SAMUEL N. SIMPSON. - One of the most venerable business men of Kansas City and also one of its most honored and influential citizens is Samuel N. Simpson. Mr. Simpson came to Kansas City when a young man and has taken part in its development from the status of an undeveloped region on the frontier to that of one of the most progressive and opulent commonwealths of the nation. In the march of progress he has played well his part as a loyal and public spirited citizen, and through his utilization of the advantages here afforded, he has gained success and prosperity of pronounced order; the while his personal integrity and honor have so dominated his course as to retain to him the inviolable esteem of those with whom he has come in contact in the various relations of a long and useful career.
Samuel N. Simpson was born at Deerfield, Rockingham county, New Hampshire, on the 3rd of October, 1826, and the lineage on both sides is traced back to sterling Scotch-Irish origin. He is a son of Samuel and Hannah (Pearson) Simpson, both of whom were likewise natives of Deerfield, New Hampshire, where their marriage was solemnized. Samuel Simpson, the elder, was a representative farmer in New Hampshire until 1857, when he came to Kansas and became one of the early settlers at Lawrence. He continued to reside in Lawrence until his death, which occurred when he was eighty-two years of age. The Simpson family was founded in New England in the year 1631, and the original progenitor came to this country from Scotland. The name has been prominently identified with the annals of New England, and it has ever stood synonymous of sterling integrity and sturdy industry in connection with the productive activities of life. Representatives of the name were found enrolled as gallant patriots in the French and Indian wars. John Simpson, grandfather of him whose name initiates this sketch, fought in the Revolutionary war. This worthy ancestor was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire, the old ancestral homestead, and when it became evident that the colonies would attempt to throw off the yoke of oppression in the effort to gain national independence, he joined a militia company in his native county, which by a remarkable march arrived in time to fight at the battle of Bunker Hill. It is authenticated that he was the first to fire a gun in this battle, and for this act he was placed under arrest on the charge of disobeying orders. He was promptly acquitted, however, and the estimate placed upon him was shown at the time by his being commissioned major. The old flint-lock musket with which he fired this first shot and the commission appointing him major have been preserved as most valuable and interesting family heirlooms in the possession of Samuel N. Simpson of this review. Samuel Simpson, father of the subject, married Hannah Pearson, who died at Lawrence, Kansas, when seventy-nine years of age.
Samuel N. Simpson was reared to maturity in his native state, where he received good educational advantages and has the distinction of being the first representative of the family to come to Kansas. In September, 1854, a few weeks prior to his twenty-eighth birthday, he made his advent in the Sunflower commonwealth. He made the journey from St. Louis, Missouri, to Lawrence, Kansas, on foot, and the previous stages of the journey had been made on steam boats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He was one of a party of sixty persons who were the first settlers of Lawrence, Kansas. Indeed, it devolved upon them to lay out the town and to give to it its name. It was at the suggestion of Mr. Simpson that the embryonic city, now the seat of the fine University of Kansas, was named Lawrence, in honor of Amos A. Lawrence, a distinguished and influential citizen of Boston. When Mr. Lawrence was informed of the honor thus paid him by these sturdy pioneers on the western frontier, he acknowledged the distinction by sending to the new town a draft for ten thousand dollars, with the stipulation that it should be used for educational purposes. The fund was placed out at interest and when Kansas became a state, those in charge of the fund, which had increased to fourteen thousand dollars, gave the same to the state to secure and aid the establishing of the University of Kansas, at Lawrence. No other community in the state had the ability to make so large an offer and thus Lawrence secured the university.
Mr. Simpson's identification with Kansas City, Kansas, dates from the year 1877, and in the new location he established a real estate business, which he still carries on with great success.
In Columbus, Ohio, in the year 1864, Mr. Simpson was united in marriage to Kate Lyon Burnett, daughter of Judge Calvin Burnett, who was born in Morrisville, Vermont, and who became eventually one of the influential citizens of Lawrence, Kansas. Mrs. Simpson proved a devoted and gracious wife and helpmeet and endeared herself to all who came within the sphere of her gentle influence. She was a lady of superior culture, well educated, a successful teacher, including drawing and French among the branches to which she gave instruction, of fine courage, sound judgment, clear discrimination and very practical withal. She was born in 1833, and the little picturesque New England village of her birth was like a gem on the banks of the clear Lamoille, with the highest peaks of the Green Mountains keeping watch and ward over the little hamlet. Mrs. Simpson died in the year 1900.
