Lawrence, the county seat of Douglas county, an incorporated city of the second class, is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Kansas. In June, 1854, a few days after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the New England Emigrant Aid Society sent Dr. Charles Robinson and Charles H. Branscomb to select a location for a colony. Some years before that Dr. Robinson had passed the place where Lawrence now stands on his way to California, and that spot was finally chosen as a site for the proposed settlement. The first party of emigrants arrived on July 31. Not a house had been erected and 25 tents were pitched on the north end of Mount Oread, where the state university now stands, to afford shelter while the first rude cabins were being built. The second party of 114 persons arrived on Sept. 9, and a meeting was held on the 18th to organize a town company. Two days later an organization was effected, and on the 25th the work of laying out the city was commenced. The new town was named Lawrence, in honor of Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston, Mass., who had been active in the movement to colonize Kansas with people opposed to slavery.
About the time the survey of the city began, a boarding house was opened by Mrs. Levi Gates and Mrs. William Bruce, two women who came with the first party of colonists. A little later a second hotel, called the "Astor House," was opened nearer the Kansas river. By cold weather Lawrence had a population of 750.
FIRST HOUSE IN LAWRENCE.
The fact that Lawrence was settled by free-state men drew forth the wrath of the pro-slaveryites against the prospective city. In fact, before the first settlers arrived some Missourians had crossed over into the territory and gone through the form of taking claims under the preëmption laws, but very few of them complied with the provisions of the law with regard to occupancy. The first emigrants from New England found two of these menJohn Baldwin and a man named Searson the site of Lawrence. The latter had improved his claim of 160 acres to some extent. Mr. Branscomb bought this claim for $500, which was paid from the treasury of the society, but Baldwin refused either to sell or to submit the question to the courts or to an arbitration committee. Associating with him a lawyer and a real estate speculator, the three proceeded to lay out a rival town, which they named Excelsior. They attempted to remove a tent belonging to the aid society, but were prevented, and Baldwin threatened to call to his aid 3,000 Missourians, who would expel the free-state men. This did not intimidate the Robinson party and Baldwin finally withdrew.
On Oct. 9, 1854, Dr. Robinson, S. Y. Lum, John Mailey, A. D. Searle and O. A. Hanscomb were elected trustees of the town association, and on the 30th another party of 230 people arrived from the East. On Jan. 16, 1855, the first free school was opened in a room in the rear of Dr. Robinson's office with P. P. Fitch as teacher, and by Feb. 1 three newspapers had been startedthe Herald of Freedom by George W. Brown, the Kansas Pioneer by John Speer and the Kansas Free State by Miller & Elliott. (See Newspapers.)
In March, 1855, a census was taken, the district in which Lawrence was situated reporting 369 voters. With the opening of spring a number of new buildings, including a hotel and several business houses, were commenced. Three mail routes were established, connecting Lawrence with Topeka, Leavenworth, Osawatomie, Fort Scott and Kansas City. Great progress was made during the summer and early fall, but late in November came the Wakarusa war (q. v.) which kept the people of Lawrence in a state of siege for over a week, causing them to fear for the safety of their lives and homes. The Free State hotel, built by the Emigrant Aid company at a cost of some $20,000, was completed in the spring of 1856. It occupied the site of the present Eldridge House, and it was badly damaged by a posse under Samuel J. Jones, sheriff of Douglas county, on May 21, under pretense of serving some writs. At the same time the newspaper offices were dismantled, the presses broken to pieces, the type thrown into the river, stores and dwellings were looted and Dr. Robinson's residence was burned. (See Border War and Shannon's Administration.)
PEN SKETCH OF LAWRENCE, 1854-5.
Although Lawrence was incorporated by the first territorial legislature. the citizens never organized under that charter, because they refused to recognize the authority of a legislature elected by alien votes. For the same reason they also refused to accept an amended charter at the hands of the second session of the legislature. In 1857, realizing the need of a better municipal government, the citizens adopted a charter for themselves. This brought them into direct conflict with the territorial authorities and for a time serious trouble was threatened. (See Walker's Administration.) The free-state legislature of 1858 passed a charter bill, which became effective on Feb. 11, and on the 20th was held the first city election. C. W. Babcock was elected mayor; Caleb S. Pratt, clerk; Wesley Duncan, treasurer; Joseph Cracklin, marshal; Robert Morrow, P. R. Brooks, L. C. Tolles, E. S. Lowman, John G. Haskell, M. Hartman, Henry Shanklin, A. J. Totten, S. W. Eldridge, A. H. Mallory, L. Bullene and F. A. Bailey, councilmen. The legislature of 1860 "amended and consolidated the several acts relating to the city of Lawrence" into one act of 114 sections which was approved by Gov. Medary on Feb. 27. It defined the corporate limits of the city as follows: "Beginning in the middle of the Kansas river, opposite a point where the east side of Maryland street intersects the south bank of said river; thence south to the shore, and in the east line of Maryland street 4,290 feet to the south side of Adams street; then west 5,310 feet, to the west side of Illinois street; thence north 3,380 feet, to the south side of Warren street; thence west 4,560 feet; thence north 5,500 feet; thence east 5,620 feet, to the Kansas river; thence continuing to the middle of the same, and down said river to the place of beginning."
The first state legislature passed a bill submitting to the people the question of the location of the permanent seat of government, and on Nov. 5, 1861, Lawrence received 5,291 votes for the state capital to 7,966 votes for Topeka.
The legislature of 1863 located the state university at Lawrence, and on Aug. 21 of that year occurred the most disastrous event in the city's history, when the guerrilla leader, Quantrill, with a large force of ruffians, made a raid on the town, destroyed a large amount of property, and killed a number of citizens. (See Quantrill's Raid.)
The progress of the city during the Civil war was comparatively slight, but the year 1869 marked the beginning of great improvements in Lawrence. The Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad was completed; a city hall and court-house was erected on the corner of Vermont and Henry streets at a cost of $32,000; new school buildings were projected, and a number of a new private dwellings were erected. Since then the growth of the city has been steady, and, while the population has never reached the figure predicted by some enthusiasts, in 1910 Lawrence ranked tenth in the state, with a population of 12,374
Lawrence has 5 banks, 2 daily newspapers (the Journal-World and the Gazette), 3 weekly newspapers (the Gazette, the Democrat and the Germania, the last named printed in German), besides publications by the University of Kansas, the city high school, Haskell Institute and the Fraternal Aid Association. It also has 29 churches, 10 public school buildings, a free public library, founded in 1865 and now located in the new Carnegie building erected in 1904, beautiful public parks, an electric lighting system, natural gas for light and fuel, one of the best waterworks systems in the state, a street railway system, excellent sewers and drainage, etc. Railroad transportation is furnished by the Union Pacific and two lines of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and this, in connection with the water power supplied by the Kansas river, is making Lawrence a manufacturing center. Among the products turned out by her factories are flour, cement plaster, brooms, vitrified brick and tile, bicycles, pianos, paper, leather, cigars, cooperage, horse collars, vinegar, metal cornices, canned goods, shirts, egg cases and mattresses. The city also has novelty and iron works, planing mills, a telephone exchange, telegraph and express facilities, and an international money order postoffice with ten rural routes. A new postoffice building has recently been erected by the Federal government.
Lawrence is preëminently a city of homes, and the well kept streets, the handsome residences surrounded by beautiful lawns, the numerous shade trees, never fail to awaken the admiration of visitors.Pages 112-116 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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