When the Kansas-Nebraska bill passed, May 25, 1854, there was a feeling of despondency all over the north. The discussion of the bill had been long and exciting, and the whole country had joined in it. It was discussed in every newspaper, in every gathering of citizens, in every school lyceum. It was everywhere felt that its passage opened Kansas to slavery, and that was thought to be equivalent to making Kansas a slave state. Kansas lay beyond Missouri, and Missouri was a slave state. The border counties of Missouri had a large slave population, and an intense pro-slavery sentiment. The south pressed the passage of the bill for the sole purpose of securing Kansas to slavery, and when the bill had passed she felt assured that her end was gained. In the natural order of things this conclusion would have been justified by the sequel. In the natural order of things the people of Missouri would have passed over into Kansas and shaped her institutions to suit themselves. Therefore the south was jubilant and the north despondent when the bill passed.
But after the first shock was over, people began to ask "What can be done now?" The question so long discussed had taken too strong a hold on the public mind to be dropped. Congress had thrown the territory open to slavery. Was there any other way of keeping it out? Mr. Eli Thayer, of Worcester, Massachusetts, proposed to meet the question on the terms of the bill itself. The bill provided that the people of the territory should themselves determine whether it should be slave or free. "Let us settle Kansas with people who will make it free by their own voice and vote." William H. Seward had foreshadowed this policy in a speech in the United States Senate. "Come on, then, gentlemen of the slave states. Since there is no escaping your challenge, we accept it in the name of freedom. We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas, and God give the victory to the side which is stronger in numbers, as it is in right."
The contest, therefore, was transferred to the plains of Kansas. The north had been defeated in congress; she would try again in Kansas. In accordance with this purpose, "The Emigrant Aid Company" was formed in Massachusetts. Its purpose was to encourage and aid emigration to Kansas. Many leading men joined in the movement. Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston, a man of wealth and honor and large influence, was prominent among those who gave the movement not only their sanction, but their active cooperation. These men never faltered in the long struggle, but were always ready with voice and purse to help the cause along.
The interest was not confined to New England, but was general and widespread. The rising tide of anti-slavery sentiment was rapidly centering upon one practical point: "Slavery must not secure another foot of the public domain." Men anxious to check slavery felt that here was the opportunity to do something effective. They could not vote in congress, but they could go to Kansas, and vote, and that would accomplish the same thing. Even before the bill passed this thought began to mature, and people here and there were preparing for what they saw was coming.
Early in May, 1854, the Barber brothers, Thomas W. and Oliver P., with Samuel .Walker and Thomas M. Pearson,made a tour in the territory with a view to settlement. They had all been "boys together" in Franklin county, Pennsylvania, but the Barbers now lived in Indiana. They came to Westport, Missouri, by public conveyance. Here they hired a half-breed Indian to take them over the territory with his team. They spent a night at "Blue Jacket Crossing" on the Wakarusa, and passed over what was to be the site of Lawrence, passing up the spur of the hill south of where the university now stands. They went up as far as Topeka where there was an old-fashioned rope ferry; they then went across the prairies to Fort Leavenworth and then back to their home. The Kansas-Nebraska bill passed while they were in the territory. All four afterwards removed to Kansas, and were largely instrumental in inducing others to come.
