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August M. Bondi Papers, 1884-1952

August Bondi1884-1952 (bulk 1903-1906)

Microfilm MF 1772

Manuscript Collection No. 285




This microfilm contains the papers, 1884-1906, of August Bondi, antislavery fighter; founder of Walker (now Greeley), Kansas; and businessman of Saint Louis, Mo., and Kansas. A 1952 letter containing additional genealogical information is included in the collection. The entire August Bondi collection (no. 285) has been reproduced here.


Papers, 1884-1952 (bulk 1903-1906).


0.2 ft. (1 box) on 1 microfilm reel


Bondi, August, 1884-1952


Ms. Coll. 285

Scope and Content

This collection is largely autobiographical in that it contains mostly information pertaining to August Bondi’s life from his birth to his discharge from Company K of the 5th Kansas Cavalry on 10 November 1864. There is some information about his postwar life through 1872, but Bondi’s descriptions are much less detailed than those for the years prior to 1865. Even though the majority of items in the collection were written between 1903 and 1906, they relate almost exclusively to the period 1833 through 1864.

August Bondi’s papers are particularly valuable because they provide a detailed look at a ten year period, 1855-64, that was critical in both Kansas and American history. Because he was a participant in the raids by John Brown and his followers on slavery advocates in Kansas, his “Personal Reminiscences ...,” 25 April 1903 (series B), are a unique opportunity to view the activities of Brown and his adherents as Brown visited his antislavery vendetta upon supporters of the practice in Kansas. Bondi’s lightly-edited Civil War diary describes the daily activities of a noncommissioned officer aiding the Union cause in the West. Bondi is careful to write only what he believes he can substantiate through either his own experiences or those given him by other participants.

The “Biographical Sketch of: August Bondi,” 24 September 1903 (series A), is a brief autobiographical account of his life. It conformed in style to questionnaires sent to prominent Kansans by the Kansas State Historical Society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and was probably Bondi’s reply to such an inquiry. It provides a synopsis of his parentage, life, and family.

The most significant document in the collection is undoubtedly the “Personal Reminiscences of August Bondi,” 25 April 1903 (series B), a compilation of five chapters comprising 181 pages. The length of each chapter appears to be determined more by the number of pages than any logical breaks in the narrative.

The first chapter recounted his life prior to coming to Kansas. He discussed his parents, ancestors, and other family members (pages 1 - 5); his early schooling (pages 5 - 6); and his father’s financial difficulties, family illnesses, and the resultant hardships inflicted on his immediate family (pages 6 - 11). With many other secondary and university students, Bondi participated in the uprisings of March 1848 which led to the toppling of the government of Prince von Metternich in Vienna, and Bondi described the events and his participation at great length (pages 12 - 27). He enrolled in a brigade to defend Hungary’s independence against Austria, but his family and friends persuaded him against participation when it became obvious that the movement was doomed. Instead, he emigrated with his parents to the United States in September 1848, settling in Saint Louis, Mo. (pages 28 - 30). He worked at various jobs in the Saint Louis and surrounding towns (pages 31 - 32). Ever the student of politics, his recollections discussed Missouri political issues of that day (pages 32 - 34). Bondi went to Texas in November 1851 and found work as a clerk and barkeeper on a fleet of steamboats operating from the port of Galveston; he provided impressions of the Texas Gulf coast (pages 35 - 40).

Bondi began the second chapter with his return to Missouri in 1852, more writings about political events in the State (pages 1 - 2), and descriptions of various jobs he held (pages 1 - 3).

