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


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


This reservation is situated in the southeastern part of the county, at the sources of the Blue and Tomahawk creeks, consisting of 33,392.87 acres, lying in Oxford, Aubry, Spring Hill and Olathe townships. The Indians to whom the reservation belonged abandoned it near the beginning of the war. As it was most excellent land--fertile soil, well watered and timbered--settlers rushed in at the close of the war and soon every quarter-section of it was occupied by a claimant. This was in the years of 1865 and 1866.

About the same time, certain other parties, not actual settlers on the lands, among whom were Gen. James G. Blunt, J. C. Irvin and Judge Pendery, conceived the design of buying up a portion of this land for the purposes of speculation. This was in October, 1867. An examination was made of the treaty of 1825, by which the Shawnees were granted the reservation including Johnson and a portion of Douglas and Miami counties, which was deeded to them May 11, 1844; and also of the treaty of May 10, 1854, by which the whole tract was re-ceded to the Government, and then 200,000 acres retroceded to the Shawnees. At this time the Shawnees divided into two bands--the severalty, or "head right" community, who selected their lands in severalty, and the "Black Bob" band, who chose to hold their lands in common, under the treaty which also gave them the right to select 200 acres each as a head-right at any future time. Messrs. Blunt, Irvin & Co. became satisfied that the title to the lands vested in the Indians, and hence that having selected his head-right under the treaty, any Indian could sell it and convey a valid title to any person by complying with the rules and regulations of the Interior Department of the Government for the sale of Indian lands.

These rules were: That the consideration mentioned in the deed was a fair one, that the amount so mentioned had been paid to the grantor by the grantee, and that the transaction was free from fraud. The Indian Agent was under obligation to attach his certificate that these rules had been complied with, in the execution of the deed.

Certain of the Indians, having applied therefor in the year 1867, received patents for their share of the land in severalty, and sold them to different parties for various prices.

The first sale was made October 28, 1867, to J. C. Irvin, who purchased in the aggregate 3,600 acres. The next sales were made November 7, 1867, to two of the settlers, Wm. II Nichols and John Wordens; and subsequently, but prior to January 11, 1869, a number of sales were made to other settlers, among whom were William Thomas, J. Nichols, Edward P. Robinson, Wm. S. Duffield and William T. Quarles. Sales were made also to other speculators, until in the aggregate the land covered by sixty-nine patents had been sold, the price received by the Indians being on the average $4.80 per acre.

Two protests against the further issue of patents to the Indians, setting forth that gross frauds were being perpetrated, and that the Indians were being swindled out of their lands by the speculators, having been received by the Government, Acting Commissioner Mix, on the 13th of December, 1867, telegraphed Agent Taylor to suspend delivery of the patents to the Indians. This was done and the sale of the lands arrested in consequence. Notwithstanding a few of the settlers had purchased their selections from Indians who had received their patents, the great majority refused to do so, believing their title should come from the Government, and not from the Indians. In the meantime the settlers kept on improving their claims, and have now converted the reservation into one of the fairest and most productive portions of the county. Both settlers and speculators kept an agent in Washington for some years looking after their respective interests; the one party attempting to obtain from Congress confirmation of the validity of the Indian patents, the other attempting to have them set aside and the title declared to vest in the Government. Neither party has thus far been successful. Congress, however, did in 1879, pass a resolution instructing the Attorney General of the United States "to cause a suit in equity to be brought in the name of the United States in the Circuit Court for the District of Kansas to quiet and finally settle the titles to lands claimed by or under the Black Bob band of Shawnee Indians in Kansas, or adversely thereto." In accordance with this resolution, suit in equity was brought in said court in 1880, and is still pending.

Such of the Black Bob band as were enabled to find purchasers for their lands before the sale of the same was suspended, in December, 1867, removed to the Indian Territory and united themselves with the Cherokees, in accordance with an agreement made between the tribes and approved by the President of the United States, while the greater portion of them who had returned to Kansas in order to sell their lands, were by the suspension of the sale prevented from doing so, and were "forced to remain in Kansas without a home, their lands being occupied by trespassers by virtue of the suspension referred to" (E. S. Parker, Commissioner).