The most systematic and extensive movement, however, was made in New England. "The New England Emigrant Aid Company," which had been chartered by the legislature of Massachusetts in April, was then called "The Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society." But afterwards a new charter was obtained for "The New England Emigrant Aid Company." The men engaged in it, Eli Thayer, Amos A. Lawrence, and others, began their work at once, arousing public interest and making arrangements to facilitate emigration to Kansas. As early as June, 1854, they sent Dr. Charles Robinson, of Fitchburg, and Mr. Charles H. Branscomb, of Holyoke, to explore the territory and select a site for a colony. Dr. Robinson was just the man for such a mission. Besides being in full sympathy with the ideas of Mr. Thayer, he knew the methods of the frontier. In 1849 he went to California with the gold seekers, and was a prominent actor in the stirring scenes which characterized the early history of that state. In those turbulent times he had been severely wounded, and had been put under arrest and kept in prison for several months. But he and his associates finally won the day, and California was saved from the rule of the thieves. He was just the man needed in the new emergency. He was cool of counsel and brave of heart, and knew the conditions he had to meet. In going to California he had passed over Kansas. He went by what was afterwards known as the "California Road." This road began at Westport, crossed the Wakarusa beyond Franklin, and wound up the spur of the hill just southeast of the state university. It then passed along the high prairie which divides the valley of the Kansas river from that of the Wakarusa. Dr. Robinson and his party climbed the hill along this spur, and looked off over what was afterwards the site of Lawrence. They marked the beauty of the spot and the magnificence of the view. Whether they thought then of what might afterwards occur is not known; but when the time came to select a location for the first colony, Dr. Robinson remembered this view from the hilltop, and this doubtless had much to do in the final decision. When he was asked, therefore, to go and explore the country with a view to locating colonies, it was not altogether an unknown land to him. Neither was pioneering altogether a new experience to him. He knew something of the men and methods of pioneer life. On arriving in Kansas, Mr. Branscomb and some others passed again over the Lawrence town site, while Dr. Robinson went up the Missouri river to Leavenworth and other points.
While these two gentlemen were exploring the territory, their friends were getting ready to send out the first party of emigrants. There were only twenty-nine in this first party, but they went out to prepare the way for others, and to show that the thing could be done. They were accompanied as far as Buffalo by Eli Thayer himself, the founder of "The New England Emigrant Aid Company." We quote a few paragraphs from his "Kansas Crusade:"
"The pioneer colony left Boston July 17, 1854. Immense crowds had gathered at the station to give them a parting God-speed. They moved out of the station amid the cheering of the crowds who lined the track for several blocks.
"The emigrants remained in Worcester the first night, and received a suitable ovation. Several of the leading citizens called upon them, and applauded their patriotic devotion, and pledging remembrance in any emergency.
"The next day we were met in the evening at Albany by a good number of citizens who welcomed us with great cordiality. The next day we were cheered at all the principal stations as we passed on our westward journey. The president of the Monroe County Bible Society made an address, and presented the colony with a large and elegant Bible."
They crossed Lake Erie in the steamer "Plymouth Rock," and went by way of Chicago to St. Louis. Here they were met by Dr. Robinson, who gave them the benefit of his experience. He procured transportation for them on board the steamer "Polar Star," and they left St. Louis July 24th and arrived at Kansas City the Friday evening following, July 27th. The journey from here is well described in a letter by Mr. B. R. Knapp, published in the Boston News, and dated August 9, 1854:
"We prepared ourselves at once for starting. An ox team was purchased to transport the baggage and at ten o'clock Saturday evening we started on foot for our destination across the prairie. We traveled as much as possible during the night as the weather was very hot during the middle of the day. We saw occasionally a log house as we passed along, inhabited by farmers, of whom we obtained milk, etc. On the evening of Sunday we encamped on the lands of the Shawnee Indians. On Monday morning we started early, and in the evening arrived at the Wakarusa river, within ten miles of our destination. Here we camped, and the next day reached our new home. Here we established our camp, and pitched our twenty-five tents, which made a fine appearance though somewhat soiled. On Wednesday the second day of August, we went to work setting up our claim to the lands, and preparing for permanent settlement." The following are the names of this first party: E. Davenport, A. Holman, Ben. Merriam, J. F. Morgan, A. H. Mallory, J. W. Russell, E. Conant, F. Fuller, G. W. Hewes, Dr. S. C. Harrington, A. Philbrick, J. D. Stevens, E. White, W. H. Hewes, John Mailey, Sam'l F. Tappan, D. R. Anthony, H. Cameron, G. W. Hutchinson, George Thatcher, J. M. Jones, Dr. John Doy, A. Fowler, G. W. Goss, August Hillpath, O. Harlow, Arthur Gunter, J. C. Archibald, B. R. Knapp.
This party arrived August 1st. They ate their first meal on the hill where the old University building now stands. Of course they held a "meeting" and "organized." Someone has said that "wherever two or three Yankees are met together there they hold a meeting and organize." The meeting chose Ferdinand Fuller as chairman. They were in good position to " View the landscape o'er," which they proceeded to do. They also had some speeches, and discussed the merits of the location and the best methods of procedure. The situation seemed to please them, and they voted to "stay here." They named the hill on which they met "Mount Oread," a name which it bears "unto this day." They remained on the hill a day or two, and then moved down, and camped near the Kansas river a little west of where the bridge now crosses that stream. The members of the party spent several days "claim hunting," and selected claims all around the proposed town site. After this was done, about half the party returned east, with the intention of bringing their families in the spring.
