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


[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]


It is the purpose here to give the reader a view of political measures as they affected what is now Shawnee County, but which in 1854 had no existence whatever as a part of the then unformed Territory of Kansas. The word "political" is used in a broad sense, and it will be unnecessary to state this fact when the following pages, falling under this head, have been perused.

On the 8th of November, 1854, Governor Reeder issued a proclamation dividing the Territory of Kansas into seventeen election districts, the third comprising territory afterwards known as Shawnee County, being defined as follows:

Beginning at the mouth of Big Springs Branch on the south side of Kansas River; thence up the same to its farthest source; thence by a southerly line to the north bank of the Wakarusa River, at the east side of the house of Charles Matney; thence up said river, and its main branch, to the line of the Pottawatomie Reservation, and thence by the southern and western lines of said reservation to the Kansas River, and down said river to the place of beginning.

The first election in this district was for Delegate to Congress, the three candidates being Hon. John A. Wakefield, Gen. J. W. Whitfield, and Hon. Robert P. Flenneken. It was held November 10, 1854, at the house of Thomas N. Stinson, at Tecumseh, the judges of election being John Horner, S. D. Stateler, and Anthony Ward. The result of the election showed forty votes for Gen. Whitfield, and seven for Mr. Flenneken - the Free-state residents taking no part whatever in the election.

At the opening of the new year, 1855, the Territory was divided into three judicial districts, Hon. Rush Elmore being assigned to the second, or southeastern, as Judge, with provision for holding court at Tecumseh in the spring and autumn. The southeastern judicial included the third election district, the first officers for the latter being John Horner of Tecumseh, appointed Justice of the Peace, December 5, 1854; C. K. Holliday commissioned as Justice of the Peace, and Daniel Horne as Constable, January 22, 1855. The population of the district at this time, according to a census taken in February by T. W. Hayes was 252 persons - 161 males; 91 females; 101 voters; 112 minors; natives of the United States, 215; foreigners, 12; slaves, 6.

On the 8th of March, five days after the census returns were completed, Governor Reeder issued a proclamation for an election to be holden on the 30th of the same month, for the choice of members to the first Territorial Legislature. In the third district the election was held as in November, at the house of Mr. Stinson, in Tecumseh. By this time party lines were very sharply defined, and the Free-state citizens of the district, for the first time, thought it expedient to test their strength at the polls. Along the Wakarusa, and in the thriving and ambitious town of Tecumseh, the Pro-slavery party was in the ascendant, while the vigorous and rapidly growing town of Topeka was strongly Free-soil. H. J. Strickler was the Pro-slavery candidate for member of the Council, and Dr. D. L. Croysdale for member of the house. The Free-state candidates were Jesse D. Wood for member of Council, and C. K. Holliday for member of the house. The total number of votes cast was reported at 372, divided as follows: Pro-slavery, 366; Free-state, 4; scattering, 2. As the total number of votes in the district had been given by the census of the preceding month at 101, so sudden and extraordinary an increase in the adult Pro-slavery male population, could only signify illegality in the voting, fraud in the returns, or a combination of both. The judges of the election appointed by Governor Reeder, were L. B. Stateler, H. B. Burgess, and H. N. Watts. There had been a disagreement among them as to the oath which they ought to take, Mr. Burgess, being a Free-state man, favoring the form prescribed by the Governor, and the other two proposing to take the "organic act" as their guide. The waiting crowd became impatient, noisy, and some of them became threatening, especially towards Burgess, at the delay in organizing. The judges finally resigned, and a Pro-slavery Board was chosen.

Although the congressional committee did not investigate the election troubles in the Third Election District, and throughout the State, until the following year, the Free-state citizens protested against the election, and, on the basis of the facts which did come to light, Governor Reeder ordered a new election, to be held at Tecumseh, on May 22, 1855. Daniel H. Horne, John Ritchie, and Amos G. Adams, were judges of election. The Free-state candidate for member of the Legislature, C. K. Holliday, received 148 out of 149 votes cast.

The Pro-slavery party protested against this election - declared it illegal, and absented themselves from the polls.

