1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 48 Part 1

CHAPTER XLVIII

GOVERNOR SAMUEL J. CRAWFORD

By MRS. EDITH CONNELLEY ROSS

Gov. Samuel J. Crawford

Gov. SAMUEL J. CRAWFORD

[Copy by Willard Of Portrait in Library of Kansas State Historical Society]

Samuel J. Crawford was born in Lawrence County, Indiana, April 15, 1835. He was reared on his father's farm, and, at the age of twenty-one years, became a law student in the office of Hon. S. W. Short, of Bedford, Indiana. In 1857, he entered the Cincinnati College Law School, where he was graduated in 1858. Inspired by a desire for newer, broader fields of endeavor, he emigrated to Kansas Territory in the spring of the following year. He located at the town of Garnett, the county seat of Anderson County, and opened a law office.

His law business grew steadily, and he soon had a good practice. He was elected a member of the first State Legislature, which met at Topeka, March 26, 1861. At the call of President Lincoln for volunteers, he resigned his seat in the Legislature, and, returning home, recruited a company of soldiers. He was chosen Captain of the Company, which was known as Company E, and was assigned to the Second Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry. Under General Lyon he fought in the Battle of Wilson Creek, and in other battles in the Missouri campaign of 1861. The regiment was reorganized in the winter of 1861-2 as the Second Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. This regiment fought nobly in many engagements under General Blunt. In March, 1863, he was assigned the leadership of the regiment, which during a hard campaign, covered itself with glory.

In October, 1863, Crawford was appointed Colonel of the Eighty-third U. S. Colored Infantry, which was in the Red River Campaign with General Banks. During this campaign, the colored regiment, under the skilful leadership of Colonel Crawford, gained a reputation for unfaltering bravery. Its sturdy stand at Jenkins' Ferry, April 30, 1864, is an immortal tribute to the negro as a soldier. Colonel Crawford successfully commanded his regiment when it was sent on an expedition into the Choctaw Nation against the rebel General, Standwatie, in 1864.

In 1864 Colonel Crawford was nominated by the Republican State Convention at Topeka for Governor. At the same time he was strongly recommended by many prominent soldiers and citizens for a Brigadier-Generalship.

Shortly after the nomination of Colonel Crawford for Governor, General Price invaded Missouri, with the object of entering and devastating Kansas. Colonel Crawford was appointed aide to General Curtis, commanding the Union forces. He participated in the battles of the Blue, Westport, and Mine Creeks, displaying great gallantry. This marked the end of his military career during the Civil War. He had taken part, in most of the battles of the war west of the Mississippi, excepting that of Pea Ridge. In 1865, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General by brevet, for meritorious service.

At the close of the war, soldiers from every State came to make homes in Kansas. And many came who had not been in the army - young men seeking an opportunity in the world. They faced hardships in starting anew in this good land of boundless prairie and sky. But they were equal to the difficulties of breaking the wilderness, and made the land teem with plenty.

With dauntless courage Kansas faced all evils and conquered them. And this was the brave thing she was doing when Colonel Crawford was elected Governor, November 7, 1864. His administration covered some of the most stirring history of Kansas. Speaking of these times, Governor Crawford says:

Thus the new State of Kansas, having escaped the dire calamities of an invasion by Price and his legions of demoralized outlaws, and made a clean sweep in the election of Lincoln Republicans to fill the various positions created by the Constitution, was now ready to take its proper position among the States of the Union and give the National Administration at Washington its loyal support.

During the winter of 1865, the Legislature groped bravely through a dark labyrinth of graft and ignorance and selfishness to something of light and law. Governor Crawford said:

As a matter of fact, we had nothing with which to set up housekeeping except, the State Seal, a lease on some leaky buildings, and quite an assortment of bills payable.

During the winter of 1865, Governor Crawford rounded up most of the cattle thieves and outlaws that had been terrorizing the border and turned them over to General Dodge for punishment.

The Legislature of 1866 passed acts providing for the erection of the State Capitol, the Penitentiary, Asylums, and other public institutions. Many new homesteaders settled in the State, the Kansas Pacific Railroad was pushed steadily westward toward Denver and the Pacific States. Prosperity seemed beginning to smile on Kansas.

But the Indians, constantly formidable after the Civil War, now became bold in their atrocities. The building of a Railroad through Western Kansas seemed to awaken their most fiendish impulses, and the mistaken policy of the government in supplying them with plenty of food, clothes, and above all, weapons, enabled them to perpetrate many outrages.

