Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.]


CHAPTER XVI.

BOUNDARY LINE FIGHT.

Part 1


THE EAST BOUNDARY OF KANSAS - THE NORTH BOUNDARY - SOUTHERN BOUNDARY - WHEN COLORADO WAS A PART OF KANSAS - WYANDOTTE CONVENTION CUT OFF COLORADO - DEBATE ON THE WESTERN BOUNDARY - TO CUT OFF "SHORT GRASS" COUNTRY - OBJECTED TO THE MINING REGIONS - A PATHWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS - PART OF NEBRASKA WANTED TO BE IN KANSAS - NEBRASKA'S MANY CAPITALS - WOULD MAKE THE PLATTE THE BOUNDARY - NEBRASKA'S DELEGATES TO WYANDOTTE - DEFEAT OF THE PLAN - KANSAS PAPERS INDIFFERENT - A MISSOURI OPINION OF KANSAS - STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS' SPEECH - BEN SIMPSON'S DEFENSE OF THE BOUNDARIES - THE CONVENTION DID RIGHT - KANSAS CITY LOST ITS OPPORTUNITY - KANSAS THE "MIDDLE SPOT" OF NORTH AMERICA.

When the constitutional convention met in Wyandotte in July, 1859, one of the great questions before it for consideration was that of deciding how much of the area then embraced in the territory of Kansas should be included in the state that was soon to be admitted into the Union. The territory of Kansas at that time, as established by the act of congress of May 30, 1854, extended west from the western boundary line of the state of Missouri to the summit of the Rocky mountains, or the Continental Divide, a little west of Leadville and nearly to the east line of Utah, embracing the larger portion of the present state of Colorado; while the northern and southern boundaries were respectively the fortieth and thirty-seventh parallels of north latitude, the same as now. Technically, according to the congressional act, the boundaries of the territory of Kansas were: "Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the state of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same (about thirty miles north of the southwest corner of Missouri, or 36° 30' parallel of north latitude); thence west on said parallel to the eastern boundary of New Mexico; thence north on said boundary to latitude thirty-eight; thence following said boundary westward to the east boundary of the territory of Utah, on the summit of the Rocky mountains; thence northward on said summit to the fortieth parallel of latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the state of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said state (being a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas river) to the place of beginning."

And in the solution of this great problem the delegates in the convention met with many difficulties, chiefly growing out of the slavery question. In a very ably written article prepared with especial care and with reference to accuracy of statements Hon. George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas Historical Society, gives us some interesting information. Mr. Martin's article is here utilized, almost in its entirety.

The east boundary of Utah, "the summit of the Rocky mountains" according to what was known at that time, is a very vague and indefinite expression. Another statement of the western line says: "Westward to the summit of highlands dividing the waters flowing into the Colorado of the west or Green river, from the waters flowing into the great basin." It is usually understood that the territory of Kansas extended nearly to the present eastern line of Utah. At that time probably no one knew. A topographical map of the United States, issued in 1807, shows the summit of the Rocky mountains, called the "Continental Divide," to be a trifle west of Leadville. West of this point the waters now flow into the Gulf of California, and east the waters flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The east line of Utah is very near the one hundred and ninth meridian west, but the summit of the mountains is shown to be so irregular as not to be stated by lines. Several of the old maps show the west line of Kansas territory following the continental divide. Undoubtedly, therefore the territory of Kansas did not include the whole of Colorado, but say about two-thirds of it, or a few miles west of Leadville.

THE EAST BOUNDARY OF KANSAS.

The western line of Missouri, "a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas river," is the eastern line of Kansas. Thus is designated one of the most conspicuous points on the continent. Here the line is a street cutting in almost equal parts the most interesting and promising city in the land. This street is lined with untold millions of wealth in railroads, packing houses, stockyards and general manufactures. The mouth of the Kansas river was accurately determinated by astronomical observation, in 1804, by Lewis and Clark, the explorers, to be latitude 38° 31' 13." There has always been some controversy as to whether or not the mouth of the Kansas has changed. There seems to be no way of determining whether it changed between the date of the location given by Lewis and Clark, in 1804, and the date of the settlement of the boundary line in 1821. The report of the Geodetic Survey, in 1902, gives the latitude and longitude of the Second Presbyterian church spire (northwest corner of Thirteenth and Central Kansas City, Missouri,) to be latitude 39° 05' 55.813" and longitude 94" 35' 13.448". In 1889 Mr. W. E. Connelley made a careful study of this matter, and concluded that the line is where it always was. Mr. C. I. McClung, who has had much experience in the engineering department of Kansas City, Kansas, tells me that the distance between the mouth of the Kansas river and Thirteenth and Central, Kansas City, Missouri, is 7,392 feet, or one and four-tenths miles,

THE NORTH BOUNDARY.

