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


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


The first settlement of which there is any authenticated account, is that made in Wabaunsee Township in 1854, although there were a few settlers in other portions of the county whose advent dates as far back, but not possessing that contiguity as to give them that distinctive feature by which a settlement is characterized. For instance, in Wilmington Township, in the southeast corner of the county, there was settled as early as 1854 Henry Harvey and one or two others; while in what is now Farmer Township we find that John P. Gleich settled as early as 1853, and in 1854 we find Peters Thoes, Frank Schmidt, R. Schrander and C. Schwankee; but when it is borne in mind that at the time the county was not divided into civil townships and that these settlers were miles apart from each other, the fact of their having settled in the county did not give the respective localities where they located the character of a "settlement," or rather not that distinctive character which is ascribed to a collection of settlers in one immediate neighborhood, and since the settlement made in Wabaunsee Township in 1854, by Peter Sharra, Bartholomew Sharra, J. H. Nesbitt, Rev. Harvey Jones, D. B. Hiatt, (sic) J. M. Bisby, Clark Lapham, Joshua Smith, Robert Banks, Rev. Mr. Leonard, and probably a few others, assumed this distinctive feature, we give it the credit of being the first collective settlement in Wabaunsee County. Following this came, April 1856, the "Beecher Rifle Company," or "New Haven Colony," as described by some. During the fall of 1855 and the winter of 1855-56, great excitement prevailed in the Free States over what was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, during which time public meetings were held almost nightly, and the measure was strongly and bitterly denounced. Great enthusiasm was created among the people, and a spirit somewhat akin to that which took hold of the Colonists in 1776 seemed to be aroused throughout all of the Free States, but chiefly in New England.

It was during this winter, and when the feeling against the Nebraska Bill was at its highest, that the "Beecher Rifle Club" was formed in New Haven Conn. The company first took shape on February 17, 1856, when C. B. Lines announced at a public meeting in New Haven his intention [to] organize a colony, and at an early day start for Kansas to help make it a Free State. Books were open the next day to receive the signatures [of] those wishing to enroll, and in less than a week eighty-five names were subscribed, which was increased to ninety by the 7th day of March, 1856, on which day the organization held its first meeting. C. B. Lines was chosen president of the company. A few days before setting out on their journey westward, a meeting of the members, together with other citizens of New Haven, was held in the North Church, where they listened to an address delivered by Rev. H. W. Beecher. At the close of the address, C. B. Lines, as president of the organization, arose and gave a brief outline of the origin, aim and purpose of the company, reminding the audience that though about starting for a country where, in all probability, hard knocks would be interchanged, no provision had been made to furnish them with weapons, either offensive or defensive. Prof. Sillman, of Yale College, being in the audience, arose and made a short address, in which he appealed to the citizens to furnish the company with arms, and concluded by subscribing $25 for the purchase of a Sharp's rifle. He was followed by others until nearly enough was subscribed to purchase half the required number of rifles. Mr. Beecher then informed the audience that if half the number was furnished by the people, he would supply the other half. The first half of the number having been furnished, Mr. Beecher returned to his home, and in a few days thereafter, forwarded to the president of the company $625 to purchase the rifles he had agreed to furnish, with which was also sent a Bible and a hymn-book for each member of the company.

Thus was the Connecticut Kansas Colony equipped, and on the 31st day of March, 1856, they started from New Haven amidst many handshakings, farewell greetings, and oft-repeated "God bless you," and "God speed you," each man having a rifle on his shoulder and a Bible in his pocket, and from the active part taken by Mr. Beecher in the equipment of the colony, it became known as the "Beecher Rifle Company." Arriving at St. Louis, the company -- which, by the way, was composed of preachers, teachers, doctors, merchants, mechanics, and laborers -- held a consultation as to future action. The result of their deliberations was, that a consolidated fund was raised. There was considerable money among the colonists, with which a large stock of groceries and other provisions were purchased, after which they took passage on board the steamer Clara, for Kansas City. At this place another meeting of the company was held, at which parties were detailed to go into the interior and purchase oxen, wagons, cows, etc., while another party was detailed to cross over into Kansas and look up a location for settlement.

