The town of "Humboldt" was laid out that spring, by a company from Lawrence, composed largely of Germans. The first house built, was one of logs, for J. A. Coffey, by my uncle, F. W. Stewart. It was built on contract, for $25.00. Early in the summer, a steam sawmill was put up by Orlin Thurston. It was considered a great acquisition, as there was no other mill within 50 miles. We felt greatly encouraged to see a town starting up within five miles of us, where we could purchase some of the necessaries, and could get lumber.
We extended our cultivated land by breaking out and fencing in quite a large field east of our house, putting it into sod-corn, melons and pumpkins. Others, of our relatives came out from Illinois during that summer, Uncle Daniel Stewart and family, cousins David Stewart with family and his brother, John. These additions to our immediate neighborhood were very gratifying.
At the fall election the Free-state party elected a large majority of the members of both branches of the Territorial Legislature, and in our own county the Free-state party obtained complete control. I think it was at the election in the spring of 1858 that I was elected one of the Justices of the Peace, for Allen County, and it so happened that I was the only one to qualify. The result was that all business of that kind in the county came before me, and I was kept quite busy; some rather important cases coming before me.
We had cherished the thought of sometime building us a residence with concrete walls; and to test the practicability of the matter, we built a small house in this way, about ten by sixteen feet, one story, with cellar. We built a large log-heap in the timber, on which we piled limestone and then fired the logs, which, in burning, reduced the stone to lime; and thus we secured the lime for the walls. The lime, we mixed with sand and rough stone, and this mixture we put into boxes formed by boards about a foot wide, set apart the width of the thickness of the wall; and we had a very useful building, which we used for various purposes, one of which was as an office for holding my court. And, later, we laid in a small stock of such goods as were desired by the Indians, and opened up quite a profitable trade with them.
They had mostly, for trade, Buffalo robes and ponies. We could get the robes for about $4.00 each, and ponies at from $10.00 to $20.00 each. We gave them flour, sugar, coffee and tobacco; also, goods for the Squaws dresses, and blankets.
As there was considerable immigration to our part of the Territory, this year, there was much trouble as to claims. The settlers had formed a sort of Protective League, in which was recognized the right of each settler to hold a claim, independent of the one on which he resided. All of which had no support under the U. S. laws; but the settlers set up a "higher law", and, for a time, enforced it. Speculation in claims became quite a business; persons leaving the country would sell their claims for such price as they could get, and the purchaser would hold and sell to the newcomer for, sometimes, two or three times the amount paid.
This practice was finally broken up, when one A. W. J. Brown, living in the north part of the county, sold one such claim to a Mr. Rhodes for about $2,000.00, receiving, I think, $600.00 in cash and taking a note for the balance. This note, when due, Rhodes refused to pay, and suit was brought in the U. S. Court for its collection, where the action, of course, failed.
As to the claim of a prairie and timber tract of 320 acres, it having no warrant in law, as settlers came in and began to contest such claims, they were abandoned, each settler being restricted to 160 acres.
While in our part of the Territory, we were enjoying peace and quiet, there was much political agitation over the rest of the Territory. The Lecompton Constitution had been formed without being submitted to the people for adoption or rejection. The Territorial Legislature had ordered an election for a vote on the Constitution, at which time it was almost unanimously rejected, the Pro-Slavery party generally not voting; this vote was on January 4.
The same month, the Legislature under the Topeka Constitution met but did little business.
In the meantime, a Constitutional Convention, of which my brother was a delegate, met in March, at Maneola, and adjourned to Leavenworth, where a Constitution was formed, known as the "Leavenworth Constitution."
There was much disturbance along the Kansas border, in Lynn and Bourbon Counties. At one point in Lynn county, a band of men from Missouri crossed the line and arrested nine "Free-state" men, and taking them near the Missouri line, stood them in line and fired on them when every one fell, all shot to death or wounded. One of the wounded men was afterwards shot dead; six were killed, the other three feigned death, and thus escaped. One, Asa Hairgrove, I became acquainted with in Montgomery County, many years afterwards.
These disturbances did not extend to our section of the Territory, in fact, the settlers in Allen County, of all parties, agreed in Convention, that we would resist any invasion of our County by any armed force, of whatever party.
In the Fall of this year, the post office was established at Humboldt, and a weekly service from Lawrence was put on. Albert Irwin was the first Postmaster; and thus we had a post-office within five miles, and regular mail once a week. In the meantime, Humboldt had become quite a village. W. C. OBrien had put up a steam saw-and-grist mill.