The fortieth parallel of north latitude was made the boundary line between the territories of Nebraska and Kansas by congress in the act of May 30, 1854. It seems that in the beginning the Missourians wanted the Platte river, but Hadley D. Johnson, representing more northerly interests, insisted upon the fortieth parallel. There were no surveys then, and there was no controversy in congress about any portion of the lines. Neither was there any hundred-dollar-an-acre land, and so congress acted like the fellow who sold a quarter section, and while the buyer was not looking, slipped in the deed another quarter to get rid of it. Nebraska was extended north to the British line, and Kansas extended to the summit of the Rocky mountains, a few miles beyond the present city of Leadville. Immediately upon the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act John Calhoun was made surveyor general of Nebraska and Kansas. A contract was made with John P. Johnson to establish the northern boundary line. It was concluded to make it the principal base line whereupon to start the survey, both on the north in Nebraska and on the south in Kansas. The fortieth parallel was astronomically established in 1854 by Capt. T. J. Lee, topographical engineer, U. S. A. The survey was started on the 18th of November, 1854. The party were eighteen days running west one hundred and eight miles. When the Missouri river was closed to northern immigration in 1856, Nebraska City was a port of entry for Kansas.

THE SOUTHERN BOUNDARY LINE OF KANSAS.

The thirty-seventh parallel, was declared the southern boundary, and was surveyed by Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. Johnston, First Cavalry, and finished September 10, 1857. The astronomical determinations were by J. H. Clark and H. Campbell; the survey by J. E. Weyss. The southern boundary of the Osage Nation formed the northern boundary of the Cherokee Nation, by treaties with the United States of 1828 and 1833. A map of Kansas and Nebraska, indorsed August 5, 1854, by George W. Manypenny, commissioner of Indian affairs, shows the thirty-seventh parallel as the boundary line between the Osage and Cherokee reservations, and it is possible that in outlining the bounds of the new territory the line between these two tribes was adopted as least liable to arouse controversy.

It is an interesting study to follow the organization and development of these plains. At the time of the creation of the territory there had been no surveying other than for Indian reservations. Instead of distinct lines being given in the creation of counties a stated territory was described as so many miles west, so many miles south, etc., the point of beginning being the main channel of the Kansas or Kaw river at the point where the main channel crosses the Missouri line.

WHEN COLORADO WAS A PART OF KANSAS.

The pro-slavery legislature of 1855 created thirty-five counties in what is now Kansas, and the county of Arapahoe in what is now Colorado. The act said that when the surveys were completed the nearest township, section or subdividing line should be the boundary. The counties established by the first act extended only to the west line of Marshall, Riley and Geary. In a separate act the counties of Marion and Washington were established. Marion was a narrow strip extending from about the south line of the present Dickinson county to the south line of the state. Washington extended from about the middle of Sumner to the east line of Las Animas county, Colorado. Arapahoe county covered the Rocky Mountains region, and extended east to the one hundred and third meridian, or a few miles east of the west line of Kit Carson county, Colorado, or to the east line of New Mexico extended north. This left all the region west of Marshall county and north of the south line of the present Wallace and Logan counties under the vague description "all the territory west of Marshall and east of Arapahoe." The county lines were made regardless of routes of travel, and subsequently development made lots of trouble readjusting counties to suit ambitious cities. The channel of the Kansas river would not answer, so we had Wyandotte taken from Leavenworth and Johnson, Douglas and Shawnee pieced out from Jefferson and Jackson, and Riley had to be shifted greatly to suit Manhattan.

In 1859 the legislature established the counties of Montana, El Paso, Oro, Broderick. and Fremont out of the west end of Arapahoe, leaving this last named county on the great plains. The names Broderich and Fremont indicated that a different sentiment was in charge of affairs. Of the counties thus established but three remain in the state of Colorado - Fremont, El Paso and Arapahoe.

After the creation of the territory and prior to statehood, Kansas had four constitutional conventions. The Topeka convention of October, 1855, the Lecompton convention of September, 1857, and the Leavenworth convention of March, 1858, each accepted the boundaries established in the organic act of May 30, 1854, extending the proposed state westward to the summit of the Rocky Mountains.

THE WYANDOTTE CONVENTION CUT OFF COLORADO.

