A History of Lawrence, by Rev. Richard Cordley.



     The winter of 1863 and it was a severe one. In spite of all that had been done, many of the people of Lawrence were as illy (sic) prepared to meet its severity as were the early settlers of 1855. In families accustomed to every comfort, the supply of clothing and bedding was very scant, and people accustomed to spacious and comfortable homes, were compelled to live in very contracted quarters. They were glad to find shelter in single rooms, in garrets and basements, or unfurnished houses wherever they could find cover. The writer of this was perhaps a fair example of the more fortunate of those who lost everything. He secured one small room and little half story garret, and thought himself very fortunate. About Christmas he was compelled to leave these quarters and take a single room. He made the change while the thermometer registered ten degrees below zero. But fortunately his household effects were so few that a single man with a wheelbarrow made the transfer in a couple of hours, and he was established in his new quarters in a single afternoon. This room was so cold that they were compelled to hang quilts around the stove in the coldest weather to shut in a little space where they could be comfortable. Even this shelter they had to leave early in the spring, and find other accommodations. When spring came building was resumed and everybody was busy repairing losses and restoring what had been destroyed.

     With the spring, however, there came a renewal of the alarms of the year before. The people was kept constantly on the alert. The bushwhackers returned with the returning leaves, and rumors of their coming were frequent. It was not as easy to enter Kansas as it had been. The union soldiers had learned the bushwhackers’ tactics, and could follow wherever they could flee. They knew their hiding places, and they could dash around among the rocks and through the thickets, as well as those who had been born and bred in the jungle. Besides this, General Ewing’s famous "Order No. II" had stripped the border counties of Missouri of supplies, so that the bushwhackers were compelled to find their hiding places and their maintainance thirty miles farther back from the Kansas border. As a result of all this, Kansas was not much disturbed during the summer of 1864. The bushwhackers continued their depredations, however, on union men in Missouri, and on isolated bodies of union troops. Some of the most tragic scenes of the war were enacted in Missouri during this summer. Quantrill disappeared from the scene early in the season, but his successor, Bill Anderson, though not fully equal to Quantrill in skill or courage, far surpassed him in cold-blooded brutality. What was known as the "Centralia massacre," where twenty-four sick and wounded soldiers were taken from a railway train which was bearing them to their homes, and were all shot in cold blood, is only a fair sample of his work. But he never came into Kansas after the raid at Lawrence.

     But these operations in Missouri were too near to leave the people of Lawrence entirely at their ease. Rumors were thick and the people were peculiarly sensitive to them. Their experience had made them sensitive. All the guerrilla movements in Missouri had their effect in Lawrence, for no one knew how soon they might turn their attention that way. Reports of the coming of some foe were frequent, and it was no uncommon thing for all the people to be called out at midnight by some alarming story. The report that alarmed them at night was always found to be false in the morning, but so had all reports that preceded the raid. They reasoned from this. A score of rumors might prove false but the next might be true. Rumors meant more to them than before, and they were not disposed to treat lightly even the more unlikely reports. The slightest alarm would bring all the people to their windows. The firing of a gun at night, or the galloping of a horseman through the streets, would bring all the men to their places of rendezvous in a very few minutes. Any unusual noise at night would startle the whole town. One night for example, the whistle of one of the mills kept sounding an unaccountably long time. It was about one o’clock at night, but it awakened the whole town, and in a few minutes, men with their rifles were running from all directions towards the mill. It was found that the machinery was out of order and the whistle could not be stopped. They all laughed at each other as they turned homeward, but they were just as ready to rally at the next alarm.

     The men were organized into military companies, and had regular times for drill. There were five companies, one of which was composed of men beyond the age of military service. They were called the “Silver Grays.” The state furnished the arms, but one rifle company armed themselves with the best repeating rifles. This company was composed mostly of business and professional men. The city built five block houses at the different points of approach, and each company was given charge of one of these block houses. Each company was divided into sections, and one of these sections slept in the block house every night. There were, therefore, always fifty men or more ready for immediate service. These were intended as a nucleus around which the rest could rally as they came. The rifle company occupied the block house at the crossing of Massachusetts and Berkley streets, and was on the line of Quantrill’s approach.