He then described in some detail his first trip to Kansas Territory, his brief stay in Douglas County, and his return to Saint Louis (pages 4 - 6). On his second trip west, he wrote about border ruffians, land he surveyed, his choice of a claim on Mosquito Branch of Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, and how he settled onto it (pages 8 - 9). Very quickly he was caught up in the slavery controversy and described meeting “Dutch” Henry Sherman, a slavery advocate prominent in the area. Soon thereafter he met John Brown’s sons and, learning of his antislavery views, the young men promised to come to his aid if needed. He made preparations to start a store (pages 16 - 18). He described the political situation as he saw it (pages 18 - 21) and his first meeting with the famed John Brown. He told how he joined the antislavery forces under John Brown, Jr., upon hearing of the burning of the Eldridge House in Lawrence, Kansas Territory. He concluded the chapter with the text of a series of articles he submitted to the SalinaHerald [1] and it published in January and February 1884 (Kansas State Historical Society newspaper microfilm S 1561); later they were partially revised by Bondi - see the description of the Battle of Osawatomie Account, 10 Aug. 1906 (series D) - and published as “With John Brown in Kansas” in Transactions of the Kansas State HistoricalSociety (Kansas Historical Collections), volume 8, pages 275 - 89. The articles contained descriptions of John Brown; the Pottawatomie Massacre, 24 May 1856; the Battle of Black Jack, 2 June; and Bondi’s participation with Brown in Kansas (pages 23 - 40).[2]

Bondi’s account of the strife in territorial Kansas was continued in the third chapter. He objectively wrote of raids and plundering by both sides, including how antislavery forces forced Southerners from their settlement of New Georgia in Lykins (now Miami) County and burned the buildings (pages 12 - 14). He described John Brown’s raid on Sugar Creek in Linn County, 26 August 1856, and the Battle of Osawatomie four days later (pages 19 - 22). He described how Brown’s forces wintered in Osawatomie. On a less-violent note, he told about laying out the town of Walker (now Greeley) in Anderson County and how he moved there, built the first business building, and was appointed the first postmaster there. He told how he went through the region urging people to vote in the 1857 elections at a time when other antislavery people advocated a boycott. He recounted how he joined forces with James Montgomery, Charles R. Jennison, O. P. Bayne, and James G. Blunt to resist the service of subpoenas issued by a proslavery grand jury in Fort Scott, Kansas Territory, on antislavery advocates, claiming the subpoenas were nothing more than harassment, and he described how the two sides skirmished (pages 25 - 26). As a consequence, he wrote how he was terminated as postmaster in February 1858 for firing on a U.S. marshal; the same month he quit the store in Walker which had proven unsuccessful. Interestingly, he told how he disagreed with Brown about bringing slaves to the North (pages 27 - 28). He mentioned his marriage on 28 June 1860. He briefly noted that he was appointed a special constable of the township in 1860 and 1861 and how his home served as a station on the Underground Railroad during that period.

On 26 November 1861, believing he had an obligation to defend his adopted country, Bondi left his family and joined the 5th Kansas Cavalry at Fort Lincoln, Kansas (pages 31 - 32). He was eventually assigned to Company K. On 24 December he moved to “Camp Denver,” Kansas, a regimental campsite near Fort Lincoln and Baynesville in Bourbon County. He concluded the chapter describing the reorganization of the regiment.

Chapter four is an edited copy of the diary he kept during the Civil War. It provides a good narrative of the day - to - day life of a Union soldier in the West. The war on the frontier was noticeably different from its counterpart to the east: Bondi’s diary entries described informality not usually evident in descriptions of the war on the other side of the Mississippi River. Battles in the West usually involved smaller numbers of men; more often than not contacts might be more accurately described as skirmishes. Certainly the battle lines were much less obvious and were more like concentrations of forces than true lines. As Bondi’s diary attested, there were fairly frequent contacts between the soldiers of each side, such as one instance he recounted where famished troops of both sides called a temporary truce and jointly devoured the produce of a melon patch.