The year of 1858 was not noted, in our part of the Territory, for any unusual occurrence; and County received a large acquisition of Northern Settlers, and many of the Pro-slavery settlers sold their claims and left the country; so that the county had a good majority of Free-state men, and the government of the county was in their hands; and, as to the Territory, there was no longer any doubt as to the Free-state element controlling it, and in the end, establishing a state government under a constitution excluding slavery.
There was still more or less trouble along the eastern border, in Lynn and Bourbon Counties. Gangs from Missouri made occasional raids over the line, attempting to drive out Free-state settlers, killing them and burning their houses; and the settlers on this side, under such men as John Brown and James Montgomery, organized for their own protection; and, no doubt, excesses were committed on both sides. During the season, we had broken out a tract in the bottom west of the lake in addition to the land cultivated east of the house on the high prairie. Our thought, on first settlement, was that the bottom land would not be desirable for cultivation, on account of its liability to overflow; but we learned from the Indians and others that the river did not flood these lands only once in several years.
We therefore changed our claim lines, so as to include the bottom land lying west and south of the lake; and we soon learned from the better crops yielded by these bottom lands, that we had chosen wisely.
We had accured a few fruit trees and set them out on the slope north of the house, but were anxious for more of an orchard, and I took a lot of the Buffalo robes that we had obtained from the Indians, and went over into Southwest Missouri, to the Counties of Cedar and Polk, and traded them for apple trees, and winter apples, and some other articles of use to us, and in the spring of 1859, we set out quite an orchard.
For us, the year of 1859 was a fairly prosperous one, as to crops; and the general condition of the country was encouraging.
In May, a Convention was held at Osawatomie by the Free-state party, which was addressed by Horace Greeley. The Convention adopted a platform, and organized as the Republican Party. Hitherto, all those persons who favored the admission of Kansas as a "Free" state, had united and acted together under the name of the "Free-State" party.
In June, delegates were elected to form another Constitution. These delegates met in Wyandotte July 5th, and formed the Constitution, which, on October 4th, was adopted by a large majority of the voters; and under this Constitution, the State was finally admitted.
Early in this year, our neighborhood was very much annoyed by a system of thievery that had grown up among quite a number of settlers.
The Indians would occasionally steal horses from the settlers, and by way of reprisal, a number of rather rough characters, mainly from Missouri, united in the business of running off Indian ponies to Missouri, and selling them or trading them for horses or cattle, which they would bring back to the settlement.
The business had been carried on for several months, and the Indians were becoming very restless. There would be quite a herd of ponies missing, and at the same time some of the parties would also be gone, who, after a week or two, would return with the proceeds of their trip. Soon, these persons became well known to both Indians and the whites, as being engaged in this wholesale thievery. The Indians would miss a lot of ponies, and would go from house to house, and, finding that certain of these men were gone, would come to us with their complaints, seeming to think that we were leading men, and could, in some manner, help them to recover their ponies, or prevent our neighbors from stealing them. A few of the white settlers who were opposed to this business, finally arranged with a few friendly Indians to go on a certain night and capture some of the most notorious characters, and give them a good scare, indeed, such a scare as would compel them to leave the country.
In accordance with this plan, on a certain night the Indians went from house to house, gathering in four or five of these men, they were George Kelly, Ed Marble, and two Galloway brothers, and, I think, one other person. These, they carried off a distance of seven or eight miles, to Godfreys trading post on Big Creek, where were to or three Indian chiefs, and a number of other Indians. A council was held, after which ropes were put around the mens necks, and they were made to understand that they were to be hung. Of course they were informed as to the reason for such punishment. They promised to quit the business, and begged for their lives, but the Indians gave them no hope; but, on their earnest solicitation, the matter was held in abeyance until Dr. Phillips and my brother could be sent for.
On their arrival, and after a full consultation between the Dr., Samuel, and the Indians, it was agreed to spare their lives upon the following conditions, viz.: The names of all persons connected with them in the "Business" should be divulged, while each of the parties under arrest should submit to the shaving of one side of his head; that, at once upon being released, they should give notice to each of the parties implicated with them to leave the country within ten days; and that they would do the same, promising never to return, under penalty of certain death if found in the country after ten days.