     In the midst of all these alarms and all this military demonstrations, building went steadily on. The business street was built up again almost solid, and many of the houses were restored, and new houses were erected. Many improvements were made. The Lawrence Bridge company had been incorporated in 1859. It was organized with Carmi W. Babcock as president; Josiah Miller, treasurer; and E. D. Thompson, as secretary. They began to build the bridge in 1863, and had the work well under way when Quantrill came. In the raid one sub-contractor, and seven workmen were killed, and a large amount of material destroyed. The company, however, resumed work very soon, and the bridge was opened for travel at the beginning of 1864. The structure cost about $40,000. For many years it was the only bridge across the Kansas river except at its mouth, and it drew to itself an immense amount of travel. It proved to be a very profitable investment for the company.

W. A. Rankin
Major and Quatermaster General,
Wilson's Staff.

Mrs. W. A. Rankin

     The first railroad, too, was built to Lawrence this year. The Union Pacific railroad began work on its Kansas line at Kansas City in 1864, and by September of that year the rails were laid as far as Lawrence, though regular trains did not run till several months later.

     The school board also had plans to build a school house. The site was selected, money arranged for, and plans agreed upon. On account of the troubles in the autumn the matter lay over another year. It seems a little singular that a people as much interested in education as those of Lawrence should be ten years without a school house. The delay is easily understood by those familiar with the disturbed condition of affairs. This delay in building did not indicate any lack of interest in schools. Whittier knew his men when he sang:

"We go to plant the common school
On distant prairie swells."

     The first settlers of Lawrence opened a. free school before many of them had a roof over their heads. At first the school was supported by private subscriptions, and made free to all who would come. As the place grew, citizens met and appointed a committee on schools. Dr. S. B. Prentiss was chairman of this committee. He was a "southern man with northern principles." He came from Georgia but was an ardent free-state man. He held several positions and did valuable service for the free-state cause. He was a very calm, soft-spoken man, but full of purpose and persistence. In the matter of schools he was simply chairman of a voluntary committee, but he went to work as zealously as if he had been a public officer with a good salary. In 1857 the Quincy high school was opened in the basement rooms of the Unitarian church, which had been arranged with that in view. Mr. Charles L. Edwards was principal. He was assisted by Miss Lucy M. Wilder, Miss Sarah A. Brown, Miss Lizzie P. Haskell and Miss Isabella G. Oakley. This school acquired quite a reputation, and there went out from it many students who have made their mark in Kansas history. The next year the city government was organized and the schools came under the control of a board of school trustees of which Dr. Albert Newman was secretary. The next year Mr. Edwards became county superintendent and Mr. C. W. Adams succeeded as principal of the high school. A year later Mr. Adams entered the army and served as a colonel to the close of the war. Then came S. M. Thorpe, a graduate of Union college, New York, a fine scholar, a poet and a wit. He was a man of chivalrous spirit, with a large intellect and a large heart. He was cultured, bright and breezy, and filled all his scholars with his own enthusiastic spirit. After two years of teaching he was chosen to the state senate, and was a candidate for state superintendent of instructions at the time of his death. Right at the beginning of his career he was treacherously murdered by Quantrill’s ruffians. As soon as could be after the raid, the schools were reorganized. Mrs. Mary Carpenter, the wife of Judge Carpenter who was so brutally murdered by Quantrill, was principal of the high school for a number of years. She was a woman of remarkably strong character and a very highly accomplished teacher. The other teachers also were no less efficient in the work assigned them. The need of better accommodations was everywhere felt. The schools were kept in rented rooms wherever these could be found, the high school being in the basement of the Unitarian church. The school board, therefore, pressed the matter of building. They wanted to build three buildings in different sections of the town. But for economy’s sake the city council decided to erect one central building first. The plans for this were matured when the disturbances of the autumn put an end to all plans except those pertaining to the public safety.