The Wyandotte convention, the fourth and last before the admission of the state, fixed the present boundary of Kansas at 102 degrees west longitude from Greenwich, or, as stated in our constitution, the twenty-fifth meridian west from Washington. The west boundary runs three miles west of the twenty-fifth meridian, or 102 degrees, which is explained by the fact that after the adoption of the constitution the surveyors in running the eastern line of the Indian reservation in Colorado established the west line of Kansas, and made an error of three miles beyond the meridian named as our western boundary, so that it is really 102° 2' west from Greenwich.

William Hutchinson, chairman of the committee on preamble and bill of rights, reported, on July 15th, the present boundaries for Kansas as adopted by the committee. A prolonged discussion was closed the next afternoon by a vote in committee of the whole, placing the western boundary at the one hundredth meridian, a line about six miles west of Hill City, in Graham county. On July 28th, the day before the final adjournment, Caleb May, of Atchison, proposed to amend the clause by making the twenty-sixth meridian, or 103 degrees west longitude, the line, which would be a northern extension of the east line of New Mexico, or about the west line of Kit Carson county, Colorado. After some discussion May was prevailed upon to change his motion to the original recommendation of the committee, and our present western boundary was fixed by a unanimous vote. The discussion on this point during the sultry days of July 15 and 16, 1859, are interesting, and a few extracts are made to show in what estimation western Kansas was then held.

THE DEBATE ON THE WESTERN BOUNDARY.

William C. McDowell, of Leavenworth, who seems to have fathered the South Platte annexation, says: "I would inquire whether the boundaries given here are the same as those in the organic act?"

Mr. Hutchinson: "They are the same, except the western; after diligent inquiry it was ascertained that the one hundredth meridian west, (Hill City and Fort Dodge) would be in a country which is at present being settled; the one hundredth and first (at Atwood, Colby, Scott, Garden City and Liberal) will probably be settled, but at the one hundredth and second degree, or twenty-five degrees west from the boundary, it was believed was placed upon a natural sandy divide, where no part of the population would be cut off that wanted to be with us."

James Blood objected to an amendment making the twenty-fourth meridian west from Washington, corresponding to the one hundred and first west from Greenwich, the western boundary (the longitude of Colby, Scott and Garden City), saying: "I would prefer the twenty-fifth (our present boundary), and if gentlemen will make a calculation they will find that it is not extending our state unreasonably in that direction - about 400 miles. The country out there will not be settled for a long time, and is not of much particular value. I think the proposition is a fair one as submitted by the committee."

Solon O. Thacher understood "that a large portion of this western region from the twenty-third (Hill City) or twenty-fourth (Colby and Garden City) is a miserable, uninhabited region. The only question is whether we shall include within our boundaries a tract of country that is not valuable to us, and confer upon it the benefits of government at our expense. Those of us who have read Horace Greeley's letters from that region, and conversed with gentlemen who have been there, are of the opinion that that portion of the territory is not at all inviting."

TO CUT OFF THE "SHORT GRASS" COUNTRY.

Mr. Hutchinson remarked that "it is simply a question of fact as to how far west this section of country can be inhabited - how far there is timber, water and grass. It is evident that if we place it at the twenty-third (Hill City) or twenty-fourth meridian (three miles west of Colby), that we shall cut off a population that will be greatly discommoded at some future day to travel to meet settlements near the Rocky mountains. That should be the governing influence in giving the direction of our vote. We are expected a grant of land from congress. That will call for alternate sections, in all probably; so the further westward our boundary shall go the greater the number of acres of land we shall get. If it is uninhabited entirely it will never be worth a dollar; we have nothing to pay on it - we have neither to pay taxes on it nor build fences around it. There is no loss, and I think there is no gain."

Samuel D. Houston, of Riley county, who favored the summit of the Rocky mountains and also the Platte river, said: "There are arguments in favor of extending our boundary westward; and I should be recreant to my duty were I not to present these arguments. I have learned for the first time, and with astonishment, of a move by the people in defining their boundaries (in which) they were benevolent enough to give away one-half their territory. Were we to do it as individuals we would be charged with insanity. If we can get the boundary designated by congress in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and get a road to the mountains, I ask if it is not a question of some magnitude whether Kansas shall not have the grand Pacific railroad of the country. You must go to the mountains and get pine with which to fence and build on your beautiful prairies; but if you give away your pineries and give those thoroughfares into the control of other people, how are you going to accomplish this? I believe what I propose is for the best interests of the whole territory of Kansas."

OBJECTED TO THE MINING REGIONS.

Mr. McDowell objected to incorporating the mining regions, "their difference of pursuits presenting a people not homogeneous, whose wants will be different and very little in common with ours."

James G. Blunt proposed again the twenty-third meridian, the Hill City line, and said: "We would then embrace all of the desirable territory upon this side of that large, sterile plain situated on our west, that would add neither wealth nor importance to our state, but over which to extend our laws and protection would be an onerous burden."

