Following the attack on Lawrence, Kansas, which was led by a pro- slavery sheriff and included the destruction of abolitionist owned homes, hotel, and newspapers, John Brown was outraged. He saw the action of these antislavery people as cowardly. On the morning of May 22nd 1856 a Free State company under the command of John Brown Jr heard of the sacking of Lawrence and not knowing if the people needed assistance set out. They camped near Ottawa Creek until late on May 23rd 1856.
John Brown Sr handpicked a party to join him on a private expedition. He took four of his sons; Frederick, Oliver, Owen, and Watson, along with Henry Thomason, Theodore Weiner and James Towsley. They camped throughout the 23rd and into the evening of the May 24th in a ravine just off the traveled road near Dutch Henry’s Crossing on Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, Kansas. After dark on May 24th 1856 they left their hiding place and went to the house of James P Doyle. They ordered Doyle and his two adult sons William and Drury out of the house. Brown’s party took the three men out into the darkness where the Brown brothers killed them with broadsword, finishing by shooting the men in the head to make sure they were dead. From here Brown’s men went to the house of Allen Wilkinson who ran the local Post Office. Wilkinson was ordered out of his house and stabbed to death. Around midnight Brown’s group crossed the Pottawatomie and forced their way into the home of James Harris at the point of a sword. Harris had three guests staying with him, Jerome Glanville, William Sherman, and John S Wightman. Glanville and Harris were interrogated and released, while Sherman was taken to the creek and hacked to death.
Brown found out at Harris’s home that his target Henry Sherman was away from home, they ended their killed and returned to the ravine where they had camped the night before.
If you are interested in reading more about the Pottawatomie Massacre
this is a good web site.