     In the midst of all this progress, and just as the people were becoming accustomed to the new order of things, and were feeling fairly comfortable in their security, a new peril loomed up in the distance. This was the approach of General Sterling Price, with an army of some twenty thousand men. Rumors of his coming were heard as early as August. Price was in Arkansas gathering supplies and evidently intending some forward movement. Just what he was intending to do nobody knew. It might be to "redeem Missouri," or it might be to "chastise Kansas." In either case Kansas would be involved. General Price was a citizen of Missouri, and had been held in high esteem. He had served as a general of volunteers in the Mexican war, and had won some distinction. He had been governor of Missouri, and when the rebellion broke out he was in the confidence of Governor Claiborne F. Jackson. He was an advocate of secession, and he and Governor Jackson did all in their power to swing Missouri into the confederate column. They were defeated by the prompt action of Captain Lyon, who was in command of the union forces at St. Louis. The governor and his major general were both compelled to flee the state. General Price had tried several times to return and "redeem Missouri," as he called it, from the grasp of the union forces. He now had an army of some twenty thousand veteran troops, and was evidently coming into Missouri, or into Kansas, or both.

     These undefined rumors had more effect in Lawrence than anywhere else. The people of Lawrence had had an object lesson, and knew what a rebel invasion meant. It was not supposed that General Price would repeat the barbarities of Quantrill. He was a general in the regular confederate service, and an honorable soldier. But his coming would be a signal for all the guerrillas in Missouri to pour over into Kansas. While Price himself would be governed by the usual rules of war, he would have with him several thousand bushwhackers over whom he would have no control, and could exercise no restraint. As Price lingered and hovered, therefore, the Lawrence people watched his movements with nervous anxiety.

     The latter part of September Price began to move northward, but deflected towards the east. He captured Pilot Knob, the garrison escaping, and then moved towards St. Louis. After threatening St. Louis a while, he turned westward and besieged Jefferson City, the capital of the state. Without any serious attempt to capture the place, however, he raised the siege on the eighth day of October and marched still westward with his whole force. There was no longer any doubt as to his intention. He was coming to Kansas to chastise her for the part she had taken in the struggle. Lawrence was in his direct line of march,. and must be included in his plan. There was no time to lose, for a very few days would bring Price to their doors. The governor issued a proclamation the very day Price left Jefferson City, calling out the entire militia of the state, and putting the whole state under martial law. The proclamation was sent by special messengers to all parts of the state, and in four days sixteen thousand men had responded, and over ten thousand militia were on the border ready to meet Price. General Curtis had some three thousand regular troops at Kansas City, and nineteen or twenty pieces of artillery. This was not a very strong force to withstand the onset of twenty thousand veterans well supplied with cannon.

     The news of the governor’s proclamation reached Lawrence Sunday noon, October 9th. It met the people at the close of morning service in the churches. All further services for the day were suspended, and one thought occupied all minds. Monday morning the military companies were ordered to assemble on the open space just west of town. Every man was ordered to come with arms and ammunition and whatever was needed for the march and the camp. The five Lawrence company responded promptly, and were mustered into the service of the United States.

     The governor’s proclamation made no exceptions. "Every man from sixteen to sixty" was ordered out. And there no shrinking. It was not a mere matter of patriotism or state pride, but every man had a personal interest in the issue. Price must be beaten or Kansas desolated. The ranks of the militia companies were full. Everybody came, and came promptly. There were merchants and ministers, lawyers and doctors, laboring men and men of leisure, all shouldering their muskets and taking their places in the ranks. No one asked to be excused no matter what his emergency might be. For the public emergency overtowered all private considerations. One young man, a banker, had his wedding day set for the second day later the general rally. But even the old Jewish exemption did not avail, and he was mustered in with his company and marched to the front leaving his expectant bride to wait

"Till the cruel war was O’er."

Price, however, very kindly delayed his coming, and on Wednesday the young man secured a furlough, came home and was married at the appointed time, and returned to camp. There was no distinction or class or condition. Solon 0. Thacher had been judge of the district court, and was at this time a candidate for governor of the state, to be voted on in a few days. But he went with the militia to the front, and took his place in the ranks with the rest.

     And they rallied from all quarters. Not only from Lawrence, but from the country round about they came. Some of the companies from the country joined with those from town, and others marched from more convenient points. What was true about Lawrence was true all over the state. So general was the response that a man coming seventy-five miles through the country a few days later, saw only two men in the whole distance, and they were too old to be of service. Had all the Lawrence companies been marched away, there would hardly been a score of men left in the town.

