Thursday, May 14, 2009

Will the real William Quantrill please stand up?


As with a lot of the famous or infamous people from the Civil War, mostly the notorious ones, they never really died when history says they did. At least that’s what we are led to believe by some people.

There have been many stories about William Quantrill and his raiders. The most notable stories would be the ones about the raid on Lawrence, KS and the ones that say he didn’t die and lived on, somewhere.

This article falls into the category of both sort of. William Quantrill didn’t die but instead, moved to Canada and lived out his life in obscurity as a drunk and a caretaker for some commercial property. That is until his story hit the papers and he was beaten to death by a mysterious man. Some stories say that this man was a Union soldier taking his revenge because of the Lawrence, KS raid. Other stories say the man who killed him was related to one of Quantrill’s men and took offense when this man said he was the real William Quantrill.

In 1907 the New York Times and several other papers across the nation printed an article about a man going by the name of John Sharpe. Mr. Sharpe was living in Quatsino Sound in British Columbia, Canada and had been telling people he was really William Quantrill. Yes, THE William Clarke Quantrill. According to Sharpe, or Quantrill if you care to believe, he had ridden out of Kentucky (where he was supposed to have died) and went to Chile for a while. He left Chile for Texas and became a cattle rancher there. After spending some time in Texas he moved on to Oregon where he drove cattle over the mountains and from Oregon he moved to British Columbia in 1897 where he remained until he died from complications of being severely beaten.

A timber merchant in British Columbia by the name of J.E. Duffy said he recognized Mr. Sharpe as being the real Quantrill. J. E. Duffy stated he had been a member of the Michigan troop of men that had “cut up Quantrill’s force” and had seen William Quantrill in person. Mr. Sharpe apparently chose not to deny these claims as he had been telling others in Quatsino Sound that he was indeed, William Quantrill. Mr. Sharpe or Quantrill had been working as a watchman/caretaker for the West Vancouver Coal Company when the story came out. I should mention that Mr. Sharpe did most of his talking about being Quantrill after having several drinks! It is said that when he bought his “devil’s brew”, he did so several cases at a time. He also didn’t quite live out his life in total obscurity while in Canada. He was arrested at least once and spent a few months in the local jail for aiding a felon.

Once the story about a man claiming to be Quantrill hit the papers two men, one identified as U.S. Senator Isaac Bingham and the other his friend, John M. Edmunson took it upon themselves to travel to Canada where Mr. Edmunson beat Mr. Sharpe severely after the two had been drinking for several hours. A witness to the men drinking said that the two consumed “two bottles of rum and brandy, and then they drank a bottle of whiskey. “ My question would be; how the hell did these two even stand up, much less fight? At the time it was determined by the local constable that no crime had been committed since Mr. Sharpe was still alive when Mr. Edmunson left him and Mr. Sharpe was agitated at the constable and refused to talk about the fight. Mr. Edmunson boarded a steamer headed for Victoria just a day after the beating. The seventy year old Mr. Sharpe died from his injuries several days later, unable to eat because of some of his injuries.

Several people were interviewed back in 1907 and said that they remember John Sharpe showing them a set of Colt revolvers with the initials of W.C.Q. engraved on the handles. Although several people had seen these revolvers, they weren’t found among Mr. Sharpe’s personal belongings after his death. The constable investigating the death did find several letters from William Quantrill’s mother in Ohio among the personal effects. The constable stated in his report that “on examination, I found them of no importance” and they have since been lost to history.

John Sharpe is buried in the Port Hardy Cemetery in Canada.

Apparently Mr. Sharpe never mentioned anything about any huge depositories of money left behind by a certain secret group so you KGC guys shouldn‘t get your hopes up. Was he really William Quantrill? I will leave that to you to decide. Personally, I’m just wondering why these guys didn’t die from alcohol poisoning.

I would like to thank my friend Paul from British Columbia for the initial information on this story and for pointing me in the right direction for more.

8 comments:

Paul Getman said...

Well done! Nice write up on this story.

In the information I have oome across to do with this John Sharpe the caretaker, it is aparent that he didn't seem to lack for money! Who can say, there may still be a small stash of gold coins secreted some where near where his cabin used to be...

Anonymous said...

