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


[TOC] [part 60] [Cutler's History]


The drouth of 1860, and the "Kansas famine" resultant, were more powerful agents in depopulating the Territory than the troubles of the preceding years. The people could fight border ruffians with better courage than they could endure starvation. Through all their tribulations, until now they had confidently hoped and believed that with the settlement of their political difficulties, prosperity and relief would come to them. Although the years of 1855-56 and '57 might have brought bountiful harvests, many of the citizens of the Territory were unable to take advantage of the favorable weather to do more than raise a few summer vegetables for immediate consumption, and those who succeeded in raising crops for winter use, often had them destroyed by the marauding bands that infested the Territory. Any surplus grain that farmers had on hand brought high prices, and was so readily disposed of that each year found the granaries of Kansas utterly exhausted, and the people entirely dependent upon the future crops. During 1858, immigration to Kansas was large, and the new-comers, of course, could produce little more than enough to supply their present needs; their time and labor and means being necessarily employed in providing a shelter for the winter and getting things in readiness for the spring. So the early summer of 1859 found Kansas with barely enough grain to last until the fall harvest. The drouth commenced in June. From the 19th of that month, until November, 1860 -- over sixteen months -- not a shower of rain fell, to wet the earth at any one time, two inches in depth. Before the close of the summer the ground was so parched that it broke open in huge cracks, the winds blew from the south like a blast from a furnace, vegetation was destroyed, crops were a total failure, and wells and springs were dry.

During the early and mid-summer, prairie grass flourished along the ravines and creeks, furnishing feed for cattle, and when the hot winds came on they dried it up so suddenly that the nutritive qualities remained rendering it fit for winter feed, thereby saving from starvation some stock which otherwise would have perished. Summer and winter vegetables were entirely destroyed. Occasional localities on bottom lands, and the region along the Missouri River and in the northeastern portion of the State, raised sufficient to supply the immediate population, but sixty thousand people in Kansas heard the howling of the "wolf at their door" in the fall of 1860. Nothing but charity stood between them and starvation. Thirty thousand settlers left the Territory for the old homes from whence they came, abandoning claims, improvements, and all hope of success in the West. The long procession crossed the border day after day, and the disheartened, disappointed emigrants returned to their friends, bearing ill reports of "God-forsaken Kansas." About seventy thousand remained, -- of whom perhaps, forty thousand were able to weather the stress of the times, but unable to aid the thirty thousand, too destitute even to get away. These were the settlers who had made themselves little homes on the prairies of Kansas, depending for their daily bread upon their daily toil, and for their winter supplies upon what was garnered during the summer.

As soon as news of the situation of affairs reached the East, a movement was immediately inaugurated for the relief of the sufferers. Thaddeus Hyatt, of New York, was the first who responded to the appeal for aid. He came to the Territory himself, visited the afflicted counties, acquainted himself with the state of affairs, gathered statistics, organized the counties, appointed relief committees, and after appointing S. C. Pomeroy General Agent of Northern Kansas and W. F. M. Arny, of Southern Kansas, he returned East, published the result of his observations and work, and made an effective appeal to the President and the Northern people for help. The response was hearty and cordial. New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio made especially liberal contributions. The movement was continued until the spring of 1861. The contributions were sent to Atchison, whence they were distributed to the different counties. According to the report of the committee, the total receipts of provisions for distribution up to March 15, 1861, were 8,090,951 pounds. Total distribution at Atchison, exclusive of branch depots, 6,736,424 pounds. At Wyandotte and Leavenworth, the committee distributed 437,190 pounds of provisions of various kinds; 2,500 bushels of seed wheat were distributed, and a great quantity of garments of various kinds. Cash received by the committee, $83,869.52, which it was claimed was chiefly expended in freight, and the expenses incident to forwarding the supplies; but little money was distributed among the settlers. Besides these contributions, many and various others flowed in from communities, churches and individuals -- much being designed for certain persons or localities, all of which, generous is it was, while it relieved a great amount of suffering, did not prevent many of the people of Kansas from suffering privation well-nigh bordering on starvation.


On December 17, 1860, Gov. Medary resigned, and George M. Beebe, then Secretary of the Territory, became Acting Governor, in which capacity he continued until the inauguration of the State government, February 9, 1861.

The long-continued struggle in Kansas had wrought a complete revolution in the political thought of the whole country. Kansas had been indeed the battle-ground of freedom during the past five years, toward which the attention of the whole nation had been turned with an anxiety only to be measured by the importance of the great issues involved in the struggle.

The South, grown arrogant by an unbroken series of Pro-slavery triumphs in national legislation, were unprepared for the sudden and positive resistance to further aggrandizement which confronted them on the fields of Kansas as they went in to take possession of their latest and most faithlessly acquired domain. It meant to them more than a mere local struggle for supremacy within the boundaries of the Territory. By the repudiation of all compromises the two opposing systems, the one based on free labor, the other on involuntary servitude, were, for the first time left free to battle under the law for victory, and Kansas had been by Congressional legislation marked as the battle-field. The enemy had chosen its own vantage-ground, adjacent to its own boundaries, and so remote from the expected course of Northern emigration as to seemingly assure an easy conquest. The North accepted the challenge with the time and place already chose by the enemy. The whole nation took sides in the struggle, and watched it with intense interest for the final outcome. Its progress developed, on the part of the Pro-slavery party, an earnestness for victory that blushed at no political subterfuge and paused at no crime and, on that of the northern settlers, a fortitude and bravery against which their antagonists strove with ever decreasing strength through the devious paths of lawlessness, crime, treachery and fraud, to utter defeat.