The chapter began with Bondi describing Powell Clayton assuming command and making significant changes in the operation of the 5th Regiment. Bondi and his unit went to Camp Hunter on Dry Wood Creek in Missouri; from there they marched to Carthage and Springfield, Missouri (pages 1 - 2). On 23 May 1862 they were sent to Houston, Missouri. Bondi’s Company K was dispatched to Eminence, Missouri, on 11 June; he described the area and the many “bushwhackers” that were in the vicinity (pages 3 - 4). As a consequence of the guerilla activity, the company retreated on 26 June (pages 4 - 5). On 3 July they started for Helena, Arkansas. Three days later they fought Confederate troops on Strawberry Creek near Salem. They also participated in action at Crowley’s Ridge in Arkansas. For the most part, Bondi and his unit went on scouting missions in eastern Arkansas, though they did see action at the Battle of Helena, 4 July 1863 (pages 32 - 34).

Chapter five is the conclusion of Bondi’s war diary. He described the Confederate attack on his regiment at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 25 October 1863 (pages 1 - 2). With great detail he retold the story of his serious injury on 14 September 1864, capture and being left for dead by Confederates, rescue and repatriation, and lengthy recuperation (pages 15 - 19). Bondi concluded his military narrative with his discharge, return trip to Leavenworth, and reunion with his family (pages 19 - 20).

Entries for the rest of the reminiscence are much less detailed. He attempted to start another store in Greeley, but it was not successful. Disenchanted with the community, he sold his farm and business there, moved to Leavenworth, and started a grocery business. Business in the latter city was better but not profitable enough, so Bondi closed the store and went to Salina, Kansas, in 1866. In his reminiscence, he described business conditions in Leavenworth at the time of his departure.

After two years in Salina, he went bankrupt there, so he liquidated his business interests and began farming the land his family had purchased. He described the fierce blizzard of 1871 and how large numbers of cattle starved.

The reminiscences were rewritten by Bondi’s children and published as his Autobiography 1833 - 1907 (Galesburg, Ill.: Wagoner, 1910) (Kansas State Historical Society Library call number K B B64).

For the most part, the Correspondence, 1884 - 1952 (series C), in the collection supplements the “Personal Reminiscences of August Bondi,” 25 April 1903 (series B). In a letter to F. B. Sanborn, Bondi discussed the series of articles on his activities with John Brown and provided additional information about his opinion of Brown. Correspondence for the year 1903 was between Bondi and G. W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka); it related to the republication by the society of his articles about John Brown, gave biographical information about Bondi’s colleague Freeman Austin, and provided details of his experiences with Brown and others during the territorial period. Letters between the two in 1906 discussed the territorial period in more detail and clarified some of Bondi’s Civil War experiences in the reminiscences; one letter also contradicted a newspaper article about Miami County Probate Judge E. H. Wilson which said he owned his father’s gun which was allegedly used in the Battle of Osawatomie. A 1952 letter to the governor of Kansas and intended for the historical society was from Isaac M. Wise, who described himself as a distant cousin of Bondi’s, in it, Wise disputed and amplified some of the family - history information in Bondi’s reminiscences.

The Battle of Osawatomie Account, 10 August 1906 (series D), was separated from a letter of the same date from Bondi to Martin in the Correspondence (series C). The account is a revision of Bondi’s text previously printed in the Salina Herald that he wished the society to substitute when it republished his John Brown recollections.

The American Jewish Archives (Cincinnati, O.) has photocopies of 14 letters from Bondi to Kansas Governor George Glick; the letters relate to politics, politicians, elections, and Bondi's life as a citizen - solder and political figure. There is also a photocopy of an 1884 letter from Bondi to C. W. Leonhardt, Salina, about politics.

By Robert L. Knecht
Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka
March 1998