The second party of emigrants left Boston the last of August. It was a much larger party than the first, having sixty-seven members when leaving Boston. They received accessions on the way, swelling their numbers to one hundred and fourteen. There were eight or ten ladies in the company, and several children. There were several musicians, among them Joseph and Forest Savage from Hartford, Vermont. These musicians had their instruments with them, and enlivened the journey with music whenever opportunity offered. Before starting they assembled in the Boston and Worcester station in Boston, and sang and played Whittier's "Hymn of the Kansas Emigrant," which became a sort of national hymn to the colonists. These musicians became afterwards the nucleus of the "Lawrence Band" and were its main reliance for many years. They did noble service in stimulating an interest in music in the early times.
The following is Whittier's "Song of the Kansas Emigrant:"
"We cross the prairie as of old The fathers crossed the sea, To make the West, as they the East, The homestead of the free.
"We go to rear a wall of men
On Freedom's southern line, And plant beside the cotton tree The rugged northern pine.
"We're flowing from our native hills
As our free rivers flow, The blessing of our mother land Is on us as we go.
"We go to plant the common school On distant prairie swells, And give the Sabbaths of the wilds The music of her bells.
"Upbearing, like the ark of God, The Bible In our van, We go to test the truth of God Against the fraud of man."
The second party arrived at Lawrence or "Wakarusa," as it was then called, September 9th. They had been led by Charles Robinson, who was afterwards the first governor of the state, and by Samuel C. Pomeroy, who was one of the first two United States senators. It contained a number of men who were afterwards prominent in Kansas affairs, and who will be remembered with interest by all old settlers. The following is a partial list of the members of the party: James F. Ayers, Joseph W. Ackley, S. F. Atwood, Lewis H. Bacon, Edwin Bond, F. A. Bailey, Owen T. Bassett, Susan Bassett, H. N. Bent, William Bruce, Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. Bond, F. L. Crane, Joseph H. Cracklin, Willard Colburn, Mrs. Colburn, Jared Carter, Ed. Dennett, J. S. Emery, George F. Earle, Milan Grant, Mrs. Grant, Levi Gates, Mrs. Gates, George Gilbert, Joel Grover, Azro Hazen, H. A. Hancock, O. A. Hanscom, W. A. Hood, Franklin Haskell, Lewis Howell, W. H. Hovey, R. J. Hooten, S. N. Hartwell, C. Hobart, Alfonso Jones, H. A. Fick, Mrs. Jones, Wilder Knight, Mrs. Knight, Ed. Knight, G. W. Knight, Miss Knight, D. B. Trask, W. Kitcherman, E. D. Ladd, J. A. Ladd, Luke P. Lincoln, Lewis L. Litchfield, Lewis T. Litchfield, Mrs. Litchfield, Otis H. Lamb, Samuel Merrill, J. S. Mott, John Mack, J. N. Mace, Mrs. Mace, J. H. Muzzy, Caleb S. Pratt, S. J. Pratt, Samuel C. Pomeroy, A. J. Payne, Charles Robinson, Thomas F. Reynolds, E. E. Ropes, Charles W. Smith, Joseph Savage, Forest Savage, Jacob Strout, Mrs. Strout, Matthew H. Spittle, A. D. Searl, F. A. Tolles, J. B. Taft, Owen Taylor, Mrs. Taylor, John Waite, S. J. Willis, Mrs. Willis, Sol. Willis, E. W. Winslow, Silas Wayne, Mrs. Wayne, Ira W. Younglove, J. Sawyer, Mrs. Carter. Rev. S. Y. Lum, Mrs. Lum, and Miss Anna Tappan, arrived about the same time by a different route, and were reckoned with the second party. Mr. Lum preached the first sermon preached in Lawrence, a few days after .his arrival.
