To the Close of 1865

by T. F. Robley

Fort Scott, Kansas 1894


Pages 18 - 21


The year 1844 passed without much incident bearing directly or indirectly on the future of this section of the country. The Republic of Texas was not yet quite ripe but it was rapidly maturing and would soon be gathered into the Union, and add its grand empire to the territory of slavery. This occurred the next year - 1845 - and with the annexation came the war with Mexico. The annexation of Texas was the cause of the Mexican war. Texas claimed that its western boundary was the Rio Grande. Mexico claimed that it was the river Nueces. The United States "took the lawsuit with the property" and made it a pretext for a war which was essentially political and wholly unjustifiable. President Polk and his advisers saw in this war a prospect for still further acquisition of slave territory and the strengthening of the slave power. The acquisition of Texas had whetted the appetite of the Slave State men and the slavery propagandists; awakened the desire and renewed their determination to absolutely control the future of the United States. A mere equilibrium in territory and power between the North and South was not enough. They must have such a pronounced advantage that hereafter their wish would be the law, subject to no makeshift of a compromise. The north half of the Louisiana Purchase contained too many possibilities for free States, and the preponderance of territory must be gained now.

It is not the design to enter into the details of that war, but to catch the spirit which actuated the already powerful and rapidly increasing following of John C. Calhoun. It formed one of the converging lines which at that epoch were beginning to sweep through the Republic, dividing and materializing public thought and action, and leading up to and educating the people to a realization of an impending crisis.

One of the principal events of the war, however, which had a bearing on the future, was the winning by General Taylor of the battle of Buena Vista, by which he at once broke the back of the Mexican army and overthrew the Democratic party at home; for that battle made him - a Whig and a restrictionist - President of the United States, and put a curb, for a short time, on their high ambition. But the additional territory so much desired was gained by the acquisition of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, for which, by the treaty of February 2, 1848, $15,000,000 was paid to Mexico.


During the war, Aug. 8, 1846, President Polk made an effort to stop it by a money proposition to Mexico.

He sent a message to Congress asking for an appropriation to pay for territory to be acquired. A bill was reported. David Wilmot, Hannibal Hamlin, Preston King and a few other Northern Democrats, who were not of those John Randolph called "Northern Doughfaces," held a caucus and decided among themselves that, inasmuch as Mexico had abolished slavery some twenty years before, all territory acquired from that country should come in free. Wilmot therefore offered the following proviso to the bill:

"Provided, That as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall be first duly convicted.

This was the historic "Wilmot Proviso." The bill passed the House with this proviso, but was talked to death in the Senate and went over the session without a vote. And the two Whig generals, Scott and Taylor, went on with the war.

The Democratic party at that time contained no general officer of the army who was regarded as competent to conduct the war. A bill was introduced and passed one house authorizing the President to place Thomas H. Benton at the head of the army. But Benton had too many personal enemies in Congress and in the Cabinet, and the bill was finally defeated.


Congress in 1850 resumed its efforts to organize the country acquired from Mexico into Territories but without success. The whole matter was finally referred to a committee of which Henry Clay was chairman. The report of the committee formed the basis of a compromise - sometimes called the "Omnibus Bill" - the chief features of which were the admission of California as a free State, a territorial government for Utah and New Mexico, and prohibiting the slave-trade in the District of Columbia.

After a protracted discussion, a bill to organize Utah was passed, but the other measures of the bill went over to the next session, when they were brought forward separately and became laws and the wrangle of 1850 was thus compromised. The effect was to allay the excitement that had so much agitated the country. The minds of the people were lulled to rest, and as 1851, '52 and '53 passed over without more than a slight increase in the boil and bubble of the political cauldron, it was hoped by all and believed by many that the slavery question was NOT irrepressible.

Outwardly, at least, all was quite on the Potomac.


Pages 22-29


Fort Scott was garrisoned until April, 1853. The troops were then withdrawn, and the post practically abandoned. The buildings were left in charge of a sergeant, who, it is said, had instructions to permit their occupation by any respectable parties who would take care of them. At any rate, they were so occupied as fast as people came in. H. T. Wilson and John Hamilton and their families were at this time the only residents and constituted the entire population of Fort Scott. Colonel Wilson had the only store in this section of country. It was in a story and a half log house situated near what is now Market Square, about half way between the head of Main street and the lower part of the National avenue. The few squatters within a radius of thirty miles or more came here to do their trading, if they had anything to trade. If they couldn't do any better, they would trade stories about happenings "back yonder in Kaintuckey" or "Injianny," or whatever haven of rest they may have come from.