All being in readiness, the colonists crossed over into Kansas, having, with thirty yoke of oxen, a suitable number of wagons, and many other articles deemed necessary for the successful establishment of their new home. Of the colonists, five had their families with them. Next day they reached Lawrence, where they halted for two or three days, and while there they were joined by the party who had been detailed to select a location, and who reported in favor of Wabaunsee, and the report being unanimously adopted, they struck camp and took up their westward march, arriving at the point of destination April 28, 1856, where they found they had already been preceded by the settlement already mentioned as having gone there in 1854-55. The object of the colonists was to secure for each member of the company a farm, and also to locate a town site.

A Large tent about twenty feet long was immediately made and erected, which served as a store, a meeting house, and also as a home for several of the company. Prior to this time J. H. Nesbitt, of the 1854 settlers, had built and carried on a small store, which had been burned down shortly before the arrival of the Beecher Rifle Company. Some of the colonists, who were not sheltered in the large tent, put up tents for themselves, while others boarded with families in the neighborhood. There being a goodly supply of timber in the immediate vicinity, log cabins soon began to spring up, and two of the company having purchased a sawmill in Kansas City on their way West, after a few days' rest five wagons, with the requisite number of oxen, were sent back to bring the mill to the settlement. Luther H. Root had started a day or two earlier for a load of household goods, and on his way back to the settlement was attacked by a gang of ruffians, who swore they would hang the d--d abolitionist, and suiting their action to the word, they dragged him into the woods, where the rope was thrown around the limb of a tree and the noose adjusted to his neck. He begged for a few moments to pray for his family up in the territory, which the leaders of the ruffianly gang would not grant, until one of the crowd, smitten by his conscience, stepped forward and said, "I have a family, too, and protest against this proceeding." Mr. Root was liberated and permitted to go on, but not until his baggage had been ransacked by the villains, and everything worth appropriating was appropriated. The mill reached the settlement in safety, and was set up and in motion with all speed possible, and its powers were sorely taxed to supply the demand for lumber.

Up to this time, all that had been done by way of surveying the county had been done by the government in dividing it into congressional townships of six miles square. Before claims could be taken so that each man could tell his own with any degree of certainty, it was necessary to have the townships surveyed and marked off into sections. This having been done, claims were staked off for those who had determined to remain, after which a committee of appraisement was appointed to set a value upon each claim. The value of the best claim was set at $120, the second best at $80, and so they ran, in descending scale until $5 was reached. Quite a number were valued at par, which was found by striking an average of the whole. This having been done, the claims were offered for sale at auction, those offering the highest bonus over the appraised value getting the choice claims. The money derived from these bonuses was distributed among those who had taken claims below par, and thereby equality of distribution was secured as nearly as it was possible to do. Each having secured his claim, a town company was then organized by the colonists, into which were taken as many of the older settlers as desired to join. A beautiful site was selected on the south side of the Kansas River, which was surveyed and laid off into streets and lots, to which was given the name of Wabaunsee, and by which the village is still known. Thus the plans and purposes of the colonists on leaving Connecticut were carried out, and the Beecher Rifle Company became established as among the earliest settlers of Wabaunsee County.

While this settlement was being made in the northern portion of the county, we find that during the same year settlers were commencing to locate further south; as, for instance, in Mill Creek Township we find that Henry Schmidt, Wm. Drebing, B. Cline, J. Metzger, Joseph Treu and one or two others, made settlement there in 1856. In 1857 the Wabaunsee settlement was reinforced by the arrival of five young volunteers from Mendon, Illinois, who had volunteered to go to Kansas. The citizens of Mendon furnished them with arms and accoutrements, and they started together to render what assistance they could in adding Kansas to the list of Free States. Finding it impossible to go through Missouri, they struck across Iowa, taking for an objective point Tabor, in Fremont County, which at that time was the rendezvous for Redpath and his men. When they arrived there they found that Redpath had already preceded them, and that at that time he had in his command about 150 men, well armed with Sharp's rifles, and for artillery he had one brass field piece. They crossed over into Nebraska with Redpath's men and went with them south until within one day's march of Topeka, where the command was halted. The Mendon volunteers, at this point, started off as an independent company by themselves, and arrived on the second day thereafter. These young men were named Enoch Platt, J. E. Platt, L. H. Platt, S. R. Weed and S. H. Fairfield.

