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William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


DOUGLAS COUNTY, Part 5

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CLAIM TROUBLES.

While the New England emigrants were thus arranging for homes and churches, and making what preparations they could for safety and comfort during the approaching winter, they found themselves involved in serious difficulty in regard to the title to a portion of the land upon which they had laid our their city. Minor difficulties of the sort had been overcome. In running their lines for farms, they had occasionally encroached upon the claims of prior settlers, and in the case of Nancy Miller, mentioned heretofore, the case of Mr. Robeson, a Missourian and others had been obliged to vacate what they supposed they had honestly claimed. One cabin had been burned and a Methodist missionary, Rev. T. J. Ferill, of Missouri, who had started a little store, was turned out of house and home. These disturbances, however, caused no serious trouble, but were taken as a part of the unavoidable "squatter quarrels," and submitted to peaceably, if not good-naturedly. The "Yankees" often found they had really transgressed, when they were molested. But the difficulty in regard to the claims on the city site was no so easily settled, and retarded materially growth of the settlement for months. The circumstances, as gathered from the published letters of the pioneers and from the files of the local papers, in which the parties all had a hearing before the conflicting interest were finally settled and from other sources, were substantially given below.

On the 26th of May, 1854, Mr. Clerk Stearns and Mr. John Baldwin selected claims on what was afterward the town site of Lawrence; Mr. Stearns' being the quarter section lying on the river, on which the business portion of the town was afterwards built, and Mr. Baldwin's the adjoining claim east. On the same day Mr. William Lykins, a young man from Missouri, squatted upon the same quarter section as Mr. Stearns - neither being aware of the other's presence. Mr. Stearns built a log cabin, and resided continuously on his claim with his family. Lykins laid the foundation of a cabin, went back to Missouri and filed a pre-emption claim in the General Land Office at Washington. On the 5th day of June, Mr. A. B. Wade made a third claim, on a less valuable portion of the town site, and commenced living upon and improving it. On the 6th of June, Mr. J. Wilson took a fourth claim and soon afterward, Mr. W. H. Oliver a fifth. When Mr. Charles Branscome visited the place in July and selected it as a location for the New England town, only Mr. Stearns and Mr. Wade were living on their claims. The others were absent, and Mr. Stears believed that Lykins, knowing himself (Stearns) in actual possession, had left without intention of pressing his claim. Mr. Branscome, accordingly, as agent of the Emigrant Aid Company, purchased the claim of Mr. Stearns for $500 to be paid within sixty days, and which was paid on the 29th of September. Mr. Wade agreed to sell his claim for $100, to be paid at the expiration of sixty days. No arrangement was made with Mr. Baldwin, he not consenting to sell. On the arrival of the first or pioneer party, the site was claimed for town purposes and on the arrival of the second party in September, the claims above mentioned were included within the limits of the city site, as laid out soon afterward. Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Lykins had, in the meantime, returned to Lawrence, prepared to contest their claims, which were now held by the Lawrence Association on the ground that the claim to the tract was made on the day the Indian title was extinguished and the first day the land was legally open to settlement; and that, being claimed as a town site, it was by law exempt from pre-emption. Mr. James Blood was sent to Washington as agent for the association to secure the claim, the boundary of the city including the contested claims. In the meantime, Baldwin associated with himself Messrs. Babcock, Stone and Freeman, men of some means and influence, and put his business into the hands of a speculator named Starr, who immediately proceeded to lay out a rival city, which he named Excelsior, on the claim; Mr. Baldwin and the Lawrence Association both occupying tents upon it, in proof of ownership. The strife grew bitter and although purely one of conflicting property rights - the parties being nearly all Free-state men - was represented or misrepresented, to be a quarrel between the Pro-slavery men and Abolitionists. Matters stood thus; Mr. Baldwin occupying his tent, and the Yankees scowling defiantly at him across the ravine, until, on the 5th of October, notice was given that open war was declared, by the appearance of a wagon containing several armed men in the vicinity of the New England tent. Hostilities were commenced by a woman, a sister of Mr. Baldwin, it was stated, who speedily packed the obnoxious tent, with its contents into the wagon - the men with their rifles standing guard. As soon as they were discovered by the Yankees, who were at work in the neighborhood, the City Marshal, Joel Grover, not waiting for arms, rushed to the rescue, unarmed, followed by Edwin Bond, with a revolver. The latter seized the horse by the bridle, ordering the surrender of the property, and others coming up, the intruders allowed the tent to be replaced, at the same time threatening to have 200 Missourians on the spot in a short time, when their designs would be accomplished. That night the Lawrence settlers organized what they called the "Regulating Band." to be ready for the next day's fray. Soon after dinner on the 6th, the "Missourians" by which all Southerners opposed to the aims of the Emigrant Aid Society were called, began to assemble in the neighborhood of Baldwin's tent, but open hostilities did not commence until 4 o'clock P. M. when the gage of battle was hurled at the Yankees in the shape of the following note:

