Reading Cards
8. John Brown and the Ritchies


  1. Coming to Kansas
  2. Shunganunga
  3. Lime for Kiln and Quarry
  4. Gardens and Orchards
  5. Letters from Home
  6. Traveling on the River
  7. Native Americans in the Kansas Territory
  8. John Brown and the Ritchies
  9. Becoming a State
  10. Building a Community


John and Mary Jane Ritchie came to Kansas because they saw economic opportunity. But they wanted to make sure those opportunities were open to white and black alike. They wanted to see Kansas become a state where African Americans could not be bought and sold like animals, a state that would not allow slavery.

John had many friends who were against slavery. One of his friends was John Brown.

John Brown rescued slaves from farms in Missouri and helped them reach freedom in the North. This was very dangerous. It was against the law to "steal" slaves and people who did could be arrested and put in jail.

It was also against the law to help these slaves once they had escaped. But John and Mary Jane welcomed these people and hid them near their house. The Ritchies fed them and helped them find other safe places to stay. This system of helping slaves reach freedom was called the Underground Railroad.

Other people in Topeka, as well as througout the country, were a part of the Underground Railroad. Sometimes African Americans who had reached freedom came back and helped their families or other people. This was very scary for them. If they had been caught, they would have been sold back into slavery.

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