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


[TOC] [part 8] [part 6] [Cutler's History]


While the early settlers of Topeka were ready to gather in the grove on the banks of the Kansas, to interchange memories of the "old home," and hopes and anticipations of the new, they did not neglect the "weightier matters of the law," but at the very threshold of the new life in the West, determined to close the door against the arch intruder that ruins alike community and family.

On the evening of May 14, 1855, a meeting of the citizens was held at the boarding-house of Mr. A. W. Moore, to take into consideration the best means of preventing the sale of intoxicating liquor in the town. Capt. C. N. Gray was chosen chairman and Dr. Merriam secretary.

Dr. Martin, in stating the object of the meeting, said: "It is well known that liquor has been sold here, and not only to whites, but to the Indians; thereby not only have the morals and reputation of the place been injured, but our property and even lives endangered. Hardly a man can be found, either a Northerner or a Missourian, who does not condemn the traffic in ardent spirits."

Dr. Martin was followed by Capt. Sanford Henry, who urged the necessity of adopting prompt and decisive measures to stop the evil, and moved the appointment of a committee to draft resolutions to be submitted to the meeting. Messrs. Dyer, Ritchie and Emerson were appointed such committee, and reported the following preamble and resolutions:

WHEREAS, We, the citizens of Topeka, believe the sale of ardent spirits as a beverage to be pernicious to the community, an unmitigated evil, producing drunkenness, debauchery and disorder on the Sabbath, corrupting the morals, disturbing the peace, injuring the reputation and hindering the prosperity and growth of the place; and

WHEREAS, The Topeka Association have prohibited the sale of ardent spirits--as they had a right to do upon lots by them donated; and as proofs are abundant that one of our citizens is violating this arrangement by selling whiskey, not only to whites, but also to Indians; therefore,

Resolved, That we, the citizens of Topeka, do hereby pledge ourselves to stand by each other in the enforcement of the above prohibition; "peaceably, if we can; forcibly if we must;" and that in broad daylight.

Resolved, That we recognize the principles of the Maine Anti-Liquor Law, as being of binding force among us, and hereby declare the same to be the law of this city and vicinity.

Resolved, That we pledge ourselves, individually and collectively, to do all that lies in our power for the enforcement of the above law in this vicinity.

Resolved, That, to this end, we hereby appoint Capt. Sanford Henry as our Constable, whose duty it shall be, on being presented with a written complaint of any three responsible citizens, to immediately enter and search the store, dwelling or other place of which complaint is made, and seize and take into his possession, until otherwise ordered, such liquor as he may find.

Resolved, That Messrs. Case, Bliss, Ritchie, Pierce, and Trott shall be a committee whose duty it shall be, to take into immediate consideration, any case arising under these resolutions, and adjudge whether the liquors in question were intended for sale as a beverage; and if so, to order their destruction; if not, order their return to the owner.

Resolved, That we unitedly pledge ourselves to uphold in word and deed, our Constable and Committee in the performance of their duties, and that we will mutually bear all attendant expenses.

It was then voted that Messrs. Irish, Weymouth and Whiting, be requested to wait upon Mr. J. F. Jones and inform him of the meeting, and present him with a copy of the above resolutions.

Messrs. Merriam, Stratton and Adams were appointed a committee to draft a Constitution and By-laws for a Temperance League, and the meeting adjourned one week.

A temperance demonstration celebrated the Topekans' first 4th of July in their new home. On the evening of July 4, 1855, a large number of the citizens congregated on the prairie, near the town, determined then and there to put an end to the selling of liquor in the town. After a short consultation the mass meeting resolved itself into a "committee of the whole," and proceeding to the place where it was sold, demanded of the proprietor his stock. He did not quite accede to the demand, but compromised by giving up all his liquor, on the payment of a certain sum by the citizens. The barrels were rolled out, the heads knocked in, and a grand display of fire-works immediately followed, worthy of the young town and its staunch temperance pioneers.


Late one Saturday night in November, 1855, the call came to Topeka: "Send men to help Lawrence." The next morning a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, and the Topeka Guards, under Capt. Daniel H. Horne, were immediately dispatched to the aid of the sister city. About one hundred men shouldered their rifles and marched; leaving, it is said, only one able-bodied man behind to take care of the women and do the necessary chores. When the "boys" returned to Topeka--all officers--the solitary home guard was dubbed good-naturedly by them "Major Splitwood," an honorable title. The women were told that the Tribune office would probably be attacked during the absence of the company, but they bravely urged their brothers and husbands to go, asserting their readiness to defend the office and their homes to the last.