The Legislature convened at Pawnee on the 2nd of July. Mr. Holliday's seat was contested by, and awarded to Dr. Croysdale, "elected" on the 30th of March.

The legislature thus fraudulently elected - and in which it is certain the majority of the bona fide settlers of the Third District had no part, their chosen delegate being refused a seat - proceeded, among other arbitrary acts, to define the boundaries of Shawnee County, to locate the county seat, to establish a Probate Court, and to appoint the commissioners and other county officers. Under the rule thus set up it is apparent that the majority of voters in the county were relieved of all the duties of citizenship, save that of paying taxes, and, as the sequel shows, they concluded to forego that, until such times as they might have some voice in making their laws, and choosing their officers.

The Congressional Committee took the testimony of many witnesses to the frauds perpetuated in the March election. They held their sitting in March, 1856, among others examined being Rev. H. B. Burgess (the Judge of Election whom Gov. Reeder appointed); W. A. M. Vaughan, postmaster at Tecumseh, Pro-slavery; Rev. Charles Jordan, D. H. Horne, one of the judges in the May election; James Hickey and Lewis O. Wilmarth. The committee elicited the facts given below:

On the 28th of March, 1855, persons from Clay, Jackson and Howard counties, Missouri, began to come into Tecumseh in wagons, carriages, and on horseback, armed with guns, bowie-knives and revolvers. They were provided with tents, and camped close to the town, and continued coming in and camping until the day of election. The night before the election 200 men were sent for from the camp of Missourians at Lawrence. On the morning of the election, before the polls were opened, some 300 or 400 Missourians and others collected in the yard about the house of Thomas N. Stinson where the election was to be held; armed with bowie-knives, revolvers and clubs. They said they came to vote and whip the damned Yankees; and would vote without being sworn. Some said they came to have a fight, and wanted one.

Col. Samuel H. Woodson, of Independence, Mo., was in the room of the judges, when they arrived, preparing poll-books and tally-lists, and remained there during the attempt to organize. The room of the judges was also filled by many of these strangers. The judges could not agree concerning the oath to be taken by themselves, or the oath to be administered to the voters. Mr. Burgess desiring to administer the oath prescribed by the Governor, and the other two judges opposing it. During the discussion between the judges which lasted some time, the crowd outside became excited and noisy, threatening and cursing Mr. Burgess, the Free-state Judge. Persons were sent at different times, by the crowd outside, into the room where the judges were, with threatening messages, especially against Mr. Burgess, and at last ten minutes were given them to organize or leave. As the time passed, persons outside would call out the minutes left, with threats against Burgess if he did not agree to organize. At the end of that time, the judges not being able to organize, left the room, and the crowd proceeded to elect new judges and carry on the election.

The Free-state men generally left the ground without voting; stating that there was no use in their voting there. The polls were so crowded during the first part of the day that the citizens could not get up to the window to vote. Threats were made against the Free-state men. In the afternoon the Rev. Mr. Gilpatrick was attacked and driven off by the mob. A man, by some called "Texas," made a speech to the crowd, urging them to vote, and to remain on the ground until the polls were closed, for fear the "Abolitionists" would come there in the afternoon and overpower them, and thus they would lose all their trouble. For making an affidavit in a protest against this election, setting forth the facts, Mr. Burgess was indicted by the grand jury for perjury, which indictment was pending at the time of the investigation, fifteen months after, Mr. Burgess never having been informed who his accuser was, or what was the testimony against him.

A large majority, four to one, of the actual settlers of that District were Free-state men, and there cannot be the least doubt that if none but the actual settlers of the District had voted at that election, the Free-state candidates would have been elected. The number of legal voters in the District according to the census returns was 101. The total number of votes cast was 372, of which number only thirty-two were on the census returns.

In his testimony Postmaster Vaughan gave the names of seventy-five residents of the district which appeared on the poll list, and Mr. Burgess sixty-nine who did not vote at the first election held March 30. L. B. Stateler, one of the Pro-slavery judges of the election, deposed as follows: "1st - A consultation was held by the Judges in reference to the form of oath, two proposing to take the Organic Act as their guide, the other (Burgess) determining to take the form prescribed by the governor.