The following is a list of the names of the "Beecher Rifle Company," or "New Haven Colony," who came to Wabaunsee and remained over three months. Twenty of the original ninety who started from New Haven never came to Kansas at all, and all the others whose names are not given, either not wishing to share the fatigues, hardships and difficulties of the colony, or from some other cause, left the colony shortly after its arrival and the names that are given represent only those who remained with the colony during its early struggles. They are as follows: C. B. Lines, Wm. Hartley, Jr., J. D. Farren, Geo. H. Coe, F. H. Hart, Silas M. Thomas, L. H. Root, J. M. Hubbard Jr., Wm. Mitchell Jr., O. Bardwell, Rollin Moses, A. A. Cotteral, H. S. Hall, Benj. Street, J. J. Walter, T. C. P. Hyde, E. C. D. Lines, E. D. Street, Timothy Read, H. M. Selden, George Wells, S. A. Baldwin, W. S. Griswold, Isaac Fenn, J. P. Root, J. F. Willard, H. D. Rice, H. Isbell, D. F. Scranton, E. J. Lines, F. W. Ingham, L. A. Parker, E. N. Penfield, R. W. Griswold, G. H. Thomas, M. C. Welch, B. C. Porter, F. Johnson, L. W. Clark and W. G. McNary.


In territorial days the people had a law among themselves, and one which was generally observed, known as the "squatter" law. It was a kind of protective society, the governing principle being a sort of offensive and defensive arrangement by which each protected the other in his claim to the land upon which they squatted. In 1855 one J. R. Nesbitt had taken a claim to the vicinity of what is now the town of Wabaunsee, but he had allowed two years to roll by without putting up any buildings, or making any improvements. Under this local law things moved along very smoothly until one night towards the latter end of the summer of 1857, a man came along from Missouri and jumped the claim. Assisted by a few Missourians who had previously settled in the neighborhood, that night he erected what is known as a 'shake," and entered upon possession. Next morning the news soon spread that Nesbitt's claim was jumped, and this was the signal for a general muster. That day a party waited upon the Missourian and invited him to leave, but he very politely told them to go to h--l, at the same time giving them to understand he would shoot the first man that undertook to disturb him.

A few nights after his "shake" was surrounded by a prairie fire, but he had taken the precaution to place a fire-break around it, and thus saved it. About two weeks subsequent to this time, a party of men surrounded the "shake" one night, and commenced the assault by hammering in the door. The Missourian thought it was about time to leave, but just as he was making his exit, a blanket was thrown over his head, and he was carried to the river. Here he was fasted to a log and pushed out into the stream. At this point he begged so piteously for mercy, and promised so strongly that he would surrender the claim and leave, that they pulled him ashore, untied him, and after having escorted him about three miles from the settlement, told him to go and never return, and that was the last seen of him in that neighborhood.

The system of railroading known before the war, or previous to 1861, as "underground" was very successfully conducted in Wabaunsee County. There were two stations in the county, one at Mission Creek and one at Wabaunsee, which were about thirty miles apart. All the passengers transported over an "underground" railroad were escaped slaves seeking freedom. Passengers arriving at the Mission Creek station would receive safe conduct from there to Wabaunsee. Nearly all the travel was done by night. Arriving at Wabaunsee, the passengers would there be taken in charge by other conductors, who would take them to the next station, which was sixty miles distant in the direction of Tabor, in Fremont County, Iowa, which was the point of delivery. As many as eighteen have been conducted through on one trip. At one time a slave named Charley had found his way from Missouri to Wabaunsee station, and was taken in charge by the conductors, but his master having pursued him, he was found and is surrender demanded. The settlers were not the kind of men but to answer such a demand but in one way, and arming themselves with their Beecher rifles,* they brought Charley out and told the master and his men if they wanted him to come and take him. They did not come for him, and Charley received safe conduct toward the land of freedom, but over a different route from the one usually followed.

