Settlers' Protective Association.In 1865 a treaty was ratified at the Canville trading post between the United States and the Great and Little Osage Indian tribes. One section of the treaty provided that men who were the heads of families, and who had settled upon the lands prior to the treaty, were allowed to purchase a quarter section of land. Other people, believing all the lands included in the treaty were open to settlement, located upon them. Under the terms of the treaty the lands were to be disposed of on the most advantageous terms for cash, and to this end President Johnson issued a proclamation on Jan. 20, 1868, authorizing the sale of the ceded lands, May 1 to 16, 1868, at Humboldt, Kan.
About this time the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad presented a claim to each alternate section of land for 10 miles on each side of the right-of-way of the proposed route through the Osage lands to the southern boundary of the state, claiming the land under the act of Congress of March 5, 1863, more than two years before the treaty. The Union Pacific railroad also claimed land in a like manner, under an act of Congress of July 26, 1866. Numerous settlements had been made on these lands, and the question came up as to the validity of the claims of the railroads. The commissioner of the general land office, Joseph H. Wilson, rejected the claims of the railroad companies, but O. H. Browning, secretary of the interior, upheld them. The sale of the lands was indefinitely postponed by the president, and the settlers were at a loss as to what to do. They could not obtain title to their lands, and meetings were held for consultation. Petitions were sent to Congress, asking that something be done, and a decision was rendered that actual settlers who had located on the lands "prior to the withdrawal of the lands from market, could enter, but that as to subsequent settlements, the aforesaid ruling of the secretary (of the interior) was recognized as paramount, and the odd numbered sections were held as belonging to the railroad companies where settlement was not made on them prior to April 18, 1868."
Many men who had settled on odd numbered sections offered proof of settlement prior to that time and desired to purchase the land but were refused. Added to this the interior department decided that there were not enough sections designated by odd numbers to give the railroads the amount of land they were entitled to by the act, and withdrew even numbered sections within a certain limit as railroad lands. Settlers on such sections were notified that their claims were held for cancellation.
After a great amount of agitation; after delegates had been sent to Washington to obtain justice for the settlers and nothing had been accomplished, it was decided that a secret, oath-bound society, by which the scattered forces could be combined for a successful issue, was the best plan. The first meeting was a small one, held at the home of Father Dick in the village of Dennis, a short distance from Parsons. Those present were William Dick, LeRoy Dick, Dr. Thomas Smith and David Lindsay. They organized the "Settlers' Protective Association of the Osage Ceded Lands." On Oct. 21, 1870, the association was fully organized, and subsequently a charter was obtained from the state. David C. Hutchinson was the first president. He was succeeded by M. J. Slater of Thayer, who remained in office until the object of the society was accomplished. The directors were William S. Irwin, Rochester; David C. Hutchinson, Ladore; George W. McMilIan, Humboldt; M. H. Sheldon, Urbana; J. Monroe, Mound Valley; A. J. Campbell, Big Hill; J. L. Williams, Labette City; J. M. Gaston, Erie; Stephen Medd, Erie; George T. Walton, Ladore; and Van Henderlider, Ladore.
The association began work at once, its operations were secret, and its object was to test the claims of the railroad companies to the lands. There was a grand council which held meetings for the transaction of business. A systematic plan of action was decided upon by this council. Ex-Gov. Wilson Shannon, G. W. Julian, W. H. Lawrence, all well known lawyers, were consulted upon the validity of the claims of the railroads, and their decision was in favor of the settlers. It was the influence of the association that defeated the ratification of the "Sturgis Treaty," made May 27, 1868, by which the Great and Little Osages were to convey the Osage diminished reserve of 8,000,000 acres of land to the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad for 19 cents an acre. The attorneys employed by the association were McComus & McKeegan of Fort Scott, Wilson Shannon of Lawrence, Judge William Lawrence of Bellefontaine, Ohio, and Judge Jeremiah Black of Pennsylvania. They tried repeatedly to obtain a hearing before the courts, but failed, and finally concluded that Congress would have to pass a special enabling act authorizing the attorneys of the association to use the name of the United States in testing the claims of the settlers. Gov. Shannon drew up a bill for the purpose, and attached a memorial passed by the legislature of Kansas, asking Congress to pass the bill. The railroads then requested Atty.-Gen. Williams to order the United States district attorney, George R. Peck of Kansas, to enter suit in the name of the United States to adjust the controversy and thus prevent the use of the name of the United States by the attorneys of the association. But Judge Lawrence, who was in Washington, had President Grant suspend Mr. Williams' order until Congress could hear from the legislature of Kansas. After this negotiations were carried on between the attorneys of the settlers and the railroads. The former presented the question before the United States court in Kansas, and also before the United States supreme court, which decided that the railroads had no claim to the Osage ceded lands, for the reason that the lands were reserved to the Osage Indians at the time they were granted to the railroads. This decision was rendered April 10, 1876, and the work of the Protective association was completed. It had agreed to pay the fees of its attorneys, an amount that would equal twenty-five cents per acre on the lands saved from the railroads, but as a number of the settlers had not joined the association, or contributed anything toward it, Congress was asked to add a sufficient amount to the price of the land to pay the lawyers, in order that all beneficiaries might share in the expense, but Congress refused to do so, and the members of the association were forced to meet the bills.Pages 669-671 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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