1833 July 21 born in Vienna  
1848 March fought in the revolutionary movement in Vienna, named a member  
  of the Vienna Academic Legion  
1848 July wanted to fight under Louis Kossuth in the Hungarian war for in-  
  dependence from Austria, but, seeing that the struggle would be  
  fruitless, decided to leave the country with his parents  
1848 Sept. 6 left Vienna and emigrated to the United States  
1848 Nov. 10 arrived at New Orleans  
1848 Nov. 23 settled in St. Louis  
1848-1851 worked as an errand boy; a printer's helper in St. Louis; and a  
  saloon keeper in Carondelet, Missouri, a village north of Jefferson  
1851 summer volunteered to fight to liberate Cuba, but the division disbanded  
  without leaving the United States  
1851 October taught school in Meramec Township, St. Louis County, Missouri,  
  for about one month  
1851 November went to Texas and was a clerk and barkeep on Captain Thomas H.  
  Chubb's steamboats based in Galveston  
1852-1854 active in the antislavery (Benton) wing of the Democratic Party in  
  St. Louis  
1852-1855 returned to St. Louis and worked as a clerk  
1854 July 21 naturalized  
1855 March left St. Louis for Kansas, entering the territory 2 April  
1855 May 25 settled on Mosquito Branch of Pottawatomie Creek, Franklin  
  County, Kansas Territory  
1856 May with John Brown at camp near Ottawa, Kansas Territory  
1856 June 1 with John Brown as he left for Palmyra (now part of Baldwin City)  
  Kansas Territory  
1856 June 2 with John Brown at Battle of Black Jack (Kansas Territory)  
1856 Aug. 30 with John Brown at Battle of Osawatomie (Kansas Territory)  
1857 campaigned for the adoption of the Topeka Constitution to admit  
  Kansas as a free State  
1857 February established Walker (now Greeley), Kansas Territory, and  
  appointed its first postmaster  
1857 Dec. 2 participated at the fight at Bayne's Ford on the Little Osage  
  River in Bourbon County, Kansas Territory, against a U.S.  
  marshal's posse; participation caused his removal as post-  
  master of Walker  
1857 Dec. 14 present at the organization of "jayhawkers" in Mound City,  
  Kansas Territory  
1857-1861 kept a station on the Underground Railroad at Greeley  
1858 appointed enrolling officer of the 8th Brigade, Free-State Militia,  
  Anderson County, Kansas Territory  
1860 June 28 married Henrietta Einstein at Leavenworth, Kansas Territory  
1861 Nov. 26 mustered into the 5th Kansas Cavalry  
1862 Aug. 10 appointed commissary sergeant  
1864 Aug. 1 named first sergeant  
1864 Sept. 14 badly injured near Pine Bluff, Arkansas; captured by the  
  Confederates but left for dead on the battlefield  
1864 Nov. 10 discharged at Leavenworth  
1865 Spring started a store in Greeley, closed it in June  
1865 August moved to Leavenworth and opened a grocery store  
1866 July moved to Salina, Kansas, and opened a store there  
1868 March went bankrupt, sold business and began farming  
1872 elected District court clerk  
1876-1878 probate judge of Saline County, Kansas  
1877 established real estate and loan business and law practice in Salina  
1879 appointed register of the Salina Land Office  
1879 appointed police judge of Salina  
1880 appointed a member of the committee to appraise Fort Harker,  
1882 joined the Democratic Party  
1884 appointed a member of the State Board of Trustees for Control  
  of Charitable Institutions  
1894 May appointed Salina postmaster, served until August 1897
1896 admitted to the bar
1900 Aug. 24 Henrietta (Einstein) Bondi died leaving August and nine surviving
1907 Sept. 30 died while visiting St. Louis

Researchers interested in more detailed biographical accounts of Bondi’s life may want to examine the “Personal Reminiscences ...,” 25 April 1903 (series B), in this collection or the two book - length biographies of him: Autobiography, 1833-1907, by August Bondi (Galesburg, Ill.: Wagoner, 1910) (Kansas State Historical Society Library call number K B B64), a rewriting of the “Personal Reminiscences” by his children, and The Journey: the First Full Length Documented Biography of the American-Jewish Freedom Fighter Who Rode with John Brown in Kansas, by Martin Litvin (Galesburg, Ill,: Galesburg Historical Society, 1981) (Kansas State Historical Society Library call number K B B64?). Shorter biographical sketches appear in the “Biographical Sketch of: August Bondi,” 24 September 1903 (series A), in the collection; the U.S. Biographical Dictionary, Kansas (1879), page 175 (Kansas State Historical Society microfilm LM 406, no. 2); W. E. Connelley’s Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, 1918 edition, volume 3, page 1464 (Kansas State Historical Society Library call number K 978.1 C76 1918 v.3 p.1464); and Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society (Kansas Historical Collections), volume 8, page 275. References to other biographical information about him appear in Kansas State Historical Society’s catalogs. An article on the life of the Bondi family appears in The Salina Journal, 26 February 1946 (Kansas State Historical Society newspaper microfilm S 378, available through interlibrary loan).