Concerning the children of Mr. and Mrs. Simpson the following brief data is entered: Charles Lyon attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, and is engaged in the real estate business in the two Kansas Cities; Bernett Newell, a graduate of Harvard, is a lawyer, practicing in Kansas City, Missouri; and Nellie Josephine is the wife of William A. Ackenhousen, a merchant of Kansas City, Missouri.
Samuel N. Simpson continued to maintain his home in Lawrence until 1877, when he located in Wyandotte county, where he engaged in the real estate business, with which he has continued to be actively identified during the intervening years and in connection with which, by his extensive and well ordered operations, he has done much to further the civic and material development and progress of this section of the state. He was the first to propose the changing of the name of Wyandotte to Kansas City and was one of the most influential in effecting this change. He has platted and otherwise improved several additions to the city, and in every possible way has given aid to measures and enterprises tending to advance the best interests of the city and county. No citizen enjoys more unequivocal confidence and esteem than this venerable pioneer, and it is pleasing to note that the years rest lightly upon him, and that he brings to bear in his business and social activities the vigor and enthusiasm of one many years his junior. He has been one of the most implacable adversaries of the liquor traffic, and has been influential in the furtherance of the Prohibition cause in this and other states. Never desirous of public office nor political activity, he has shown a loyal interest in matters of public policy and gives his allegiance to the Republican party. Both he and his wife were most zealous and devout members of the Congregational church, and he has been an active worker in the same for virtually three-fourths of a century. Such are the men who have been founders and builders of the great state of Kansas, and history should take cognizance of their lives and labors whenever a review is given of the development of the various sections of this commonwealth.
Thus far no mention has been made of Mr. Simpson's work during the troublous years of '54, '55 and '56 and during the Civil war. He and his family were living in Lawrence when the place was sacked by Quantrell and his raiders. He got his father, mother, and the rest of the family to a corn field, whence they made their escape in safety. He was left in charge of the town after the raid, and it was his sad task to take the bodies from the burning houses and to bury the dead. He was a personal friend of John Brown and took charge of Brown's personal belongings when the latter was exiled from his home. The following intensely interesting and valuable piece of Kansas Territorial history has been contributed by Mr. Simpson. It was written years ago at the request of his children.
"When the great struggle between the North and the South, between those who were in favor of the extension of slavery in Kansas Territory and those who would dedicate the territory and the new state to freedom, was left by Congress to be determined by the people who resided in the territory, there came to pass one of the most important events leading up to the Civil war. The field where the conflict was located bordered along the west side of the slave state of Missouri, far removed from the free states, particularly from New England. The United States government was in the hands of the slave extension party. The emigrants from the free states must go two hundred miles through Missouri to reach Kansas Territory. Missouri could and did place thousands of her citizens in the Kansas territory, before the first settlers from New England reached it; taking up claims which secured most of the timber and much of the best bottom lands.
"It was the wish of the early free state settlers to have peace in order to secure settlers from the free states. They hoped to secure the sympathy of the free states and convinced the settlers from the Southern states that it was more desirable living with abolitionists than with those favoring slavery.
"It was a principle of the settlers coming from the free states that they must bear every indignity. The slave power could bring twenty men to oppose each one the free state could muster.
"In 1855 members of the Territorial Legislature of Kansas were elected by the votes of the citizens of the state of Missouri, who came into the Kansas territory by thousands to vote, carrying every voting district but one, and returning immediately after voting to Missouri. This Legislature passed a code of slave laws to govern the territory and the United States officials and the army were aiding the territorial officers to execute these laws. The United States government protected every slave state movement. By the summer of 1856 one-third of the free state settlers had left the Kansas territory because of the enormities of the slave power.
"At this time, when there seemed to be total darkness, a man commenced shaping events without knowing it himself or attracting any attention from even his neighbors. A kind Providence now seemed to take matters in hand, using forces that were not appreciated. In September, 1854, he arrived in what is now called Lawrence, having walked through Missouri. He had been reared in New Hampshire. On the first Sabbath after he arrived he organized a Bible class. On the first Sabbath in 1855 he gathered the few children in town together in his office and commenced a Sunday school, which became the Sunday school of the Plymouth Congregational church of Lawrence. During 1855 he organized a Sabbath school at the home of Mr. Lyons, four miles up the California Road. Mrs. Sarah T. D. Robinson and Mrs. Kellogg were teachers.