When the second party arrived they met the members of the first party and soon agreed upon terms of union with them in laying out the town. The members of the party were soon scattered here and there seeking claims for themselves. September 18th a meeting of the settlers was held to effect a town organization. The necessity for this arose from the fact that there were no laws regulating such matters. The only thing they could do was to set up a sort of voluntary municipal government. This meeting adopted a constitution and agreed upon rules for the choice of claims. The next day officers were chosen, and a full city government set up. Dr. Charles Robinson was chosen president; Ferdinand Fuller, vice-president; Caleb S. Pratt, secretary; Levi Gates, treasurer; E. D. Ladd, register of deeds; A. D. Sear], surveyor; Joel Grover, marshal. The councilmen were Messrs. J. S. Emery, J. F. Morgan, Franklin Haskell. S. C. Harrington, A. H. Mallory, Samuel F. Tappan, S. P. Lincoln, S. J. Willis, N. T. Johnson, Joseph H. Cracklin. At an early meeting of the council the principles of the Maine law were proposed, and adopted almost unanimously. Thus Lawrence commenced its being as a prohibition town.
September 20th another public meeting was held by members of the first and second parties. Terms of agreement were arranged and unanimously adopted, by which they were to lay out the town together. It was agreed that the choice of shares should be sold to members of the town association. Time was allowed for payment, and the proceeds were to constitute a fund for public improvements. The choices were sold at prices varying from fifty cents to over three hundred dollars. The fifty-six claims sold aggregated the sum of $5,040. At the end of the year the association gave up the notes, and the obligation was cancelled and the money never called for. In the distribution of shares, lots were reserved for a college, for schools, for state buildings, and for other public purposes.
At midnight of this same day, September 20th, the surveyor, A. D. Searl, with Charles W. Smith and three others, went out upon the high ground on Massachusetts street, near the river, and took the observations necessary to establish the meridian line. September 25th the surveyor commenced the survey of the town, and marked off the lots and streets and reservations essentially as they stand today.
The name of the town had not been determined upon. It had been called Wakarusa, Yankee-town, and New Boston. After a full discussion it was decided to give it the name of Lawrence, after Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston. Mr. Lawrence was one of the first men of means to endorse the movement for the settlement of Kansas in the interest of freedom. He was a man of large wealth and belonged to one of the most distinguished New England families. He was also a man of wide personal influence. He was treasurer of "The New England Emigrant Aid Company," and a very liberal contributor to its funds. A little later he gave some twelve thousand dollars to help found a college at Lawrence, which ultimately became a part of the endowment of the state university. His interest in Kansas, and especially in Lawrence, never faltered. His father and uncle were Abbott and Amos Lawrence who were long distinguished in business and political circles in eastern Massachusetts. Abbott Lawrence had been a member of congress several times, and was minister to England for a number of years. Amos A. Lawrence inherited the wealth, and reputation, and business capacity of the family. He also inherited their public spirit and large liberality. The naming of the first free state town in Kansas after him was a very fitting recognition.
The following letter from Mr. Lawrence, written for the Old Settlers meeting but not received in time for that meeting, shows something of the spirit of the man and of the condition of the times. It has never before been made public. It was sent in response to an invitation from the secretary, Mr. Charles W. Smith, to be present at the meeting:
(NEAR) BOSTON, August 16th, 1877. To the Old Settlers Association:
DEAR FRIENDS:-Your kind and pressing invitation, signed with your own hands, to be present at your yearly meeting, came close on that of the chancellor of the university to be present at the dedication of the new building. The same causes which keep me here, and made me decline the former, force me reluctantly to decline yours. If there are any faces on earth I wish to see they are yours.
You are good enough to say that ' free Kansas is indebted to no man more than yourself in her days of darkness and trial, and many, very many, of our people desire to see your face, and welcome you to our state. For the last I thank you with all my heart. But as to the first, permit me for once to differ from you, and direct your notice to others who rendered much greater service.
"Eli Thayer preached the ' Kansas Crusade.' He originated and organized the Emigrant Aid Society' in opposition to the plans of southern statesmen and politicians. Early in 1854, several months before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he wrote the charter of that company, and secured its passage through the Massachusetts Legislature, of which he was a member. He it was more than any other who turned the tide of northern emigration that year, and made Kansas a free state. He traversed the northern states, and aroused the people, depicting the glories of that country, and urging the emigrants not to turn away from it, but to go on and possess it. He never faltered in his faith, and he inspired confidence everywhere.