We quote as follows from the Annual Report of Indian Affairs of Superintendent Hoag, for 1870:

"Anticipating the fulfillment of their arrangements with the Cherokees for future homes, many of the Shawnees have already removed thither, and most of those yet remaining will remove very soon, even though they may not be able to dispose of their estates in Kansas advantageously, being obstructed as they are by prolonged and unjust legislation. As guardians of these Indians, the Government has permitted her citizens so far to violate her just statutes as to enter upon, occupy and improve, in undisturbed possession, their fairest lands, thus adding to the wealth and comfort of the citizen outlaws, to the discomfort and pinching poverty of her suffering wards, some of whom have been driven from their humble but loved homes, and compelled if permit a resting place on soil of their own, to occupy such portion thereof as the coveting and unwelcome intruder did not desire for himself. These lawless occupants of the soil of others, have for years, from the proceeds thereof, retained counsel at the seat of Government for the security of these lands to themselves, in co-operation with their members of Congress; and in a recent bill, in reference thereto, provision is made for retaining said lands on the payment of $2.50 per acre, when if they were removed therefrom or compelled to pay outraged owners a price which a fair competition would secure to them, as justice should secure it, these Indians would at once remove to the Cherokee country with means sufficient to enable them to open and improve homes and surround themselves with the necessary comforts of life, for lack of which many of these poor Shawnees have gone to premature graves. This lingering injustice has continued the Shawnee agency two years longer than its natural life, at an unnecessary expense to the Government, and while this class of intruders are enjoying their ill-gotten incomes, the Black Bob Shawnees are appealing to their guardian, the Government, for aid to keep them from starvation, for which purpose some five hundred dollars has been expended the past year.

"The settlers and speculators have all through freely indulged in the application to each other of exceedingly uncomplimentary epithets; politicians have found the question of the title to the Black Bob lands a fruitful source of personal controversy and warfare, and as a result of the manner of the management of the whole matter, the Indian has certainly suffered most cruel wrongs, no matter in whom the title to the lands may ultimately be decided to in here."


The first election held in the Territory was in the fall of 1853, before the organization of the Territory. At this election, Rev. Thomas Johnson, of the Methodist Church, South, then in charge of the Shawnee Mission, and one of those who had introduced and then held slaves in the Territory, was elected delegate to Congress, for the purpose of urging upon that body the organization of the Territory; but having been elected without authority of law, he was not admitted to a seat as such delegate. He, however, remained in Washington during the session and until after the Kansas-Nebraska bill had become a law, the latter part of May, 1854. At this first election, Indians as well as whites, voted, notwithstanding the fact that they were not citizens of the United States, and consequently had no right to vote--an unpropitious beginning for the future Territory and State of Kansas. But when the question of Territorial organization was yet unsettled, almost everyone about the Indian missions and elsewhere, government agents and employees, missionaries and teachers, were all but universally Democratic and Pro-slavery, and the Indians imbibed and carried into practice the political views of their teachers--religious and secular. The principal exception to this rule was the case of the Friends, or Quakers, who were always and consistently anti-slavery, to their honor be the fact recorded and perpetuated.

At the election of March 30, 1855, for members of First Territorial Legislature, Rev. Thomas Johnson was elected from Johnson County to the Council (now called Senate) and his son, Alexander S. Johnson, to the Legislature. The Legislature was convened at Pawnee, near Fort Riley in Davis County, and organized by electing Rev. Thomas Johnson, President of the Council, and Dr. J. H. Stringfellow, Speaker of the House. Almost immediately after the organization, an act was passed locating the capital of the Territory at the Shawnee Mission, and the Legislature adjourned to this, the first capital, on the 16th of July. One of its first acts was the organization of the settled portions of the Territories into counties. Johnson County was named in honor of Rev. Thomas Johnson, President of the Council. Bills were passed for laying out towns and villages in various counties, but none in Johnson County, as it was entirely covered by the Shawnee reservation. Isaac Parish was appointed Sheriff of the County, and William Fisher, Jr., Probate Judge. The County was thus organized and officered nearly two years before any of its lands came into the market, and before any white people except those connected with the Indians, were allowed to reside in it. At this session of the Legislature the road leading from Kansas City, Mo., to Santa Fe, N. M., passing through the center of the county, was declared a Territorial road; a road was located through the northern part of the county to Lawrence, LeCompton and Fort Riley, and another along the eastern line of the county from Westport, Mo., to Fort Scott.

On the 23rd of October, 1855, the Free-state Constitutional Convention assembled at Topeka. Johnson County was not represented in this convention, its people being too intensely Pro-slavery. A constitution was adopted by the convention, the most important feature of which was a clause prohibiting slavery in the State. On the 15th of December, the Topeka Constitution was submitted to the people and received a large popular vote outside of Johnson county. Almost the only anti-slavery people in this county at the time were the Hadleys--Jeremiah and his three sons, Samuel, T. J., and J. Milton Hadley--a family belonging to the Society of Friends. The head of the family, Jeremiah Hadley, came out in August to assume the duties of superintendent of the Shawnee Quaker Mission. The Hadley family were fearless advocates of the Free-state cause. A young man by the name of John Lockhart, of some ability, and good education, residing at the Mission with the Hadleys, was elected to represent Johnson County in the Legislature, under the Topeka Constitution. This legislature was summoned to meet at Topeka, July 4, 1856. The members assembled in accordance with the summons, but were not permitted to organize, being dispersed by Col. (since Major General) Edwin V. Sumner, acting under orders from President Pierce.

