Bleeding Kansas began with an eviction attempt. In late 1854, Jacob Branson, an abolitionist from Ohio, started trying to kick Franklin Coleman, a slavery proponent, off his property. Roughly a year later, Coleman ran into a friend of Branson’s at a local blacksmith’s shop. The friend berated Coleman for continuing to squat on the land and demanded that he desist. It’s not clear what, if anything, Coleman said in response. But it is clear what he did. As the friend walked away, Coleman took out a gun and killed him.
Fearing reprisal in what was a largely antislavery community, Coleman fled to a nearby town and turned himself in to a proslavery sheriff. That sheriff promptly freed him and then arrested Branson. Local abolitionists, many of whom were already furious about the murder, grew incensed. They intercepted the sheriff at gunpoint and liberated his prisoner.
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