread portent in these surroundings, he seemed to feel a sense of security in the presence of these loyal Kansans on whom he had placed his reliance and confidence in calling them so near to his person.
The spell was broken by Gen. Lane coming forward. A short conversation was held by these three men, and the president and secretary withdrew. The next morning the company retired from the White House and in the afternoon was again marched to the east room, where the president made a short, felicitous address, and the company was formally recognized as in the military service for a temporary emergency.
That night we were assigned to the Winder building, opposite the war department, where we had our rendezvous until we were discharged.
A day or two after the organization of the Frontier Guard, Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, organized a similar company, nearly equal in numbers.
Our company was the first to capture a rebel flag. It came about in this way: A report came that the rebels would make an attempt to capture the bridge across the East Branch of the Potomac. We were ordered out one night in April. Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, we were joined by Clay’s company and marched thence to the navy yard. After a short halt the Frontier Guard filed out of the east gate across a ravine, and soon came in sight of the bridge. The moon was shining brightly and in the distance could be plainly seen a brass cannon near the draw. The writer, happening to be in the front ranks, went forward with palpitating heart expecting every moment to be cut down with grape and canister, but pride kept us all in line, although our knees smote together. At last, coming full on the cannon, we discovered to our immense relief that it was a gun of Pennsylvania battery, and it was pointing toward the Maryland shore. This inspired us with courage. We urged Lane to have the draw lowered so that we might cross the river and scout for the enemy. Finally he assented and a detail of twelve or fifteen was sent across. Dividing the squad, we pushed out on different roads and scouted the country for three or four hours. No hostile foes were found. One squad (led, I think, by Harry Fields) discovered a rebel flag flying on a pole in front of a house. The owner was aroused and ordered to haul the flag down. This he refused to do, but doggedly gave them permission to take it down if they wanted to do so. The flag was immediately hauled down, brought back with considerable exultation, and the next day it was stretched across the avenue opposite Williard’s hotel, with a great placard inscribed: “Captured by the Frontier Guard.” The prowess was not great, but the thing captured was a trophy.
Soon after this Ben Butler arrived at Annapolis with the Eighth Massachusetts, and the work of opening up communication with the north via Annapolis, the Chesapeake Bay, and Perryville (at the mouth of the Susquehanna) went forward under his energetic management with extraor-dinary rapidity. Union troops came pouring into the Capital in an unbroken line and Washington resounded with the pageantry of war.
The exigency which had called the Frontier Guard into existence had happily passed away, and on the 3rd of May the “Guard” filed into the east room for the last time. It was received by the president, surrounded by a portion of his cabinet. Gen. Lane in a short speech said, in substance, that the crisis which led to the formation of the company having terminated by reason of the arrival of large bodies of troops in Washington, he requested permission to discharge the men in due form. Mr. Lincoln in very appropriate words, thanked the company for its excep-tional services, and expressed, with warmth of feeling, his deep sense of personal obligation for the prompt manner in which it had rallied to his support in an hour of great peril.
The discharges issued a few days afterward, dated “Headquarters Frontier Guard,” Exec-utive Mansion, Washington, D. C., signed by and containing the thanks of A. Lincoln, Simon Cameron, and Jas. H. Lane, are no doubt highly prized by those who hold them as mementoes of a period fraught with tremendous issues to the nation.
Among the names now remembered as on the roster were Senator Pomeroy, Judge Thos. Ewing, Marcus J. Parrott, A. C. Wilder, D. R. Anthony, Uncle George Keller, R. McBratney, Judge Burris, Job. B. Stockton, Col. John C. Vaughan, S. W. Greer, Maj. Dan McCook, father of the “fighting McCooks,” Harry Fields, Gordon, Wm. Tholen, Ed. McCook, and Geo. H. Weaver. These are a few of the names hastily recalled on the moment. Many others who sealed their devotion by giving their lives for the nation have a more enduring fame already written in brighter records. It is to be hoped that a full list of all the members will soon be published. Capt. Job. B. Stockton, who resides somewhere in Colorado, is supposed to have all the necessary data for a full history of the Guard.
It may be safely said that the members of the Frontier Guard were not actuated with selfish motives, for they neither asked nor received at that time or since, pay or rations for their service.
The dates here given may be in error two or three days, one way or the other, but they will not vary from the records of the company more than that.
Some of the members of the company belonged to other states than Kansas, but the prestige of the Frontier Guard, and it was very great at a critical time in Washington, was derived from its Kansas paternity.