* Furnished the company by Rev. H. W. Beecher before leaving New Haven for Kansas.

The lands of the Pottawatomie reservation lay on both sides of the Kansas River, part in Pottawatomie County and part in Wabaunsee County. On the Wabaunsee side of the river there were about 2000 Pottawatomie Indians. In Nebraska the Pawnee tribe was located. It was customary with this tribe to make periodical predatory incursions into the land of the Pottawatomies, and carry off all ponies, cattle, and other plunder they could get their hands on; nor were they any way backward about taking as many scalps of the Pottawatomies as they could conveniently reach. On one of these plundering expeditions the Pawnees crossed the river, and had penetrated the Pottawatomie territory nearly as far as the present Newbury, where they were set upon by the Pottawatomies, and in the conflict that followed the Pawnee were defeated and driven across the river after losing a number of their warriors, whose scalps afterwards graced the belts of the Pottawatomies. This was the end of the Pawnee predatory incursions. Nothing was known of this fight by the whites until the following day, when a party from the Wabaunsee settlement, on its way to Leavenworth for provisions, camped near Newbury, and upon going to a spring near by for water, came upon the remains of a dead Pawnee, whose ears and nose had been cut off, his tongue and heart cut out, and otherwise terribly mutilated.

In 1854 D. B. Hyatt, in company with a younger comrade, left their homes in Illinois, with the intention of settling in Kansas. Arriving at the Missouri River, they took the boat for Leavenworth. While on the boat they made the acquaintance of a young man from Missouri, who said that he was going out to look for a location in Kansas, too. The three left the boat together at Leavenworth, and procuring ponies, started westward. Hyatt's comrade had about $800 in gold in a belt, which he wore round his body. They traveled together, enjoying each other's company, until a place named Likens was reached, a short distance west from Topeka. Here they consulted as to the best course to pursue, when the Missourian proposed that Hyatt should remain where they were to take care of the extra ponies, while he and Hyatt's comrade would push on through Wabaunsee County to see what advantages it offered for settlement. This proposition was agreed to, and next day carried into effect. Day after day passed by, and Hyatt was becoming quite anxious about his absent comrades. What had become of them? Had anything serious happened to them? Had they been killed by Indians? -- were questions which he could not answer, and his increasing anxiety gave rise to doubt, and doubt created fear, and fear was succeeded by determination. He would go in search of his comrades and know the worst. Engaging a few Indians to accompany him, he started across the country, but they had not gone far when they were met by the saddleless and riderless pony which had been ridden by his young friend from Illinois. Doubt now became certainty, and following the trail they came to a creek in the northwest of Wabaunsee County, where they found the ashes of the saddle and the charred remains of the young man from Illinois who had started with Mr. Hyatt to make himself a new home in Kansas, but instead of which he had found a grave, having been foully murdered by the Missourian, and this was the first case of murder committed by a white man on another in the county. The murderer was tracked, pursued, captured, and received that just punishment, without the aid of court or jury, which he so justly merited. The creek by which the remains were found was afterwards known and designated by the Indians as Dead-Man's Creek, but subsequently it was given the name of Emmons Creek, by which it now appears on the map.