The Topeka boys, on arriving at Lawrence, were assigned quarters in the unfinished hotel, and there met John Brown, who supplied some of them--Redpath among others--with guns, which they lacked. On their return, they were tendered a grand reception and supper by the ladies, at Constitution Hall; Lane, Parrott, Redpath, and other distinguished Kansans making speeches on the occasion.

The muster roll of this company, with their ages attached to the names, has been kindly furnished by Capt. Daniel H. Horne. The members of the company were all residents of Topeka, and were called into service November 27, 1855. Daniel H. Horne, Captain, 27; Aseph Allen, First Lieutenant, 22; Loring Farnsworth, Second Lieutenant, 23; John Ritchie, Third Lieutenant, 38; Joseph F. Cummings, Clerk, 24; Leonard W. Horne, First Sergeant, 30; William F. Creiz, Second Sergeant, 26; W. W. Henderson, Third Sergeant, 21; James G. Bunker, First Corporal, 41; Andrew S. Waters, Second Corporal, 24; Moses Hubbard, Third Corporal, 22; Henry B. Cowles, Fourth Corporal, 21. Privates.--Augustus H. Barnard, 22; George F. Boyd, 21; Leroy L. Brown, 22; Phillip Briggs, 50; Franklin L. Crane, 45; Peter O. Convers, 21; Humphrey Coburn, 21; Jesse H. Crane, 16; J. F. Cummings, 24; George Davis, 29; Francis Davis, 30; Abner Doan, 29; Henry Damm, 26; Guilford Dudley, 21; James Dizny, 22; Moses Dudley, 22; Charles Farnsworth, 32; Charles N. Gray, 25; Richard Gustin, 26; Benjamin F. Gatchel, 24; Joseph W. Emerson, 38; Paul R. Hubbard, 25; George Hill, 38; George F. Hartwell, 21; Abel F. Hartwell, 25; Cyrus F. Howard, 32; George W. Hathaway, 32; George L. King, 18; Robert M. Luce, 25; Christopher C. Leonard, 23; David H. Moore, 26; W. G. R. Miles, 28; Joseph C. Miller, 35; McClure C. Martin, 21; Robert L. Mitchell, 24; Alonzo W. Moore, 31; John Long, 42; Ozias Judd, 64; John W. Parsons, 16; James Pierce, 42; W. W. Ross, 26; James Redpath, 22; David Smith, 31; Charles A. Sexton, 22; William P. Thompson, 22; Charles L. Tyrrell, 27; Charles H. Thompson, 19; James Taggart, 28; Theron Tucker, 21; Peter J. Wendall, 18; Thomas G. Thornton, 28; Henry P. Waters, 27; John A. Wirt, 23; William H. Weymouth, 32; Charles L. Wilber, 24; Nelson Young, 21; Harvey G. Young, 23; George H. Woods, 30, George F. Warren, 36.

Messrs. Garvey, Cummings and Mitchell were taken prisoners during the Wakarusa troubles and carried to Lecompton. The gentlemen being "newspaper men," and having about their persons copies of the newly-printed "Topeka Constitution," it was proposed by the mob that Mr. Garvey, being editor of a Free-state paper, should pay the penalty of such crime then and there with his life. Fortunately, better counsels prevailed and he was spared, and with his companions liberated when the Wakarusa troubles ended.

The winter of 1855-56 was one of exceptional severity. A severe storm of snow commenced on the 22nd of December, and for the succeeding six weeks the storms were almost incessant. The snow averaged fifteen inches in depth, the roads on the prairie being nearly impassible. The thermometer sank to eighteen degrees below zero, and in the poorly-built and often unfinished houses of the new towns in Kansas there was extreme suffering. At this time there were but very few houses in Topeka that were proof against the driving snow and cold winds, and the Eastern emigrants, particularly the women, accustomed to all the comforts of an old-settled country, had many a homesick hour when trying in vain to keep the little cabin, or poorly-built house, warm enough for ordinary comfort.


