Joseph Baker hand-wrote this account, which has been transcribed by his granddaughter, Eileen Baker Phillips. Joseph Baker was born December 20, 1812 and died May 5, 1886 in Lane, Kansas; he is buried in Baker cemetary.
On September 12, 1854, my father packed his household goods into two covered wagons and started from Putnam County, Indian for what what was then known as Kansas territory.
The weather was fine for traveling and camping out at night and we had a pleasant journey all of the way.
On October 5th we reached Santa Fe, Mo. a little town 10 miles south of Westport, and stopped there for a few days with an old acquaintance named Gill. While there father decided it would be best to rent a place and made the necessary arrangements for the winter, the weather was very warm and dry. Father and a cousin of mine named Williamson, who had come with us from Indiana, David Baldwin, a Methodist preacher that lived in Santa Fe, and my self, concluded to make trip out in the territory and see how it looked. So we loaded our wagons with provisions and feed for the horses and started for this part of the country, having been informed that there was no land open for settlement then except a strip on Pottawatomie Creek which the government had bought from the Indians. (Pottawatomie Indians.)
So after 2 days travel we came to what was then called DUTCH HENRY CROSSING, (where Lane Kansas is now located) on the Pottawatomie Creek. We had not seen a white man anywhere on the way until we reached the crossing. There we found three men living there for 12 years. They were Germans and were brothers. Their name was Sherman, Peter, Henry and William. Peter was the oldest and William the youngest. Henry seemed to be the head man. He could talk better English than the others and I suppose that is why the crossing was called Dutch Henry Crossing. Neither of them was married. They were living in a good hewed log house on the south side of the creek about one half mile east of the crossing.
They were farming some land and had a fine herd of cattle and horses running on the range.
After looking around for a few days, we concluded to move our camp up the creek about two miles, near where Hanways old lime kiln was located. We camped here for about two weeks and during that time my father, Williamson and the old man Baldwin located their claims. I did not take a claim as I was not old enough to hold one at that time.
These three claims were the first taken in this part of the country and I think this strip of land was the only land that came in under the preemption law. A man had to live on the land, build a house and do some other improvements and then he could take a witness and go to the land office at Lecompton and prove that he had complied with the law. Pay $1.25 per acre and get a patent for it. There was plenty of deer and wild turkey here then and we had a fine time hunting while there.
Then we went back to Santa Fe and in the spring, Williamson and I came back to work on the claim. We cut logs and built cabins on the claims and we also cleared about two acres of brush land and planted potatoes, some corn and all kinds of garden seeds and I don’t think I ever saw so much stuff raised on that amount of land before.
My father and the family stayed in Missouri and raised a fine crop there and moved out to the claim in the fall.
During the spring and summer of 1855, immigration began to come in and take claims along the river and by fall there was quite a little settlement. In the spring of 1856 the county was turned first into townships and later on the sectionizers came along and located the sections lines so the claim holders could see where their lines were and the number of the sections they were in.
I think it was in 1855 that we got a post office at the crossing. It was named Shermanville after the Sherman brothers. We had to go to Missouri for everything we needed until about this time when an old man named Morse came in and opened a little store in a log cabin near the crossing. There was also a little store on Mosquito Branch, just north of the Bart Needham farm, ran by two men named Weimer and Benjamin. These two men and a man named August Bindi layed out the town of Greeley and move the store there.
It was not very long until another town was laid out just west of where the pumping station is now located, named it Mt. Gilid, but it seems that Greeley had the inside track and Mt. Gilid had to give way.
When we first landed in this country, my mother was very much dissatisfied and wanted to move back and I could not blame her for it was a lonely looking country. She had left a good house in a good and well improved country, although they were among the early settler of that county and spent many years of hard labor in making the home that they had left, but they had decided to sell out and come here in order that they might get land for their children.
So. After we had been here a few years and the country began to settle up, my mother was better satisfied and they succeed in getting each one of the children an quarter of a section of land and had the home place left.