There were, of course, but few settlers up to the time the Territory was opened for settlement in 1855. What few there were gravitated to the streams bordered with timber. They thought no claim was any account without a timber attachment.

It is impracticable to give the names of all of the earliest settlers, or anything of their biography. Several of them left before and some after the border troubles began; others before the war.

Among the very first settlers was Isaac N. Mills, who located on his farm near Marmaton in 154. He was born in Kentucky in 1830.

W. R. Griffith also located near Marmaton in 1855. He came from Pennsylvania. He was the first Superintendent of Public Schools. He died at Topeka, February 12th, 1862.

Ephraim Kepley located on the Osage in 1854. He was born in North Carolina in 1825. He built the first cabin on the Osage river, in Bourbon county.

Robert Forbes and his brother David settled near Dayton in 1854 from Illinois.

D. T. Ralston, John Guttry, James Guttry, McCarty, Fly, Mitchell and Coyle located in what is now Marion township in 1855.

J. W. Wells came in 1855 from North Carolina.

Dr. J. R. Wasson, from Tennessee, located on the Osage in 1855.

Bryant Bangness settled on Drywood in 1855, from North Carolina. Wiley and Jacob Bolinger moved in on Mill Creek in 1855, from Missouri. Jacob Gross came in with the Bolingers and settled on Mill Creek in 1855.

William Hinton located on Osage in 1855, from Kentucky.

Dr. T. K. Julian from Tennessee, first visited Fort Scott in 1854. Then he and his son T. B. Julian came back to Bourbon county and settled near Mapleton in 1855. T. B. Julian afterwards moved to Uniontown.

Joseph Oakley from New York, settled on the Marmaton near Fort Scott in 1856. He died after the war.

Asa Ward moved in on Moore's Branch in 1856, from North Carolina.

Josiah Stewart located on Mill Creek in January, 1856. His sons, John J. and Amos came with him. John J. Stewart has always taken an active and prominent part in county affairs.

J. R. Anderson came to Bourbon county in 1856 and located near Xenia.

Thomas Osborne, with his sons Robert and James Osborne, moved here from Indiana and settled on the Osage in 1855.

John McNeil settled on the Osage in 1856. Pat Devereux in 1857. James and Timothy Hackett in 1857.

George W. Anderson and his son Jacob settled in Marion township in 1857.

I. N. Crouch went into Franklin township from Missouri. Joseph Oliver moved into Marmaton in 1857. J. R. Myrick located near Dayton in 1857. Joab Teague came in 1857 from North Carolina. Samuel Stevenson and sons, I. S. and S. A., in 1856.

M. E. Hudson, Wm. F. Stone, Adam Boyd, William Deeds, E. A. Roe, Wm. Baker, George Stockmeyer, Michael Bowers, Henry Bowers, E. P. Highby, Ed. Jones, D. R. Cobb, Ben Workman, David Claypoool, Walker, Huffman, Hathaway, Kelso, Atwood and the Endicotts were all early settlers, the most of them having settled in this county as early as 1855.

THE TIME FROM 1854 TO 1855

Up to the year 1855 were the days of profound peace and quiet. The people enjoyed themselves after the manner of the frontier to the greatest extent. They all had good cabins, raised by the combined efforts of their neighbors, which at once became palaces of hospitality - that hospitality now almost obsolete. They had plenty to eat - game of all kinds - deer, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, fish from the streams, and their gardens and "patches" produced all else necessary.

As the manners and customs of frontier life are now things of the past, it may not be out of place to describe something of the mode of living among the pioneers up to the time the Territory was thrown open for settlement. To go into one of their cabins and take a meal with the family was a real satisfaction. The cooking was all done before immense fire-places. Cook stoves were not unknown, of course, but you would rarely see one. Their cooking utensils consisted of a big cast-iron skillet, with a cover made with a flange to hold live coals heaped on top, a tin coffee pot, possibly a bright tin reflecting oven, with legs, and one side open to be set near the fire to catch the heat, a big iron kettle and some smaller iron pots, a long-handled frying pan, iron spoons and knives and forks and some "tins." An ordinary water "bucket" was kept on a shelf in one corner, with a tin dipper or a gourd in it. Quite often they had instead of the bucket what many even quite old people of the present day have never seen. That is a "piggin." A piggin was made like a pail with one stave extending up about six inches with a rounded top for a handle.