"In the winter of 1855 and 1856 the Plymouth Congregational church asked this man to go East to raise money for a church building. He accepted, and in raising this money was brought in contact with Dr. Post, of St. Louis; Dr. Thompson, of Buffalo; Henry Ward Beecher and Dr. Bellows in New York and Brooklyn; Dr. Todd, of Pittsburg; Ely Thayer, J. M. S. Williams, Amos A. Lawrence, Leonard Bacon, Dr. Cabbott, Dr. Webb, Edward Everett, Robert Winthrop, Dr. Wallace and many others in New England. In May, 1856, he organized a Sunday school at Franklin, a small town three miles east of Lawrence, settled mostly by families from slave states. Charles Edwards, of Lawrence, was a teacher. During the dark period in 1856 there were some thirty young men from different southern states scattered throughout Douglass county, boarding with families from southern states. These young men received thirty dollars per month from the states from which they came. Their occupation was to create such a state of society by burning houses, barns, hay and grain stacks, killing stock and occasionally killing a man, as in the case of Barber, Hoyt and Dow, that free state settlers would cease to come to the territory and many of those already there would leave rather than live under such conditions.
"Dr. Charles Robinson and several other free state men were held as prisoners by United States troops in a camp about eight miles west of Lawrence. Dr. Robinson was the leader of the free state cause and party in Kansas Territory during the struggle. This unnamed man visited the camp and talked over the conditions. They agreed that a vigilance committee should be formed with two by-laws, viz: To obey orders and to keep secrets, and to make it their first business to force out of the country the men who were committing the depredations and murders.
"This man returned to Lawrence and invited to his office Turner Sampson, a Democrat from the state of Maine, and Milton Guest, of Indiana, both men being over forty-five years of age. The conditions in the county were discussed and it was agreed to organize a vigilance committee with the above by-laws. The three agreed to meet that evening after dark at a vacant house near the Blood Mill. They met and decided upon three persons who should be invited to meet at the same place the next night. At the next meeting there were six persons present and at the next, twelve. In a short time the committee had grown to have two hundred members and they wished to elect this man dictator. He refused and a Mr. Green, who operated a saw mill, was elected dictator. Mr. Green was true and brave and very quiet. His orders were law. It is only when society is in desperate straits that it consents to a dictatorship. The organization did its work well and after a few of the marauders had been visited at night the rest left for Missouri.
"One day soon thereafter, when this man was superintending his Sunday school at Franklin, a Southern man, whose children attended the school, asked him to step to one side and said: 'I think that I ought to tell you that an army from Missouri will be up here in a short time to destroy Lawrence. They are using a certain log cabin in town as a fort, and already have a cannon there to use against the town when they come up. Please do not give me away.'
"This unnamed man went up to the camp the next day and informed Dr. Robinson. It was agreed that the fort at Franklin and any others which might be learned of should be taken before the army arrived from Missouri and the cannon secured. The free state party had been on the defensive long enough, and besides, it was known that a company of men under General Lane from the free states was on its way through Iowa and Nebraska to help the free state settlers of Kansas. It was thought well to strike a blow before assistance came. This man returned to Lawrence and the order came to eighty men of the vigilence[sic] committee to meet at two points near Franklin after dark the next night. Upon arriving at the points designated one party was to attack the fort at Franklin from the south side and the other party from the north side, and to take it. The men drew near upon their hands and knees so as not to be seen and to expose themselves as little as possible.
"They all had sharp rifles and they used them, but to no good purpose. A space had been left open between the logs of the fort about five feet from the ground and those inside could fire through this opening. One free state man was killed and others wounded. The free state men were obliged to withdraw. And now what should be done? Some said the fort could not be taken without a cannon. The men were wet with the dew upon the grass. It was nearly midnight. The pale moonlight and the dying companions afforded a sad picture. This man declared that the fort must be taken if they had to pry the logs apart. The cannon within must come into their hands. It was finally decided to load upon a wagon some hay and dry fencing and what tar and rosin could be found in town, to set the log fort on fire. When the load was ready a call was made for volunteers to draw the fuel against the fort. Captain Bickerton, Caleb Pratt, S. C. Smith, Reuben Randall, Edward Russell, this man and two or three others took hold and drew the wagon close to the fort, then lighting the hay. The light illumined the town. It was agreed that a stream of bullets should be fired steadily into the door of the fort to prevent those inside from pushing the wagon away from the building. Soon a white flag was run up over the fort, and the cannon captured and taken out with gun carriage and wheels. In the moment of success and victory the cost of victory is forgotten. The men embraced the cannon even in that dark hour.