Contents List

Collection Organization

The collection is organized into four series:

Series A (folder 1): “BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF: AUGUST BONDI,” Sept. 24, 1903. 3?.

Autobiographical sketch written at Salina, Kans., probably in response to a solicitation by George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka) for biographical information. Included is his name in full, his birthplace & -date, names & biographical sketches of his parents, his education, his residence prior to Kansas, the date he entered Kansas & residences in the State, his occupation, official positions held, details of his life & public service, his church membership, and names of his wife & children.

Series B: “PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF AUGUST BONDI,” Apr. 25, 1903. 0.1 ft. (9 folders)

Autobiographical essay of the period from his birth in 1833 through 1872 in five chapters. In it, Bondi tells of his ancestors & other family members; his participation in the armed uprising in Vienna in March 1848 which led to the fall of the Metternich government; his emigration to the United States & residence in St. Louis; politics in Missouri; his experiences in and impressions of Galveston, Tex., and the Texas Gulf coast; his jobs; coming to Kansas & claiming land; encounters with slavery advocates; his friendship & participation with John Brown; Kansas territorial politics; fighting in Kansas Terr.; raids by Brown; his military service in Co. K, 5 th Kansas Cavalry, in eastern Arkansas & battles in which he participated; and his experiences after the Civil War.

These reminiscences were rewritten by Bondi’s children and published as his Autobiography, 1833 - 1907 (Galesburg, Ill.: Wagoner, 1910) (Kansas State Historical Society Library [KSHS] call number K B B64). The portion pertaining to John Brown- chapter 2, p. 23, through chapter 3, p. 1-was serialized in the Salina Herald [3] in January and February 1884 (KSHS newspaper microfilm S 1561); later it was revised by Bondi-see Battle of Osawatomie Account, 10 Aug. 1906 (series D)--& published as “With John Brown in Kansas” in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society (Kansas Historical Collections), vol. 8, pp. 275-89.

Arranged by chapter, thereunder by page number.

file 1: Chapter 1. 40?.

folder a (#2): pages 1-20

folder b (#3): pages 21-40

file 2: Chapter 2. 40?.

folder a (#4): pages 1-20

folder b (#5): pages 21-40

file 3: Chapter 3. 36?.

folder a (#6): pages 1-18

folder b (#7): pages 19-36

file 4: Chapter 4. 40?.

folder a (#8) pages 1-20

folder b (#9) pages 21-40

file 5 (folder 10): Chapter 5. 25?.

Series C: CORRESPONDENCE, 1884-1952 (bulk 1903-1906). 4 folders

Letters pertaining to Bondi’s activities during and recollections of the “Bleeding Kansas” period, 1855-57. Most of the correspondence is with G. W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka) concerning details in Bondi’s “Personal Reminiscences…,” 25 Apr. 1903 (series B), that he donated to the society. Included are biographical information about Freeman Austin, additional information about John Brown not included in the “Personal Reminiscences,” and Bondi’s opinion of Brown. Other correspondents include F. B. Sanborn. With this is filed a letter [not after 30 Nov. 1952] from Isaac M. Wise, a distant cousin of Bondi’s, to the governor of Kansas correcting some of the genealogical information in Bondi’s reminiscences.

Arranged chronologically.

file 1 (folder 11): 1884. 3?.

file 2 (folder 12): 1903. 10 items.

file 3 (folder 13): 1906. 5 items.

file 4 (folder 14): 1952. 2?.