2nd - Two judges wished to have clerks, the other (Burgess) refused to have any, whereupon Mr. Watts resigned. The other two not agreeing as to the manner of conducting the election, I proposed to Burgess that we all mutually consent to resign, to which he (Burgess) consented, and it was proclaimed from the window to the assembled voters without, whereupon they proceeded according to the governor's instructions in an orderly manner to elect other judges to fill the vacancies and proceeded to business. The Pro-slavery voters were generally present and voted. The Free-soilers did not generally attend, though not prevented from either attending or voting, as those who were present did vote.

There was some excitement existing, at the time, in the Territory, which was attributed by all sober reflecting men, to the Emigrant Aid Society's movements, in bringing into the territory a great number of men, at the time of the election in March, most of whom were men without families, many of whom returned soon after the election was past to their former homes. At our fall election for delegates to Congress, the first time I was appointed by the Governor as one of the judges; and a more quiet election I never witnessed; all parties came together as neighbors, and voted and went their way; and so I think it would have remained but for the foreign interference referred to above."

The second election, for a delegate to Congress, was held October 1, 1855. Tecumseh polled fifty-two votes, and Precinct No. 110, twenty-three votes for J. W. Whitfield, there being no Free-state candidates in the field.

On August 14 and 15, 1855, the first Free-state Convention in the Territory was held at Lawrence. F. W. Giles and C. K. Holliday, of Topeka, being members of the Committee on Resolutions from the Third District. On the 25th, members of the party, from this district, met at Topeka to select delegates to the Big Springs Convention, fixed to be held September 5. Resolutions were passed favoring a free State, a free constitution, a free press, freedom of thought, of speech and of action; unequivocally endorsing Governor Reeder's course and his character; appointing A. M. Jordan, of Tecumseh; W. Y. Roberts, of Big Springs; and A. G. Adams and James Cowles, of Topeka, as delegates to represent to represent the district in the Big Springs Convention - Substitutes, J. Tyler, and Wm. Jordan, of Tecumseh, W. R. Frost, of Big Springs, and F. W. Giles, of Topeka; and finally organizing the party of the Third District, with W. Y. Roberts, C. K. Holliday, C. W. Moffatt, Hiram H. Wentworth, and James Gilpatrick, as Executive Committee. In pursuance with the action of the Delegate Convention, held at Topeka, September 19, two delegates for each legislative representative were elected on October 9, they to form the Constitutional Convention. C. K. Holliday and W. Y. Roberts were the delegates from this district; Mr. Holliday receiving 194 and Mr. Roberts 184 votes.

The sessions of the Topeka Constitutional Convention were held in Constitution Hall, on Kansas avenue, the building being plastered by the Town Association for the occasion. The convention was called to order Tuesday morning, October 23, but only twenty-one members, less than a quorum, being present, it adjourned to Wednesday, 9 o'clock A. M. On Wednesday morning, after prayer by Rev. Mr. Burgess, of Topeka, James H. Lane was elected president; Samuel C. Smith, secretary; and Rev. H. B. Burgess, chaplain; Mr. Timothy McIntire, of Topeka, was chosen door keeper, and Mr. Loring Farnsworth, sergeant at arms; E. C. K. Garvey was the reporter for the Topeka newspaper (Kansas Freeman), which was issued every evening. The sessions continued sixteen days, and was an event of special local as well as general interest to Topeka, as the attention of the people was directed towards the town at this time, as the possible, if not probable, site of the future Capital of the State of Kansas. It was now made temporary Capital; the permanent location of the seat of Government to be fixed at the first General Assembly.

In case the constitution should be ratified by the people at the election on the 15th of December following, an election for State officers and members of the General Assembly was to be held January 15, 1856. At the election, on the Topeka Constitution, the vote for Shawnee County was 236 for, none against. The precincts were Topeka, Brownsville, Tecumseh and Washington. The following gentlemen were elected January 15, 1856, as members from the Third District to the first Topeka Legislature: T. G. Thornton, Senator; Milton C. Dickey, W. R. Frost and William Simerwell, Representatives.