"There was Charles Robinson, whom you chose your leader and governor. He was to you in that day what Moses was to the Israelites. When the action of .the government was adverse to your interests; when Reeder and Geary were removed; when Atchison, the acting vice-president, left his seat in the senate to lead the border ruffians, and to drive you out with fire and sword, it was Robinson more than any other man who held the people firm in their allegiance to the United States. He had to fight not only the enemy but his friends. He was the representative of law and order, and so under Providence the public sentiment of the country was kept in your favor.
"You know who helped the cause there. Besides those who are now members of the association, there were many devoted men and women, who will never be known abroad; some of whom laid down their lives; and all of whom endured hardships and privations. Let us thank God for the good results and take courage. He governs the nations and individuals.
"And now good friends, for the present farewell. We may hope to meet on some other occasion. At any rate the time is not far distant when we may hope for a reunion which shall be forevermore. With great respect and affection, I am and shall ever remain,
Yours, Addressed to
AMOS A. LAWRENCE.
C. W. SMITH, Lawrence, Kansas,
Secretary of the Association of Old Settlers."
Rev. Charles B. Boyington, of Cincinnati, in a book written about this time, describes Lawrence as she then appeared:
A few tents were pitched on high ground overlooking the Kansas and Wakarusa valleys; others were scattered over the level bottom lands below, but not a dwelling besides could be seen. It was a city of tents alone. We had a comfortable night's rest in Dr. Robinson's tent, and in the morning were introduced to the only boarding house on the hill. Two very intelligent ladies from Massachusetts had united their forces and interests and taken boarders. In the open air, on some logs of wood, two rough boards were laid across for a table, and on wash-tubs, kegs and blocks, they and their boarders were seated around it. This was the first boarding house in the city of Lawrence. All were cheerful, hopeful and full of energy, and the scene reminded me of Plymouth Rock.
These energetic people now began to build the town, living in tents meanwhile. They built under disadvantages. One of these disadvantages was the lack of lumber. A sawmill had been promised, but had not arrived. Another mill was purchased later in the season, but was not put in operation for several months. In the meantime winter was coming on, when tents would not be as comfortable as in the hot days of summer. The people adopted many devices to shelter themselves. The first house built was a log cabin, about fourteen feet square. It stood not far from the river being nearly where Pierson's mill now stands. It was still in existence until a few years ago. It was not a very good specimen of even a log cabin. The logs were small and the openings between them were large. There had not been the careful matching which usually characterizes log cabins in the woods. But log cabins even of this inferior kind could hardly be numerous in a prairie country. Other methods were better suited to the situation. The sod house, which has since played such an important part in the settlement of the treeless plains, was not yet fully evolved. Sods were sometimes used for walls, but not for the entire structure, as has been the case in later years. A style of building became quite common, which seems to have been almost peculiar to Lawrence and to that time. It was called "the hay tent." It was built by setting up two rows of poles, then bringing the poles together at the top and thatching the sides with prairie hay. The house was all roof and gable. The windows and doors were at the ends. The gables were built up with sod walls. The "Pioneer Boarding House " was of this sort. It was fifty feet long and twenty feet wide. Here the first sermon was preached by Rev. S. Y. Lum. Some trunks were used for a pulpit, and the beds and boxes of the boarders served as seats. Here Plymouth Church was organized, October 15th, 1854. This building answered all public purposes, as well as furnishing room and board for the people. This building was burned during the autumn and the "St. Nicholas" was built in the same way, and thrown open to the public.. In addition to its walls of poles and hay, this house was banked up with sod to the height of three or four feet, and was lined inside with cotton cloth. It was the leading hotel. All the aristocracy of the place boarded there. The only frame house built the first season was that of Rev. S. Y. Lum. There being no saw-mill, no boards could be obtained. As a substitute for clapboards they resorted to "shakes." A "shake" is made by sawing off blocks of timber about thirty-two inches long, and splitting them somewhat after the manner of making shingles. These "shakes" were nailed on the studding like clapboards. If nicely split and well put on they made a very fair wall. The wind, however, found its way through them in the winter time in a manner that provided abundant ventilation. With these different styles of architecture, and with the tents that remained, the people passed the first winter quite comfortably. It was a very mild winter, and they thought they had found the American Italy.