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


[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]


Leavenworth, a beautiful city of 19,000 inhabitants, is situated on the left bank of the Missouri River, being located upon a rolling site enclosed by a crescent of hills. The surrounding country is charming in the extreme, and merits the name bestowed upon it in the early days - "the garden of Kansas." A great attraction, and one which draws hundred of visitors to Leavenworth annually, is Fort Leavenworth. Within the city are elegant residences, costly churches, and large business blocks, press and pulpit, flourishing State and city institutions, large and prosperous manufactories, and good society, all giving evidence of metropolitan solidity and growth.


The very early facts connected with the town of Leavenworth have been presented in the sketch of the town association. Although by the latter part of September, 1854, the Herald and its proprietors were safely housed in the first building ever erected in Leavenworth; although Lewis N. Rees had built his little warehouse on the lot corner of Main and Delaware streets; although Uncle Keller was about to open his Leavenworth House; although Jerre Clark had erected a dwelling house - the first one in town - on Walnut street, the first families had not located in Leavenworth until those of Adam and George Fisher made their appearance. Having brought some lumber with them from St. Louis they erected a shed in which lived until they could get a house built. Both of them did much for the early development of Leavenworth. Adam, especially, was one of the most energetic, capable and public spirited men that ever lived in the city. He at present resides in Washington, his brother George living on a farm near the city, on the Lawrence road. When they first settled in Leavenworth, in October, 1854, Mrs. Geo. Fisher carried with her the first baby which had ever blessed the community - her three months' old boy. But one of the earliest and most valuable institutions of Leavenworth, in the way of buildings, which commenced to flourish at this time, was the saw mill of Murphy & Scruggs, at the mouth of Three-Mills Creek, north side. Capt. W. S. Murphy and Capt. Simeon Scruggs were partners and completed the mill in the fall of 1854, os that they were able to issue the following advertisement in October: "Murphy & Scruggs have erected and have in successful operation at Leavenworth, K. T., a large steam saw mill of the most approved model and with all the recent improvements. They are ready to fill bills for lumber of every description and in quantity at the shortest notice and on favorable terms." This was the first saw mill not only in the county, but in the Territory. Although they made considerable money, the death of Capt. Murphy, and subsequent legal complications, so disarranged and consumed the partnership property that Capt. Scruggs lost nearly all his share in Leavenworth and retired to his farm near Kickapoo. But to return. The day before this advertisement appeared a very important occurrence took place for the town. This was the opening of the Leavenworth House. The steamer "Polar Star," from St. Louis, also brought up Gov. Reeder, of Easton, Pa., the first Governor of the Territory of Kansas. He did not come to Leavenworth, at first, but stopped at the Fort, and undoubtedly he thus escaped being made a prisoner of war by the hospitable people of Weston. Gen. A. J. Isacks, of Alexandria, La., the newly appointed Attorney General of the Territory, also accompanied him, and went up to Weston. Although a Slave-state man, Gen. Isacks always counseled moderation, and was therefore almost as objectionable to the Pro-slavery party as though he had been openly a Free-stat advocate. In the afternoon of October 7, a delegation of citizens waited upon the Governor at the Fort. A very respectable crowd had assembled at Capt. Hunt's quarters. Dr. Leib, late of Illinois, but then a citizen of Kansas, addressed the Governor, on behalf of the citizens of the Territory. The Governor replied in a neat and happy but brief speech, after which the champagne flowed generously.

Two of the United States Territorial Judges, Hon. Saunders W. Johnson, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Hon. Rush Elmore, of Montgomery, Ala., reached here on Tuesday, the 10th of October, 1854. Hon S. D. Lecompte, the Chief Justice, arrived at Leavenworth a short time after this date.