KANSAS TERRITORY, October 6

DR. ROBINSON: Yourself and friend are hereby notified that you will have
one-half hour to move the tent which you have on my undisputed claim and
from this date desist from surveying on said claim. If the tent is not
moved within one-half hour, we shall take the trouble to move the same.

(signed)
JOHN BALDWIN AND FRIENDS
The following pithy reply was instantly returned:
TO JOHN BALDWIN AND FRIENDS:
If you molest our property, you do it at your peril.
C. ROBINSON AND FRIENDS

E. D. Ladd first Acting Postmaster of Lawrence, tells the remainder of the story in a letter dated October 23, 1854, and published in the Milwaukee Sentinel. He says:

Prior to the notice, they had assembled to the number of eighteen, mounted and armed, at Baldwin's, the aggrieved man's tent, on the claim and about twenty rods from our camp. Upon the notice being served, our men - those who were at work about and in the vicinity of the camp - to the number of about thirty, stationed themselves about ten rods from the contested tent, the enemy being about the same distance from it, the three occupying the angles of a right-angled triangle, the tent being at the right angle. Subsequent to the notice, a consultation was held at our position, between Dr. Robinson and a delegation from the enemy's post, which ended on our part with the proposition of Dr. Robinson, which proposition he had previously made, both to Baldwin and his legal adviser, or rather speculator, who wished to make a "heap of money," as the Missourians say, out of him, to submit the question in dispute to the arbitration of disinterested and unbiased men, to the adjuration of the squatter courts now existing here or of the United States Courts, and on the part of the enemy by the assurance that, at the termination of the notice they should proceed, at all hazards, to remove the tent and if they fell in the attempt, our fate would be sealed, our extermination certain; for 3,000 and if necessary, 30,000 men, would immediately be raised in Missouri to sweep us and our enterprise from the face of the earth. It was all expressed, of course, in Southwestern phrases which I will not attempt to give. "The hour passed on," or rather the half hour, and in the mean time, our military company, formed the evening before, went through a variety of I don't want, out of respect for military science, to call them "evolutions," say we call them "manifestations," marching and counter marching, in single file and by platoons in a manner not to be excelled in greenness by any other greenhorns (in this business I mean) on the face of the globe, our captain himself being as green as the greenest. General, I fear for your buttons could you have seen them. But there were strong arms and determined wills there. Had a man laid fingers on that tent, he would have been sacrificed instantly and had another single offensive movement been made by one of them, there would not have been a man left to tell the tale. Our company of thirty men had about 400 shots in hand, with their rifles and revolvers, and they would have used them to the last extremity. They had been annoyed by every means possible and even tauntingly told to their faces, a dozen of them together, that no Yankee, except Cilley, ever dared to fire.
Well, the half hour passed, and another quarter, the enemy in full view, in consultation, occasionally making a movement as if about to form in order for the execution of their threat, then seating themselves on the ground for further consultation, perhaps occasioned by the "manifestations" of our military. While thus waiting, John Hutchison asked Dr. Robinson what he would do if they should attempt to remove the tent? Would he fire to hit them or fire over them? Dr. R. replied that he should "be ashamed to fire at a man and not hit him" Immediately after this reply, a man who had been with the Free-state men and till then suppose to be one of them, went over to the other party, which soon after dispersed. It was supposed at the time that the report of this spy brought the "war" to an end for that day. After the band had mounted and dispersed, the principals and principal instigators avoided our neighborhood. Some of the more honest dupes, however, seeing the absurdity of their position, and the reasonableness of our proposition, riding up to us, had a social chat, cracking jokes, etc. and then rode off with the determination formed, and more than half expressed, of never being caught in so ridiculous a farce again.