These were troublous times in eastern Kansas generally. Johnson County escaped at this period in a remarkable manner, although suffering considerably at a later period. This escape was owing, doubtless, to the facts that the county was not open to settlement, and that the most of the few settlers here belonged to one political party. Still there were a few incidents which should be recorded as tending to illustrate the character of the times.

In August, a party of border ruffians went to the Quaker Mission, and after threatening to kill the superintendent, Jeremiah Hadley, stole six horses and a mule belonging to the Mission, and a carriage owned by Levi Woodard, and went away.

On May 14, 1858, Montgomery, and a band of his followers, surrounded the house of John Evans, a farmer now residing in the county, and who at the time was a Pro-slavery man, living three miles northeast of Olathe. Forcing an entrance into the house they warned Evans to leave the Territory within ten days, Evans replied that he should not go, and in fact did not go. Montgomery took about $800 in gold, besides other property belonging to Evans, and a gold watch and some money belonging to Patrick Cosgrove, who was Sheriff at the time, and departed.

On another occasion while John Lockhart, mentioned above as having been elected to the Free-state Legislature, and Calvin Cornatzer were on their way to Chillicothe, about three miles west of Shawnee, some armed Missourians overtook them, threatening to arrest them as being in sympathy with Jim Lane. But by adroit explanations by Cronatzer himself and by Dr. Barton, who was then living at Chillicothe, both Lockhart and Cornatzer were allowed to go free. These explanations did not remain satisfactory, however, very long. For in a few weeks thereafter a squad of Missourians sought Lockhart at the Mission, and searched the building thoroughly for him. He saved himself this time by dexterously slipping from one room into another that had been searched. And the same summer Cornatzer was arrested at the instance of two of his Pro-slavery neighbors, who accused him of being a Jim Lane man. He was taken to Tecumseh, lodged in jail, but released next day; the charge not being sustained.

In addition to these comparatively mild experiences there have been some flagrant outrages committed within the limits of Johnson County. One of these was the case of a young Missourian, named Cantral. A few days previous to his "trial" and murder, he had participated in the "battle of Black Jack" on the Free-state side, under old John Brown. He was taken prisoner by a party of Missourians under Gen. Whitfield, who were passing through Johnson County on their way to Westport, Mo. They camped for the night about two miles west of Olathe, and during the evening tried Cantral for "treason to the State of Missouri"! He was, of course, convicted, and shot for his crime.

One of the most cold-blooded murders committed on the border was the shooting of Major Gay, U. S. Agent for the Shawnees. He was so shocked at the barbarities committed by members of his party that he expressed his sympathy for the Free-state men, with the result above indicated; being shot while riding with his son near the Methodist Mission.

A remarkable battle was fought in the western part of Johnson County, this same year. Being fought on Bull Creek, and the rout of one of the armies being complete, it is spoken of now by some Kansans as "the first battle of Bull Run." Gen. Lane met the Pro-slavery forces under Gen. Reid where the village of Lanesfield was located. Lane's forces numbered about four hundred, while Reid's were about fifteen hundred. After a few shots had been exchanged by skirmishers on either side, Reid ordered his men to fall back. This order was obeyed with alacrity, the men, panic-stricken, falling clear back to Westport, Mo., a distance of thirty miles, without stopping to rest their jaded steeds. After the fight, Gen. Lane's men burned the residence of Richard McCamish, as a retaliation of his having taken part in the fight under Reid, as was reported. Other Johnson County participants in the bloodless battle of Lanesville, under Gen. Reid, were Samuel Garrett, P. Cosgrove, S. B. Myrick and Jerry Williams. There were none under Gen. Lane.

During the summer an attempt was made by Joel Grover to organize a company within the county to act with the Free-state men, but owing to the limited number in the county who sympathized with the cause, the attempt was abandoned.

In the fall of 1856, Perk Randall was elected a member of the Legislature, Rev. Thomas Johnson holding over as a member of the Council.