Locally, the most important of these events was the opening of the Leavenworth Hotel, and reference is made to such matters as the landing of these first Territorial dignitaries, merely to impress the fact that Leavenworth received the first of everything important into the Territory, all the way from printing-presses to governors. The next day after Governor Reeded and Attorney General Isacks had established themselves in Kansas, it seemed fitting to Elder W. C. Capels, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, that religious services should be held in Leavenworth. This was done under the shade of a large tree, near what afterwards became the site of Plummer & North's flour mill. Thus early did the Church attempt to join hands with the State, in Kansas. Certainly Kansas needed all the prayers of the good elder and all of his co-laborers for the next two years, for all the appointment of Governor Reeder did not please the State of Missouri at all, and the State of Missouri felt that she had a lien upon the Territory of Kansas, and should be consulted before the Territory took any step, however small. When Governor Reeder proposed to make a tour of inspection and ascertain for himself the popular feeling, so as to be able to conduct an administration understandingly, the Platte County Self-defensive Association were scandalized at his presumption. The tour occupied fourteen days, and the Governor's welcome was cordial and general, showing a desire to counteract any wrong impressions which he might have gained from the enemies of free Kansas, in Missouri. Escort parties were formed throughout the region which he visited, and Governor Reeder returned to Fort Leavenworth, believing that the citizens of Kansas were able to govern themselves, and that he should make it a point to see that they did. He accordingly divided the Territory into Electoral Districts, and on November 10, 1854, issued his proclamation for the election of a Congressional Delegate on the 20th, to fill out the unexpired term. Missouri was aroused and her Pro-slavery leaders, headed by Gen. Atchison, resolved to posses that delegate, notwithstanding the position Governor Reeder had assumed. Said the General, in addressing a crowd in Platte City: "When you reside in one day's journey of the Territory, and when your peace, your quiet and your property depend upon your action, you can, without exertion, send 500 of your young men, who will vote in favor of your institutions." The Blue Lodges and "Self-defense" Association took up the idea, so that a convention was held at Leavenworth, on the 15th. Fully 500 Missourians were there, determined to nominate a straight Pro-slavery candidate and to elect him afterwards. The actual residents of Leavenworth were only desirous of sending some one to Congress who would protect their claims to the Delaware Trust lands. The people of Missouri had "Pro-slavery" as their watchword; the citizens of Leavenworth, "Home-protection." Gen. J. W. Whitfield met every Pro-slavery requirement, and in a speech, promised to be true to the "Delaware Trust lands." But being a comparative stranger to the Kansas element, he saw that his chances for an election would be increased by not forcing his nomination upon the convention. Strong endorsing resolutions were therefore passed, and a committee was appointed to wait upon Governor Reeder, at Fort Leavenworth. But the aims of that delegation and their manly treatment by Governor Reeder are so well known, and so well set forth in the general history, that it is unnecessary to go further into details. Suffice it to say that Governor Reeder most effectually backed the Missouri dictators for the time, and showed that he thoroughly understood them. If he had maintained his bold front during election day, there is no doubt but that his name would have stood higher in the roll of brave-principled men than it does; but a Congressional inquiry into the frauds perpetrated on the 29th instant shows that, had none but residents of Kansas voted, General Whitfield would have been elected. His only competitor in Leavenworth was Hon. Robert P. Flenneken, who came with Governor Reeder from Pennsylvania, with the express purpose of running as a Congressional delegate. He was a Free-state man, but there were doubts as to his being a safe man on the "Delaware Trust Lands" question. The following account of the election in Leavenworth is from the prolific pen of H. Miles Moore:

"On the evening of the 28th of November numbers crossed the Missouri River at Rialto Ferry, above Fort Leavenworth. Some went out to Pensenav's, on Kickapoo lands, and many of them came down to Leavenworth and camped near Three Mile Creek. They had their wagons, provisions and tents. The next morning the polls were opened at the window of a room on the east side of the Leavenworth House, northwest corner of Main and Delaware streets, where the Chicago and Rock Island railroad office now stands. There were but four or five houses in town at that time. The hotel was kept by Uncle George Keller and son-in-law, A. T. Kyle, and they continued to keep it for some time afterwards. B. H. Twombly, C. M. Burgess and Smith were the Judges of the election. The voting went on very quietly all the forenoon. There was but little excitement. Our Missouri friends seemed to be doing most of the voting, as, in truth, the Free-state men took but little interest in the matter, they believing that the election of the delegate to Congress would have but little to do with settling the question of slavery. Judge Flenneken they knew little about. They looked upon him as a mere political adventurer. Gem Whitfield had promised to do all he could to secure the Delaware settlers in their rights. We knew that from his position as Indian Agent he would, at least, have influence with the Indian Department at Washington, and, through his friends, with the President. The Free-state men in this district either declined to vote or voted for Flenneken; or, as I believe, a majority of them voted for Whitfield, because of some of the reasons previously stated. After dinner, and till the polls closed, there was considerable of a crowd around the hotel - some quarreling, a little fighting (the result of bad whisky), but no particular disturbance. Gen. Whitfield, Pro-slavery candidate, received 222 votes in Leavenworth precinct; Judge Flenneken, Free-soil, 80, Total, 302. Whitfield's majority, 142. Judge Flenneken at once returned to Pennsylvania, after the result of the election was known, and Kansas knew him no more forever."

In March of this year (1855), another noted character arrived at Fort Leavenworth - Gen. John Calhoun, Surveyor General of Nebraska and Kansas, and afterwards the honorable President of the Lecompton Constitution Convention. It was understood by the Leavenworth town company that he would locate his office here, and they therefore turned over some shares of their stock to him. Probably to create the same belief, and certainly causing the same result as to town lots, Gen Calhoun pitched his tent at different places in both Territories, but finally brought up at Lecompton.

After the adjournment of the United States Court, March 19, 1855, the Pro-slavery party held a nominating convention and put into the field as candidates for the Territorial Council R. R. Reese and Capt. L. J. Eastin, of the Kansas Herald; for the assembly, Judge A. D. Payne and William G. Mathias, of Leavenworth, and H. D. McMeekin, of Salt Creek Valley. The candidates were generally members of the "Delaware Squatter Association," and pledged to protect the settlers upon the Trust Lands. The Free-state candidates were - For the Council, B. H. Twombly, of Leavenworth County, and A. J. Whitney, of Jefferson; Assembly, F. G. Braden, Samuel France, and F. Browning. The election occurred on the 30th of March, and success to the Pro-slavery candidates was doubly assured by the wholesale importation or transportation of voters from Weston, Mo., via the "New Lucy" which came down the river bright and early, and never returned until the setting of the sun, at 5 o'clock P. M. Lewis N. Reese, Matthew France, and George B. Panton were inspectors of the election, and, of course, found everything "lovely" and legitimate. Just before the election a canvass of voters was made and it was found that by stretching a point, the district could poll 305 votes. These inspectors of election received, as legitimate voters, 964 names, and the Pro-slavery people were allowed a majority of 800. To the credit of Gov. Reeder, however, be it recorded that he refused to grant certificates of election to the chosen champions of property-rights and political principles. He ordered a new election for May 22, but the same candidates returned.

A narrative of how the "law and order" party across the Missouri carried the day is here given, being written by an eye witness: "The polls were to have been held at the Leavenworth Hotel, but Mr. Keller made some objection to it and they were removed by the judges to Benjamin Wood's saddler's, shop, on Cherokee street, near Third. Ropes were stretched from the window, where the votes were taken, out into the street, and all who desired to vote did so by passing between the ropes. The badge of recognition for those who belonged to the "law and order" party as they called themselves, was a badge of hemp in the button-hole of the coat, or on the hat, or around the waist. Everybody voted who applied to vote that day, except some Delaware Indians. The Wyandot Indians voted, about thirty of them. After the votes were counted Matthew France, one of the judges of the election, refused to sign the returns unless the words "lawful resident voters" were stricken out. This was done, after considerable discussion, and the judges all signed. Rees and Panton, two of the judges, refused to take the oath prescribed by the Governor before they entered upon their duties. They too another and different oath. France took the oath prescribed by the Governor and therefore declined to sign the returns unless the erasures were made as above."