B. Wrigley, of Doniphan county, said: "You put the western boundary upon the twenty-third meridian (Hill City and Fort Dodge) and you have on the west an expanse of territory of equal width and of equal extent, barren, sterile and unfit for agricultural purposes.

A PATHWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS.

Mr. Houston: "Why gentlemen, we want a connection of this sort that we might get the highest possible price for our products. One would suppose from what gentlemen say of the country that it was a God-forsaken desert; that the lightnings of heaven had poured their streams of death upon it for centuries. But what are the facts? Almost everyone that goes out there tells us that it is covered with immense herds of buffalo as far as the eye can reach, over a vast extent - north, south, east and west. I believe I have as much respect for the buffaloes' opinion as I have for the gentlemen's here in regard to that country. Who ever heard of wild animals seeking a home that is perfectly barren? Why, the grass must be extremely nutritious there. I believe that cotton can be raised on these plains that will supply the demand of the whole country. When we get a railroad out there, can't you tax these herds? When you run a railroad out there, let men make a business of herding. You know very little about that country. One gentleman remarked to me a short time since that he had written hundreds of letters to the east, telling them to come on here; that we wanted to make a pathway to the Rocky mountains over this very country we are now proposing to give away. I would keep it till we found out all about it. Who ever heard of a man cutting off part of his farm before he had examined it? Now, gentlemen, this territory may be too large for certain schemes of partisanship, but it is not too large to make a grand and a glorious state for the people, and for the interests of the people."

PART OF NEBRASKA WANTED TO BE IN KANSAS.

There is an incident relating to the north boundary line of the state of Kansas scarcely known in her history, but in the history of the twin state of Nebraska it constitutes a very important chapter. On January 17, 1856, J. Sterling Morton introduced into the lower house of the territorial legislature of Nebraska a resolution memorializing congress to annex to Kansas all that portion of Nebraska south of the Platte river, because it would be "to the interests of this territory and to the general good of the entire Union." It was stated that the Platte river was a natural boundary mark - that it was impossible to either ford, ferry or bridge it; it was further thought that such a move would effectually prevent the establishment of slavery in either of the territories. This was postponed by a vote of twenty to five. The project slumbered until 1858. There was great bitterness between north and south Nebraska at the time, and the annexation sentiment seemed to grow.

NEBRASKA'S MANY CAPITALS.

In those days Nebraska had other troubles than the unreliability of the Platte river. Kansas was torn in pieces by a great national issue, and our Republican-Populist war of 1893 had a precedent for ridiculousness in the controversy which divided the pioneers of Nebraska from 1855 to 1858. Florence, Omaha, Plattsmouth, Bellevue and Nebraska City were contestants for the territorial capital. The story reads like a southwest Kansas county-seat fight. The legislature was called at Omaha, January 16, 1855. Omaha was full of people interested in rival towns, who made threats that the session should not be held. In January, 1857, the antagonism to Omaha assumed an aggressive character. A bill passed both houses of the legislature, moving the session to a place called Douglas, in Lancaster county. This bill was vetoed by the governor, In 1858 a portion of the legislature seceded in a small riot but no bloodshed, and attempted to do business at a town called Florence. On September 21, 1858, the fifth session met in peace at Omaha, and began to talk about bridging the Platte.

Restlessness was common then, for the Kansas territorial legislature was also hard to please. The Pro-Slavery people left Pawnee to sit in Shawnee Mission, and the Free Soilers would not remain at Lecompton, but in 1859, 1860 and 1861 moved to Lawrence.

WOULD MAKE THE PLATTE THE BOUNDARY.

About the beginning of the year 1859 several mass meetings were held, and congress was memorialized to incorporate the South Platte country in the proposed state of Kansas. There was some dissent, of course, but the annexationists seem to have been quite lively. On the 2nd of May, a mass meeting was held at Nebraska City, which invited the people to participate in the formation of a constitution at Wyandotte July 5th, reciting "that the pestiferous Platte should be the northern boundary of a great agricultural and commercial state." They ordained that an election should be held in the several South Platte counties on June 7th. There are no results of the election given, but Morton's "History of Nebraska," (Vol. 1, Page 401), says, that in the county of Otoe, of 1,078 ballots cast at a previous election, 900 electors signed a petition for annexation, and that this sentiment was representative of the whole South Platte district. Governor Medary's son and private secretary, on the 16th of May, 1859, had written a letter to the Nebraska people, urging them to elect delegates to the Wyandotte convention, and to proceed quickly, "as it would only create an unnecessary issue in southern Kansas at the time, were it freely talked of."

 


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