KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


ERA OF PEACE, PART 42

[TOC] [part 43] [part 41] [Cutler's History]

GEN. JAMES H. LANE.

The date and place of the birth of this remarkable man are to-day in doubt. G. Douglas Brewerton, in his book entitled "The war in Kansas," published in 1856, days: "James H. Lane was born in Boone County, Ky., on the 22d of June, 1822. He is the son of Amos Lane, a Western lawyer of considerable celebrity, who figured in the politics of his day as Speaker of the first Legislature of Indiana, and Member of Congress during the Presidency of Gen. Jackson, where he proved himself one of the warmest supporters of Old Hickory's' administration." Mr. Brewerton claims to have obtained the information above from Gen. Lane himself. In corroboration of its correctness, D. W. Wilder, in his "Annals of Kansas," page 94, states: "He was generally believed to have been older, and he sometimes created the impression that he was born in Indiana; in fact, it was the prevailing opinion of his friends that he was born in Indiana. Lane's affidavit is published on page 143 of proceedings in impeachment cases; he swears, April 29, 1862, that he is in his forty-third year." This agrees with his statement to Brewerton, and makes him twenty-four years old, when in 1846, he became Colonel of the Third Indiana Volunteers. In a biographical sketch of him, written as late as 1878, by his friend, Hon. John Speer, Lawrence, it is stated that he was born in Lawrenceburg, Ind., June 22, 1844. Holloway's History of Kansas disposes of the question of his birth and parentage as follows: "Gen. James H. Lane was born June 22, 1814, on the banks of the Ohio, in Boone County, Ky. His father, Amos Lane, cousin of Joseph Lane, of Oregon, was an eminent lawyer and a Member of Congress. James' mother, who was a woman of superior intellectual and moral qualifications, superintended his early education. Always restive and unable to confine himself to books, he attained but the rudiments of school learning, even under the excellent tutorship of his mother." Little is known of his early life. For a short time in his early manhood he engaged in mercantile pursuits, and did a small business in pork-packing in Lawrenceburg, Ind. In 1843, he commenced the study of law, and after a short course was admitted to practice. In 1846, on the breaking-out of the Mexican war, he volunteered as a private and raised a company of men of which he was elected Captain. The company rendezvoused at New Albany, and was assigned to the Third Regiment Indiana Volunteers, of which he was made Colonel. His regiment, under his leadership, did honorable and distinguished service throughout the early and brilliant campaign of Gen. Taylor. At the expiration of its term of service, one year, he returned with his regiment and was authorized to re-organize it for further service in the field, which he did, and it was mustered again into the service as the Fifth Regiment Indiana Volunteers. The speedy close of the war prevented it from winning further laurels in the field after its re-organization. Soon after the close of the war and his return home, he was elected Lieutenant governor (1849), and before his term of office had expired (1852), he was elected as Member of Congress from the Fourth Congressional District of Indiana. He was also chosen one of the electors at large for Franklin Pierce as President during the same year.

During the exciting debates which preceded the passage of the Nebraska Bill, and which developed the highest forensic and argumentative ability, Col. Lane did not rise above mediocrity, although an ardent advocate of the bill which he supported by his votes through all its states to its final passage. The passage of the bill made sad havoc in the Democratic Constituencies of the Northern States, and rendered the re-election of most Northern Democrats who had voted for it extremely doubtful. Under the circumstances, Land did not choose to hazard defeat at the hands of his late constituents, but determined at once to put in an early appearance in Kansas, there become one of the organizers of his party, and its leader in the future State. He arrived in April, 1855, and settled on a claim adjoining Lawrence, which continued to be his home up to the time of his death.* (*His claim cost the life of Gaius Jenkins who contested it, and whom Lane shot dead June 3, 1858, while he was violently attempting to enforce his right, in common, to a well on the disputed claim. Lane was acquitted before a Justice of the Peace, and as no indictment was found against him, his case never came to trial in a court of record. Hence the actual merits of the case or the guilt which should justly attach to Lane for the homicide are still matters of dispute, and the tradition try versions so widely at variance as to agree in scarcely any of the minor details. The fact that Lane shot Jenkins dead is well established; whether the act was justifiable homicide, manslaughter, or "murder most foul," it is the part of a jury rather than of a biographer to determine.)