William Phillips, a quiet young lawyer of Leavenworth, but a determined and enthusiastic Free-state man, prepared a protest, signed by himself and fourteen other indignant citizens in the Sixteenth election precinct, against the reception of the fraudulent returns. Similar protests were sent in from the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh precincts. But in his warmth for "fair play" Mr. Phillips made himself so conspicuous to the Pro-slavery party that he was plainly marked as an object upon which their vengeance must fall. That opportunity arrived before the time for holding the new election, which Mr. Phillips was so instrumental in bringing about.

In July, 1854, the Squatters' Association of Leavenworth County changed their place of meeting to the fort. The time of filing claims to the Trust Lands had been extended, and the nest of land speculators was increasing. By November the actual residents of Leavenworth became seriously alarmed lest, after all, they should be crowded out of house and home. On the 4th of that month a Squatters' meeting was accordingly held for the purpose of preventing non-residents from taking up land. The Kansas-Delaware Squatter Association was then organized, with a court for the trial of contested cases - officers as follows: R. R. Reese, chief justice; A. Payne, associate justice, Stranger District; Alexander Russell, associate justice, Salt Creek District; Miles Shannon, marshal; G. D. Todd, deputy marshal; S. D. Pitcher, clerk and recorder of claims. Malcolm Clark was the first marshal of the meeting. The complaints grew louder that the association was protecting non-residents, and a meeting was called for the 30th of April, to take definite action. That there was some good cause for this complaint no one can deny. In some instances, however, it undoubtedly originated with those who had no claims and desired to speculate in them, of by the rivals of Leavenworth, who would have enjoyed nothing better than to see a hot fight between the members of the Squatters' Association. Well, the meeting was held under the "old elm tree," corner of Cherokee street and Levee, and the feeling was high. Cole McCrea attempted to take part in the discussion and voting, when Mr. Clark requested him not to interfere, as his (McCrea's) claim was back of Fort Leavenworth, and not upon the Trust Lands; and informed him that no one but settlers upon the Delaware lands were to take part in these proceedings. Mr. McCrea promised to keep quiet, but upon the announcement that some resolution was carried to which he objected, he pronounced the decision of the chair a fraud. This was too much for the hot Scotch blood of Mr. Clark, and he gave Mr. McCrea the lie. This lead to a fight, in which McCrea shot Clark so that he died in a few minutes. The murder jumped down the bank to the river's edge. Several shots were fired at him without effect; a rope was procured and McCrea would have been lynched had not S. D. Pitcher and a friend appeared upon the scene, both heavily armed, and carried him off in a Government hack to Fort Leavenworth. He soon escaped and left the Territory, but subsequently returned, and now quietly lives in Leavenworth. He was indicted but never prosecuted, as the shooting had been done under an aggravated case of assault. The feeling against McCrea, however, was very bitter, as Mr. Clark was one of the original members of the town association, high tempered but warm hearted, whole-souled and popular. He was buried in Weston.

The historian has nearly approached the time when vengeance was taken upon the innocent Free-state lawyer, William Phillips. He attended the meeting where Mr. Clark was killed, and seconded the efforts of Free-state men who had lately arrived to obtain claims upon the Trust Lands. The part that he took was modest enough, but his political record - the part he had taken in inducing Gov. Reeder to call a new election in Leavenworth precinct - and his general Free-state propensities, caused the charge to be brought against him in the coroner's inquest over Mr. Clark's body, that Phillips had handed McCrea the pistol with which he shot the deceased - that Phillips was accessory to the murder of Malcolm Clark. Resolutions to that effect were passed at a public meeting held April 30 - upon the evening when the murder occurred. He was ordered to leave the Territory by two o'clock P. M., May 3, and a committee of ten was appointed to tell him so. Upon that date the meeting again assembled, and a vigilance committee was appointed. They found that Phillips had not left, threatened him with tar and feathers, and gave him another chance to leave the Territory. But although a quiet man, Mr. Phillips was a plucky one, and evidently thought that he had as much right to the Territory of Kansas as the vigilance committee. Although correct in his idea of the innate right of things, Mr. Phillips reckoned without his host, for on May 17 a dozen men, armed to the teeth, dragged him to the river, bundled him into a boat, carried him over the river to a point just below Weston, took him into a ware-house, stripped him to the waist, shaved one side of his head, tarred and feathered him, brought him "up town," rode him on a rail to the music of old pans and bells, put him on an auctioneer's block, and a dilapidated and ancient darkey bid him in himself for a cent. The same disgraceful performance was gone through again - all but the auctioneering - before Mr. Phillips was allowed to return to Leavenworth. The next day the better class of Weston's citizens denounced the outrage in the strongest terms. In Leavenworth the Pro-slavery party held a public meeting and thanked the vigilance committee for what they had done to the abolitionist. They called Mr. Phillips "the moral pergurer," declared war against abolitionists, and resolved that "we severely condemn those Pro-slavery men who, from mercenary motives, are now calling upon the Pro-slavery party to 'submit' without further action."