On the 4th of March, 1856, the first session of the Kansas State Legislature was opened. It was greatly feared that suitable accommodations could not be provided for the large number of people that would be present, and objections to that effect had been urged by rival cities. Topeka, however, was equal to the occasion. The Garvey house was always able to accommodate a few more. Mr. Chase had established his boarding house on Quincy street, which became famous before the close of the session, not only for good cheer and good fare, but for a quiet influence exerted there, which won members of the Legislature to feel that Topeka was the place of all places most suitable for the capital of the State.

In anticipation of the session of the Legislature, a new hotel was commenced in the winter on the site now occupied by the new Government building. Prof. Oakleys, an earnest Free-state man, who started the enterprise, labored through the entire winter to hurry the work, even shoveling the snow away for his excavation during the most severe weather. The hotel was not finished until summer. It was a three-story building, painted red on the outside, concrete walls to the third story. Mr. Harrison Nichols was the first landlord of the house.

On the 23rd of April, 1856, there was a public sale of lots by the Topeka Association. The average obtained was about $200 for ordinary sized business lots. The full lots (75 by 100 feet), on the corner of Kansas avenue and Sixth street, sold at the rate of $810 per lot.


A private school was taught during the summer of 1855 by Miss Sarah Harland, and on the 2d of January, 1856, "The Topeka Academy" was opened by James Cowles, A. B., Principal, but the Topeka Association took no decisive steps toward erecting a schoolhouse until February, 1856. On the 8th of that month the subject was brought before the association, and Mr. Amos Trott was appointed on the 20th to the work of soliciting subscriptions and making a plan for a schoolhouse. Two lots were set apart for a schoolhouse site the following month, but the Emigrant Aid Society, which had agreed to build a schoolhouse in consideration of certain lots reserved to it, did not erect the building until the summer of 1857, when a brick building about 18 x 24, and two stories in height, was put up on the southwest corner of Fifth and Harrison--the first schoolhouse in the city.


On the 13th of March, 1855, the brothers John and Loring Farnsworth left Boston with the Second Emigration Company of 300 persons, under charge of Dr. Charles Robinson, and arrived at Topeka late in the same month. In Mr. Loring Farnsworth's "statement," deposited in the State Historical Rooms, he says: "We came across the Shunganunga towards night, and drove up upon the town site, perhaps as far as where the State House now is. We could see nothing, and thought perhaps we had mistaken the place, and we went back and camped on the Shunganunga. Next day we came over and found the town down near the river; the town house, another log house a little east of it, and east of Kansas avenue, two or three sod houses." In April, 1855, Farnsworth brothers commenced the erection of the building afterwards known as "Constitution Hall." It was originally intended as a store for the proprietors, with rooms to be rented for other purposes. It was situated on the west side of Kansas avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets, and was a substantial two-story stone building, with a basement. The stone for the walls was taken from a ravine back of the present site of the Gordon House. The foundation of the building was 34 x 44 feet, and the inside measure of the hall was about 30 x 40. W. H. Weymouth worked on the building as carpenter, and William E. Bowker as mason. Early in the fall, as soon as the roof was on, William W. Ross moved in and started a printing office. The basement had been previously used for a meat shop, and the first story occupied by Mr. Joseph C. Miller and family as a dwelling. Mr. John Farnsworth returned to the East early in the summer, and his brother not being able to complete the building, it was hired by the Topeka Association for the use of the Constitutional Convention (October, 1855), the association agreeing to plaster it in consideration of its use. From the time of that convention, the hall, for many years, was used for all public meetings in Topeka. The first Legislature--the Legislature of July, 1856, which was dissolved by Col. Sumner--the first church services of the Episcopal Church, local political caucuses, lectures, all were held in Constitution Hall, while the basement was utilized during the troublous years of 1856-57 as a place of storage for the spoils which the "boys" succeeded in "jayhawking" from the common enemy. By act of Legislature, approved March 2, 1863, the Secretary of State was directed to enter into a contract on behalf of the State with Messrs. Gordon, Mills, Gage and Farnsworth, to erect a temporary capitol building upon lots 131, 133, 135 and 137 Kansas avenue, in the city of Topeka. The building was erected and taken possession of by the State officers the following autumn. This building embraced within its limits old "Constitution Hall" the principal room, in which was framed the first Free-state Constitution of Kansas, becoming the Senate Chamber of the new capitol building. Since the erection of the State House, the building on Kansas avenue has been used for purposes of trade, and in 1882 there are comparatively few, except the "old settlers" of Topeka, who can point out the site of the building so famous in the annals of the town.


