Jacob Branson was one of the early settlers of Douglas County and a leader of the free-soilers. His home was at Hickory Point, about ten miles south of Lawrence on the old Santa Fe road. Many of the early settlers in that region were Hoosiers, some of whom temporarily returned to the East. Their claims were at once jumped by Missourians and other pro-slavery men, and the quarrels over these land contestants were especially fierce. Franklin Coleman, a pro-slavery man, and Charles W. Dow, who lived with Branson and was a free-state man, quarreled over their claims and on November 21, 1855, Coleman shot and murdered Dow on the road. The assassin gave himself up to Samuel J. Jones, the sheriff of Douglas County, and a friend of the pro-slavery party, but after Dow’s funeral, the settlers of Hickory Point, under the leadership of Branson, organized a committee to see that justice was done. A warrant for his arrest was sworn out by one of Coleman’s friends, and Sheriff Jones, with his posse, attempted to serve it on Branson. But the sheriff and his force withdrew when he found the extent and quality of the opposition. Branson offered to leave Lawrence to prevent the enemy from sacking the town, but that misfortune was not to be until the following year.
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