FREE STATE BOOMERS STARTED QUINDARO - OTHER RIVER PORTS OUTDISTANCED - KANSAS MERCHANDISE LANDED THERE - A TOWN OF REAL LIVE MEN - WHAT KILLED OLD QUINDARO - EARLY KANSAS POLITICS - HOW QUINDARO LOST OUT.
Almost hid beneath a mass of creeping, thick-leaved vines, inhabited by owls and bats and infested with snakes and insects, their gray stone walls crumbling and falling down from age and decay, are the ruins of old Quindaro, three miles above the mouth of the Kansas. Like some flitting mirage of a stormy, almost forgotten period, these old ruins are a grim reminder of a "future great" metropolis that, for the brief period of its life, was the most promising town on the Missouri river above St. Louis.
The history of Kansas contains no chapter more pathetic thin that which tells of the rise and fall of some of the early towns. They exist today only in memory, or as ruins that stand as monuments to the misplaced judgment of brave and loyal men. Their aim was to lay the foundation, on Kansas soil, for the gateway through which the tide of humanity and commerce was to forever flow from the east to west and from west to east. And there were nine of these "gateways" scattered like beacon lights along the Missouri shore in Kansas. They all flourished for a time in the territorial days of the fifties. Then in the early days of statehood in the sixties they fell one by one, as victims in the tragic conquest of development before those rival towns with which chance and fate seemed to deal more kindly. Atchison, Leavenworth and Wyandotte survived. The latter, becoming a part of Kansas City, Kansas, shared the good fortune which the railroads brought and the "gateway" was builded at the place where the Kansas river, flowing through Kansas, joins the Missouri river. An old steamboat captain once said of old Quindaro: "She was the rippinest, snortinest thing that ever happened while her paddles were workin', an' they wa'n't no bloomin' side-wheeler agoin' to catch her when she was a-throwin' soap suds. But she struck a snag an' that was the end of her."
The towns of Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison were considered pro-slavery ports. The Free State people wanted a "port of entry" of their own, for the emigrants from the east who were flocking to Kansas; so they started Quindaro. The land was purchased from some Wyandot Indians and in December, 1856, O. H. Bassett, a surveyor, staked out the townsite. It had a long frontage on the river where the rocky shore afforded a permanent harbor which would not be affected by the shifting sands that so often changed the channel. It ran back across the stretch of bottom land and up the jagged bluffs for an average distance of three-quarters of a mile.
Three months after the townsite was laid out a big four story stone hotel, the largest in the country, was opened. It had forty-five rooms, it was full all the time and guests were sleeping on the office floor and in the halls. The boom was on. Free State people were coming with a rush. They were men of means. They put money into the town. Big stone business blocks and warehouses went up on the levee and frame dwellings were builded on the hills, many of them with the front ends standing on stilts. Great stocks of merchandise were brought to the place and a large trade was established with the interior. Churches were erected by the Methodists and Congregationalists. A stone school house was also erected, and the largest saw mill in Kansas was started up. It had a daily capacity for making sixteen thousand feet of lumber. There was a big wood-yard along the levee, and the enterprising town company threw in an extra cord with every cord bought for a steamboat. Along with the advancing civilization came a newspaper, the Chin-do-wan. The name signified "Leader," and it was well named. It was run by John M. Walden, now a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church at Cincinnati. When he got tired he turned it over to the Quindaro Town Company and it was run by Colonel George W. Veale, M. B. Newman and Vincent J. Lane.
By midsummer of 1857 Quindaro had every other city on the river well-nigh off the map. Shares of the town company's stock were popping out of sight. Speculative values in real estate were correspondingly high. They had auction sales of lots, and the lots brought one hundred and fifty to one thousand five hundred dollars, according to location.
The town was named for Mrs. Quindaro Guthrie, wife of Abelard Guthrie, vice president of the town company. He was a white man, native of Ohio and an ardent Free State advocate. He was the instigator and prime mover of the scheme and the town was laid out on Mrs. Guthrie's land. She was a Wyandot Indian. Her name, Quindaro, has been interpreted to mean "in union there is strength." It was a good name, for every man, woman and child who landed there went into the business of pulling for the town.
When the demand came for a ferry, a ferry boat was put into service between Quindaro and Parkville on the Missouri side. Captain Otis Webb was in command and it was one of the finest ferryboats on the river. A stage line was opened to Lawrence. Then the Quindaro Town Company sent an agent to Cincinnati. He bought the "Lightfoot," a light draft steamer, and brought it up the river, and the company established a regular packet service between Quindaro and Lawrence up the Kansas river. The time came when railroads were needed, and the Quindaro Town Company was into the game at the start. The Quindaro, Parkville & Burlington Railroad Company was organized to build a line to Cameron to connect with the Hannibal & St. Joseph. It was never built - but that is another story.