Series D (folder 15): BATTLE OF OSAWATOMIE ACCOUNT, Aug. 10, 1906. 4?.

Revised account of the Battle of Osawatomie, 30 Aug. 1856, sent to G.W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka) (KSHS), to be published in place of the text published in the Salina Herald, [ 4]Jan.-Feb. 1884 (KSHS newspaper microfilm S 1561). Originally filed with Bondi’s letter of 10 Aug. 1906 in Correspondence, 1884-1952 (series C).

Related Records and Collections

There are many diaries, ledgers, letters, and other manuscripts in the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society relating to the confrontational situation in Kansas Territory (“Bleeding Kansas”); troubles along the Missouri-Kansas border; the Civil War; the 5th Kansas Cavalry; Arkansas; businessmen; retail stores; and Greeley, Leavenworth, and Salina, Kansas. Researchers should consult appropriate catalogs and finding aids for additional information.

Some significant manuscript collections of close acquaintances of August Bondi during the Kansas territorial struggle include the Samuel Lyle & Florella (Brown) Adair collection, microfilm MS 1230-1237, available through interlibrary loan; the Kansas State Historical Society’s John Brown manuscript collection, 1826-1948, microfilm MS 1245-1247, available through interlibrary loan; John Brown’s letters, manuscripts, articles, and other papers, 1832-1964, collected by Velma West Sykes, microfilm MS-799.03, available through interlibrary loan; John Brown’s memoranda book, 1839-1859, at the Boston Public Library, microfilm MS-61; the Orville Chester Brown collection, microfilm MS 1293-1294, available through interlibrary loan; the Luke F. Parsons miscellaneous collection; and the William Addison Phillips collection, no. 470. Major collections of compatriots in the 5th Kansas Cavalry include the Andrew Jackson Huntoon collection, no. 398; the Wilton Atkinson Jenkins miscellaneous collection; the diaries of William F. Creitz and other regimental papers in the Military history collection, no. 617; and the Thomas W. Scudder collection.

The Kansas State Historical Society Library also has an immense collection of published material on the territorial period and Civil War including regimental histories and lists of those who served from regiments from both Union and Confederate States. Most of the archives of the territorial governors have been published in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society (Kansas Historical Collections), volumes three through five. Proceedings of the territorial legislature, 12 January-20 February 1857 have been published in the Transactions (Collections), volume 4, pages 687-725, passim.

Unpublished records of offices of the territorial government and State military forces (Kansas Adjutant-general’s Office, record group 34) are in the State archives holdings of the historical society.

1 Cataloging title: Salina herald (Salina, Kan.: 1867) to distinguish it from a later version of the paper with the same name.

2 Specifically, the text of the articles includes chapter 2, pages 23-40, and chapter 3, page 1 of the reminiscence.

3 Cataloging title: Salina herald (Salina, Kan.: 1867) to distinguish it from a later version of the paper with the same name.

4 Cataloging title: Salina herald (Salina, Kan.: 1867) to distinguish it from a later version of the paper with the same name.

Additional Information for Researchers


August Bondi gave his “Biographical Sketch ...,” 24 September 1903, to the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka) in 1903 (accession no. 37347). He sent the first chapter of his “Personal Reminiscences ...,” 25 April 1903, to the society in 1906 (accession no. 39725) and the remaining four chapters the same year (accession no. 40733). The Society purchased the 25 January 1884 letter in 1978. Bondi’s letters to Kansas State Historical Society Secretary G. W. Martin and the 1952 letter from Isaac M. Wise to the governor of Kansas were added to the collection by the society because of their historical value.

This material was microfilmed in1998 by the Kansas State Historical Society.


The Kansas State Historical Society does not own literary property rights to these papers with the possible exception of the purchased 25 January 1884 letter. The subject of copyright was not addressed at the time the papers were acquired, consequently we presume that literary rights belong to August Bondi’s heirs or assigns.

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.