After the children were all grown and had left home, they sold the home farm and moved to Ottawa and were living there when father died.
They raised eight children, seven of them were born in Indiana and one in Missouri. Brother William and Brother John are both dead. Brother William and John were with me in the army. Brother William died in the army at Little Rock in 1865. Brother William was a Lt. In Co. D. 12th Kansas. Brother John died at home in 1905. The rest of the children are still living.
We do not appreciate what our parents did for us until they are dead and gone and then we can meditate over the past and see what they did.
In the winter of 1855, Uncle Burrell Baker moved here from Virginia and was well pleased with the country. He had a wife and one child then. He did not live here very long but went back to Virginia. He was very strong Pro-slavery man and when the Kansas troubles got to such a high pitch, he had to leave as many others did. So, when the war came, he was one of the very first in the southern army and fought for what he thought was right. But he never came back to Kansas.
It was some time before we had schools houses and churches, and we did not have preaching very often. The old man Baldwin would preach occasionally at some private homes.
Our first acquaintance with him was the first Sunday we were stopping with this man Gill at Santa Fe. Mo. He told us that there would be preaching that evening and that he had made arrangements for the old man to preach for his slaves. As I had been raised in a state where there were no Negroes, it was quite a change when we got to Missouri. So in the afternoon, we all went to here the old preach and it was very different from anything I had ever seen or heard. The old man trying to preach the gospel to the slaves and the slave holders at the same time, and young as I was, I remember hearing something like this.... That all men are endowed with inalienable rights, which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now these slave had life, and they seemed to have some happiness... but they had no liberty.
This old man Baldwin had only been living there a short time, and he had come from Indiana too, so it was like seeing an old friend. The old man Baldwin had one son and one daughter, that was all the family he had. The son went with me in the army, took sick at Paola and died before we went south. The daughter married a man named John Lanters and lived in Garnett and the old man lived with her until he died.
Now I come to the Kansas troubles and I have no desire to run into politics but will just state the facts as they were. It was a strife between the Free States and Proslaver parties. I hope no one will find fault with me for referring to certain events in order to show the true conditions of affairs from the first settling of the country until the beginning of the Civil War --- admitting that both parties did may things that were wrong.
In 1882 the Democrats elected Franklin Pierce president. I was a democrat then but not a voter. All of the appointments of postmasters and other officers for the territory were Democrats and the little post office at Dutch Henry Crossing was Democratic.
In 1856 James Buchanan was elected president and there was not much difference in the two administrations. I had now decided to leave the Democrats and join the Republican Party believing it to be a better party and I have not changed my opinion yet. I voted for Abraham Lincoln both times.
I believe that all men have a right to their political and religious opinion and I have no fault to find with my neighbor because he has a different opinion from mine and I am willing to admit that he might be right and I might be wrong.
Now as early as 1855 the question began to be agitated whether Kansas should be a free or a slave state. It was plain that it was and would be the important question that we would to deal with. Some of the settlers were in favor of extending slavery and making it a slave state. Others were opposed to the extension of slavery and wanted to make it a free state. It was not very long until the question became very lively and it was known as the Border Ruffian War was on hand. The two parties were being organized into companies. Many settlers of both parties became alarmed and left the country. Those who stayed here had a rough time of it. Many of both parties were killed and there houses burned and their horses taken from them. The border counties in Missouri took an active part in the trouble by running in pro-slavery men and many of the old slave-holders came over and took claims and tried to hold them and live in Missouri. That did not seem to work very well. Their claims would be jumped and there would be trouble One case I will give:--- There was an old slave holder who lived near Santa Fe who I was well acquainted with named Kerby. He came out here and took a claim at the Bondi Ford on the Mares Des Cygnes and was hold it. A man named Baker came in from the east and jumped Kerby’s claim and when Kerby came again he found Baker living on the claim. Kerby told him that he must leave but Baker refused. Kerby then went back to Missouri and got a company of men to come out with him to drive Baker off but when they got there they found that he would not drive. They decided to hang him and took him a short distance from the cabin and were getting ready when Baker asked permission to speak a few words. His request was granted and when he concluded his remarks the captain of the company and one-half of the men stepped over by Baker and told Kerby that he must go home and not trouble Baker anymore and so he did. They were all Masons. Baker preempted the claim and when the town of Stanton was laid out he moved there and put up a little mill to grind corn. It did not grind very fast but was the best we had then. Baker liver in Stanton until 1860. A cyclone passed over that part of the country and his house was blown down and he was killed.
