WYANDOT INDIANS PIONEERS IN THE MOVEMENT - THE FIRST ELECTION - A "BOLTING" CONVENTION - KANSAS-NEBRASKA BILL PASSED - WELCOME TO GOVERNOR REEDER - ORDERS AN ELECTION - CANDIDATES FOR TERRITORIAL DELEGATES - THE FIRST INVASION - EYES OF A NATION ON SHAWNEE MISSION - THE BOGUS LAWS - THREE MAKERS OF KANSAS HISTORY - GOVERNOR SHANNON TO THE FRONTIER - THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION - THE WAKARUSA WAR - EMIGRANT AID SOCIETIES - THE CAPITAL AT LECOMPTON - GOVERNOR GEARY ON THE SCENE - GOVERNOR ROBERT J. WALKER - THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION - LEAVENWORTH CONVENTION - GOVERNOR MEDARY - ELECTIONS BEFORE STATEHOOD.
The Indians of the northwestern confederacy, with the Wyandots at the head, were first to make a move to establish government for their hunting grounds. The Wyandots, had brought with them then from Ohio a constitution and a form of civil government under which the tribes of that nation had been ruled wisely and well. Soon after they came to Kansas, efforts were made in congress to organize the Nebraska territory, which embraced in its limits the present state of Kansas and Nebraska. Stephen A. Douglas introduced bills for this purpose at different times; but they were referred to the committee on territories, without further action being taken. These different movements aroused great interest among the Indian tribes whose lands were within the boundaries of the proposed territory. It was evident to them that they must surrender their lands very soon if the territory was established, although the government in the treaties with them had promised that the land should be theirs as long as grass grew and water ran, and should never be a part of any territory or state. So, realizing the great importance of such an organization, these Indians desired to become citizens and to have a share in the shaping of affairs, that just and equitable laws might be made for the government of their beloved territory. The leading men of the different tribes called a convention for the purpose of discussing the matter. This congress met at or near Fort Leavenworth in October, 1848, with the following tribes represented, which had belonged to the ancient northwestern confederacy of Indian tribes: Wyandot, Delaware, Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Shawnee and Miami. Two other tribes were admitted to the confederacy at this time the Kickapoo and the Kansas. The Sac and Fox were represented, but, as they were ancient enemies of the Wyandots and peace had not been declared between them, they were frightened by a speech made by one of the Wyandot representatives and fled from the convention. This convention continued in session for several days, and the old confederacy was organized, and the Wyandots were reappointed as its head and made keepers of the council-fire. But the Indians reckoned not on the slavery troubles. Evidently they did not see looming up in the distance that dark cloud which was soon to bring on a storm of such violence as to shake the nation from center to circumference.
But before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act (at first the act was in common talk called the "Nebraska bill, " although Kansas was the real issue) there had been "movements" for a territorial organization. While the Wyandots were pioneers in demanding a form of government for the Indian country, there were those who desired to win Kansas for the south. In accordance with this purpose of a political nature, in the spring of 1852, a public meeting was held at Uniontown, an Indian trading post, on the Kansas river in what is now Shawnee county, and at this gathering were read and adopted resolutions embracing a memorial to congress praying for the organization of a territorial government. It is said by the most reliable authorities, that there were only five or six of these resolutioners and memorialists; but they were enough. All of the members, it was reported, were residents of Missouri. The convention met under a shed, the resolutions were brought on the ground ready made, and were carried. The small but select number of representative statesmen present did not prevent the recital, in the memorial, that there were hundreds of families in the vicinity who were bona fide settlers and were in suffering need of civil government, and that the meeting was attended by a large number of these citizens. The memorial was widely published and the attention of congress was earnestly called to the needs of the citizens of Kansas.
The saddest feature of these proceedings was that this movement to deprive the Indian of his happy hunting ground was inaugurated in his own village. Uniontown has long passed away; not one clapboard is left upon another; the Indians are all gone. There are only a farm house and a few graves of emigrants to California who were overtaken far out on the prairies by the cholera where once was Uniontown.
In the fall of 1852 - it was October 12th - an election was held in Wyandotte and thirty-seven votes were cast for Abelard Guthrie for delegate to the Thirty-second congress. The men who cast their votes at that first election were: Charles B. Garrett, Jose Antonio Pieto, Abelard Guthrie, Cyrus Garrett, Edward B. Hand, Russell Garrett, Nicholas Cotter, Isaac Long, James Garlow, George I. Clark, Matthew R. Walker, Henry Garrett, Presley Muir, Isaac Brown, John Lynch, John W. Ladd, Edward Fifer, Henry Porter, Isaac Barker, Henry C. Norton, Henry C. Long, Francis Cotter, Francis A. Hicks, Samuel Rankin, Joel W. Garrett, Thomas Coon Hawk, William Walker, Benjamin N. C. Anderson, Samuel Prestly, William Gibson, Joel Walker, James Long, William Trowbridge, Daniel McNeal, and Peter D. Clark. Guthrie went to Congress, but was refused admission principally for the reason that at the date of the election there wasn't any Kansas to be a delegate from.