In the spring of 1866 hostile Indians appeared on the Santa Fe Trail, the Smoky Hill, Solomon and Republican rivers. Governor Crawford organized a battalion of troops along the Western border. Early in May he sent a company of State troops to the Northwestern border, which defeated a roving band of Cheyennes. This temporarily checked the Indians.

Senator James H. Lane died on the 11th of July, 1866. After careful consideration of the merits of the different candidates to fill the unexpired term, Governor Crawford appointed the Hon. Edmund G. Ross. The Legislature of 1867 signified its approval of his choice by re-electing Ross for the full term. The Hon. S. C. Pomeroy was re-elected.

On the twenty-seventh of November, 1866, Governor Crawford was married to Miss Isabel M. Chase, daughter of one of the founders of Topeka. The two children born to them were George Marshall Crawford and Florence Crawford Capper, wife of the present Governor, Arthur Capper.

Governor Crawford was re-elected in 1867. The Legislature of that year pushed forward the work started by that of 1866, and many state institutions were planned and provided for.

After the adjournment of this Legislature, Governor Crawford proceeded to New York to dispose of some State bonds. He then went on to Washington, D. C., to try to secure intelligent co-operation from the War Department in regard to the Indian situation in Kansas. He represented to the Secretary of the Interior, the mistakes in the policy of that department in supplying the savages with means to carry out their atrocious designs. The Secretary promised to give the matter his attention, but after the departure of the Governor, nothing more was done about it.

Hardly had Governor Crawford reached home before a great amount of ammunition and supplies was shipped to Kansas for the Indians, who were even then on the war-path. Governor Crawford by threat of burning the supply-caravan, induced General Sherman to take it to Fort Larned instead of turning it over to the savages. There it was held until a compromise was made with the Indians in the fall of 1867. Governor Crawford, speaking of the Indian situation of that year, says:

Portions of five tribes of hostile Indians - allied for purposes of war and crime, thoroughly organized, armed, and equipped, and regularly receiving their annuities and other supplies from the Government, under treaty stipulations constituted the main force which was operating with such deadly effect in Western Kansas.

The hostile Indians, having succeeded in murdering and scalping many men, women, and children, and capturing or destroying property to the value of millions of dollars, and in also completely blockading the routes of travel (except when opened by military escort) from Kansas to the mineral States and Territories west; and believing, as they had reason to believe, that they would be sustained by the continued leniency of the Government, became so emboldened as seriously to threaten the destruction of our entire western border.

In 1868 a Cheyenne Band threatened Council Grove but were turned from their purpose. In August of that year people were murdered in the Solomon and Republican valleys. The climax of the wars with the plains Indians in Kansas, came in the Battle of Beecher Island, on the Aricaree. General Sherman, hearing that a small band of Indians were entering Northwestern Kansas, sent Colonel Forsythe of his personal staff, with fifty men, to turn them back. On the night of September tenth, the party camped on the north bank of the Aricaree, opposite a small, sandy island, known as Beecher's Island. The river was dry at that time of the year.

Early in the morning, a large band of Indians attacked the camp. The men, compelled to leave their camp equipment, retreated to the island, fighting bravely and driving their horses and mules with them. During the day two more attacks were made, but in each case the savages were repulsed. More than half the white men were wounded, and all were without food or shelter. The situation seemed desperate. Ringed in by the enemy, there seemed no way of escape.

But two scouts, Jack Stilwell and James Trudeau, bravely volunteered to try to reach Fort Wallace, ninety miles away, and bring back aid to their comrades. After three days of hairbreadth escapes, they reached the fort and aid was sent to the beleagured men on Beecher Island. They had remained there nine days in all, hemmed in with Indians, waiting for help. It was afterwards ascertained that the Indians had lost between seven and eight hundred warriors in the nine days. The great Cheyenne Chief, Roman Nose, was killed.

After this, the Indians still continued to give trouble. Being constantly appealed to for aid, Governor Crawford, on November 4, 1868, resigned the governorship and was appointed Colonel of a newly recruited regiment - the Nineteenth Kansas Volunteers. After a hard winter campaign, the Indians were finally subdued for all time in Kansas, and the regiment was paid off and mustered out of service on April 18, 1869, at Fort Hays.

Governor Crawford, after fifty-two years of active influence for good in Kansas, died at his home in Topeka, in the year 1913, at the age of seventy-eight years. His last days were quiet, and peaceful, and many of them were devoted to his beloved farm. But though retired from strenuous political life, he retained his interest in Kansas and her advancement until the very last. Every suggestion for the advancement and help of mankind found in him an ardent advocate.

His funeral was attended by hosts of his old friends and admirers, men who honored him while alive and now reverence his virtues after death.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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