     After the formalities of the muster, and an inspection of arms by the officers, the men were ordered to fall in line, and prepare to march. The Lawrence companies contained about four hundred men. About ten o’clock everything was ready, and they were ordered to march. They went first to town, then down Massachusetts street, and then eastward towards Kansas City. There had been no hint thus far that any would be left in Lawrence, and all alike prepared for the march and camp and were expecting to go to the front. But as they were marching down Massachusetts street, the rifle company and one other, were cut off from the column, and taken to their block houses. These were to remain for the defense of the town. The other three companies went on to Kansas City, and remained in camp till the end of the campaign. The Lawrence brass band, which dated back to the earliest settlement, went with the Kansas City contingent, and enlivened the camp with their music.

     In the meantime nothing could be heard of Price or his army. He had left Jefferson City on the eighth, and moved westward. Since then he had given no sound or sign. His army lay somewhere in the great bend of the Missouri river near Boonville, but just where he was, or what he was doing, or what he intended to do, were mysteries nobody could solve. For nearly two weeks his movements were involved thus in mystery, and all inquiry seemed to be baffled. Some few began to look upon the whole thing as a gigantic hoax, practiced on them for some political purpose. But a more common feeling was that Price and his army were quietly slipping away, and that nothing would come of the Price invasion. It was a common remark that we should hear no more about Price. The militia at Kansas City became restless, wanted "to go home and attend to their fall plowing." Some even went so far as to complain that the governor had been hasty in calling out the militia, that there really had never been any danger of Price coming into Kansas. Most of them, however, took it all good-naturedly, and got what they could out of the experience. It gave them a little taste of real military life, and some little experience in military drill. They were sworn into the United States service and subject to all the rules of military discipline, and a good many of the discomforts of camp life.

     Lawrence was forty miles from what was called the "seat of war," but felt as intensely as if she had been in the focus of it. All business was suspended, and all work laid aside, and just one thing occupied everyone’s thought. The companies remaining at Lawrence were required to be "in camp" just as much as if they had been at the front, only their block houses served for camps. They drew rations like regular soldiers, and became familiar with government bacon and split peas. Old government Java was kept boiling in the camp kettle, and if it was not always clear, it was always strong and hot. Guard duty was exacted as regularly as of veterans, and every belated traveler coming into town was compelled to "dismount, advance three paces and give the countersign," or in default, to be presented to the "officer of the guard." They had frequent drills, and were put through all the ordinary military evolutions, and were acquiring something of a soldierly step. Frequent target shootings developed their proficiency as marksmen. To most of them the handling of arms was no new experience. They were somewhat of an awkward squad in the manual, but when it came to shooting they were at home. "An October freeze" added to the variety of their life, if not to its comfort. One night two or three inches of snow fell, and these soldiers "pro tem," found themselves covered with an extra blanket in the morning, not provided for in the regulations. The block houses were built to keep out bullets. They were not proof against snow flakes. "The cold snap" continued two or three days, and part of the time it was quite severe. But this only added the spice of variety to their monotonous life as they were "waiting for Price."

     The "boys" as usual managed to get some fun out of the affair, grim and wearisome as it was. The most important practical joke was the "trial of Dr. Leiby." Dr. Leiby was an eccentric old gentlemen quite independent in his ways. He was placed on guard one day, and was to be releived at five o’clock. It was arranged that the relief should be a trifle late. When the hour came the doctor considered his time up, and went home. "The relief" coming up a moment later found the post deserted. The matter was reported and a detail sent to Dr. Leiby’s house to arrest him for deserting his post. Under martial law this was a serious charge, and the doctor at first was very much alarmed. A court martial was organized and he was put on trial. But the doctor was shrewd and soon saw by the way things went on, that it was a "put up job." He entered into the joke as heartily as any of them, and rather spoiled the fun for "the boys."