These conditions being accepted by them the parties were set free after the shaving of the one side of their heads. I was not personally concerned in these proceedings, but was in very hearty sympathy, and on the following day it did me much good to see some of these men going about the neighborhood with shaved heads, making arrangements for a final leave of the country; which they were careful to do within the agreed time.
The clearing out of these thieves was felt to be a great boon to the community in general; and the effect on the Indians was very beneficial in the establishing of a kindly feeling towards the whites remaining.
In the early autumn, at Ft. Scott, a republican convention for the twelfth Council district, honored me with the nomination as Councilman in the Territorial Legislature. The district was composed of the counties of Bourbon, Allen, McGee, Dorn, Woodson, and Wilson. The Council was the upper house of the legislature, and consisted of thirteen members. I was not at the convention, and nomination was wholly without solicitation on our part. After a time, I learned that the Democratic party had placed in nomination one N. S. Goss, of Neosho Falls, Woodson county; a gentleman who had built a water-mill at that place, and of whom I had heard, but with whom I was not personally acquainted. I felt quite certain of my election, as I understood the district was safely Republican, although in and about Ft. Scott, the Democratic element was dominant. Some two weeks before the election, while engaged in the bottom field, across the lake, in digging potatoes, (of which we had a very fine crop) Mr. Goss called upon me. He said that he had come down to Humboldt and, learning where I lived, had thought it well to call upon me and become acquainted. It was nearly noon, and I invited him to go to the house and have dinner, which invitation he accepted.
I took him to the cabin, introduced him to my wife, and we were soon enjoying a good dinner together. I found him to be a very pleasant gentleman; he suggested that we make a canvass of the district together; I told him that I had not sought the nomination; that I was not a political speaker, and had not intended to leave my home to make a canvass, but would rely upon my friends to say, by their votes, whether or no they wanted me to represent them, He finally concluded to adopt my policy, and returned home, expressing his belief that I would be elected, and the hope that his interests would be well guarded by me, in certain local legislation; and, from that meeting, on for many years, in my intercourse with Mr. Goss, I found him a gentleman in the fullest sense of the word.
The entire vote in the district was 1192, of which I received 642, thereby winning the election by 92 votes.
Lincoln visited Kansas in December, making speeches in Leavenworth and Atchison.
My son Joseph was born October 30. He came into the world without the aid of either doctor or midwife. We had expected to have Dr. Phillips living within two miles of us, but it chanced that he was away from home. I went about a mile to get my aunt Catherine Stewart, leaving my wife alone with her mother, and on my return found that the boy had been born. We named him for my father, all turned out well, for both mother and child.
The Territorial Legislature met January 2, 1860. Some days earlier I had a chance to ride to Lawrence with Mr. Jordan Neal, who resided near that place, and who, with his wife, was visiting his cousin, Moses Neal in Humboldt. There was a stage line, but I gladly accepted the chance to go with Mr. Neal, wife, and two children, in his carriage. I arrived in Lawrence January 21st, where the members of the Legislature were in waiting, with a view of driving up to Lecompton the next morning; Lecompton being the place designated for the meeting of the Legislature; but, because the place had been named as the Capital by the Pro-slavery party, and was not very well provided for the accommodation of the members, the meeting of the Legislature, the former Legislature had adjourned to, and held its session in Lawrence, and I found the people of Lawrence making every possible effort to secure similar action on our part.
The City offered a hall for the meetings, free of charge; and the hotels made very favorable rates to the members; and the Republican members were, generally, in favor of meeting at Lecompton the next day, and immediately adjourning to Lawrence.
I was stopping at the Eldridge house, the principal hotel, a very fine one, for the times. It was, in fact, a house built to replace the "Free-state Hotel" which had been destroyed during the Missouri Invasion of 1856. During the evening, I met the notorious James H. Lane, a man of whom much had been said for and against; a man who had come to Kansas a Democrat, but who, on seeing the methods adopted by the Democratic party to fasten slavery upon the Territory, had espoused the "Free-state" cause, and was now a leader of the radical wing of the Republican party.
Unfortunately, in a claim difficulty, he had shot the contestant, Gaius Jenkins, and lost the respect of many of the partys friends, so much so, that the party had become divided into Lane and anti-Lane factions, and the feeling was becoming very bitter. Whatever the merits in the case may have been, I, at the time, had made up my mind that I would act with the anti-Lane party. However, I met the man; he found that I was from Indiana, his native state; he offered me a seat in his buggy on the next morning, and with him I rode to Lecompton, much of my prejudice having worn away in the meantime. I found that Lane had friends enough in the Legislature to organize it in his interest. The body was composed of thirteen members of the Council, and thirty-nine members of the House. We organized the Council by the election of W. W. Updegraff as President, and John J. Ingalls as Secretary. There were eight members returned as Republicans, and five as Democrats. The seat of one Democrat was contested, and the Republican member seated, thus giving nine Republicans and four Democrats.
