|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
SALE OF THE DELAWARE TRUST LANDS.
Following is the proclamation of President Pierce:
OF DELAWARE TRUST LANDS, IN
The Territory of Kansas.
By the President of the United States.
The above proclaimed sale was postponed to Monday, November 17, 1856, at which time it commenced.
No even of such interest or importance to the actual settler had ever before transpired. The political feuds and personal differences among them were forgotten in the overshadowing issue of how to secure titles to their occupied lands at the forthcoming sales.
There were common dangers outside, threatening the home of every Delaware squatter, whether Pro-slaver, Free-state or Abolition in faith, and among the squatters themselves, the securing of their homes, at the valuation put upon them by the Government, without interference from outside speculative bidders, became the paramount and all-absorbing question. The danger was, that speculators would overbid them, which was increased by the fact that there were two antagonistic classes of non-residents desirous of securing the lands, outside of the speculative profit that was sure to accrue from the known intrinsic value of the lands themselves. There were Pro-slavery speculators and Anti-slavery speculators, as well as speculators pure and simple.
Governor Robinson, a staunch Free-soiler, and an agent of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, wrote to his friends in Boston, as follows:
LAWRENCE, Kan., September 25, 1856
Commenting on the above, the Herald, November 1, voiced the local sentiment thus:
An effort is being made by certain Northern men to introduce politics into the sales of the Delaware lands. Robinson, and others, have already written letters to the East, stating that it is the purpose of the Pro-slavery men to buy out all the claims of the Free-state settlers. They make this false issue as an excuse to urge Northern capitalists to be here at the sale and invest their money in these lands; that by so doing they can make a profitable investment, and advance the cause of freedom, by getting possession of this whole tract, consisting of over 200,000 acres of land.
On the opening of the sale, Monday, November 17, the city was crowded with strangers who had come from a distance to buy, but, under the united and firm front displayed by the settlers, no efforts were made to bid off any lands already occupied, and the sale went on from day to day without disturbance, the speculators taking their share of unoccupied lands when offered. Dr. Eddy superintended the sale; Major G. W. Purkins and Captain S. Scruggs serving as auctioneers.
The sales commenced with Township seven, in the western portion of the lands. The sales of the first day were confined to the fractional quarters. About five sections were sold. There were not many settlers on these lands, and the consequence was that lively competition took place between the speculators. The sales averaged this day from the valuation price, $1.50 per acre, to $2.15 per acre. The second day's sales opened with cheering prospects for the squatters, specific instructions having been received from the Government to the effect that 'all settlers should have their claims at the valuation price; that those who had not the money should have time, and their land be passed over to a future sale. That all men who had been driven from their claims, and could establish the fact by themselves or their friends, such lands should be passed over to a future sale.' These instructions gave great relief and satisfaction to the many poor squatters, who hitherto had depended only on their united muscle to overawe speculative bidders. About fifteen sections were sold the second day. The reports of the first two days' sales note Jeff. Buford, of Alabama, and W. H. Russell, as large purchasers of unoccupied farm lands. The sales went on uninterruptedly till December 9, the township and farm lands being sold first, in the order of the proclamation. On that date, notice was read that new instructions had been received from Washington, in regard to conducting the sale, when the City of Leavenworth (the last in order) should be reached, whereby, in addition to the extravagant valuation put upon the lots instead of blocks, as in the other towns, the agent was instructed to open to competitive bidders all the vacant lots, leaving the town company and the throng of speculators who had bought largely of city lots during the progress of the sale, to shift for themselves as best they could. These new instructions were sprung upon them while the sale was in progress, and if carried out, would work not only injustice to the town company and the many residents dependent on it for a final title, but make absolute chaos of all the speculative purchases, as every vacant lot was to be again put up in open market and sold to the highest bidder. It is doubtful if a madder set of American citizens were ever convened that those of Leavenworth at that time. As Leavenworth was last on the list, the sale continued until Saturday, December 14, at which time all the lands had been sold, except three or four disputed quarter sections, and all the towns, except Leavenworth, and a suburban town plat described as Lattaville.