Now the first killing that was done in this part of the county was the five men that were killed at the Dutch-Henry crossing in the spring of 1856. Wilkinson the postmaster, William Sherman, the old man Doyle and his two sons. They were taken out of their homes in the night and killed.. These men were radical pro-slavery men and were abusive and made threats about what they would do with Free State men. It seemed that they had a bitter hatred for Free State Men and called black abolitioners and said that they would drive them all out of the territory.
Now as I have stated both parties were organized in companies. There was a company in this part of the country called the John Brown Company. A few day before these men were killed it was reported that the border ruffians from Missouri were planning to burn the little town of Lawrence. John Brown and the company started for Lawrence and they had not been gone very long when the two young Doyle’s went to the old man Morse's store and began to abuse him in a very rough manner. Calling him a black abolitioner and said that they were going to drive all such men out of the country. Then they told him that they wanted his shotgun and the old man refused to let them have it so they got very mad and told him that they would give him five days to leave the country. If he was not gone by that time it would not be healthy for him. That evening there was a messenger sent after Brown and overtook him. After hearing of the threats that had been made Brown decided to go back and took a few of his men with him. The balance of them went on to Lawrence. Before the five days were up these young Doyle’s left the country and old man Morse did not leave. The supposition was that Brown and his men were the ones that did the killing that night. They were not shot but were killed with some kind of a cutlass. I did not see them but 1 was told by my Uncle and my Father-in-Law who helped to bury them that they badly cut up. I think the intention was to kill Henry Sherman the same night but he was not at home so they did not get him. Later on he was met in the road by Captain Homes Company and one of the company shot and wounded him so he died in a few days. The worst of the troubles were in 1856. In 1857 there was a large immigration from the east and the claims were all taken for settlement in this part of the country. There were other parts being opened for settlement but not by preemption. They were sold as trust land for the Indians. A great deal of this land was taken by men from the east. We called them carpet-baggers. They bought the land for speculation and did not settle on it but went back where they came from. They were a draw-back to the country but there were men that had the nerve to stay and endure the hardships and make Kansas a territory a state. They had many things to contend with, besides the Border War trouble. They had the droughts, the hot winds, the grasshoppers and the chinch-bugs. The old settlers of 1854 and 1855 are getting scarce.
In 1859 and 1860 the militia was organized and I belonged to a company that would meet and drill. Captain Rees was our drill master. He was a soldier in the Mexican War. As the border ruffians were still making raids over in Kansas we would be called down on the line to protect the citizens quite often. The last time that I was called out before I went into the anny was down East of Paola. Here we fought with some of the ruffians and M.V. Jackson, the Father of our Attorney General, was wounded and had to have his leg taken off. This ended my Border Warfare days. I went into the army and was there three years so I was very glad when the war was over and peace restored. No one knows anything about the horrors of war but those who have experienced it. The border war continued on as late as 1862. Quantrill burned Lawrence. There had been large companies of men sent in for the purpose of voting at the elections. There was a camp of four hundred camped three miles west of Osawatomie called the Geargan Camp. They could not stay there very long so they went over into Missouri and I have no doubt but what they were part of the company that burned Osawatomie. They came over in the night and got there about daylight and took the little town by surprised. John Brown was there but he had only about thirty armed men to fight the four or five hundred. It was a hard fight. There is only three of Brown’s men are living now. I was not there but I saw the smoke and heard the firing. It was not known how many they lost in the fight but from reports they had several wagons loaded with dead and wounded.