     In spite of all these diversions and variations, the time dragged heavily. Shut in as they were they knew little of what was going on below. They had nothing to do but to drill and to shoot, and eat and stand guard. Much as they dreaded Price’s coming they almost began to dread longer delay as much. They began to think anything would be a relief from the monotony. It had almost ceased to be a suspense, for the feeling became common that Price would disappear and the whole thing would end and their soldier life be recalled as a huge joke. The prevalent hope was, that whatever Price was going to do, he would do it quickly and let it be over.

     About October 20th, Price was "found." The advance guard of the union army met him near Lexington marching rapidly westward in full force. The next day, Friday, he came up to the line of the Blue river, the union advance retiring as he came, but contesting stubbornly every inch of ground. Saturday, October 22nd, he made an advance along the whole line of the Blue, forcing the union troops back at every point. In the afternoon he was practically master of the field. The union troops were being forced in upon Kansas City, and it seemed as if they could do little more than concentrate and defend that post. Two regiments of militia were ordered to march to Lawrence that night, to aid in its defence. It seemed as if there was nothing which could hinder Price’s army from sweeping over Kansas. About five o’clock there came a turn in affairs which meant as much to Kansas as the coming of Blucher meant to the English at Waterloo. In a speech before the old soldiers a few months ago, Judge Solon 0. Thacher described this scene in very vivid colors: "About five o’clock Saturday afternoon, October 22nd, 1864, I was standing with some of the officers of the union army on a high knoll near Kansas City, looking over the field. Our boys were everywhere fighting bravely, but along the whole line they were being slowly pressed back by Price’s men. He would soon be in position to detach a body of his troops to over run Kansas. We all knew what that meant, home and all we held dear would soon be at the mercy of this conquering army. Looking eastward at this moment we saw a great cloud of dust rising a few miles below Kansas City. We could only see it was moving our way, and we were sure it was a body of troops. Who could it be? Was it reinforcements for Price to complete his victory and our desolation, or was it Pleasanton’s cavalry coming to our relief? We watched the cloud of dust anxiously as it moved rapidly up the river. After a little they came up to the rear of the rebel army. Then as we watched anxiously we saw them charge upon the rebel lines. We now knew it was Pleasanton with his five thousand veteran cavalry, and the fortunes of battle were changed." It proved to be General Pleasanton with five thousand fresh troops who had been following from below ever since Price had left Jefferson City. They soon broke through the rebel lines and joined the union forces in front.

     Before night the rebel advance was checked. The next morning the union forces renewed the battle at the earliest dawn, and Price was driven towards Arkansas.

     At Lawrence the people were in a state of anxious suspense all this time. There were in the town two companies of regulars and two companies of militia, probably about three hundred men. These would make but a feeble stand against any such force as Price would be likely to send. Defeat at Kansas City meant the destruction of Lawrence the second time. On Saturday, as the news kept coming of the rebel advance and of rebel successes, the people began to prepare for the worst. A large train of empty government wagons happened just then to pass through the town, and the merchants persuaded those in charge to load them with goods. Clothing and dry goods and other merchandise were packed into these wagons, and the officers requested to keep them out of Price’s hands. Families also filled trunks and boxes with clothing and sent them out into the country. Many people buried their valuables in the yard. They thus hoped to save something if the town were burned again. The men were mostly relieved from duty Saturday afternoon, that they might look after their goods and their homes, and put things in as good a shape as possible in case an attack should be made. It seemed quite probable the town would be attacked before morning. There was no panic and no excitement. The women as well as the men went cooly to work to prepare for the worst. At sundown the men came together again at the block houses ready for the duties of the night. Orders were given that the men should sleep on their arms, that the fires and lights should all be put out at nine o’clock, and that there should be no loud talking. The coming of General Pleasanton and the turning of the tide of battle at Kansas City were not known in Lawrence till the next morning. They had simply heard that the union troops had been forced back and flanked, and that no obstruction lay between Price’s army and Lawrence. A few hours would suffice to bring the enemy upon them. There was not much sleep in the block houses that night, and presumably not much in the homes where the situation was fully understood. All night long stragglers were coming up from the battle field below. They each told a doleful tale inspired by their fears more than by the facts. According to these reports the union forces had been completely flanked, and Price was at liberty to go where he pleased. At three o’clock the whole force was ordered out and marched around for an hour or two, in consequence of some reports received at headquarters, that the enemy was within a few hours march of the town. As there was no confirmation of the report, the men were permitted to lie down again and rest till morning. It was a night long to be remembered, a night of undefined fears, and of gloomy reports. It was all the more gloomy from the fact that no reliable information could be obtained. Rumors were thick, but they could be neither confirmed nor refuted. It was a glorious night for the croakers. They had things pretty much their own way. They exaggerated every rumor and expatiated on every fear. The utter uncertainty of the situation added to the gloom. They might be attacked in an hour, or they might not be attacked at all. They might be attacked by five hundred men against whom there would be some hope of success, or they might be attacked by five thousand men against whom resistance would be madness. Everybody, however, kept his place, and there was a general determination to await the event, and to do the best they could in whatever situation the future might reveal.

