DOUGLAS COUNTY, KANSAS
A HISTORY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS
FROM THE FIRST SETTLEMENT TO THE CLOSE OF THE REBELLION
BY RICHARD CORDLEY, D.D.
Who came to Kansas in 1857; Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence from 1857 to 1875 and 1884 to Present Time an Eye Witness of the Quantrill Raid
Published by: E. F. CALDWELL
Reinforcements - The Disgust of the Kid-gloved Contingent - First Sabbath Services - The First Funeral - Town Site Troubles - Shoot to Hit - First Election for Delegate to Congress - Judge Wakefield - The First School - Three Newspapers - Winter in Tents and Cabins
Three or four other parties came from the east during the first season, about seven hundred and fifty persons in all. These were by no means all who came. Immigrants came singly or in groups from different parts of the country. A number of prominent free-state men were on the ground when the first party from Boston arrived. On the other hand, several of those who came in these parties, became disgusted when they saw the true situation. This was especially true of the third party who arrived early in October. The movement by this time had attracted wide attention, and the colonists had sent back glowing accounts of the country. These accounts were interpreted by a vivid imagination, and a number of soft-slippered people such as they would call "tenderfeet" in Colorado, enlisted, who expected to find an earthly paradise. When they came and found only a few tents and a few thatched hovels, their disgust knew no bounds. They were looking for hotels with all the modern conveniences, and expecting to find good positions waiting for them in large business establishments. After exhausting their vocabulary in denouncing the leaders who had " deceived them" and induced them to come to such a barbarous place, and the people of Lawrence for not providing for them in a more appropriate way, they turned on their heels and "went back to their folks."But most of those who came were of different stuff, and were prepared to ''endure hardships as good soldiers."Even these had all the hardships they cared for before they were through. But they did not falter as difficulties increased, but "their courage rose with danger."
Andreas in his history quotes from a letter in the Boston Recorder describing the first funeral in Lawrence. The letter is dated October 5th, 1854.
"Last Sabbath was my first prairie Sabbath; it was the first Sabbath our parties had assembled for the 'hearing of the word.' Rev. Mr. Lum, sent us by the American Home Missionary Society, preached very acceptably. The place of meeting was one of the large receiving and boarding houses. We have two nearly adjoining each other, each of them about 20 by 48 feet, covered and thatched with prairie grass, very warm and very good. We had a large and attentive audience. Rev. Mr. Boynton, of Cincinnati, sent us two boxes of books and pamphlets, which I distributed at the interval to a very eager crowd. All our people as well as others, miss their home papers and books, and are very anxious to get anything to read.
"Though the Sabbath was delightful as my first prairie Sabbath, still there was one cloud that settled dark upon us; we had to open our first prairie grave. The call was for one of our own party, a near neighbor of mine, Moses Pomeroy, a fine young man, an only son, leaving parents and two sisters to mourn his loss. I have just finished long and very minute letters to each of them. Mr. Pomeroy left the party in Illinois. He joined Dr. R. and myself upon the following Tuesday at St. Louis, and came up the river with us. He said to me that all of his Illinois friends were sick of a fever, and after he was taken sick, he sent for me to come and see him, for he had got an Illinois fever. I went to see him on Thursday evening, September 28th, and found Dr. R. and Dr. H. in attendance. I saw he was very sick, and at his request sat by him all night and ministered to his wants. Friday morning I was very busy at our settlement. At evening he sent for me again. In company with Mr. Searl of our place, I stayed also Friday night. In the morning we were all fearful he would die. I was absent during the day. At evening Dr. R. and myself went again to see him. We both sat with him till three o'clock Saturday morning, when he quietly breathed his last. He had his reason and was very thankful for all our kindness to him. He had fallen among the kindest of friends, but they could not save him.
"Sabbath evening at four o'clock his funeral was attended in our New England way, services very solemn and impressive at our grass church. All our large family followed in solemn procession to the grave, and just as the sun was setting in a golden west, and all nature sinking to repose, we gently laid him down to the long sleep of the tomb."
