Richard R. Rees, President Pro Tem

Richard Rees

Richard Rees was a prominent member of the Legislature, elected President Pro-Tem of the Council. [Council Journal, 5] He was born in Cincinnati in a family originally from Virginia. Forty-three years old in 1855, he was the youngest of three brothers who had moved to Old Franklin, Missouri in 1818, to Platte City in 1840 and to Leavenworth in 1855. The eldest, Amos, was a prominent Missouri attorney with a large practice. An "earnest" Methodist, Amos had famously represented the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, in his troubles in Missouri. The second brother, Lewis, opened the first store in Leavenworth and was its first postmaster. [Paxton, Annals of Platte County, 610] Lewis' store, a general merchandise enterprise measuring 24 by 40 feet, was also the post office and the meeting place of the first county commissioners in September 1855. [Johnston, Leavenworth Beginning to Bicentennial, 57]

Richard Rees was enrolled as an attorney in Platte County on July 13, 1841 by Judge David Atchison in his temporary courtroom in Murray's saloon. William Paxton, who knew all the brothers well, said of Richard:

"Richard R. Rees was the smallest, but the most brilliant of the brothers. He was full of life, spirit and energy. There was no better-informed Mason in Missouri or Kansas. He wrote and published a small volume of wild, weird, and ancient mysteries of Egyptian lore. I tried to read it, but it was either above or below my comprehension.... His masonic learning and his familiarity with the various degrees of the mystic craft gave him the highest positions in the order...He was a prominent leader of the Pro-slavery party in Kansas; but his genial disposition and generous soul made him a favorite even with those who were opposed to him in politics. He was residing in Platte City when Kansas was thrown open for settlement, and was among the foremost to become a resident of the Territory. [Paxton, Annals of Platte County, 611]

Rees' connection with Atchison, as part of the Platte City courthouse circle is clear. His pro-slavery beliefs were made manifest by his leadership of a Leavenworth meeting on May 25, 1855 endorsing the tarring and feathering of free-state lawyer William Phillips, who had been abducted by a committee of vigilance and taken to Missouri for the punishment. [Howard Report, 972] Rees was on the October 3, 1855 committee calling for a "Law and Order" convention to form a party opposing the Free-State Party. [Andreus, History, Part 23]

Free-state lawyer H. Miles Moore, who knew Rees well as a fellow member of the Leavenworth bar, wrote that in his later years Rees:

"...deeply regretted his part in the passage of this (Black) law, when he became better acquainted with the Free State citizens of our city, many of whom were among his most devoted friends...'Uncle Dick' Rees was musical and loved dancing..." [Moore, Early History, 246] "Uncle Dick" Rees made his peace with his free-state neighbors and won their confidence. They elected him Probate Judge (Presiding County Commissioner) in 1870 and he served until his death in 1875. [Hall, History of Leavenworth County, 190]

Charles Clark