On the second day of the session, we passed a joint resolution adjourning to meet in Lawrence on the seventh; Samuel Medary was Governor, and he promptly vetoed the resolution, which, was as promptly, passed over his veto, and hied away to Lawrence. The citizens of Lawrence furnished transportation for the members and Legislative supplies, records, etc, free of charge; halls for the meetings without cost, also very low rates for the members at the hotels. At that time, there was no railroad, and everything had to be transported by wagon. I was furnished a nice room, in connection with two other members, warmed and lighted, with board, at three dollars per week, at the Eldridge house, the best one in the place.
We were much better located, as to our own comfort and convenience in Lawrence than we could have been at Lecompton, but the action of the Legislature in the removal, was one of sentiment, rather than of necessity. Lecompton had been designated as the Capital of the Territory by the general government, at the behest of the Slavery interests; and the Free-state people had built up Lawrence. The Government had spent $50,000.00 toward the erection of a Capitol building, which had been spent in laying the foundation, and beginning the walls of the building which the Free-state party had determined should never be utilized for the purposes intended.
We met in Lawrence as per adjournment, but the Governor refused to recognize us, remaining, himself, at Lecompton.
We continued our sessions until the 18th, when we adjourned. It was, however, understood that the Governor would immediately call us together again in extra session at Lecompton, this he did. We met on the 19th, and at once adjourned to meet in Lawrence on the 21st. The Governor went with us; and the work of the session began.
We did not enact many laws of general interest; the Wyandotte Constitution had been voted on and adopted at the Fall election, and State officers and members of the legislature were elected; and we were only awaiting the action of Congress, to become a sovereign State.
A large number of local bills were passed, such as the incorporation of Town Companies, etc. At that time, also, there was a great demand for legislative action in the dissolving of the marriage relation, and many divorces were granted; which action, I with a few other members, in every case opposed. We found that Slavery existed under the laws of the Territory, and passed a bill abolishing it. Every Republican in both houses voted for it, and every Democrat voted against it. The Governor vetoed the bill, and we passed it over the veto. Mr. Beeve, a Democrat of the Council, in a minority report from the Committee, said, "We have found that there is now invested in this Territory, between one fourth and one half million of dollars worth of property in slaves, and, believing that the immediate prohibition of an existing right of property in any given article, is beyond either the Legislative power of the States or Territories; as contravening the letter and the spirit of Articles Four and Five of the amendments to the Federal Constitution; recommend to your honorable body the indefinite postponement of the said bill."
The Democratic Territorial Convention met at Atchison in March, and also denounced the action of the Legislature in passing this bill for the abolishing of Slavery.
We adjourned on the 27th of February.
My recollections of this winter, spent as a legislator, are very pleasant; our body of only thirteen members seemed like an orderly debating club; some of the members were quite able, in debate; four were Democrats, and nine, Republicans. The minority had a decided advantage, as to ability in debate. W. C. Mathias, of Leavenworth, was a Democrat, and a lawyer; he had been a member of the first Territorial Legislature, in 1855; commonly known as the "bogus legislature." George M. Beebe was a Democrat from Doniphan, also a lawyer of good speaking ability; he was afterwards appointed Territorial Secretary, and during the absence of the Governor, for a short time, he was the acting Governor; and he was so acting at the time of the admission of Kansas as a state.
He removed to New York, and was a member of Congress for one term, at least, there.
On the Republican side, our best debaters were W. W. Updegraff and P. P. Elder. Mr. Elder, in 1861, was appointed Osage Indian Agent; in 1870, he was elected Lieutenant Governor; and later, he went off with the Populist movement, and was, for several years, prominent in their councils; he still lives, at a ripe old age, in Ottawa. Our Secretary, John J. Ingalls, was a bright young lawyer, of Sumner, Atchison county, a young man of fine ability; was a member of the State Senate in 1862; filled many places of trust, in after years, and was in the U. S. Senate for eighteen years, succeeding S. C. Pomeroy in 1873. In the U. S. Senate, he was recognized as one of its most brilliant members, in debate.