On the 6th of June, 1857, Governor Walker, in a speech at Topeka, said: "In October next, not under the act of the late Territorial Legislature, but under the laws of Congress, you, the people of Kansas, have a right to elect a delegate to Congress, and to erect a Territorial Legislature." Believing in the honesty of this authoritative statement, the Free-state citizens of Shawnee County, in common with others throughout the State, in convention at Grasshopper Falls, resolved to contest the general election on the 5th of the following October. A meeting, endorsing the action of the convention, was held at Union Hall, Topeka, August 31, resolutions commendatory of its proceedings being offered and adopted.

The last election under the Territorial Legislature was held November 6, 1860, William E. Bowker and John P. Greer being elected Representatives.

The first election under the State Government was held November 5, 1861, and for further particulars in regard to general political matters, the reader is referred to succeeding pages.


During the Territorial existence of Kansas, Shawnee County had in the Territorial Council, Hiram J. Strickler, of Tecumseh, Cyrus K. Holliday and Chester Thomas, of Topeka. In the Territorial House of Representatives the county was represented by D. L. Croysdale, of Tecumseh, and M. W. McGee of "110" (now in Osage County) in 1855; in 1858 by James A. Delong, of Auburn; in 1859 by George B. Holmes, of Topeka; in 1860 by William H. Fitzpatrick, of Topeka, and S. R. Caniff, of Burlingame; in 1861 by William E. Bowker and John P. Greer, of Topeka.

The Territorial Legislature of 1861 was in session at Lawrence when Kansas was admitted as the thirty-fourth sovereign State of the American Union, January 29, 1861, and the body adjourned February 2, 1861. Governor Robinson was sworn into office February 9, 1861, and he issued a proclamation convening the first State Legislature at Topeka, March 26, 1861, and where, the State capital having been located by a vote of the people November 5, 1861, annual sessions of the Legislature were held thereafter, until January, 1877, the biennial system began.

By the apportionment under the State Constitution the sixth election district comprised the counties of Shawnee, Jackson and Jefferson, having two senators and eight representatives. The first members of the State Senate from this district were Hiram W. Farnsworth, of Topeka, and Edward Lynde, of Grasshopper (now Valley) Falls. The representatives were Henry Buckmaster and Jerome Kunkel, of Jefferson County, A. Ray, of Jackson County, and William E. Bowker, Hiram W. Curtis, John E. Moore, S. R. Caniff and H. Heberling, of Shawnee County; the last two named representing territory that is now in Osage County.

Legislature of 1862.-- In the Senate, Cyrus K. Holliday served the unexpired term of Senator Farnsworth, who accepted the position of Kaw Indian Agent in 1861. The Representatives elected in November, 1861, were Paul E. Havens and Azel Spaulding, of Jefferson County, Martin Anderson and Golden Silvers, of Jackson County, and J. M. Huber, H. W. Martin, Jeremiah Sabin and C. H. Welch, from the counties of Shawnee and Osage, then all Shawnee.

1863.-- The Legislature of 1862 having made a new apportionment, Shawnee County became Senatorial District No. 8, Representative Districts Nos. 41 and 42. District No. 41 embraced the townships of Topeka and Soldier, and District No. 42 those of Tecumseh, Monmouth, Williamsport and Auburn.

1867.-- By the new apportionment made by the Legislature of 1866, the numbers of the representative districts and their respective territory remained unchanged.

1872.-- The apportionment of 1871 made Shawnee County Senatorial District No. 20, and Representative Districts Nos. 56, 57 and 58. No. 56 embraced all the territory lying north of the Kansas River, No. 57 the Second, Third and Fourth wards of the city of Topeka, and No. 58 the residue of the county.

1877.-- The apportionment made by the Legislature of 1876 continued Shawnee County as Senatorial District No. 20, its Representative Distrists (sic) Nos. 62, 63 and 64; their territory unchanged. State senators elected in 1876 were for a term of four years, representatives for a term of two years, being a period just double that of the previous terms of State legislators.