For some three months after his arrival in the Territory, he took no prominent part in politics, but seemed waiting a favorable opportunity to act. With consummate tact, he felt his way, taking no positive ground toward either faction beyond the point of safe retreat. During the months of June and July, 1855, the preliminary conventions which foreshadowed the organization of the Free-State party were held in Lawrence. Lane took no part in them, but decided that the time had arrived for the organization of the Democratic party in order to counteract the force of the growing movement which, if not checked, might draw to it a multitude of Free State Democrats whom it was essential to retain in the National fold. With this end in view, a meeting was held in Lawrence on July 27, over which Col. Lane presided, and at which resolutions were passed favoring the immediate organization of the Democratic party on "truly National grounds, and pledging the participants in the meeting to use all honorable exertions to secure such result." The proceedings received no countenance from the great majority of Kansas Democrats who were at that time more loyal to slavery than to the National Democratic party whose counsels were divided on that issue. The Democratic press, most intensely pro-slavery, decried the movement and warned its readers against it, as calculated to divide and weaken the Pro-slavery forces in the arduous and all-important local struggle in which they were engaged. Lane at once saw the futility of further efforts in that direction. With a most wonderful discrimination as to the preponderance of popular sentiment, added to a tact and cunning which rendered his judgment of future events well-nigh infallible, he decided to cast his lot with the Free-State movement, and win there the distinction he coveted. All paths to the Senate seemed alike to him until his choice was made; once made, he consistently and faithfully defended the newly espoused cause through evil and good repute, only vacillating temporarily to catch the ever-varying tide of popular favor that should waft him to the goal of his ambition. His history thenceforth is inseparably interwoven with that of Kansas up to the time of his death, and appears in its pages. He became the acknowledged leader of the most radical Free-State men, often rousing them by his rough eloquence to such a furor of excitement as to lead to most serious apprehension that through over-zeal, without discretion, the cause would fail. He was chosen President of the Free-State Territorial Committee before the formation of the Topeka State Government, and under it, was formed, he was elected United States Senator. All through the years that followed, he was the recognized leader of the aggressive fighting Free-State men, who, under his inspiration and the prestige of his name, more than his deeds, met the border-ruffians in their chosen mode of aggressive warfare of words and deeds, giving abuse for abuse, threat for threat, robbery for robbery, murder for murder, and accepting the open wage of battle whenever offered. The State being, after the long struggle, admitted as a Free State, James H. Lane was elected a member of the United States Senate by the first State Legislature in 1861. The rebellion having broken out, he took an active part in recruiting and organizing volunteers for the service. He organized a brigade and commanded it for several months as a Brigadier General, before he held such a commission. He was subsequently appointed to that rank. His somewhat irregular but quite characteristic methods of raising troops on his own responsibility, and regardless of the prescribed modes and methods of the State Government, led to serious disagreement, and an open rupture between him and Gov. Carney, which resulted in much illfeeling, the Governor refusing to appoint such officers to command as Lane and his troops desired. In 1863, he received from the United States Government an independent recruiting commission as Recruiting Commissioner for the Department of Kansas, and, under its authority, raised five regiments of infantry, one of which was of blacks, and was claimed to be the first colored regiments put in the field.