The southern terminus of this famous emigrant route, over which John Brown and James Lane so often passed, was at Topeka, and Topeka people felt a special interest in it. From Nebraska City to Topeka the route was 140 miles in length, and at the opening of the route, in May, 1856, there was not a residence of a white man along its entire line. With the first train that passed over the route was the Milwaukee company, Mr. E. G. Ross and family and Mr. J. E. Rastall being among the emigrants. Col. M. C. Dickey, of Topeka, had charge of the train through Kansas, the road having been previously staked out by some of the members of the Topeka military company. In Iowa the train was increased by a large number who had been recruited in the East through the labors of Morris Hunt, Dr. George E. Cutler, Lane and others, and on reaching Kansas it numbered five hundred persons and sixty wagons. After passing the northern line of Kansas, parties dropped from the ranks, forming settlements along the route, the last before arriving in Topeka being at Holton, which was settled primarily by Milwaukeans. On the 13th of August the remainder of the train reached Topeka, and crossing the ferry near the foot of what is now Polk street, ate their first supper at Topeka at the Garvey House, or Farmers' Hotel, as it was called at that time, and were given a public reception in the evening at Constitution Hall.

Gen. Lane's emigrant party, which entered the Territory under the superintendence of Col. Eldridge and S. C. Pomeroy, on the 10th of the following September, and which was stopped by United States troops near the northern line, and afterwards disarmed by order of Gov. Reeder at Indianola, a little north of the Kansas River, arrived at Topeka on the 14th, and camped on the town site.

This route served as a path to safety for many colored fugitives. In 1857, an underground railroad was established through the exertions of John Armstrong, of Topeka. The first car that passed over the track was in the shape of a close carriage drawn by a span of mules. The northern terminus of the Topeka branch was Civil Bend, Iowa. Among the stockholders were Dr. Charles Robinson, S. N. Wood and Maj. J. B. Abbott.

The last train that passed over the road, in 1859, had on board John Brown and a party of his colored friends. When between Topeka and Holton the fugitives were attacked by a horde of border ruffians, and were rescued from their peril by a band from Topeka under command of John Ritchie. They then passed over the road to safety.

TROUBLES OF 1856-57.

After the dispersion of the Legislature,* July 4, 1856, by United States troops, the Free-state citizens of Topeka, in common with those of other towns, felt that they were completely adrift, having no faith in the Territorial Government, and no immediate prospect of a better. The Missouri River towns were in the hands of the Pro-slavery party and it became almost impossible to procure even the necessaries of life. In the attempt to get supplies from Leavenworth or Kansas City, lives were often lost, and the teams almost invariably captured. An organization was perfected at Topeka, some slight fortifications thrown up on the lots on Quincy street which had been donated by the city to the Methodist Church, the basement of Constitution Hall pressed into service as a receptacle for prizes which should be captured in the foraging expeditions of the company, and a regular system of reprisal on the enemy established, which was carried on until supplies could be brought to Topeka, in a regular manner, without danger of attack from border ruffians. The Free-state organization at Topeka was known as Company B, Second Regiment Kansas Volunteers, Col. Whipple (Aaron D. Stephens), was Colonel of the regiment, and William F. Creitz, Captain of the company. L. C. Wilmarth was Chief of Commissary, and Dr. Crane's little office, at the foot of Quincy street, served as a sort of hospital for the sick and wounded. Expeditions were made by the company to various Pro-slavery towns in the vicinity of Topeka--Tecumseh, Osawkie, Lecompton. The company usually returned with supplies sufficient to feed the boys for a time at least.

* See State History.