Several efforts were made, subsequent to that described above, to produce an open collision between the opposing parties. On the Monday following, a company of six armed men came into the neighborhood of Lawrence from Douglas, expecting to be joined by volunteers on the spot, and be able to make a hostile demonstration, they were disappointed, however, and retired in disgust. On Saturday, October 7, the day succeeding the outbreak at Lawrence, a convention for the nomination of Delegates to Congress was held at Tecumsah, and the news of the affair having reached that place, a committee was appointed to consider the case; resolutions were passed and an address to the settlers issued, desiring them to meet, the next Friday (the 13th) on Mr. Baldwin's claim for the purpose of "restoring to the oppressed and punishing the oppressor" The result of this circular was a small gathering of outsiders, who, instead of punishing anybody, very good-naturedly sat down on the grass under the trees, in company with the "oppressors" and listened to speeches from the self-constituted Congressional candidate, Squire J. B. Chapman, and from Messrs. Samuel C. Pomeroy, S. N. Wood and A. H. Mallory.

In regard to Mr. Chapman's speech there seemed to be a diversity of opinion - one of his hearers says: "I took paper and pencil to report his speech, and the report is words, words, words, and not one of us can tell what the gentleman has been aiming to impress on our minds, except the single fact that he wants our votes, which he will not get very soon." Mr. Chapman himself says (History of Kansas and Emigrant's Guide - 1855): "The day of battle arrived, and much anxiety was manifested. A large number of people assembled and Mr. C. addressed them on the political interests of Kansas and the necessity of peace and harmony. They all became absorbed in politics and relinquished the contest for a claim." If, as Mr. Chapman flattered himself, he was the instrument appointed to restore peace and harmony to the troubled town, subsequent events did not prove it. Although the idea of settling the difficulty by force was apparently abandoned, the trouble was far from being removed. The matter was brought before Governor Reeder, Judge Lecompte and United States Land Commissioner Wilson, a remonstrance being sent to the latter, through Gen. Whitfield, and signed by Messrs. John Baldwin, A. B. Wade, E. Chapman, Simon Hopper, W. H. Oliver, W. H. R. Lykins and William M. Baldwin, protesting against their pre-emption claims being "interfered with by town rights." The opinions expressed by the Governor and Commissioner being favorable to the claims of the first settlers, a compromise was effected in the spring of 1855, which was in substance that the city site should be one mile square, embracing the claim of Messrs. J. and W. Baldwin, Lykins and Chapman, the lots to be divided into 220 shares, 100 to be held equally by the four claimants, 110 by the Association and ten by the Emigrant Aid Society, two of the latter in trust for the benefit of a college to be erected in the vicinity. A Wyandot Float, covering 640 acres, was located on the city site, and a title in fee simple secured. Although this settlement failed to give e satisfaction to a part of the emigrants, it put an end to the bitter quarrel which had, according to the Herald Freedom, "hung like an incubus over the city for several months," prevented emigrants from settling there, and been a serious drawback to the growth and prosperity of the city. Subsequent investigation, however, led many to the belief that this compromise was not altogether necessary and it seems probable that, if Dr. Robinson had not then been absent at the East, it would not have been made. The Emigrant Aid Society purchased their claim from the original settler, Stearns, and the town site did not them include more than few acres belonging to the other claimants.

The Third Party of New England emigrants, in charge of Mr. Charles Branscomb, arrived in Lawrence October 8 and 9, while the claim difficulty was at its height, and the citizens threatened with further violence. According to the published statement of some of the party, the path to the promised land had been needlessly long and disagreeable and they arrived in a discouraged state of mind, which was not enlivened by the state of affairs just then prevailing in Lawrence. They left Boston on the 26th of September, arrived at St. Louis on the 3rd of October and a part reached Lawrence as stated, on the 8th and 9th. Others came from St. Louis on the Polar Star, in company with Gov. Reeder and suite, arriving at Kansas City on the 9th, when they met a part of those who had visited Lawrence, returning, disgusted, to home and good hotels. Complaints were made, through the press, of the ill-treatment received on their route to Kansas, at the hands of the Emigrant Aid Society through its agent, who accompanied them, of the "lack of system" generally prevailing; of the difficulty of getting claims, "as the Emigrant Aid Society seizes the choicest sites, and is the only party really a gainer by the enterprise;" of the lack of religious privileges on the route, as "all day Saturday and Sunday straggling parties of men and women were wandering away into the prairie, forbidden by both purse and stomach to remain in Kansas City, and deprived of the privilege of spending the Sabbath like their forefathers of old, in thanksgiving for their safe arrival." The management of the hotel for the emigrants at Kansas city were severely criticized. About fifty of this party returned to the East. They came with extravagant expectations for which they were not altogether at fault; the accounts of the growth and status of the place being also extravagant, and calculated to create a false idea of being at the time a desirable home for any except those who were willing to endure the present for the sake of the great good which was to come. Lawrence may be thankful today, that many such came and coming, staid; that through "great tribulation," they remained faithful to the trust they had taken upon themselves, fought the good fight manfully and kept the faith even to the glorious end.