In 1964-65, he was re-elected to the United States Senate, and on taking his seat took sides with President Johnson in the open rupture which occurred between him and the Republicans on the Freedman's Bureau and Civil Rights Bill. He thought he saw the popular tide drifting that way, and with his accustomed alacrity he anticipated what he believed would prove the popular sentiment of the people. For once he was deceived. He visited his home in Kansas early in June, 1866. He was met coldly by nearly all his old friends and followers who had, up to this time, given him an unquestioning and unqualified support, stopping little short of homage. He saw the scepter of his power irreparably broken. He was no longer the autocrat of political affairs in Kansas. He could not brook the change, and without delay, set out on his return to Washington. He was debilitated in physical health and in the depths of despondency. His mental condition rapidly grew worse, and on his arrival at St. Louis, it was deemed imprudent to continue the journey further, as his delirium was such as presaged the worst form of insanity. On June 29, he returned, and stopped with his brother-in-law, Capt. McCall, at the Government Farm, near Leavenworth where, it was hoped that undisturbed quiet and rest might bring restored health. On July 1, he appeared much calmer, his delirium had abated, and hopes were entertained of his recovery. On that day he rode out with Capts. McCall and Adams. At one of the farm gates he alighted, exclaimed, "Good-bye gentlemen," and immediately discharged a revolver in his mouth. The ball passed through the brain and out near the center of the cranium. He was carried to the house of Capt. McCall, where he lingered insensible, only once rallying sufficiently to recognize friends, until July 11, when he expired.

The cause of the rash act was attributable, doubtless, in great measure, to the intense disappointment, humiliation and grief consequent on the desertion of his friends. This alone, to a man of Lane's temperament, was sufficient to dethrone reason. His ambition had grown on its own gratification, to still loftier aspirations, only to be reached through his wondrous sway over the affections and confidence of the common people, which hitherto he had held undisputed. He awoke, as from a dream, to find his power gone and all his future hopes melted into thin air. To him life had no further charms, and, with reason shattered, he fled from the dark forms which disappointment conjured, to the oblivious rest of the shadowy hereafter. All that was mortal of James H. Lane was laid to rest in Lawrence, Kan. His faults, which were many, may well find sepulture with his moldering dust; his virtues are enshrined in the hearts of the thousands all over Kansas, who still revere his memory as their great leader, counselor and friend.

Col. Lane was married to Miss Baldridge, in Lawrenceburg, Ind., in 1843. She is still living (1882), spending a part of each year at Lawrence, her old home. Their children were James H., a Lieutenant in the United States Army; Mrs. Adams, deceased; and Annie, Mrs. Johnson, of Lawrence, Kan.

HON. ALFRED GRAY.

Alfred Gray, son of Isaiah and Mary (Morgan) Gray, was born December 5, 1830, at Evans, Erie County, N. Y. While yet a child, his mother was left a widow with eight children, of whom he was the third. Until the age of fourteen, he remained at home, working on the farm in the summer and attending the district school in winter, and for the two succeeding years he worked for wages on a neighboring farm, earning enough to support himself, and continue his winter studies. In 1847, he embarked as a sailor on Lake Erie, rising from his position before the mast to that of first mate, during his three summers; experience on the lakes. At the age of nineteen, Mr. Gray (who had during the past three years perseveringly pursued his studies, when lake navigation was closed) was induced through the advice and entreaties of his mother, who was stricken with a fatal illness, to abandon his sailor life and devote himself exclusively to study. In accordance with her wishes, he entered life and devote himself exclusively to study. In accordance with her wishes, he entered Westfield Academy, N. Y., immediately after her death, and at that institution, Girard Academy, Penn., and Erie Academy, N. Y., he spent the next five years of his life in faithful, conscientious labor, not only supporting himself, but partially providing for a younger brother by teaching day and evening writing classes. Early in 1853, he commenced the study of law in Buffalo, N. Y., attending the law school at Albany during the winter of 1854-55, and graduating from that institution in 1855. He commenced practice in Buffalo, N. Y., as a partner of Hon. N. K. Hopkins, his former preceptor in that city, and remained with him two years. In the early spring of 1857, Mr. Gray decided to move to Kansas, and leaving a large practice, brilliant prospects, a beautiful home and many friends in Buffalo, he cast in his lot with the young Territory, to which so many eyes and hearts were turned. In March, 1857, he located in Quindaro, Wyandotte County, and opened a law office in that ambitious, and then promising village. He also purchased a large farm in the county, which soon absorbed his entire time and interest. The successful lawyer and business man found that he had discovered in the arts of agriculture and horticulture the vocation which just suited his tastes and inclinations, and the uncultivated land he bought soon became a model farm; rich with orchards and vineyards and harvest fields; beautiful with trees and vines and flowers, and home-like and comfortable, with its hospitable and commodious mansion, and its ample well-built barns and granaries. This farm was the home of Mr. Gray and his family until 1873. In 1858, Mr. Gray was elected one of the Commissioners of Wyandotte County, was Chief Clerk of the last Territorial House of Representatives, and was a member of the first State Legislature. From April, 1862, to March, 1864, he served as Regimental, Brigade and Division Quartermaster in the Union Army, but was obliged to resign the position on account of ill health.