1860 was noted as the year of the great drouth, in Kansas. There was a very general failure of crops, over the entire Territory; while in the southern part, the failure was complete. The previous fall and winter were very dry, and during the spring and summer, but very little rain fell; the summer was very hot, and vegetation and crops planted, having moisture enough to bring them through the ground withered and died; our lake dried up; on our farm, we did not raise a bushel of corn, and but little garden stuff. We had got a start in stock, but what hogs we had, we sold to a party who drove them to Missouri where feed could be had, we got $1.25 per 100 lbs. For our cattle, we depended upon the timber grass for their winter feed.
Many of the settlers having friends in the East, received aid from them; others, left the country; many were unable to leave, and, without aid from abroad, must suffer. Our part of the Territory, being newlaid, had but little left over from last years crop, upon which to subsist; consequently, all of our supplies must be hauled in from Kansas City of Southwest Missouri. My brother, in the fall, in behalf of the settlers of Allen County, made a trip to Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, where he was acquainted, soliciting and receiving, for our aid, a very liberal donation. Thadeus Hyatt, of New York, with W. R. M. Arney, and S. C. Pomeroy of Kansas, visited the county to ascertain the condition of the people, and, at a meeting at Humboldt, they informed the settlers that provisions, clothing, etc., would be sent from the East, to be distributed to those in need, through Mr. Pomeroy at Atchison; and I was designated as an Agent for Cottage Grove township, to receive and distribute such aid; and, in furtherance of that plan, I went to Atchison with a number of settlers with teams to procure such aid as our township was entitled to receive. I think we had about twenty teams, and we made the trip in December, taking, I think, seventeen days to do it. We had rather cold disagreeable weather; some snow; and we camped out every night. On reaching Atchison, we found the demand was very great, while the supply was but scant; we, however, brought back such supplies as we could get, received thankfully. However, I think its entire value would not have been equal to a dollar a day for each person and team in the company, still, it helped us out, and we were very glad to get it, indeed, but for the help sent us from the East, there would have been much suffering in Kansas.
Earlier in the fall, I had made two trips to Missouri and Arkansas, bringing out supplies of corn meal, flour, and apples, mostly the proceeds of the Buffalo robes which we had received in our trade with the Indians; and, in this way, we were able to get through that winter with a minimum of discomfort.
The year of 1861 came in with Kansas still a Territory; and on the seventh of January, the Legislature met at Lecompton and, as usual, adjourned to Lawrence, where its sessions were held until the bill admitting us as a state, was passed by Congress. The bill passed the Senate January 21, the House on the 28th, and was signed by the President on the 29th, and thus ended our struggle for Statehood.
The Legislature did but little business, and I returned home to resume my work on the farm. Charles Robinson was sworn in as Governor, February 9, and the first Legislature met March 26th, and on April 4, S. C. Pomeroy and J. H. Lane were elected U. S. Senators.
The spring opened up with promise of good crops, and we felt encouraged as to the future. The crop failure of the past year had discouraged many of the settlers; some having left the country, and conditions were not favorable to immigration. The survey of the New York Indian lands, on which we had supposed we were settled, had shown that we were on the Osage Indian lands, and these Indians looked upon us as trespassers.
The Government had, the Fall before, ordered the settlers off the Cherokee Neutral lands, lying in Crawford and Cherokee Counties; and on their failure to leave, a posse of soldiers had gone from house to house, giving settlers time to remove furniture and other belongings from the houses, had then set fire to their houses, thus leaving them out in inclement weather, without house or home. I thought, at the time, such action on the part of the Government was most atrocious; and I still think it an act without one redeeming feature in its justification; it was done in the interest of the Slave power. There was not then, nor never had been, any of these lands on which these people were settled, any Indians; and no Indian was benefited by the dispossessing of these settlers of their homes and crops; and these settlers had raised more crops, that year of drouth, than any other part of the Territory.
I went through that country, myself, just after the soldiers had put these people out of their houses, and saw many families huddled around the still smoking embers of their burned houses. This act of vandalism, on the part of the Pro-Slavery showing the subserviency of the party to the Slave Power. Later, the Osage settlers had been ordered to leave, and we were in daily fear of sharing a like fate to that of the settlers on those Cherokee lands. And I believe, but for the change of administration, such would have been our fate.
Thus, while all Nature seemed in a smiling mood, promising abundant crops, the year 1861 proved to be, us, one of the most trying in our experience.