The outbreak of the Kiowa tribe of Indians took place in the fall of 1860, and having succeeded in getting several bands of the Cheyennes and Camanches to join them, they commenced operations by attacking emigrant trains and the white settlers along the frontiers. Their movements were made chiefly along the old Santa Fe trail. Train after train was attacked and plundered, regardless of whether it was composed of emigrant or government wagons. They succeeded in carrying their depredations as far east as Marion County, which is in the second tier of counties south and west of Wabaunsee. The whole country for miles around was filled with dread and consternation. The desire to plunder reached the prairie band of Pottawatomies, at that time located in Wabaunsee County, and this desire was fanned into war-heat by emissaries from the Kiowas, who induced them to join in the plundering foray. The Pottawatomies assembled their warriors, about two hundred strong, and made preparations to march and join forces with the Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Camanches. This becoming known to the white settlers adjoining the reservation, word was immediately sent throughout the county warning the people of the threatened Indian outbreak, and cautioning them to keep themselves in readiness, and for as many as could possibly be spared from the different localities to hasten with all possible speed to Alma. The women and children in the vicinity of Alma sought shelter in the corn-fields, while the men, though few in number, took to their rifles, determined at all hazards, to prevent the junction of the Pottawatomies with the Kiowas, Cheyennes and Camanches, as there was not telling what might happen if this combination was effected.

No sooner had the news of the impending danger gone abroad than settlers from a distance commenced to come in to the designated place of rendezvous from nearly every direction. Some came alone, while others came in groups of two, three, four, and upwards, but every man came to fight if necessary. Not dreaming of meeting with any interruption, out marched the Pottawatomies in full war dress and paint, and south to join the depredating Kiowas, Cheyennes and Camanches. They crossed Mill Creek at or near the point where Pauly's Mill now stands. A little beyond the creek, close to Polenski's farm, they were brought to a halt by the assembled whites, by whom they were told that they could go no further, and that they had better return to their reservation. The Indians largely outnumbered the whites, and were inclined to parley, but the whites were determined, told them that they were their friends and did not want to harm them, but if they persisted in going any further they would fight. While this parley was being held, and while the Indians were counselling as to what they should do, armed men continued to arrive from more distant parts of the county. The Indians saw that to insist upon advancing further would be useless, and very wisely concluded to return to their reservation, which they did, and thus a collision was avoided, and the junction of the Pottawatomies with the other plundering tribes was prevented.

The "Beecher Rifle Company," which is sometimes described as the "New Haven Colony," and also as the "Connecticut Kansas Colony," arrived in Wabaunsee County in April, 1856, during the border ruffian troubles. In the following month, May, a messenger arrived at the colony from Lawrence, and informed the settlers of the danger that threatened the Free-State men in that vicinity from an anticipated attack from the Pro-slavery men from Missouri and some other Southern States. The Beecher Company had not got properly quartered yet, and were busy in their preparations for settlement, when the messenger from Lawrence arrived and beseeched their aid. Under these circumstances a council of the company was held to take into consideration what they had better do in the premises. They desired to go to the help of their beleaguered friends in Lawrence, but their own affairs were such that they could not leave them without incurring great risk and entailing vast trouble and inconvenience. It was finally determined to send a committee of two to investigate affairs at Lawrence, upon whose report the colony would act.

Mr. Mitchell and Dr. L. Root were selected as the committee, and started immediately for Lawrence. They reached Topeka the same night and next morning hired two mules, intending to push on to their point of destination as fast as possible; but having been told that the ruffians were patrolling all the roads leading into Lawrence, they stopped at Tecumseh until darkness set in, when, evading the patrols, they succeeded in reaching Lawrence in safety. having ascertained the true position of affairs, and seeing the danger by which the Free-State men were threatened, the night following their arrival they mounted their mules, and, in company with two others well mounted, started from Lawrence to return to the colony and report. A little way from town they came upon a log house, through the chinks of which a light was visible, and from which, as they were passing, some ten or fifteen muskets were discharged at them in a volley. The night was rather dark, and the two horses on which their companions were mounted, either through fright or urged by the spur, set off at full gallop, and that was the last seen of them. Without taking the time to reload, the party stationed in the log house, after firing the volley, rushed out and surrounded Mr. Mitchell and his companion, Dr. Root, and commanded them to dismount and surrender. To this they demurred for some time, but they were told that if they were found to be "all right" they would be allowed to proceed in the morning. The doctor and Mr. Mitchell held a short consultation, in which the doctor advised submission as the quickest and surest way of getting word back to the colony, arguing that as they were [in the territory] but a few weeks, and the colony about seventy miles from Lawrence, nobody would know them, and, as a consequence, when morning came they would be allowed to go on their journey unmolested. Their mules and their revolvers were taken from them under protest, the captain of the ruffians telling them they could have them in the morning. They were escorted into a little hut that was used as a "guardhouse," into which they were put, and where they found that several prisoners had preceded them.