But the Wyandot Indians were not to be defeated in their purpose of obtaining territorial government. In July, 1853, a convention was held at Wyandotte, and a territorial government was organized, The resolutions adopted in that convention served as a constitution and William Walker, a Wyandot Indian, was elected provisional governor. Abelard Guthrie was nominated for delegate to congress over the Reverend Thomas Johnson, head of the Shawnee mission. The Reverend Mr. Johnson, however, was not satisfied with the decision of the delegates in that convention. He went to Kickapoo village up the Missouri river, and was nominated in September. The issue in the campaign was "Benton" and "anti-Benton," Mr. Guthrie being the Benton candidate and Mr. Johnson favoring General Atchison. Mr. Benton and Mr. Atchison, it may be proper to explain, were running for office in Missouri. Mr. Johnson was not admitted as a delegate for the same reason that prevailed in the case of Mr. Guthrie.
These movements had the effect of advancing the cause of territorial government for Kansas and on May 26, 1854, ten months after the convention in Wyandotte, came the announcement that the United States senate at Washington had passed the Kansas-Nebraska bill at 1:15 in the morning. The date is usually given as May 25th, because the passage took place during the extension of the session of that day. On the 30th of May, 1854, President Pierce signed the bill, and after that it made no difference to the Indians whether in Kansas the grass grew or the water ran or not.
On Saturday, October 7, 1854, Governor Andrew H. Reeder arrived at Fort Leavenworth, which had been made, by the Kansas-Nebraska act, the temporary seat of government. He came up on the "Polar Star," and was the first of the long and unhappy procession of Kansas territorial governors - Reeder, Shannon, Geary, Walker, Denver and Medary. In the intervals of their unhappy reigns, when they were absent from the territory from choice of necessity, Secretaries and Acting Governors Stanton, Woodson, Walsh and Beebe reigned in their stead. None of them died in office; several resigned and some ran. All lived happy and respected after they got through with Kansas. But one - Governor Shannon - remained steadfastly by Kansas to the end and was buried in her soil. But nobody was predicting these woes when Governor Reeder came up on the "Polar Star."
"At 3 o'clock in the 'evening,'" according to the editor of the Kansas Weekly Herald, which had got started under a tree a month before the governor's arrival, "the citizens of Kansas, from Leavenworth, Salt Creek and the country for miles around, gathered at the fort to pay their respects to Governor Reeder. The concourse was large and highly respectable and most enthusiastic in their gratification of his arrival. Our citizens in a body called upon the governor at the quarters of Captain Hunt and a general introduction took place, during which many kindly expressions of welcome were indulged on the part of the people and reciprocated by the governor with the republican frankness and honest cordiality so agreeable to western men."
This was the way Governor Reeder came up on the "Polar Star" and entered Kansas. How he went out later may be seen portrayed in a great painting displayed in the Coates house in Kansas City, disguised as a laboring man with an ax on his shoulder, a pipe in his mouth and supposed to represent an Irishman.
With Governor Reeder the following officers made the full territorial administration: secretary, Daniel Woodson of Virginia; United States marshal, Israel B. Donaldson, of Illinois; United States attorney, Andrew J. Isacks of Louisiana; surveyor general, John Calhoun, of Illinois; territorial treasurer, Thomas J. B. Cramer, of Illinois, chief justice, Madison Brown, of Maryland, who, not accepting the appointment, was succeeded by Samuel D. Lecompte, of Maryland; associate justices, Saunders N. Johnston, of Ohio, and Rush Elmore, of Alabama.
Kansas was now equipped with a full set of officers and was ready to do business as a territory, and Governor Reeder ordered the first election in Kansas - and elections have been a favorite pastime of the people ever since - to be held on the 29th of November for a delegate to congress to serve until the following 4th of March. He divided the territory into seventeen election districts.
The whole country had been in a state of intense excitement ever since the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, which it was announced would quiet the "slavery agitation." The excitement reached its highest point when Kansas was fairly enrolled as a territory and ready to participate in the fray. The Emigrant Aid Societies were organized in New England and the east, and sent out their parties, to locate town sites and occupy the country. Lawrence was founded by a party from New England, which, by the way, came up like Governor Reeder on the "Polar Star," arriving August 1, 1854. This was the foundation of what was called afterwards the "citadel of freedom." Atchison was established by a town company organized in Missouri, on the 20th of July, 1854. So both parties went into the citadel business. Every town started was either Free-State or Pro-Slavery. Societies were organized in Missouri to "down" the Abolitionists and make Kansas a slave state. The doctrine was proclaimed from the first that "slavery existed already in the territory" and was insisted on with great zeal until some years later slavery, on one fine day, ceased to exist anywhere The Free-State emigrants brought sawmills and as soon as possible after their arrival they started school houses. The New England Emigrant Aid Society made a specialty of school houses. It is a pity that this point was not absolutely settled and given up during the "Kansas troubles;" but it was not, and the "tie" had to be "shot off" from 1861 to 1865.