How about adding some pictures of this John Clarke character. That should clear up who this guy really was or was not.

Did he have a horse named "Uncle Jim"?

Anonymous said...

A fellow from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island told me that a US Civil War era belt buckle was discovered by chance beneath the rotting floorboards of a dilapidated cabin in the woods around Quatsino. It was wrapped in a piece of leather along with other items and was eventually identified as having been issued to Willian Quantrill.

R. Brooks said...

Well that's definitely an interesting story. It seems that whenever someone famous dies there's always a lot of conspiracy theories like this, so who really knows. A photo would definitely help. Are there any photos of this guy?

Martin Smith said...

hello... I wonder if you could give me your your research links about this story especially anything
on Senator Bingham & John Edmunson...
the reason is that I am a descendent of Major Cornelius Boyle, Provost Marshall
to General Lee's army of Northern Virginia... I am in possession of many
letters that have been saved through the years by my family...
after the War between the States the Major went to Mexico to set up
a Confederate Colony... it did not succeed and in 1867 he returned
to Washington, DC took and took the oath...
of interest to me is a letter he wrote to his wife back in Virginia
on his way to Mexico's west coast via Cuba, the following
I quote from the letter verbatim:

This letters from Major C Boyle to his wife Fannie while Cornelius is on his way to Mexico and the Hacienda of San Lorenzo… dated April 30th 1866 on the Steam Ship Manhattan… Boyle writes his wife that he’s about to arrive in Havana ‘this evening’ and that “Mrs O’Bannon and two children, she is from Baltimore the wife of Major O’Bannon who was in Confd. Army, she is the daughter of Col. Miles of U.S Army, who was killed at Harpers Ferry, she goes to join her husband, and says she never expects to return…” also “I am in state room No 34 and have in my room the celebrated Quantrall (his underline and spelling) he is traveling under the name of Wilson,…”

This seems to add to the mystery
as it was reported Quantrill was killed in Kansas in '65..
hence my interest in your historical sources...

thank you... my e-mail below...

best...

Martin Smith
pmsvras@aol.com

Martin Smith said...

Hello... great article...could you give me your research links about this story especially anything
on Senator Bingham & John Edmunson...
the reason is that I am a descendent of Major Cornelius Boyle, Provost Marshall
to General Lee's army of Northern Virginia... I am in possession of many
letters that have been saved through the years by my family...
after the War between the States the Major went to Mexico to set up
a Confederate Colony... it did not succeed and in 1867 he returned
to Washington, DC took and took the oath...
of interest to me is a letter he wrote to his wife back in Virginia
on his way to Mexico's west coast via Cuba, the following
I quote from the letter verbatim:

This letters from Major C Boyle to his wife Fannie while Cornelius is on his way to Mexico and the Hacienda of San Lorenzo… dated April 30th 1866 on the Steam Ship Manhattan… Boyle writes his wife that he’s about to arrive in Havana ‘this evening’ and that “Mrs O’Bannon and two children, she is from Baltimore the wife of Major O’Bannon who was in Confd. Army, she is the daughter of Col. Miles of U.S Army, who was killed at Harpers Ferry, she goes to join her husband, and says she never expects to return…” also “I am in state room No 34 and have in my room the celebrated Quantrall (his underline and spelling) he is traveling under the name of Wilson,…”

This seems to add to the mystery
as it was reported Quantrill was killed in Kansas in '65..
hence my interest in your historical sources...

thank you... my e-mail below...

best...

Martin Smith
pmsvras@aol.com

Anonymous said...

Quantrill did live after the War between the States. I have spent 20 years researching Quantrill & feel beyond a shadow of doubt the Quantrill came to Arkansas and lived out his life under an assumed name. I know there will be some eager to argue, but they just haven't seen the evidence. The Book may be back in the works.
CDKennedy

Martin Smith said...

Further to the letter to his wife about sharing a cabin on the SS Manhattan with Quantrill in a later letter dated may 4th, 1866 he tells his wife that he has indeed hired Quantrill:
"I have concluded to take with me Mr. Leary as the farmer, and Quantrill as the frontiers man..."

it seems to me that Major Cornelius Boyle who was involved with Confederate espionage would know who Quantrill was?

Martin Smith