The end of the struggle in Kansas saw also the end of the supremacy of the National Democratic party. The seed it had sown brought forth the fruitage of its own dissolution. The North had at last become united for freedom as had been the South for slavery from the beginning to then. and as it continued from then on, even to the bitter end. Thus united under the name of Republicans it had, in the Presidential election of 1860, defeated the Democrats, now hopelessly divided on the slavery issues which had grown out of the Kansas struggle. Abraham Lincoln was chosen President, and almost the entire Northern delegation in the Lower House were also Republicans. The Senate, owing to the long terms of office, had not yet been rescued by the popular uprising from Democratic rule. Though deprived, through the restrictive power of the House, of the ability to breed fresh mischief, it still stood the only remaining fortress of slavery, and an obstacle to all national legislation in the interests of freedom.

The Wyandotte Constitution having been ratified by the people of Kansas was laid before the House of Representatives February 10, 1860, and on the 15th, Hon. Galusha A. Grow, of Pennsylvania, introduced a bill for the admission of Kansas into the Union, which was read a first and second time and referred to the Committee on Territories. The Committee reported the bill to the House, and, on the 11th of April, it passed, under the previous question, the vote being: Yeas, 134; nays, 73.

On February 29, Hon. William H. Seward introduced in the Senate a bill for the admission of Kansas. It was violently opposed by Douglas and other leading Democrats. The House bill as passed was reported in the Senate on May 16, by Mr. Green, the Chairman of the Committee on Territories, without recommendation. He accompanied the report with a speech opposing its passage. A long and acrimonious debate ensued, participated in by all the leading members. Pending the Presidential election, the Democratic majority persistently refused to put the bill on its passage. The last effort, previous to the summer adjournment, to bring the matter up in the Senate was oh the 7th of June, when Mr. Wade moved to take up the bill. His motion was defeated by a vote of thirty-two to twenty-six, Mr. Pugh, of Ohio, being the only Democrat who voted in its favor. Thus, at the adjournment, Kansas still stood waiting without the gates of the Federal fold, her entrance sullenly forbidden by the Pro slavery junta whose power she had vanquished, and whose allurements she had spurned.

Image of Ruins of Terr. Capitol, Lecompton RUINS OF THE TERRITORIAL CAPITOL, LECOMPTON.

This structure was begun on an appropriation of $50,000 made by Congress in 1855. The money was squandered, further appropriations were withheld and the work suspended. The foundation was utilized as barracks and a fortress by the Pro-slavery soldiers in 1856. Lane University now occupies the old site.


The Thirty-sixth Congress began its second session, December 6, 1860. The memorable political contests of the year had resulted in the overthrow of the slave power, by a vote so large as to leave no hope of its ever regaining its supremacy in the councils of the government, by peaceful means. Already the movements for open revolt were rife throughout the South, and the Pro-slavery members, when convened, swore allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, with a mental reservation more binding than the oaths they took; a mental reservation which pledged them to open revolt and foul treason to the country they had sworn to serve and defend. Still plotting, they held to the last the entrance to the Union barred to Kansas. The last secret preparation being completed, there stole away from the Senate a sufficient number of traitors to destroy the Democratic majority in the Senate, and the last obstacle to the admission of the State of Kansas into the Union. On January 21, 1861, Jefferson Davis, Clement C. Clay, Stephen R. Mallory, Fitzpatrick, and other Southern Senators left the Senate, and on that day the bill for the admission of Kansas under the Wyandotte Constitution, was called up by William H. Seward, and passed the Senate by a vote of 36 yeas to 16 nays; one week later the bill came up in the House on motion of Mr. Grow, out of the regular order, and passed by a vote of 119 yeas to 42 nays. On January 29, the bill was signed by President Buchanan, and Free Kansas, held back beyond her time, Minerva-like, sprang forth full-armed, to join her sister States in the great final conflict which still lay between her and lasting peace. She had fought single-handed to the end of the beginning; and now, undismayed took her place in the ranks of the loyal States at the beginning of the end.


The last Territorial Legislature met at Lecompton January 7, 1861. The officers elected were as follows:

Council. -- President, W. W. Updegraff; Secretary, John J. Ingalls; Assistant Secretary, Jacob Stotler; Sergeant-at-arms, J. Y. Hewitt; Door-keeper, C. L. Caldwell; Chaplain, Rev. C. Reynolds.

House. -- Speaker, John W. Stott; Chief Clerk, Alfred Gray; Assistant Clerk, George W. Still; Sergeant-at-arms, F. D. Sawin; Door-keeper, H. Gibbs; Docket Clerk, Edwin S. Nash; Journal Clerk, Arthur Gunther; Enrolling Clerk, John L. Wilson.

The Legislature adjourned on the 8th to Lawrence, where it remained in session until its final adjournment, February 2, 1861.

No important legislation was had except what pertained to the turning over by the Territorial government, of all claims and indebtedness to the new State government, daily expected to supersede it.

Acting Governor Beebe, being a follower of Buchanan, in his message, harmlessly expressed his own sentiments as to the position which Kansas should occupy in the coming conflict as follows:

If God in his wrath shall tolerate the worst portent of this tempest of passion, now so fiercely raging, Kansas ought, and I trust will, declining identification with either branch of a contending family, tendering to each alike the olive offering of good neighborship, establish, under a constitution of her own creation, a government to be separate and independent among the nations.

How this peculiar proposition to secede from the Union before she had fairly crossed the threshold, was received by the people who had fought the slave power alone for six weary years, is told in the bloody record of their deeds in the years that followed.

Twenty days after the foregoing message was delivered, the news reached the Territory that Kansas was admitted, and, amid rejoicing such as had not ruled before, the people celebrated the event throughout the limits of the new-born State. The peals of cannon, bonfires, speeches, resolutions -- all told loyalty to the long-sought Union.

[TOC] [part 60] [Cutler's History]