     In the morning the prospect very much brightened. There was no news, but there was no foe in sight and none to be heard of. Daylight dissipated the uncertainties of the night. The predictions and fears of the night had not been fulfilled. Price had not come as predicted, and that was so much toward the conclusion that he would not come. About ten o’clock there was further news from the battle field. The coming of Pleasanton, the turning of the tide of battle the night before, and the prospect of complete victory, changed the gloom into gladness. It was Sunday and it became a day of general thanksgiving. There were no public services held, no gathering of the people. Every man was required to be in his place, but every man felt thankful. The Sabbath that began in fears, ended in peace and rejoicing. The sense of relief was general and profound.

     The next morning, Monday, more full reports came in. The details of the battle were reported, the marvelous deliverance in the very nick of time, the completeness of the victory. Price’s army was not simply checked, it was routed, and was flying southward to escape capture and destruction. The union cavalry were in hot pursuit. The militia companies from below were coming home that morning. They were coming upon the new railroad, and they were to cross the new bridge. Never were returning heroes welcomed home with more general rejoicing than were these veteran militia-men of three weeks’ service. The whole population turned out to meet them at the bridge. The two companies in town forgot they were soldiers, and rushed down to the bridge helterskelter like a lot of school boys let loose. The troops came over the bridge in military order, preceded by the dear old Lawrence band playing:

"When Johnny came marching home again."

They were dusty and bronzed, and had evidently had a rougher time than those who had been left behind. As they came up Massachusetts street, all the people did shout, and the whole town was one scene of gladness. The returning companies soon broke ranks and hastened to their homes. In a few days the order came and the militia-men were mustered out, and resumed their voluntary service as before.

     "Price’s invasion" was the last of the war for Kansas. She was not disturbed any more. The season was too advanced for guerrilla operations, and in a few weeks the falling of the leaves and the coming of winter, gave a sense of absolute security. Everybody was now comfortably housed, and the winter passed quietly and without any marked incident. In the spring came Appomatox and the surrender of Lee’s army, and the end of the war. No people in the land were in a condition to appreciate the blessedness of peace as were those of Lawrence. From the first settlement until now they had never known quiet. It had been wars and rumors of war for ten years. The town had been besieged and sacked, burned and butchered again and again. When one trouble ended another began, and when one difficulty was settled another appeared. And the people of Lawrence were not lovers of strife. Her people were lovers of order and peace. They only stood in the gap for conscience sake and not from preference. Now peace had come after all these years of strife. And it was peace that would stay. The roots of the conflict were gone. Not only was Kansas a free state, but slavery itself was abolished. Kansas had won her case, not for herself alone but for the nation. She had not stood in the focus of the fight for naught. When Lawrence realized that peace was really assured, it seemed as if a new sun had arisen in the heavens, and a new atmosphere had given vigor to life.

     And peace found Lawrence prosperous as she had never been before. The ravages of Quantrill had been more than restored. Nearly all the business houses and dwellings destroyed had been replaced by better, and nearly every business broken up had been resumed and enlarged. The population had increased; and the town had spread beyond the former limits. Now under the "benign influences of peace" she could look forward to years of progress and prosperity. She could appreciate, for all there was in it, the motto of the state seal,

"Ad astra per aspera."

rich brown textured divider line

Go to previous chapter     Return to KanColl