In 1866, he was elected a director of the State Agricultural Society, was re-elected in 1868-69-70, and was a director of that society and of the State Board of Agriculture (into which it was merged) until his death, being also Secretary of other latter organization. From 1869 until 1872, he was General Superintendent of State Fairs held in Kansas, and, discovering the difficulty of systematically and profitably managing such gatherings in a sparsely settled country, he advised and inaugurated the system of biennial agricultural reports published by the State Board, containing accurately compiled and thoroughly classified statistics of the industries, resources and institutions of the State. These reports are now received as authority, not only in the United States and Canada, but in Europe, and have drawn the attention of scholars, business men and capitalists to Kansas, and caused a large immigration of intelligent and desirable settlers. In the centennial year, Mr. Gray served as Secretary of the state Board of Managers of the Kansas Exhibit, and had personal supervision of the Kansas and Colorado displays, which attracted most favorable notice and comment during the exhibition. In 1878, he was appointed by the President to represent this Government at the Paris Exposition, but was obliged, by reason of home duties and failing health, to decline the position. Besides the work mentioned above, which Mr. Gray has performed in the agricultural interests of the State, he served, during two years of its early struggles, as a Regent of the State Agricultural College at Manhattan, and was largely instrumental in shaping its after course of usefulness. In the summer and fall of 1878, he sought relief from encroaching illness in journeying with his wife, hoping that change and rest might bring the boon of strength and health. It was too late. Physical strength and endurance had been overworked and tested beyond possibility of permanent repair, but the brief time remaining to him on earth was spent, as the rest of his life had been spent, in quietly attending to his public duties, and in ministering to the comfort and happiness of the dearly loved circle at home. He died on the morning of the 23d of January, 1880, being able to give directions in regard to his business affairs until within a few hours of his departure. In the address delivered by Rev. F. S. McCage at his funeral, January 25, 1880, the dominating qualities of his character are referred to, and emphasized as love of order and system, exactness, industry, aptitude, ambition, honesty and courage.

Mr. Gray was married at York, Livingston Co., N. Y., May 1, 1856, to Miss Sarah C. Bryce, a former schoolmate at Westfield Academy. They were married about a year after Mr. Gray was admitted to the bar, and while he was practicing law in Buffalo. His widow and two children - Minnie and Alfred James - are now living in Topeka, the former born in New York while the father was in Kansas, and the latter in the old log cabin on the Wyandotte farm which the family occupied until their house could be completed.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES G. BLUNT.