As has been intimated the first Congregational Church was organized October 15th-the first church of any kind in Kansas except among the Indians. The church was formed in the "Pioneer Boarding House." Rev. Mr. Lum explained the object of the meeting, and a committee was appointed to draft rules. The creed and constitution were adapted from those of Mount Vernon Church, Boston. S. C. Pomeroy wrote them off, using the crown of his beaver hat for a desk; Mr. Joseph Savage held the inkstand for him, and Mr. O. A. Hanscom held the candle. They voted to name it Plymouth Church on account of the close parallel between the Kansas settlers and the pilgrims at Plymouth.
The only serious troubles the colonists met the first season were from claim difficulties. It is not easy at this distance to determine how much of this trouble arose from political reasons, and how much from misunderstanding and perhaps greed. The political situation aggravated all other difficulties, and was doubtless responsible for a great many difficulties of its own. When the Kansas bill passed the people of the South expected to take possession of the territory. They urged those on the border to "move right over," and take their slaves with them. They said "two thousand slaves settled in Kansas would make it a slave state." But the southern people did not have the "courage of their convictions." They did not dare take their slaves over. There never were but a handful of slaves in Kansas, and these were on the border where they could be easily withdrawn. But southern people determined to take possession of Kansas, and as soon as the bill was passed the men in the border counties of Missouri began to rush over, and stake off claims. In a few weeks the whole region was claimed under the pre-emption laws by persons residing in Missouri. They paid no attention to the terms of the law, but each man marked off the land he wanted, drove a stake down and wrote his name upon it, and went back home. This gave them no title and no claim because it did not comply with the law. But they agreed among themselves to shoot any man who interfered with them. When the real settlers came two months later they found many embarrassments. They might travel fifty miles and not see a human habitation or a human face, but if they attempted to claim a piece of unoccupied land, they found it already claimed by somebody in Missouri. This man had not complied with the law, and had secured no title, but then he had a revolver and a bowie knife, and in the unwritten code of the border these stood for law and right, and pretty much everything else. Many of these prior claims had been made before the country was open to settlement, or before the Indian title was extinguished, but these were "trifles light as air" in the minds of the men who were a "law unto themselves." They were all banded together, and pledged to stand by each other. Law or no law, they were determined to "keep the abolitionists out of Kansas." An end like this justified any means, as they viewed things.
The Lawrence dispute was somewhat peculiar. Gov. Robinson in his "Conflict" gives a full and clear account of it from which this account is condensed. When the town site of Lawrence was first selected it was occupied by a Mr. Stearns who had improved a quarter section and was living upon it. The Emigrant Aid Company bought his claim for $500, and the ground was supposed to be clear. After taking possession, however, other claimants appeared and insisted that the town company should vacate for them. Among these other claimants was John Baldwin, a noisy, blustering fellow, who had others back of him who were wiser than he, and who were putting him forward. He established himself a few rods from the Stearns cabin which the town company had bought. The agent of the company, Dr. Robinson, proposed to let the matter rest till the question could be referred to the land office, or to the courts, where the rights of each could be legally determined. But this was not satisfactory to John Baldwin and his set. Their purpose was to drive off the free-state men, and prevent the founding of a free-state town. They had no case in law, and could only hope to succeed by bluster and force. The first conflict is described in Andreas' history as quoted in Robinson's "Conflict":
"In the meantime Baldwin had associated with him Messrs. Babcock, Stone and Freeman, men of means and influence, and put the business in the hands of a speculator named Starr, who proceeded to lay out a rival city, which he named Excelsior, on the claim; Mr. Baldwin and the Lawrence association both occupying tents upon it. On the 5th of October a wagon containing several armed men appeared in the vicinity of the New England tent. Hostilities were commenced by a woman (a sister of Baldwin, it was stated) who speedily packed the obnoxious tent with its contents into the wagon, the men with their rifles standing guard. As soon as they were discovered by the Yankees, who were at work in the neighborhood, the city marshal, Joel Grover, rushed to the rescue unarmed, followed by Edwin Bond with a revolver. The latter seized the horse by the bridle, ordering the surrender of the property. Others coming up, they allowed the tent to be replaced, but threatened that they would have two hundred Missourians on the spot in a short time. That night the Lawrence settlers organized what they called the "Regulating Band," to be ready for the next day's fray. Soon after dinner on the 6th the Missourians began to assemble in the neighborhood of Baldwin's tent, but open hostilities did not commence until four o'clock, when the gage of battle was hurled at the Yankees in the shape of the following note:
"KANSAS TERRITORY, October 6th.