Free-state version--In September the situation in Topeka was deplorable. There was no food to be bought in the city. Mr. John Farnsworth's team was taken, with all his goods, by the border ruffians near Westport, and a man sent from Topeka to try to get supplies at Leavenworth was murdered. While in the adjoining Pro-slavery towns there was "enough and to spare," the Free-state men of Topeka literally feared that they should "perish with hunger," unless they could supply themselves from the surplus wealth of their neighbors. Tecumseh was accordingly visited by "Lane's men," and "taken," the Leavenworth Herald says, "even to the brooms." The Topeka forces were commanded by "Col. Whipple," and among them were Horne, Cleveland, Ritchie, Moffett and others well known to Topeka. The richest prize was found at the store of Benjamin D. Castleman, who lost, according to his own statement before the Claim Commissioners, about $6,000, and never recovered anything but a meal sieve and a tin pan, which some conscientious individual returned to him on finding his trade-mark upon them. The victorious party returned to Topeka with their spoils laden in several wagons, which they took out as "army ambulances." At Osawkie, which place was visited soon after, the company captured thirty loaded muskets, the store of William Dyer being the main object of attack. As soon as Governor Geary arrived, and the blockade was removed from the Missouri, and food could be got legitimately without risking life, all these things ceased--they were war measures.


The raid of the Missourians, under Capt. John Ried, on the town of Osawatomie, occurred on the 29th of August. The Topeka company was in Lawrence at the time, having just reached the place in response to a summons from Gen. Lane. On the morning that the news was received at that place, in company with the Lawrence company, they marched to Bull Creek, where the enemy had encamped on their return to Missouri, arriving about dark, after a fatiguing march of thirty-five miles under a hot August sun, and with no water for the last eight miles. A small body of cavalry had passed on ahead and halted for the infantry to come up. They found the enemy ready to receive them, with four pieces of artillery planted in front of his camp. For some reason, either of prudence or policy, Gen. Lane decided to fall back without attacking the camp. The command accordingly fell back eight miles to Black Jack, where there was water, and rolling themselves in their blankets, laid out for rest and sleep.

On the departure of the Topeka company to the assistance of Gen. Lane, Secretary Woodson ordered Col. Cooke, with his command, "to proceed at the earliest moment to invest the town of Topeka, disarm the insurrectionists, or aggressive invaders against the organized Government of the Territory to be found at or near that point, leveling with the ground their breastworks, forts and fortifications, keep the head men or leaders confined in close confinement, and all persons found in arms against the Government as prisoners, subject to the orders of the Marshal."

The news of this order reached the Topeka boys the morning after their arrival at Lawrence on their return. They forgot their long march of the previous day under a burning August sun, forgot their fatigue, and only remembered Topeka and the homes it contained. On their hurried march home they passed the smoking ruins of six Free-state dwellings, which Woodson's "Territorial Militia," had destroyed, the sight bringing terrible forebodings of even greater disaster at the little village farther up the Kaw. When they reached Big Springs they received the welcome tidings that all was well. Col. Cooke was not the kind of man to execute the inhuman order he had received. He knew the limit of Territorial authority.

There is no doubt that "Lane's men," as they were styled, were at this time almost desperate, and ready to retaliate both in kind and degree the outrages that had been heaped upon themselves and friends. No man's life was safe. The roads were infested with armed robbers, and murders for the sake of plunder, or merely for difference of opinion, were of frequent occurence. The journey from Topeka to Lawrence could not be made with safety, those two cities being chiefly abhorrent to the enemy, and their residents more jealously watched and suspected.

On the 3d of September, 1856, a detachment of about fifty from the encampment of "Lane's men" at Topeka, all mounted and armed, and under the command of one Captain Cleveland, aided by Jameson and Charles Maffet, made a raid on the neighboring Pro-slavery town of Tecumseh and committed several robberies. The following day a larger detachment numbering some two hundred, and also under the command of Cleveland, mounted and accompanied with wagons, marched into Tecumseh, and among other outrages, plundered the store of B. D. Castleman, who had been a resident of the Territory but two months, of everything it contained. Other places in the town were robbed, but the largest amount of spoils was taken from Castleman's store. Everything was confiscated--nothing was too good or too mean for the plunderers. Groceries, dry goods, medicines, guns, tinware, brooms, hair oils, books and three barrels of excellent brandy--all were loaded into the wagons and taken to Topeka, where they were divided among the crowd. Mr. Castleman never received any of his property, or any pay for what was taken, with the exception of ninety cents received from A. M. Jordan for a broom and meal sieve, which was given him in the distribution of the spoils at Topeka, and which he paid for when he found Mr. Castleman's mark upon them. The persons concerned in this raid were mostly newly arrived emigrants who had come in over the northern trail during August. The above facts are taken from the report of the claim commission.

[TOC] [part 8] [part 6] [Cutler's History]