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The Tale of Calvin Bradway

1850 United States Census
Palmer, Hampden, Massachusetts

Head of Household:  Calvin Bradway, 41, born about 1809, Massachusetts

Emelin Bradway, 35
Emelin S. Bradway, 41
Harriott L. Bradway, 13
Wm. O. Bradway, 18
Delia E. Bradway, 15
Lorin Clark, 13
Chester Eldridge, 19
Nelson O. Starr, 24
George Roper, 22

Springfield, Mass. Republican
Thursday, June 23, 1853

The examination in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Eli Gardner, Horace Gardner, William Soul of Wales, and Clark Shaw of Monson, before Josiah Hooker Esq., was concluded on Tuesday, after a trial of ten days. The defendants were tried for conspiracy to extort money from one Calvin Bradway, by charging him with various crimes. Fifty-five witnesses testified on the trial, and a very thorough investigaiton was made of a great variety of  transactions. The result was that the Gardners were bound over for trial at the December Term of the Court of Common Pleas, in the sum of $300 each, and Soul and Shaw were discharged, Saul being ordered to recognize as a witness in the sum of $100 - Vose and Norton for the Commonwealth, E. W. Bond for defendants.

1860 United States Census
Grove Township, Pottawattamie County

Head of Household:  Calvin Bradway, 53, born about 1808, Massachusetts

Emeline, 50
William L., 23

Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the Territory of Nebraska

Name: Calvin Bradway
Age:  54
Military Beginning Rank: Corporal
Military Final Rank: Farrier
Military Side: Union
State or Military Term: Nebraska Territory
Military Unit Note:  Second Nebraska Cavalry, Br-Con
Event Year:  1862

It is rumored that Calvin Bradway places a light in a window of his farmhouse so that unsuspecting travelers will stop; when they do, he robs them.

Springfield Mass. Republican
Saturday, December 3, 1864

Died at Nebraska City, Nebraska, 13th ult., Emeline, 53, wife of Calvin Bradway, formerly of Monson.

Springfield Mass. Republican
Tuesday, April 6, 1869

Calvin Bradway, recently assassinated by some unknown enemy at Council Bluffs, Ia., while under guard for some crime, was formerly of Monson, and reputed there a desperate character. He was one of those neighborhood nuisances who wage continual warfare upon their neighbors, and was always engaged in lawsuits. Not very long since he killed his father-in-law near Council Bluffs.

Nebraska Daily Press
Wednesday, April 7, 1869

The following additional particulars of the murder of Calvin Bradway, in Iowa, are given by a correspondent of the Council Bluffs Nonpareil. The substance of the testimony of one of the officers guarding the murdered man included in the statement. The case is substantially as follows:

On the 27th of March a warrant was issued for the arrest of Calvin V. Bradway on the affidavit of Mrs. Patience Graybill, and placed in the hands of William Stidman, special constable. To execute he called to his assistance ten men and proceeded to the arrest of Mr. Bradway. About five weeks ago William L. Bradway, a son of Calvin V. Bradway, while working for his father, was taken sick and died of typhoid fever, his wife attending him during his sickness, and remained at his father's house. On or about the 25th of March, Calvin V. Bradway asked to go bed with Mary A. Bradway, his son's wife, which she denied him. He then threatened to kill her in case she revealed one word of what he said. He told her further that he would kill any person who would assist her in getting away from his house, that she should not have her children or any property left by her husband. On the 26th of March Mrs. Graybill went to Mr. Bradway to get corn. Mr. Bradway not having time to measure the corn sent Mary A. Bradway to measure it for her. Then she told Mrs. Graybill the case, and it was on her information that a warrant was issued. As Mr. Bradway threatened so strong, and having murdered Mary A. Bradway's father in the fall of 1863, which was not as has been published in your last week's paper. Mr. Fierstan was a renter on Mr. Bradway's farm, and returning from Council Bluffs, Bradway shot him from a window in the part of the house Mr. Bradway had reserved for himself. Hence the reason for summoning as many men as he did to assist in making the arrest. They arrested him about noon the 27th of March, brought him before a justice of the peace, where the testimony of Mrs. Bradway was taken, which was the same as Mrs. Graybill's. Bradway wanted time to prepare for trial, which was granted until the next Tuesday. As he had repeatedly threatened the life of Mrs. Bradway, the Justice, under the circumstances, considered the case not bailable; placed him in the hands of two aged men, who started to his residence with him. The citizens considering it dangerous to let him go home requested him to be kept in some other place. He was brought back According to the request, placed in the house of David G. Stidham, in charge of the constable and his deputy. About 8 o'clock, I lay down on a bed that was in the room to watch in the after part of the night. About ten minutes to 10 o'clock the constable woke me up; told me to take charge of the prisoner. he layed down on the bed I had just left. - I walked to the stove, took a seat facing the prisoner with my back towards the window; being drowsy, I leaned my head forward on my hands. About 10 o'clock a shot came through the window, and passed over my head, striking Mr. Bradway and killing him instantly. I ran out of the door as did the others, was somewhat stunned, and did not hear any person. I was a deputy constable appointed to assist in the arrest of Bradway. - James B. Denton testifies to the same facts.