Perhaps nothing more clearly shows the purpose of the Slavery Propagandists, and their utter and wanton disregard of the principles of right and liberty, than the records of early elections in a small precinct named Oxford, in Johnson County, near the Missouri line, containing eleven houses. October 5, 1857, an election was held for Councilmen, Senators and Representative in the Legislature. On the 19th of the month, Governor Robert J. Walker issued a proclamation rejecting the whole return from Oxford precinct. This return was a manuscript fifty feet long, containing 1,628 names, mostly of imaginary voters. On the 20th a Democratic meeting was held at LeCompton, of which Major G. D. Hand, of Johnson County, was secretary. The meeting passed a long series of resolutions severely condemning the Governor for his actions in this matter. Had the return been admitted it would have changed the party character of the Legislature, transferring from the Free-state to the Pro-slavery side three Councilmen and eight Representatives. On the 21st of December, 1857, an election was held on the LeCompton Constitution. Oxford precinct again distinguished itself by casting 1,214 illegal votes. Shawnee at this election cast 729 illegal votes. At this election, W. J. Sheraff, A. A. Cox, H. W. Jones and J. B. Wiley were chosen Representatives in the Legislature from Johnson County. On January 4, 1858, an election was held for the election of officers under the LeCompton Constitution. Oxford precinct now showed a marked improvement over both of its other attempts, casting only 696 illegal votes. On the 29th of the same month in which this last election was held, a census of Oxford was taken in accordance with an act of the Legislature, which census showed that the precinct contained but forty-two voters. At the three elections, above mentioned, the total vote cast in the precinct was: October 5th and 6th, 1,628 votes; December 21st, 1,266 votes; January 4, 1858, 738 votes. We may certainly say with truth that in each and all of these efforts a zeal worthy of a better cause was shown.

In April, 1859, a proposition to hold a Constitutional Convention was submitted to the people of the Territory. The proposition was sustained, and the convention assembled at Wyandotte on the first Tuesday in March, 1859. Johnson County was represented in this convention by John T. Barton (Dem.) and John T. Burris, (Rep.), Col. Burris has the honor of being the first out-spoken Republican in this then Democratic stronghold, and the first Republican elected at a general election. On the first Tuesday in October, following, the constitution framed by the Wyandotte Convention, was adopted by the people by a majority of nearly 4,000--10,241 for; 5,530 against it.

During the summer the Republicans, for the first time in the history of the county, organized and put in nomination candidates for the various county offices and two candidates for Representatives in the Legislature--J. E. Hayes, of Olathe, and Dr. Scott, of Shawnee. For Representatives the Democrats nominated L. S. Cornwell, of Olathe, and Charles Simms, of Spring Hill. They were elected over their Republican competitors by majorities of 88 and 126 respectively.

The first Legislature of the State of Kansas met at Topeka, March 26, 1861, Johnson County being represented therein by John Lockhart in the Senate, and by J. E. Corliss, J. F. Legate and J. E. Hayes in the House. In the following fall the Republicans won their first general victory in the County, electing J. F. Legate to the Senate, and W. H. M. Fishback, W. M. Sheen, and Eli McKee to the House, by respectable majorities, and all the county officers as related below:

In 1862, they elected W. H. M. Fishback to the Senate by a majority of 136; Charles H. Stratton to the Legislature by a majority of 119, and William Williams by a majority of 29, the Democrats electing D. G. Campbell by a majority of 28.

Since that time, Johnson County has been honored in the Senate by the following gentlemen:

James B. Abbott, elected in 1866; A. Arrasmith, in 1868; G. M. Bowers, in 1870; John P. St. John, in 1872, W. W. Maltby, in 1874; J. M. Hadley, elected in 1876 for four years; L. W. Breyfogle, in 1880, present member.

In the House of Representatives, the following gentlemen have been elected from Johnson County at the dates appended to their names:

John T. Burris, A. S. Johnson and Gerrit C. Rue, in 1865; M. B. Lyon, Albert Johnson and J. W. Sponable, in 1866; J. P. Robinson, D. G. Campbell and J. B. Bruner, in 1867; R. E. Stevenson, D. B. Johnson and T. J. Rankin, in 1868; John T. Burris, John H. Lusher and Frederic Ridlon, in 1869; William Williams, D. B. Johnson and I. D. Clapp, in 1870; J. H. Connely, T. G. Stephenson and A. Taylor, in 1871; Thomas James, J. M. Miller and A. Belden, in 1872; W. W. Maltby, George F. Rodgers and Thomas Hancock, in 1873; D. G. Campbell, R. E. Stephenson and Z. Meredith, in 1874; D. G. Campbell, W. H. Toothaker and George F. Rodgers, in 1875; George W. Ridge, Henry Perley and E. Clark, in 1876, for two years; L. W. Breyfogle, Archibald Shaw and J. B. Bruner, in 1878; J. B. Hutchinson, Austin Brown and Rezin Addy, in 1880.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]