Nearly all of the merchandise for southern Kansas was landed at Quindaro. The outfit for the Emporia News, Senator Preston B. Plumb's paper, was taken off a steamboat at Quindaro. It was a great river port, often as many as six steamboats being tied up there at one time.
There were shrewd Yankees among those men of old Quindaro. The company comprised many of the most prominent men of the territory. They were men of large resources, infinite energy and wide acquaintance and influence. They had thrown themselves into the enterprise with a vigor, determination and shrewdness which in anything attainable would have insured success. They left no stone unturned to compass their end, and were so confident of the outcome that most of them ventured their all in the undertaking. The members of the company gave the enterprise their personal attention and their personal influence, taking their own chances with the town to which they invited their friends and for which they solicited capital. And they knew something about the value of printer's ink. For instance, James Redpath ("J. R.") announced in the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley's paper, that: "Governor Robinson is in Boston on business for Quindaro. As an example of 'great expectations' it was announced that one half million dollars had already been subscribed for investment in the town; that a hotel, a saw mill, a grist mill and a machine shop would be erected before spring, and a paper mill worth ten thousand dollars would be put up in May or June."
The late Richard Cordley of Lawrence, who landed there in the palmy days, wrote of old Quindaro and its boomers:
"Many and various were the ways which these managers devised to bring the attractions of their city before the public. Correspondents of eastern papers, who were continually traveling over the territory at the time, were all sure to be taken to Quindaro. While there they were treated like princes, were shown all the fine points of the town and the brilliant plans concerning it. They naturally filled their letters with Quindaro. Versatile and many-sided were these men of Quindaro. They had a political side and appealed effectively to the rising anti-slavery sentiment of the country. Were not Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison pro-slavery towns, controlled by border ruffian minions? Were riot the Free State men entitled to a port of entry of their own, where their friends could land without being insulted, and where they could depend upon fair dealing, and not be at the mercy of pro-slavery land sharks and speculators?
"Then the members of the town company had a religious side. They were concerned for the welfare of Zion. Like David, they wanted to provide a place for the ark. The Independent, The Congregationalist and other great religious papers contained frequent correspondence, and long and well written articles, showing how all the great trade lines from the west converged at this point. What a center of religious influence it would be! How it might be made the very Fulcrum on which the moral lever must be set to lift the west; the very 'Pou Sto,' so to speak, of western evangelism! The first Minutes of the Congregational Association contained the following statement in its Narrative of the State of Religion: 'There is a vigorous colony of Congregationalists at Quindaro, possessed of ample means to put in operation the oridinances of the Gospel. They have appropriated $10,000 to build a church, and offer a liberal support to a minister.'
"All this and much more we had read before coming. The first feeling on landing was one of disappointment. But the people soon brushed this feeling away. They were all so enthusiastic and so confident that one soon began to feel ashamed of any such a thing as doubt. Everybody knew so well the ground on which the future of the town rested that all your questions were quieted and all your objections dissipated. They would point confidently to what had already been done. 'Here are stone warehouses, graded streets, dwelling houses scattered over the bluffs, and hundreds of people. All this has been done in six months. Now take your pencil and figure up what six years will do. Multiply the present by six, and then multiply that by two. Besides that we are accumulating resources all the while, and to-morrow will not only be as to-day, but more abundant.'
"At first the stranger was inclined to smile at their enthusiasm, but after a little he caught the contagion and was very likely to be the wildest man in the lot. In a few weeks he would be writing to his friends to ask them to lend him money to invest in Quindaro. So it happened that many a man, accounted a safe and careful business man at home, invested all the money he could raise or borrow in Quindaro real estate and felt himself rich in the purchase. In five years from that time he could not have sold his lots for the taxes assessed against them. These were not unseasoned 'tender feet' that were thus deceived, but men of business sagacity and large experience.
"There is nothing in human experience like this town-building madness. It is more contagious than yellow fever and more fatal than the Asiatic cholera. It attacks all sorts and conditions of men, and is no respecter of persons. Good sense and simplicity are alike before it, business shrewdness and rural innocence are equally exposed to it. In this case of Quindaro, shrewd and cautious men caught the contagious madness, 'the delicious delirium,' and rushed wildly into what seems now to have been the most patent folly."