"DR. ROBINSON:-Yourself and friends are hereby notified that you will have one-half hour to move the tent which you have on my undisputed claim, and from this date desist from surveying on said claim. If the tent is not moved in one-half hour, we shall take the trouble to move the same.
"(Signed) JOHN BALDWIN AND FRIENDS.
"The following reply was instantly returned:
"To John Baldwin and Friends:
"If you molest our property you do it at your peril.
"C. ROBINSON AND FRIENDS."
E. D. Ladd, the first postmaster of Lawrence, tells the remainder of the story in a letter dated October 23, 1854, and published in the Milwaukee Sentinel:
"Prior to the notice they had assembled to the number of eighteen, mounted and armed, at Baldwin's, the aggrieved man's tent, on the claim and about twenty rods from our camp. On notice being served, our men, those who were at work about and in the vicinity, to the number of about thirty, stationed themselves about ten rods from the contested tent, the enemy being about the same distance from it. Subsequent to the notice a consultation was held at our position between Dr. Robinson and a delegate from the enemy's post, which ended in the proposition of Dr. Robinson to submit the question in dispute to the arbitration of disinterested and unbiased men, to the adjudication of the squatter courts now existing here, or to the United States court; and on the part of the enemy that on the termination of the notice they should proceed at all hazards to remove the tent. If they fell in the attempt our fate was sealed, our extermination certain, for three thousand, and if necessary thirty thousand, men would immediately be raised in Missouri to sweep us and our enterprise from the face of the earth. It was all expressed of course in southwestern phrase, which I will not attempt to give. Well, the half hour passed, and another quarter, the enemy occasionally making a movement as if about to form for the execution of the threat, then seating themselves on the ground for further consultation. While thus waiting John Hutchinson asked Dr. Robinson what they should do if they should attempt to remove the tent. Should they fire to hit, or fire over them? Robinson replied that he would be ashamed to shoot at a man and not hit him. Immediately after this reply a man who had been with the free-state men, and till then supposed to be one of them, went over to the other party, which soon after dispersed. It was supposed at the time that the report of the spy brought the "war" to an end for that day. After the band had mounted and dispersed the principals and principal instigators avoided our neighborhood. Some of the more honest dupes, seeing the absurdity of their position, and the reasonableness of our proposition, came up to us and had a social chat, and went off with a determination never to be caught in such a farce again."
This little encounter did not end the matter, but there was no fighting. The Missourians did not care to encounter men who would "shoot to hit." But they kept up the disturbance for a long time and missed no opportunity of annoying the settlers. Once some of them undertook to tear down Dr. Robinson's house, but a few men, G. W. Deitzler, S. N. Wood and S. N. Simpson, who were in the habit of "shooting to hit," rushed to the rescue, and the ruffians got out of range. After a while the title to the Lawrence town site was quieted, but not without a long struggle and a good deal of bitterness.