Let us drop in one of these families, say late in the fall of the year, and watch the wife get supper. First, a good fire is made with a back log, and plenty of oak and hickory wood on the andrions, which is allowed to burn down till there are plenty of coals. In the meantime a pot, hanging on the crane, containing the meat, is boiling. The skillet is placed on a bed of coals with coals heaped on the lid, and will soon be ready for baking the corn bread. In this instance it is corn bread and not dodger, the corn meal probably grated on a large hand grater, from new corn. It is made with eggs and shortening. Dodger and hoecake generally were mixed with eggs, venison gravy and milk also, but it was after supper. The meat is now taken from the pot, slashed across the rind, put in the reflector and baked brown. Big potatoes, sweet and Irish, are all this time lying in the hot ashes until their jackets are brown. The coffee pot is on, some "rashers" are cut from the "flitch" of bacon and the grease tried out; eggs are fried, and "dip" is made. Everything is timed to get done all at once, like the "wonderful one-horse shay." Now everything is placed on the white clothed table, together with dishes of cold meats, vessels of rich yellow butter, cream, sweet milk, butter, milk and honey. Supper is now ready. If like some now standing on the Osage, the cabin is a double one, with a wide open porch between; the men folks will be in the "sitting room," and ten-year-old Jimmy will be sent in, and will announce in a loud voice, "Come to supper, and bring cheers." Each man totes in his "cheer" and sits at the table. Probably the man of the house, brought up in the church of Peter Cartwright, will ask a blessing. If so, it may be something like this: "Kind father, we thank Thee for Thy many mercies. Bless these a-nourishments to our use. Forgive our sins. Protect us from evil. And in the end, save us, for Christ's sake." The words sounded like simplicity itself. Heard from the lips of an Edwin Booth, they would well up all the sweet idyllic sentiments of Saint James.

Neighborship and hospitality were of the strong tenets of the pioneer's character. All were welcome at his house. No one was turned away hungry. Gold and silver he had none, but such as he had he gave unto all who came, the friend, the neighbor or the unknown stranger.

He had but little communication with the "States." He had no newspapers, and his library contained only his old school books, Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. He knew but little of politics, but he could easily drive center sixty yards, off hand, at the neighborhood shooting match, where "first choice" was the hind quarter of a beef. He heard more or less of the increasing and ominous growls over the slavery question, but not until he suddenly found himself surrounded by vicious partisans from the contending sections, did he realize that his season of profound peace was over, that the harbinger of a storm had appeared, which was destined to stain the lintel of his cabin door with blood.

In these lame descriptions of our early settlers - squatters they were to all intents and purposes - an effort has been made to typify that class who kept to the extreme border of our frontiers, a people whose ancestors had steadily moved in westward front from the Atlantic through the "dark and bloody ground," a class then rapidly diminishing and who have now finally disappeared forever.

This seems necessary also, in order that one may realize all the conditions of a given period or situation, and to understand how the people lived in all respects.


The climate was another feature of those days. It was most delightful and enjoyable, especially in the fall of the year. It has changed in these later years, for civilization seems to have taken out the "wild taste." The atmosphere probably contained no more ozone than now, but it was wild ozone. It did not smell to heaven laden with iron filings and the abrasion of gold.

The immense prairies south and west - larger in extent than all western Europe - were annually burned over. The smoke from the autumn prairie fires permeated the entire atmosphere which came up to us from the grand pampas of the southwest toned down into superb Indian summer. But the wild prairies have disappeared beneath the plow, and Indian summer has disappeared with the Indian.


The beauty and grandeur of those autumn days can scarcely be described. One felt a lazy exhilaration, and life here seemed the perfect ideal of existence on earth. The woods have unfurled a million banners, blended in all the colors of nature. The broad rolling prairies seemed as if formed by the stilled waves of a former and forgotten sea. The air, soft and dreamy, laden with the scent of wild flowers, went out to meet the coming day, whose rosy faced morn was ushered in by the songs of the mocking bird and the sweet chromatic cadence of the drumming grouse. And

"The grey ey'd morn smiles on the frowning night,
Checquering the eastern clouds with streaks of light."