On the 9th of October, Charles Robinson, John Mailey, S. Y. Lum, A. D. Searle, and O. A. Hanscom were elected Trustees of the Lawrence Association and on the 17th, the city lots were drawn, and the owners commenced building upon them. The first frame house erected was owned and occupied by Rev. S. Y. Lum. The delay in getting the saw mill in operation, however, kept nearly all the settlers in log or shake houses through the first winter. The first store was opened by Mr. Paul Brooks, in a little cabin which was put up by one of the original squatters on the city site. The second was kept by C. S. Pratt.

On the 19th, a great event for the young city occurred - the visit of Gov. Reeder and party - who, on their way to Ft. Riley, stopped at the place, and were received with all the ceremony due the occasion. Mayor Robinson was, unfortunately absent, but Gen. Pomeroy was equal to the duty which devolved upon him. A platform "of four planks" was erected for the speaker and in behalf of the citizens, the General welcomed the distinguished guest"to their frugal board and tented homes," ending his speech as follows:

"Sir, in the name of all the interests we represent - in the name of our absent wives, sons and daughters (soon I hope to be here) - in the name of all the unshaven, weatherbeaten, yet noble countenances which now beam upon you - having emigrated from every State in this glorious Union, as well as from the mother-land, we give you a cordial, a hearty welcome." (Loud cheering) Gov. Reeder responded, thanking the General and citizens for the welcome, and after a short social interview, a dinner was served at the Pioneer Boarding House, under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Litchfield - Gen. Pomeroy presiding, with the Governor, heads of government, ladies and members of the Association on his right, and officers of city Government, strangers and settlers on his left. the toasts were started by Mr. Lincoln, with "The Lawrence Association" responded to by Gen. Pomeroy, who closed with the sentiment:"Gov. Reeder - his administration, first in time, first in importance, may it also be first in the hearts of the people," Judge Elmore responded to the toast given by Gov. Reeder - "The judiciary of Kansas Territory." Judge Elmore gave "Strong Arms and True Hearts," responded to by Mr. Willis. "The moral and religious interests of Kansas, " by Mr. Emery, was responded to by Rev. S. Y. Lum. "The mechanics of Lawrence, our comforts await your labors," by Mr. Lum, drew forth a response from Mr. Mallory, who gave "The political aspects of Kansas Territory," replied to by Mr. Emery. "The merchant, the pioneer of enterprise," was responded to by C. S. Pratt, and the toast"the ladies of Lawrence, the land of beauty, the fit home of beauty," which was given by Judge Johnson, of Ohio, was responded to by Mrs. S. N. Wood, "in an eloquent, earnest, interesting and womanly style, which gave great satisfaction to all." her response closed in these words:"Woman's sphere is wherever there is a wrong to make right, a tear to wipe away, a good work to carry forward. And "tis here to guard our beautiful State from the invasion of wrong, oppression, intemperance, and all that tends to debase and demoralize mankind. Yes, Kansas must and will feel that woman has an influence, and that influence on the side of God and truth." Other toasts were responded to - Mr. Hutchison in behalf of the bar; Dr. S. C. Harrington, of the medical profession; Mr. S. N. Wood, the "Kansas pioneer;" Mr. Lincoln, "Agriculture;" and Rev. Mr. Ferill said, and time unfortunately did not prove him a true prophet;" Fellow citizens, being a Missourian by birth and education, I truly thank you for the sentiment just expressed. it shows at once, that sectional animosities are to be unknown among us; and that, coming together as we do from all parts of the world, we are to unite heart and hand, making the interests of Kansas, and cheerful homes for ourselves, our greatest objects; forgetting that we are from Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, or any other State, and remembering only that we are citizens of Kansas."

Gov. Reeder closed the exercises with a complimentary speech, which was received with repeated cheers, and then, accompanied by Gen. Pomeroy and others, visited "Capitol Hill," which he had been especially invited to visit, being assured that it would be "cheerfully yielded up to him for his official consecration."

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]