But, though the political pot was boiling most furiously, and the bitter feeling toward Free-state men kept out many who, under a quieter state of affairs, would have settled in Leavenworth, yet the town was growing , and growing rapidly. From a population of 200 inhabitants in January, 1855, the town had increased to nearly 400 people by May of that year. Mechanics were settling in the community, a brickyard was established, and another sawmill was in operation on the opposite side of town - with a shingle and lath machine and a grist-mill attachment. Houses were going up every week, and the demand was greater than the supply. Within six months, fully 100 buildings of various kinds had been erected, and were, by the spring of 1855, occupied by bona fide residents of Leavenworth. A postoffice had been established and opened by the Postmaster, Lewis N. Reese, in his store, corner of Delaware street and the Levee. This event occurred March 6, 1855. And business continued to increase, and new settlers to arrive, throughout the summer and fall. During the latter season, a fresh impetus was given to the town's growth by the selection of Leavenworth as the starting-point of the great Government Overland Transportation Company of Majors, Russell & Co. They constructed stores, blacksmith shops, wagon and repair shops, and put a business life into the place which it would not have obtained in years of common private exertion. They employed annually more than 500 wagons, 7,500 head of cattle, and nearly 1,800 men. Freight transported across the plains, in 1855, to the amount of 8,000,000 pounds. At Leavenworth, the headquarters of this immense transportation business, the firm expended $15,000 for necessary buildings. As early as 1854, several Salt Lake and California traders had commenced starting their trains from Leavenworth, the outfitting points being Independence, Westport, Weston, and St. Joseph. All of this business was now centered at Leavenworth. When there was added to this commercial advantage the fact that the Government was disbursing to soldiers and employes (sic) at the Fort, and for provisions and other necessities of a military establishment, $600,000 per annum, the secret of Leavenworth's early and wonderful growth was exposed. In October, 1855, one year from the first sale of lots, there was in Leavenworth a population of about 1,200 souls, with 500 voters. The concentration of Majors, Russell & Co.'s immense transportation business at this point, the settlement of many of his employes (sic) here the erection of many buildings and consequent encouragement of workmen, carried Leavenworth along a great stride. More hotel accommodations were imperatively demanded, and the "Planters' Hotel Company" was formed. About the 10th of November following, ground was broken for the new hotel, on the northeast corner of Main and Shawnee streets. It was completed during the season of 1856, and opened to guests in December. Leavenworth was also made the starting-point for the Kansas Stage Company.

The fall of 1855 was a period of great business activity for the young town, but the unfortunate civil disturbances which marked the year 1856, caused a greater depression - rather, a complete embargo upon commercial transactions. It is the purpose here to give bur a running sketch of these troubles, in order that the general reader may understand how Leavenworth was connected with the bitter conflict which raged between the Pro-slavery and the Free-soil parties throughout the Territory.