The first election held was for a delegate to congress, November 26. Not much interest was taken in it, though the influx of voters from Missouri gave a hint of what might be expected in more important elections. The little town of Douglas, not far away, with only fifty legal voters, cast two hundred and eighty-three votes, thus more than out-voting Lawrence with many times the population. At Lawrence the larger portion of the votes were cast for Judge J. A. Wakefield, who lived but a few miles away. He was a plain, honest man, a hearty free-soiler, and a unique character, such as are only developed amid the peculiar conditions of those early times. He had served under Lincoln in the Black Hawk war, and had waded through swamps where "the men sank up to their knees and the horses sunk in furder." He was enthusiastic, earnest and honest, and in speech was most amusing when most serious. William A. Phillips, in his "Conquest of Kansas," thus describes him:
"As a free state man, the judge is unquestionably reliable. He is a western man, and no abolitionist. But, as he explained in a speech we once heard him make, he was a free-soiler up to the hub-hub and all. The judge is a character in his way. His public speeches and private conversation are characterized by a style and enunciation decidedly provincial, and his grammar sets up a standard somewhat independent of Lindley Murray. But he is sound and shrewd in his opinions, and honest to the core. "In a speech made during the campaign the judge said he was born in South Carolina, raised in Kentucky, he had lived in free states, and had been a pioneer all his life. The judge received the greater portion of the vote at Lawrence, and the vote at Lawrence was the greater portion of the vote he received. General J. W. Whitefield, the pro-slavery candidate, was elected by a large majority, more than half his vote being imported from Missouri.
On the sixteenth day of January the first school was opened. Mr. E. P. Fitch was the teacher. There was no law by which taxes could be levied, so the people maintained the school by voluntary contributions, and threw it open to all the children. It was a free school, so far at least that no charge was made for attendance. The school was not large but the work done was good. Lawrence was bound to begin right, and she began with a free school. Mr. E. P. Fitch taught the school for about three months, and then others took it up. It was not easy to maintain a school, but there was no year without one.
A Bible class was formed the first Sunday in October. There would have been a Sunday school formed also, but there were not children enough. As other parties arrived, however, there were more families among them, and the first Sunday in January a Sunday school was formed, of which Mr. S. N. Simpson was superintendent, and after him Mr. C. L. Edwards. A little after this a mission Sunday school was formed a few miles east of town. These schools were held wherever a place could be found for them, and were often interrupted by the disturbed state of affairs.
It is not easy to determine which was the first newspaper established in Lawrence. There were three, each claiming to be the first, and each being able to make its claim good, if you will follow its own line of proof. The first number of the Herald of Freedom was dated at Wakarusa, October 21, 1854. It was edited and printed, however, at Conneautville, Pennsylvania, and 21,000 copies distributed from there. The material was then packed and sent to Lawrence. It was delayed on the way, and the second number of the paper appeared in January. Mr. G. W. Brown had meanwhile moved to Lawrence, erected a building of unseasoned boards in which he set up his printing office. The paper was ably conducted, and for a time had a large circulation at the east.
The last of September John Speer and his brother J. L. Speer came from Ohio to Lawrence. They prepared the copy for a paper, and tried to get it printed in an office at Kansas City. But the proprietors being pro-slavery refused to do the work. They then went through a similar experience with the Leavenworth Herald. Mr. John Speer returned to his home at Mendina, Ohio, and issued the paper from that place October 15th. He returned at once to Lawrence and issued the first number of the Kansas Tribune January 5, 1855. Mr. Josiah Miller visited Kansas in August of 1854, with a view of establishing a paper. Like the others, he was hindered in getting his material on the ground. At last he was able to issue the first number of the Kansas Free State, dated January 3, 1855, being the first paper actually printed in Lawrence. The paper announced that it was published from an office that had neither "floor, ceiling nor window sash. "Mr. Miller had associated with him Mr. R. G. Elliott, who afterwards held important positions.
The coming of three such men to Lawrence at the same time and on the same errand is significant they were as different as men could be, and yet all were moved with the same purpose. Mr. Brown was a man of experience and of various resources. He was a good writer, and his paper was handsome and well filled. He was self-willed, however, and strong in his antagonism, and often bitterly personal. After a few years he abandoned journalism and returned to the practice of his profession in another state.