1882.-- The act of 1881 to apportion the State for senators and representatives constitutes Shawnee County Senatorial District No. 16, and designates Representative districts as Nos. 46, 47 and 48, the territory in each remaining the same as in the former districts, 62, 63 and 64.

Biennial sessions have been held from 1877, representatives chosen in 1880, being as follows:

Senate-- D. C. Metsker, Topeka; House-- John H. Foucht, North Topeka; Thomas J. Anderson, Topeka; John B. Johnson, Topeka.

Mr. Johnson was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives; the first honor of the kind that has come to a resident of Shawnee County.

The Representatives chosen in 1882 were: Thomas M. Jones, North Topeka; George W. Veale, Topeka; J. B. McAfee, Topeka.


During the organic existence of Shawnee County, it has had its Probate Court, its County Commissioners' Court, its Court made up of Chairmen of its Board of Township Supervisors, its Territorial District and its State District Court, and sessions of the United States District and Circuit Courts are also held in this city.

Attention is now called to the District Court in the Territorial periods, which was presided over by Hon. Rush Elmore, a resident of Tecumseh Township, one of the three Territorial Judges, who held his first term of court November 8, 1858, with Erastus B. Smith, Deputy District Clerk; Loami McArthur, Clerk; and Thomas W. Maires, Sheriff; the last term having been held in November, 1860.

Jacob Safford, elected Judge of the Third Judicial District at the election held under the Wyandotte Constitution, December, 1859, opened court in chambers April 25, 1861; Dr. James Fletcher was Clerk of the District Court, and he appointed Hiram McArthur as Deputy, May 13, 1861. The first term of court commenced October 7, 1861, Alonzo H. Hale being Sheriff, and Justus Brockway, Prosecuting Attorney.

By the provisions of the Wyandotte Constitution there were five judicial districts, and the third comprised the counties of Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Pottawatomie, Riley, Davis, Dickinson and Clay. By an act of the Legislature of 1864, the counties of Jackson and Jefferson were detached from the first and attached to the third judicial district, and Saline had also become a part of the third district.

By an act of the Legislature of 1867, the eighth judicial district was formed, and in its formation there was taken from the third the counties of Riley, Davis, Clay, Dickinson and Saline, and by an act of the Legislature of 1881, the counties of Jackson and Jefferson were detached from the third and attached to the first judicial district, and the county of Riley was detached from the eighth and attached to the third judicial district, the third district now comprising the counties of Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Pottawatomie and Riley.

The term of office for the Judge is four years. Jacob Safford served from December, 1859, to November, 1863; C. K. Gilchrist, from November, 1864, to 1867; John T. Morton, from November, 1868, to February 1, 1883, when he resigned, and Governor Glick appointed John Martin to fill the vacancy.


The first transfer of land recorded in the county was by Mr. F. W. Giles, in an unofficial manner - his records being afterward legalized. His first entry was on the 7th of April, 1855, being a record of a transfer of land from W. C. Linniker to J. T. Jones, of lot No. 8, block 54, now northeast corner Harrison and Sixth; consideration $30; witness, Thos. G. Thornton.

The first deed recorded by John Martin, Register of Deeds, was on the 9th of February, 1856. The deed was given August 6, 1855, by R. W. Custard to Wm. Carter, "for one-seventh of 320 acres of land, situated in the forks of the Tecumseh and California roads, including the 'Big Springs.'" Consideration, $100; witnesses, E. Banning, W. M. Harper.

The first business done in the office of W. O. Yeager, Probate Judge, was on the 24th day of September, 1855. Wesley Garrett, a creditor of Preston Huffaker, late of Shawnee County, deceased, appeared before Judge Yeager on that day, asking that letters of administration be granted to him on the estate of said Preston Huffaker. Bond, $400; bondsmen, Duke W. Hunter and Thos. N. Stinson. Bond approved and letters granted.

The first Senator elected from Shawnee County after the Wyandotte Constitution was adopted, was H. W. Farnsworth, and the first Representatives were W. E. Bowker, Hiram W. Curtis and John E. Moore.

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