"After further deliberation it was planned to take by storm before daylight the fort on Washington Creek, six miles south of Lawrence; and that the cannon should be moved west upon the California road to Fort Titus, twelve miles west of Lawrence. Kimball Brothers and this man returned to Lawrence and fished out of the Kansas river the type which the border ruffians had taken from the office of the Herald of Freedom, the Kansas Tribune and the Kansas Free State, a few weeks before and thrown into the Kansas river at the time they destroyed the Free State Hotel and burned Dr. Charles Robinson's house. The lead was run into three bullets for the cannon to be used at the taking of Fort Titus. All the forces with the cannon must be brought against the last fort and it must be taken before night.
"The company which had come through Nebraska arrived during the night that Franklin and Washington Creek Forts were taken and assisted the free state army in taking the last of the three forts. The news of the two victories in the night spread with the morning light and the free state army numbered several hundred armed men before it reached Fort Titus. Colonel Shombry, of General Lane's party, in behalf of himself and his men, offered to take the fort by storm. They were not successful and the Colonel lost his life in the attempt. The free state army, out of range of the rifles in the fort, now waited for the cannon with the three bullets.
"A man was found who had served in the English Navy, - Captain Bickerton. The cannon was placed in his hands and after loading it, he announced that he would give the enemy a copy of the Kansas Herald of Freedom. The bullet went through the log fort. The cannon was loaded again and with a voice that all could hear the Captain announced that they should have a copy of the Kansas Tribune. After this bullet went through the fort up came a white flag. Titus and eighteen prisoners were taken. The return to Lawrence in the latter part of the afternoon, with the prisoners, and the triumph of the three victories, cannot be described.
"Colonel Titus, who was wounded, and the other prisoners were placed in the hands of this man, and he secured Dr. S. B. Prentice to attend to the wounded. The battle of Franklin was the Bunker Hill in the Kansas warfare, except that the victory was more telling and the results came sooner. The prisoners were soon exchanged for free state prisoners who were being held under the bogus territorial government under sham charges that they might be prevented from working for the free state cause. The people of Missouri went on preparing for the taking of Lawrence, for they realized it would be impossible to hold slaves in a state with such a town as Lawrence in it. Three armies were recruited in Missouri and were on their way to Lawrence. This was in September, 1856, and an election for president of the United States would be held in November. The Democratic leaders in the East decided that the war in Kansas must be stopped or the party would be defeated. If Lawrence should be destroyed by Missourians, the election would go against them. Governor Shannon, the territorial governor, was withdrawn and Mr. Gerry was appointed to fill his place. He arrived in the territory while the army from Missouri were on their way to take Lawrence. Governor Gerry ordered some United States troops, a battery of flying artillery, from Fort Leavenworth into Douglass county, stationing them near Lawrence.
"The Missouri army was then encamped a few miles east of Lawrence on the Wackurusa Creek and the advance guard was so near Lawrence that it was exchanging shots with the Cabbott Guard Company, which company had been raised by this man. The rifles had been furnished him by Dr. Cabbott, of Boston, in case he could raise a company. Every free state man was in his place and the women of Lawrence were doing their part. On Sunday night or Monday morning the attack would be made, despite the fact that the Missourians had twenty-eight hundred men to the free state's six hundred. At this stage, Governor Gerry located this battery of flying artillery upon the hill south of Lawrence and asked the Cabbott Guard to support their artillery in case of a battle. The governor then went to the headquarters of the Missouri army and told them they must return to Missouri. If Lawrence were destroyed, then the election would go against the Democrats and all would be lost. The officers, supported by the men, informed the governor that they had come to wipe Lawrence from the earth and that they intended to do it. The governor replied that he had the United States troops ready and that he should use them to protect Lawrence; that he had orders from the president of the United States to do so. The Missourians deliberated all night but finally saw that they could not hope to succeed with the United States troops united with the free state men, and so returned to Missouri. Thus ended the contest in Kansas Territory to make it a slave state by force of arms.
"There was fighting in southern Kansas later which grew out of local difficulties. The successful capture of the fort at Franklin and the other two forts was the death knell to the introduction of slavery into Kansas. The loss of Kansas to the South brought secession. Secession brought the war, and the war brought emancipation. Thus Providence often seemingly employs the most insignificant means to bring about very important results. In this case there has been built a mighty nation which may yet control the governments of the world."
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