When the Legislature of the Territory assembled at Pawnee in July, 1855, its first act was to oust the Free-state members, chosen at the second election ordered by Gov. Reeder. In defiance of the Governor's undoubted right to fix the temporary seat of government where he pleased, the Legislature adjourned to the Shawnee Manual Labor School, Johnson County, where the members would be nearer their Missouri friends. The next blow to the Free-state party was the removal of Gov. Reeder. The members thereof saw at once that organized resistance to the outrages being perpetrated upon them had become a necessity of existence. Then came the Free-state conventions held at Lawrence, in June, and the calling of the Big Springs convention, in September. At this time the Free-state party of Kansas was organized, a State organization suggested, and war declared anew against the dictatorship of Missouri. From Leavenworth there were in attendance Marc J. Parrott and H. W. and D. A. Hook. Ex-Gov. Reeder was nominated as Delegate to Congress. Wilson Shannon had been appointed his successor in office. Gen. James H. Lane had taken the field for freedom of soil, freedom of speech and the State Constitution. His first appearance in Leavenworth was upon the evening of September 18, and the vigor of his address upon the exciting topics of the day was eloquently seconded by the "silver tongues" Marc Parrott. Upon the 19th and 20th occurred the State Convention at Topeka, Mr. Parrott, Col. M. W. Delahay, S. N. Latta, H. Miles Moore, Richard Phelan being in attendance as delegates from Leavenworth. The results of that convention are of too broad a nature to be discussed in this local narrative. Suffice it to say that the delegates from Leavenworth took a leading part in the deliberations. A few days after the return of the delegates to Leavenworth Ex-Gov. Reeder arrived in that city, dined at the Leavenworth Hotel with his friends, and in the evening addressed a large crowd of his congressional supporters. He advised them to take no part in the election fixed by the Pro-slavery Legislature for October 1 - to only recognize the proceedings of the Topeka Convention as valid, wherein the 9th of October was appointed as election day. His advice was generally heeded, so that Gen. Whitfield, his opponent, had it all his own way on October 1, while on October 9, Mr. Reeder was "unanimously elected." He received over 500 votes in Leavenworth. This day is also noted in political annals of Leavenworth County, as being the day upon which Delaware City opened her polls again upon the county seat question, and obtained a short-lived "glory" as the recognized seat of justice.

About a week after the Constitutional Convention at Topeka had adjourned, in pursuance of a call a large Pro-slavery meeting was held at Leavenworth. This was upon November 14, 1855, and was made the occasion for Gov. Shannon's first visit to the city. He was received by a committee of citizens, and entered the convention as a county delegate. The delegates assembled in Alexander's stone building, southwest corner of Main and Shawnee streets, and elected Gov. Shannon chairman of the convention. An adjournment was taken until the afternoon, when Gov. Shannon opened the meeting by denouncing the Topeka Constitution and the Free-state movement generally. Gen. John Calhoun, Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska Territories, was also present and made a bitter Pro-slavery harangue. But the "law and order" meeting hooted down the only Free-state speaker who asked to be heard - Marc Parrott. A Free-state meeting was held a week afterwards. Politics were boiling, and the intense state of feeling was not cooled materially by the breaking out of the Wakarusa war. It seemed when Brig.-Gen. Eastin, of the Second Brigade of Kansas Militia and editor of the Kansas Herald, ordered that his troops concentrate at Leavenworth, on December 1, 1855, "to march at once to the scene of the rebellion" and to put down the 1,000 outlaws of Douglas County (armed to the teeth !) - that this point might be turned into a portentous seat of war. In the diary of H. Miles Moore for December 1, however, is the following record: "Agreeable to the call of Brig-Gen. Eastin about one hundred assembled here. H. C. Dunn was elected Captain, and a few, about thirty or forty, enlisted. They are to start from Salt Creek Valley, to-morrow, at 9 o'clock A. M. No news from Lawrence." But the bulk of the invading army was, as usual, from Missouri. Until December, then Gov. Shannon ordered Gen. Richardson to disband his troops, the excitement did not materially decrease in Leavenworth. Political excitement, civil commotion, and a very severe winter, all combined to check business.

The winter of 1855-56 was the severest which had been experienced in this locality for a long term of years. The first snow of the season fell on the 22d of December, and continued accumulating until the 3d day of February, when it lay on the ground to the depth of two feet. On that day, too, the mercury indicated thirty degrees below zero, and for a long time previously had ranged from zero to twenty-two degrees below. The river had been frozen for seven weeks, and the ice was more than two feet thick.

[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]