Daily Iowa State Register, Des Moines
Friday, April  9, 1869

A Mr. Calvin Bradway was murdered on last Saturday. He was an old citizen of Crane township, Pottawattamie county. The particulars, as related by the Red Oak Express, are about as follows: For some real or fancied offense, a warrant was issued for his arrest. A constable was deputized to make the arrest, and forthwith called a posse to his assistance, and some dozen men, armed with double-barreled shot guns, proceeded to Mr. Bradway's residence and surrounded it. He made no resistance whatever. He had his own team hitched and proceeded in his own wagon to the house of the justice of the Peace, some three miles distant. Here he asked time to procure counsel, which was granted, and it being necessary to send to this place, a distance of fifteen miles, the trial was continued until Monday morning. Mr. Bradway offered to give bail, which the justice refused to allow. Subsequently, however, he agreed that Mr. Bradway might go back to his home and remain there in charge of an officer. He accordingly started back in his own wagon, the officer and another man accompanying him. When about two-thirds of the way home, two of the men who had assisted in making the first arrest, came riding up at a gallop with drawn pistols, threatening instant death to Mr. Bradway if the wagon was not turned back. This, of course, was done, and Mr. Bradway taken for safe keeping to a house designated by the two men, that of a Mr. Stidham, they riding in company all the way, and threatening him in the most violent and abusive manner. Arriving at Mr. Stidham's house, he was placed in charge of a guard for the night, it being then about sunset. About midnight, while Mr. B. was sitting in a chair, talking with others in the room, both barrels of a shot gun were discharged through the window from the outside - the contents of one barrel striking a little above and just behind the ear, tearing away the whole of the lower back part of the head, the other shattering his arm near the shoulder, entering his body. His death was instantaneous. Up to our last intelligence, no arrest had been made. Mr. Bradway was buried on Monday, on his farm, by the side of his son who died a few weeks since. He leaves a widow and one small child here, and has two daughters living in Pennsylvania.

From Field and Reed's History of Pottawattamie County 1907:

It was conceded from the first, that whatever the result in Kansas, Nebraska would become a free state and only a few slaves as house servants were ever brought into the territory. During the perilous times of the contest in Kansas, a person on coming up the river through Missouri would feel a sense of relicf when they began to breathe the glorious free air of Iowa and Nebraska; and although Pottawattamie county was at that time strongly democratic and believed in the doctrine of squatter sovereignty, these democrats would have been quick to exercise it in excluding slavery from among themselves. In fact, there were a few men that went to the other extreme to the extent of aiding slaves to escape. Of this class was one Calvin Bradway, in the eastern end of the county, that for a long time kept an underground station and constructed a large cave cellar in his corn field, and when enough were received for a load he would take them to the next station, which was at or near Lewis, in Cass county; and although his neighbors did not approve of it he seemed to like to show his hatred of the institution by sometimes taking them through boldly by daylight. He was violent and fanatical in other ways, and killed a man named Fairstein over business trouble, fled the country and, after some three or four years, returned and gave himself up to Sheriff Field in open court, Judge Fay presiding, and after being in custody two or three days, and no probability of finding any witnesses, his case was dismissed on motion of the prosecuting attorney. He finally met his death while sitting in the house of a neighbor in the evening by a shot through the window. His slayer was never known.

In the National Park Service's National Register Of Historic Places Registration Form for the Camp Creek Cemetery and Chapel in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Calvin Bradway is stated as having been "associated with the Underground Railroad in Iowa."

Busy in the Cause, by Lowell J. Soike 2014
Published by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska

George Gill mentions various stopovers made on the trek from the territories through Iowa. Between the Tolles family's cabin and Des Moines, Brown's group stopped at Calvin Bradway's farm in southeast Pottawattamie County.

Compiled by Lynn Diemer