The Leavenworthites, and others interested in city property, by combined entreaty, protest, threats, etc., succeeded at this time in effecting an adjournment of the sale for three weeks, and dispatched Dr. Eddy, the Commissioner of the sale, and Mr. W. H. Russell, a large property owner of the city, to Washington, to lay the grievances of the people before the Government, and obtain redress. They were assisted in their negotiations by the co-operative efforts of Gov. Geary, who, under date of December 15, 1856, wrote to President Pierce as follows:
In response to a letter from the Mayor, and accompanying a petition of leading citizens of Leavenworth City, I came here for the purpose of aiding with my counsel and presence, in averting a threatened disturbance. I find the public mind greatly excited in consequences of some recent instructions from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, entirely charging the policy which has thus far governed the land sales, with results so entirely satisfactory to all interests.
After much delay, and most persistent work on the part of the committee sent to Washington, and other friends of the city, the malignant and hidden influences were so far assuaged as to result in the final sale of the site to the town company, at what seemed an exorbitant valuation. The terms, though deemed unjust and extortionate, were, however, gladly accepted by the town proprietors, and the final settlement of the vexed question was hailed with satisfaction by the hundreds who had already invested largely in the lands in question. The final purchase was consummated February 11, 1857. The Herald, of February 21, 1857, says:
All the town site, except some few blocks on the margin, were sold on the 11th inst., and the remainder on the 12th. The sale went of (sic) without any excitement, and the Leavenworth Association bought in the different lots, causing the deeds to be given in the names of the present proprietors. This obviated the necessity of the association again transferring the lots to purchasers, and now all have titles to their lots and improvements.
The general feeling of those interested is reflected in the following extracts from an article pertaining to the subject, by H. Miles Moore, Esq., in 1873. It quite fittingly closes the history of the land title trouble, since it gives one of the early proprietors, and a much aggrieved party, the cold but well intended comfort of having the closing argument. Mr. Moore discoursed thus:
Our memorial (before alluded to) prayed that the treaty be so modified as to extend the pre-emption law of 1841 over the Delaware trust lands. Although we did not accomplish our wish at that time, we did, by a combined effort afterwards, and by interesting the Territorial officers, and perhaps some parties at Leavenworth, in after years, in opposition to Indian Commissioner Many penny and some friends, who wished and came very near having the sale made at St. Louis and Washington, as they very plausibly said, to avoid combinations of squatters on the lands, who wanted to rob the Indians. At the time of the sale of the lands, many of the squatters had permanent, lasting and valuable improvements upon the lands, having occupied and farmed them for over two years. The town site was not sold for over a year after the outside lands were sold, as I shall hereafter show, and then at an outrageous valuation, considering the fact that the town company, by their money and energy, had given the lands their increased value over ordinary wild lands. Of course, had the lands and town site, or either of them, been sold at St. Louis, Washington, or any other point other than where they were sold, or in this vicinity, the settlers and the town company would have lost their all. Does any body believe that Manypenny and his satellites would have robbed the Indians? Of course not. Men of that stamp have not been engaged in that laudable, praiseworthy and Christian enterprise for the past twenty-five years, even in holy Kansas and elsewhere, vide Brothers Harlan, Pomeroy, etc., etc. No, but they would not hesitate to rob the poor settler, who had penetrated these then Indian wilds with his family, and, by his industry, energy, and enterprise, had built him a little cabin, and was industriously making him and his family a home in the wilderness, and by whose untiring efforts has sprung into existence, as if by magic, a full panoplied and mighty commonwealth. We were glad, willing and anxious to pay Mr. Indian all his land was worth when we took it, and although it was, as I said before appraised outrageously high afterward, the settlers and town company paid the price without a murmur, only demanding as a right, that they get it at the appraised value, which they did, I am happy to chronicle, in most if not in all cases. For the 320 acres which comprise (1873) the now city proper, the town company paid over $24,000 to Mr. Lo.