This illustrious General was born in Hancock County, in the State of Maine, July 21, 1826. Until the age of fourteen, he remained at home, where he received a good common school education. With a naturally energetic and restless disposition, he soon tired of the restraints and routine of his every-day life, and while still young, ran away and went to sea, shipping at first before the mast and remaining as a sailor, serving in various capacities, for four years. In December, 1845, he abandoned the sea and emigrated to Ohio, where he studied medicine with Dr. Rufus Gillpatrick. Was married in the same State to Nancy G. Putnam, January 15, 1850, and resided and practiced his profession at New Madison, Ohio, until December, 1856. He then immigrated to Kansas, and settled near Greeley, in Anderson County, where he continued to practice as a physician until the outbreak of the rebellion, having in the meantime served the county as its delegate in the Wyandotte Constitutional convention. At the commencement of the war, Dr. Blunt enlisted as a private, but was made Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Kansas Volunteers at its organization, James Montgomery being the commanding officer. He was appointed Brigadier General in April, 1862, and soon after was ordered to the command of the Department of Kansas. During the year, under his personal command, the First Division of the Army of the Frontier, after driving Coffee, Jackman and other rebel leaders out of Missouri, and south of the Arkansas, fought and won at the battles of Cane Hill, Old Fort Wayne and Prairie Grove, driving the enemy beyond Van Buren, Ark., and virtually ending the war north of the Arkansas River. Gen. Blunt was promoted to the rank of Major General in 1863; being the only officer of that rank from Kansas. At the close of the war, he located at Leavenworth, and afterward removed to Washington, D. C., where he died, insane, in 1881. He was a brave and efficient man and officer, whom Kansas should be proud to honor.

PROF. BENJAMIN F. MUDGE.

Benjamin Franklin Mudge, son of James and Ruth Mudge, was born in Orrington, Maine, August 11, 1871. In 1818, his parents removed to Lynn, Mass., and in the common schools of that city Benjamin received his early education. From the age of fourteen until he was twenty, he followed the trade of shoe-making. He taught school to procure the means of acquiring a collegiate education, and graduated from the Wesleyan University at Middletown, Conn., first in the scientific and afterward in the classical course in 1840. After graduating, he returned to Lynn and commenced the study of law being admitted to the bar two years later, and immediately entering upon the practice of his profession. He remained a resident of Lynn until 1859, becoming during those years thoroughly identified with all the reform movements in that city. He was especially active and earnest in the anti-slavery and temperance movements, and was elected Mayor of the city on the latter issue in 1852. In 1859 - having spent eighteen years of his active business life in Lynn - he accepted the office of chemist for the Breckinridge Coal & Oil Company in Kentucky. On the breaking-out of the war of the rebellion, he removed to Kansas, and settled at Quindaro, where he remained until he received an appointment as State Geologist for Kansas in 1863, from which time until his death, sixteen years later, his whole time and strength was given to scientific researches and investigations in the West - principally in Kansas and Nebraska. In 1865, he was elected Professor of "Geology and Associated Sciences," in the State Agricultural College at Manhattan, in which position he remained eight years. In addition to the faithful and conscientious work performed by the Professor in the interest of the institution, he presented to it his rare and valuable cabinet, including the collections of more than thirty years, and many thousand choice specimens. Having some disagreement with the college administration, which resulted in litigation, Prof. Mudge accepted an appointment from Prof. Marsh of Yale College to gather geological specimens in the new West for the cabinet of that institution. He furnished various forms of vertibrate fossils, the first specimen of birds with teeth (described by Prof. Marsh, American Journal of Science, Volume IV, page 34), and also many of the original specimens for the engraving in Government publications. During a single year, he gathered and shipped three tons of rare specimens of Western fossils to Eastern scientists. To accomplish such a work, his time for the last five years of his life was necessarily spent principally in camp, exposed to the perils and privations of frontier and oftentimes savage life. During the intervals between his tours of exploration and investigation, his time was employed in writing and lecturing on scientific subjects, mainly geology, he being a fine writer, and a most popular lecturer. In 1878, the year prior to his death, he was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was father of the Kansas Academy of Sciences. He was married, September 16, 1846, to Mary Eusebia Beckford. Six children were born to them of whom three survive - Melville R., Josiah B. and Euseblia Beckford. Prof. Mudge died of apoplexy, at his home in Manhattan, Kan., November 21, 1879.

[TOC] [part 43] [part 41] [Cutler's History]