The sun makes his daily circuit through a sea of smoky haze, until, hanging o'er the west like a huge illumined globe - shielded by the translucent rays of a glorious corona - he sinks below the horizon to the vesper song of the whippoorwill, and the gentle whisperings of the southwest wind.


Pages 30-34


We have now brought up the salient points of national history from the time when the United states acquired title to the domain lying west of the Mississippi river, insofar, as they affect, directly or indirectly, the soon to be formed Territory of Kansas. We have noted especially the features affecting or bearing on the question of Slave Territory or Free Soil, and endeavored to mark out, like the "blaze" on trees through a forest for a new road, the many conflicting impulses which dominated the passions and prejudices of a great people.

It may be said that all this is unnecessary and uncalled for in the history of the local happenings of a single county. We do not think so. These local happenings, in fact the entire history of this county, was essentially and peculiarly political, brought about, controlled and "happened" as the resulting consequence of national politics. The history of counties in the old States might be written without so much extraneous detail. But those counties had no ancestors. They were progenitors. Bourbon County is their child. Its history cannot be truly and fairly written without going back to the base line and bringing up the field notes.

The Louisiana Purchase was the base-line. The agitation of the slavery question began almost with that purchase. Slow at first, but gradually increasing, like the dread disease of consumption, until in the beginning of 1854, it had become the fevered and hectic topic of discussion in the Northern homestead and in the "big house on the lawn."

The National Legislature at that time was composed of the best minds of the country. The ward politician had not yet broken into Congress. The august Senate contained no resultant mouse from the parturition of local class sentiment, and no man of questionable personal honor had yet gained a seat. They were naturally and necessarily strong partisans; the men from the South were becoming bitterly so. There was an underlying feeling that the North was growing up to be the dominant power. They realized that, however distasteful, their candidate for the presidency must come from the North. Charles Sumner had enunciated the axiom, "Freedom is National; slavery is sectional;" the Northern press was using the license of printer's ink; the mud-sills were talking. All this angered them. Free speech and free press they no longer tolerated. They struck out like a blinded rattlesnake at every sound. When the gods would destroy they first make intolerant. Henceforth concessions were to be thrown to the winds; hereafter the policy was to be aggression. The Fugitive Slave Law was not enough. The Missouri Compromise - their own child, proposed by them, passed by them, and approved by President Monroe and his cabinet, of which John C. Calhoun was one - now stood in their road and must be swept away. The protesting hands of their Clays and Bentons were raised against such action, but were struck down by the spirit of Preston Brooks. The mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine.

Tools were necessary for the work in hand, and like their Presidents, they also must come from the North.


On the 23rd on January, 1854, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, introduced a bill for the organization of the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This is known in history as the Kansas - Nebraska bill. The important features of the bill, affecting the Territory of Kansas, are copied from Sec. 32, and are as follows:

"That the constitution and all the laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Kansas as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the Act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6th, 1820, which, being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State nor to exclude it there-from but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States; Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive and put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the Act of the 6th of March, 1820, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting or abolishing slavery."

And on this Mr. Douglas addressed the Senate, outlining and advocating what he called the "great principles of squatter sovereignty, or non-internvetion."

On the 3rd of March following, the Act passed the Senate by 37 to 14, and on May 22d it passed the House by 91 to 44, and President Pierce signed it on the 30th day of May.

The South had chosen her path. "Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell." This was the high-water mark of the slave power. The solemn compact that had stood for thirty-four years was swept away like a "rope of sand." The converging lines of the irrepressible conflict were being drawn closer and closer until the culminating point was reached at Appomattox.


Kansas at last had a place on the map. It had been partly surveyed and the boundary lines designated and described. A governor and other Territorial officers were soon after appointed, and this experiment of non-intervention - this child of Squatter Sovereignty - was set adrift, to be buffeted, smitten, disgraced, in the confident hope that she would acquiesce in the demand of that force which instantly jumped at her throat, and quietly submit to be "sealed" to the South.

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