Next morning they were conducted separately before the captain and examined, and for no other reason than that they were Free-State men, they were remanded to the guardhouse, where they were kept for several days. Mr. Mitchell, by his abrupt and defiant answers, had incurred the displeasure of the captain, and a day or two after a man was sent to search him for supposed concealed correspondence. Mr. Mitchell was lying on the floor, and told the ruffian to search away, that he would not get up to yield to such an outrage, and wanted to know why he was singled out for such purpose. The ruffian told him that he was suspected of having concealed in his boots letters from the Free-State men in Lawrence to others in Topeka and Wabaunsee. "Pull off my boots and see," said Mr. Mitchell, and the ruffian pulled the boots off, but found no correspondence. Mr. Mitchell was no way guarded in his language during the performance, every word of which was reported to the captain. The culprit was sent for, and for his misbehavior was detailed as cook for the rest of the prisoners, who now numbered eighteen. He flatly refused to cook, when again he was taken before the captain, followed by a crowd of drunken ruffians, to whom was given all the whisky they could drink, free of charge. While the captain and Mr. Mitchell were bandying words, some of the ruffians cried out, "Hang the abolitionist!" and, as if all had been pre-arranged, a rope was instantly thrown around his neck, and the noose drawn; but some of the ruffians, more sober than the rest, interfered and saved him from being hung.(sic) All this time the colony was anxiously awaiting the return of its committee, and hearing no tidings of them or from them, one of the settlers of Wabaunsee took it upon himself to go and, if possible, ascertain what had happened to them; but he also was captured and placed in the guardhouse, where they were kept for over two weeks, and until after the sacking of Lawrence by the ruffians, when they were liberated and returned to the colony in Wabaunsee. Without meeting any further delays or accidents, more than was rendered necessary by both having to ride the same mule in turn, one having been lost or confiscated during their stay in the guardhouse. Mr. Mitchell and Dr. Root returned in safety to the colony, where they told the story of their arrest, confinement, and treatment.

Steps were immediately taken to organize a military company, composed of the colonists and surrounding settlers, which in a short time was perfected. The company was armed with Sharp's rifles, being the same that were furnished, half by the people of New haven and half by Rev. H. W. Beecher, numbered between fifty and sixty men, and took for its name that of "Prairie Guards." Mr. Mitchell was chosen captain of the company, and scarcely was its formation completed when, in response to a call of the "Committee of Safety," it marched to Lawrence to aid in defending that city against the band of ruffians who had swarmed from Missouri and other Slave States and threatened it with destruction. To this conflict between the settlers of the Free States and those of the Slave States has been given the name of the "Wakrusa War," at the close of which the Prairie Guards, without meeting with any casualties, returned to their homes in Wabaunsee County.

Another incident that gave rise to a good deal of excitement at the time, was the murder of Mr. Waterman, who was the first postmaster in Maple Hill Township. The murdered man, Waterman, owned and ran a saw-mill at a point on Mill Creek, near where the government grist mill once stood. White and Frego, the party who did the killing, had been in his employ, and had quarreled over some trifling matter in the settlement. White was a white man and Frego a half-breed Indian. One day Waterman, with one of his hired men, was returning from Topeka and had reached Mission Creek, where he stopped in the stream to allow his horse to drink. White and Frego were lying in wait for him, concealed in the timber along the bank of the stream. As the horses were in the act of drinking, crack, crack, went two rifles, fired by these men in ambush. Waterman was instantly killed, and the hired man badly wounded. News of the killing soon spread, and instantly a hue and cry went forth against the murderers. The county was scoured in every direction for several days, but the assassins succeeded in eluding the vigilance of their pursuers, and made their escape.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]