Richard J. Hinton, 1830-1901
Richard J. Hinton was born on November 26, 1830, in London, England. At an early age he learned the stone-cutter's trade and managed to secure in the process a fair education. Seeking broader opportunities than those availing themselves in the “old country,” Hinton crossed the Atlantic in 1851 and took up residence in New York City. While there he learned the printer's trade and soon became a newspaper reporter for several different newspapers in that city as well as in Boston. As a reporter he opposed the Fugitive Slave Law, became an anti-slavery advocate, and assisted in the organization of the Republican Party, which came into being in large part to oppose the expansion of slavery as embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Thus, after 1854 Hinton had become enthralled with the battle over the slavery issue enveloping the new territory of Kansas. In June 1856 he set out with other free-state emigrants, reached Kansas Territory in August, and took up residency in Lawrence. Soon afterward, he began writing to Eastern newspapers about the turbulent affairs in Kansas. His editorial accounts were published widely in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri newspapers.
As an anti-slavery advocate Hinton soon became associated with the notable leadership championing that cause. Among the more radical of this group of stalwart believers were such men as John Brown and James H. Lane. The numerous newspaper articles penned by Hinton reflected these individuals' views of a free-state of Kansas devoid of the much despised institution of slavery. With many another Kansas journalist of the late 1850s, Hinton certainly was “among those that helped to make Kansas free,” as he wrote in 1900. “I am glad also I was able to do other work, both as writer and fighter, in a small way, and, among Kansas soldiers, and many others by far more important than myself, to make the union secure and the whole of the state free from the curse of chattelism.”
Hinton helped recruit volunteers for the First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment early in 1862 and was appointed its adjutant with the rank of first lieutenant. Promoted to captain of Company B, Second Kansas Colored on October 21, 1863, Hinton mustered out of military service in November 1865, having reached the brevet rank of colonel. He finished the war serving as acting inspector general of the Freedman's Bureau as well as being sent South from Washington for a time on secret service work ordered by President Abraham Lincoln.
Following the war Hinton contributed articles to many different magazines and wrote several books, including Joh n Brown and His Men: With Some Account of the Roads They Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry (1894), an admiring biography of Hinton's old leader and hero. He also held several politically appointed positions within the federal government (i.e., United States commissioner of emigration in Europe in 1867; inspector of U.S. consulates in Europe; special agent to President Ulysses S. Grant to Vienna in 1873; special agent to the Departments of Treasury and State on the frontier and in Mexico in 1883; irrigation engineer to the U.S. Geological Survey from 1889-1890; and special agent in charge of the Department of Agriculture from 1890 to 1892.) While on business in London, England, Hinton died suddenly on December 20, 1901, leaving behind a wife, Isabella H. Hinton, and two sons, George F. and Ralph Hinton.
Connelley, William E. “Col. Richard J. Hinton.” Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1901-1902 7 (1902): 486-493.
Hinton, Richard J. “Pens that made Kansas Free.” Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1897-1900 6 (1900): 371-382.
The Annals of Kansas, 1886-1925. Volume 1. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1954.