It is to be hoped that the surviving members will soon take some action looking to a reunion, and to the preservation of the records of an organization which is destined to hold a place in history. Emporia News.
Death of a Valued Citizen.
Winfield Courier, October 5, 1882.
Died at his residence in Winfield on Saturday morning, September 30th, of consumption, Samuel W. Greer, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. He had been suffering from this dread disease for twelve years or more and for the last year he has been so feeble as to scarcely be able to be out of doors but a short time. His death was not unexpected, indeed, he lived much longer than his friends had reason to hope for. He preserved his clear reason and intelligence to the last and made directions for the funeral and burial.
Samuel W. Greer was born in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, near West Newton, June 2nd, 1826. In 1853 he moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, where in 1855 he was married to Clotilda Hilton. He came to Leavenworth, Kansas, in October 1856. In October, 1858, he was elected Territorial Superintendent of Public Instructions. That campaign was the first free state triumph at the polls. This office he held for three years, till 1861, by reason of the time of election being altered by the legislature. During this time he made three reports. The recom-mendations of his second report are almost literally carried out in the formation of our present school system.
He entered the Army April 14th, 1861, in Washington City as a private in the Frontier Guard. He was armed, equipped, and drilled in the east room of the White House. He assisted in protecting the White House until other troops were transported, when he returned to Kansas and was enrolling officer at Ft. Leavenworth for a time, after which Gov. Carney gave him a commission of Second Lieutenant as a recruiting officer, and he recruited Com-pany I, 15th vol. Cav., after which he was unanimously elected captain and commissioned by the Governor, in which capacity he served until mustered out in October, 1865.
He was engaged in active business in Leavenworth until 1871. In January of that year he came to Cowley County and has permanently resided here since. He leaves a family consisting of a wife and six children, four boys and two girls.
Sam Greer sold school furniture in Winfield...
Winfield Messenger, October 25, 1872.
We understand that the contract for furnishing our new school building has been awarded Captain S. W. Greer, agent for the sale of the patent Gothic desk, manufacturered by the Western Publishing and School Furnishing Company, St. Louis. The school furniture coming into this county is mostly of their manufacture and is, we believe, giving general satisfaction.
Winfield Courier, Saturday, January 18, 1873.
Furniture. In passing by the old stand of Jackson & Myers we noticed a large load of Household Furniture being unloaded. Upon inquiry we found that Capt. Greer, who has formerly been selling school furniture in company with Mr. Boyer, has connected with his former business household and kitchen furniture, under the firm name of Close & Greer; where will be found a large and well selected assortment of Household and School House Furniture. Charts, globes, maps, books, and stationery are always kept on hand.
He is the sole agent in this county for the publishers of the Text Books, recommended to be used in our schools by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. School boards and others interested will do well to give him a call.
Winfield Courier, February 1, 1873.
DISSOLUTION NOTICE. Notice is hereby given that the co-partnership heretofore existing between the undersigned, in the school furniture, and other business, is this day dissolved by mutual consent. The business of this firm will be fixed up soon.
S. W. GREER, W. M. BOYER.
Winfield Courier, Saturday, February 1, 1873.
A. B. Close of Independence was in town this week assisting Capt. Greer in the business at this end of the line.
Fresh Arrivals. Messrs. Close & Greer received large invoices of furniture this week and are stocking their handsome rooms on Main street with a well assorted supply for furniture for this market. A heavy shipment has been made them via Wichita, and teams will start in a few days for that point to freight them over.
AD. CLOSE & GREER, Dealers in School and Household Furniture, Coffins and Under-taking. East Main St., one door south of Capt. Davis’ Livery Stable. Winfield, Kansas.
Ed and Frank Greer, children of Sam Greer...
Samuel W. Greer’s wife, Clotilda, was eight years younger than he. The Kansas State census of 1875 shows that S. A. Greer was then 47 years of age. They had six children: four boys and two girls. The oldest child was Eddison Greer, always referred to as “Ed Greer,” who was listed as being 16 years of age in 1875. He was very close to his brother, Frank, born two years after him.
Ed became a cub reporter at an early age under Daniel Azro Millington, editor of the Winfield Courier. Ed soon became Local Editor and assumed the position of Editor after Millington’s death. Frank Greer soon became involved with the newspaper business also, and when Oklahoma became a state, the two brothers immediately went to Guthrie, where they became acquainted with the early beginnings of statehood in the former Indian Territory. Ed returned to Winfield. Frank Greer stayed and became a powerful force in Oklahoma politics as the editor of the newspaper started by the brothers in Guthrie, Oklahoma.