John Speer was an easy-going, good-natured man, but a sturdy friend of human freedom. He made no pretense to literary polish, but was a very fluent and effective writer. He had a wonderful memory, and could recall at any time the minutest details of all his large experience and wide range of miscellaneous reading. He was a strong politician and a master in the arts of political management. He has had a large and varied experience as a newspaper man in Kansas and may be called one of the veteran editors of the state. He is still living, honored for his long service in the interest of Kansas, and in the cause of freedom.
Josiah Miller was different from either of these. He belonged to a class which was one of the unrecognized elements in the Kansas problem. He was an anti-slavery man from the South. It was common to consider all immigrants from the South as in favor of slavery. But many of the most determined opponents of slavery were from the South. Mr. Miller's family were of Scotch descent and of the Covenanter faith. They brought with them all the love of freedom, and all the indomnitable persistence for which that people have been remarkable. They settled in South Carolina, and though able to own slaves never did own any. Robert H. Miller, the father of judge Miller, had got himself into trouble through his anti-slavery proclivities. Their minister had said something unfavorable to slavery and had been treated to a coat of tar and feathers, one of the favorite arguments with the pious defenders of the patriarchal institution. Mr. Miller undertook to prosecute the assailants, but his attorney was poisoned, and the case was thrown out of court. Soon after he was set upon by a lot of roughs and beaten almost to death. Trained in such a school, young Josiah Miller grew up without any great love for the peculiar institution of his native state. After graduating at the state university of Indiana and studying law, he threw himself into the Kansas struggle. He was a scholarly man and an able lawyer. He took a prominent part in the stirring events which followed. In the summer of 1856, he was seized by some of Col. Buford's men and tried for treason to his native state, South Carolina. His life was in peril for a time but he was released from prison after a few weeks. In 1857 he was elected probate judge of Douglas county, when the probate court covered a good part of the judicial business of the county. He was a member of the first state senate in 1861, and as chairman of the judiciary committee, suggested the motto on the state seal, "Ad Astra per Aspera."
The coming of these men on the same errand, from different parts of the country, and without any knowledge of each other, is an illustration of the wide-spread interest Kansas had excited. They all came at about the same time, met almost the same hindrances, and got out the first issue of their papers within a week of each other. The papers were filled with interesting matter, and would have done credit to any eastern town. Of course Lawrence was not large enough to support three such papers. But the interest in Kansas all over the country gave them a large eastern constituency. Everybody was seeking information as to Kansas affairs.
The colonists were kept busy during the autumn preparing for winter. The cold weather came on quite early and caught them in a very poor condition to face it. A letter written at this time describes some of their experience.
"It is quite cold for the 12th of November. Yesterday we were greeted by a pretty severe snow storm for which we were hardly prepared, our house being in no better condition to receive such a guest than an orchard with the bars down. This morning I crawled from under my buffalo skin after having slept as soundly as anyone could suppose, who could see the pile of snow I had for my bed. I kindled a fire in a rough stone fire place, but the smoke rolled in upon us at such a rate that we were compelled to remove the fire, not to the middle of the floor, but to where the middle of the floor would have been, if we had a floor. By doing this we could get to the windward of the fire and thus avoid the smoke. If you could only see a true picture of us now, as we are seated upon a trunk before the fire, with our feet extended to keep them warm, and a large tea chest at our back with the lid raised to break the wind, and a buffalo pelt drawn closely about us, and each taking good care to get his share, you might be quite as good-natured in enjoying the picture as we are in enjoying the reality."
After this severe storm passed over, the weather
became mild again, so mild at Christmas that people sat with the doors and windows open. This fine weather continued
till late in January, when there was another cold spell. But on the whole it was a delightful winter, and Providence
seemed to have tempered the blast to the shorn lambs. They passed the winter very comfortably.