It was argued by some that the location was uninviting, that it should have been built further down the river near the mouth of the Kaw. But whatever the cause, the war had something to do with its failure. The frequent raids of guerrillas and border ruffians in Kansas made property insecure. The lives of the Free Staters were imperiled. Many left for other parts, others joined the army, and only a few remained. Then when troops of the Second Cavalry were stationed there and the horses were stabled in the warehouses, there was little left to protect. The town went down. Steamboat traffic ceased; the railroads were built to Kansas City and Wyandotte; and that was the last of Quindaro.
There are only a few of the men of old Quindaro now living to tell the story. They are scattered here and there about the country. Joel Walker was president of the town company and Abelard Guthrie, who ran an underground railroad during the war, was vice president, while Charles Robinson, who was to be the first governor of Kansas after it became a free state, was treasurer. All three are dead. Samuel N. Simpson, secretary of the company, is the only survivor of the original officers. He is engaged in the real estate business in Kansas City, Kansas. George W. Veale, who was a big merchant in Quindaro and who was for many years tax commissioner for the Union Pacific in Kansas, is a resident of Topeka. V. J. Lane, who recently suspended the publication of the Wyandotte Herald rather than let it fall into new hands, was one of those old boomers. Sam Smith, who was Governor Robinson's private secretary, lives somewhere in New England. R. M. Gray of Kansas City, Kansas, was one of the early comers. Samuel C. Pomeroy, afterward United States senator; Sylvester Dana Storrs, a member of the famous Andover band, which landed at Quindaro, and many others who had to do with the old town, have passed away.
But now - more than fifty years after - it appears that the logic of these men was not far astray after all. They lived and wrought before their time. Today the once rival village of Wyandotte, three miles down the river is a part of the great city of Kansas City, Kansas, It has reached out to the north and west and the little village of Quindaro in the hills, back of where the original town stood, has been swallowed up. It is now a part of the Port of Entry, Kansas City, Kansas.
There was plenty of politics in Quindaro in the territorial days. Leavenworth county extended all the way down to the state line and embraced all of the present county of Wyandotte. Naturally the politicians up there tried to run everything politically. One day in 1859 a crowd came down to Quindaro from Leavenworth to hold a Democratic rally. Charles Glick, a brother of George W. Glick, who was afterwards governor, was a favorite son of old Wyandotte. The Leavenworth fellows were jealous of Glick and planned to keep him form speaking, but Glick fooled them. He slipped out into the crowd and asked an Irishman to call for him to speak.
"The meeting was going along smoothly," said V. J. Lane, who tells the story. "The Leavenworth speakers were coming on and off the platform when that Irishman began to call out, 'Gleek, Gleek!' The chairman of the meeting would hold up his hands to silence the Irishman, but as one speaker would leave and another would take his place the Irishman kept up such a racket that the chairman finally motioned for Glick to take a seat on the platform. When the speaker finished Wyandotte's favorite son arose to deliver an address on the Democratic issues. He had uttered only four or five sentences when that Irishman again howled, 'Gleek, Gleek!' The chairman arose and said:
'My friend, Mr. Glick is now addressing this meeting.'
'That's a dom lie! He is the man who asked me to call for Gleek.'
"And Charley Glick ran his hands through his hair and went on with his speech."
George W. Veale, in an address before the Kansas Historical Society on his retirement from the presidency of the society, December 1, 1908, told how Quindaro lost out. Mr. Veale said: "When the new county of Wyandotte was organized and Wyandotte made the county seat, Quindaro began to wane. The powerful influences from the county seat began to be felt. Another sun had risen, the beams of which did not reach Quindaro. However, the prophecies of its free state friends failed to hold up the load of public opinion in favor of the new county seat, and in spite of its commercial advantages Wyandotte grew but little during the war.
"Quindaro died easily; no more struggles after the war. She has now however, an endearing monument upon her site, The Freedmen's University of Kansas (under the patronage of the state, and known as 'Western University'). It was at Quindaro that I raised my company of men for the war under the first call of the president for volunteers. I have my commission yet, dated April 29, 1861, signed by Charles Robinson, governor.
"The year 1859 was rather a quiet one, and 1860 was the dry year - so dry that in our part of Wyandotte county we did not get a mess of beans or roasting ears to eat; it was all dried fruit from the state. The lower jaw of many of our citizens fell, and their faces became as long as the moral law. Many families left the territory, and most of those who stayed had to have help. The undaunted courage and staying qualities of those earlier settlers who remained and fought it out proved them the backbone of our future state."
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