CANDIDATES FOR TERRITORIAL DELEGATE.
The bad blood which had been growing culminated at the first election. Three candidates appeared before the people for territorial delegate - General John W. Whitfield, Robert P. Flenneken and John A. Wakefield. General Whitfield was the straight Pro-Slavery candidate; Robert P. Flenneken was announced as a friend of Governor Reeder's, an administration Democrat with Free State leanings, and John A. Wakefield proclaimed himself the only bona fide resident of the territory running, and a straight Free State man. The day before the election, the "Blue Lodge" voters began crossing the border; on election day they voted and Whitfield was elected. The vote as returned was: Whitfield, 2,258; Flenneken, 305; Wakefield, 248; scattering, 22. General Whitfield was admitted to his seat on the certificate of Governor Reeder, there being no protest. This was first blood for the Pro-Slavery party, but in December, the month after, the first Free State meeting was held in Lawrence; in January the first school was opened, and early in 1855 there were three Free State newspapers published in that town.
In January and February, 1855, Governor Reeder caused an enumeration of the inhabitants to be taken. The total population was found to be 8,601, of whom 2,905 were legal voters. On the 8th of March an election was called, to be held March 30th, to choose thirteen members of the council and twenty-six members of the house. The election was the scene of invasion and violence on a scale unknown at the November contest. A thousand Missourians drove away the judges and voted at Lawrence; at Bloomington five hundred voted; at Tecumseh, sixty miles from the border, a great crowd appeared and took possession of the polls. General Atchison led a party of sixty armed men to the Nemaha district. The whole country rang with the story.
Governor Reeder threw out the returns from Lawrence and five other precincts and ordered a new election for May 22, 1855. He went to Washington to tell his story, and the road to Washington has ever since been kept hot by Kansas. The adjourned May election was held without interference or molestation, the Pro-Slavery people taking no part in it. The legislature met at Pawnee near Fort Riley, July 2, 1855. It contained eighteen Pro-Slavery and eight Free State members of the house, and ten Pro-Slavery and three Free State members of the council. On the 6th of July it adjourned to Shawnee Mission, two miles and a half from Westport, Missiouri.[sic] This ended Pawnee as a capital. An old ruined rough stone house, with a large hole in it, marks the spot.
The first legislature of Kansas re-assembled at Shawnee Mission on the 16th of July, 1855, in spite of the veto of Governor Reeder, and was officered as follows:
House-Speaker, John H. Stringfellow; speaker pro tem, Joseph C. Anderson; chief clerk, James M. Lyle; assistant clerk, John Martin, later United States senator from Kansas; sergeant-at-arms, T. J. B. Cramer.
Council-President, the Rev. Thomas Johnson; president pro tem, R. R. Hess; chief clerk, John A. Halderman; assistant clerk, Charles H. Grover; sergeant-at-arms, C. B. Whitehead; doorkeeper, W. J. Godefroy.
Before adjourning from Pawnee the house unseated all the Free State members except Cyrus K. Holliday absent, and S. D. Houston, protested and resigned, and of the council, all save Martin F. Conway, who resigned. The places of these members were filled with pro-slavery candidates at the election of March 30th. This legislature received from the Free State party the appellation of "Bogus," a name originally applied to counterfeit money from an eminent dealer in that article; it was posted and placarded all over the world as the "Bogus Legislature." It was held in old Shawnee Methodist Mission in what is now the county of Johnson, named in honor of the Rev. Thomas Johnson, the original missionary.
The Shawnee Mission legislature was an industrious body. The volume of its laws when published made 1,058 pages. Although considered by a large portion of the people of Kansas as "bogus" legislation the acts of this legislature constitute the beginning of law in Kansas and still form a portion of its statutes; it gave the older counties of Kansas the names which, with few exceptions, they still bear, and incorporated the cities of Lawrence and Leavenworth, the town company of Atchison and many more besides. The most remarkable legislative achievement of the body was the passage of an act "to prevent offences against slave property." This was pronounced more "efficient" than anything existing in any slave state in the Union. This act, which was afterward discussed in congress, created indignation against the Pro-Slavery cause in Kansas, and tended to bring about its final defeat. The legislature took upon itself to appoint all the officers, executive and judical, in the territory to hold over until after the election of 1857, and thus counties found themselves supplied with officers whom the people had nothing to do with electing.
The year 1855 was full of noise and violence, and fraught with disaster to the Free State party. But the territory kept filling up and before the end of the year three men had arrived whose names were destined to fill many pages in the history of Kansas.
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