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


[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]


The meeting of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, which took place at Constitutional Hall, Wyandotte, July 5, 1859, is more a State event than one of local interest, and is treated as such in its proper place. Suffice it to say, however, that the present constitution of the State was adopted on the 29th of that month, and, locally treated, the subject will be disposed of, by an extract from an article by William A. Phillips, who thus describes the place of meeting: "The lower floor of the block where it was held, was mostly unoccupied; that block now exists no longer. It suffered from too great economy in brick and mortar; the water from the bluff was permitted to undermine its foundation. Like another building named in Holy Writ, it ultimately fell, and great was the fall thereof. In the second story during the session of the convention was a saloon. In the center of the large, unplastered room, on one side, a bar was hastily improvised. A broad plank resting upon a couple of empty barrels constituted the counter. Behind was a narrow plank or shelf, resting on two other barrels, evidently not empty ; at least, a faucet was inserted in each near the base. On the top of each barrel was a small blue keg, each of which had another faucet. Scattered along this shelf were decanters and long-necked, dark-complexioned bottles. On one end of the shelf was an open box of raisins, perched longitudinally, and, with a few boxes of cigars, a piece of cheese, a box of crackers, and a box of plug tobacco, constituted the saloon. A few tumblers and lemons, with a bowl of sugar, lemon squeezer, and a flaring tin cup in which to shake up punches, completed the outfit. The floor was covered with sawdust to avoid annoyance to the solons above, and also to absorb rejected quids of tobacco. The fine arts were represented by a picture of the 'Bird of America' cut from an old hand bill and tacked to the wall. Over all, presided the smiling and genial Boggs. Another flight of stairs carried you into the room where the solons were at work. It was about twenty-five feet wide, and eighty long. It was not plastered, but extended from front to rear of block. There were three windows in front, and three in rear. It was ten feet high. The roof was of composition, called patent. The President's seat was on the south side of the room, near the center, it was on a raised platform; seats, tables and desks were provided by the citizens of Wyandotte for members, clerks and reporters. An official look was procured by tacking on black muslin. There was also a railing, to either keep spectators out, or hold the members in. The 'flag of our country' was draped on the wall, in the rear of the President's chair."


The space at command will not allow a detailed account of the part taken by citizens of Wyandotte, in the war. Most of her soldiers joined the Kansas First and Second Infantry. In April, 1861, a Rebel flag was raised in Kansas City, and a number of Southern sympathizers in Wyandotte proposed to do the same, but their proposal was met with John A. Dix's spirit, if not his words - the idea was, "Anyone who attempts to raise a Rebel flag, shoot him on the spot." In May, 1861, Capt. W. Y. Roberts organized the Kansas Mounted Riflemen, the members coming from Quindaro and Wyandotte. In May, members of the Second regiment were quartered in Constitutional Hall, the gathering-place, already described, of the Convention. By June, Capts. J. H. Harris and A. C. Davis had raised two volunteer companies, the latter of cavalry. Early that month, the Second Regiment received marching orders, and, accordingly, at about nine o'clock in the morning, marched out to the southern bridge. Luke Havens, the First Lieutenant of Capt. Harris's company, remained behind to swear in nineteen recruits. While they were waiting for him, the four-story building fell, and not a brick was left upon another. Though it took some hours before the men were all dug out, no serious injuries resulted beyond the breaking of a leg by a son of Thomas Ryan. The escape of all was wonderful. The hall was never rebuilt. The building had been undermined by water, and its walls were frail, being only eight inches thick. About this time, also, Capt. Thrasher organized a German artillery company. In August, 1861, came the battle of Wilson's Creek, in which J. W. Dyer was killed, H. H. Sawyer being promoted to his Lieutenancy. The Third Iowa Regiment was attacked near Blue Mills, Clay County, and a hospital was opened here on Washington avenue, to care for the wounded. Major Stone, since Governor of Iowa, was then in command. In October, Capt. Moore organized a cavalry company here for home defense. A. C. Davis raised a regular cavalry troop, assisted by James D. Chestnut; this occurred at Quindaro. When consolidated with Col. Mitchell's command, Dr. J. P. Root, so active in raising the force, was sent as surgeon. Large Union meetings were held all over the county, and by the latter part of the fall, Wyandotte had raised about 300 men - the banner county. The Kansas Second had returned from its conflict with Gen. Price at Lexington, the ferry boat having been seized, and George Scheiner its pilot, being severely wounded by a cannon ball. William and John H. Miller and Matthias Splitlog, the latter the engineer of the boat, had fared better.

In August, 1862, Gen. Lane commenced recruiting the First Colored Regiment. A large and enthusiastic meeting was held here on the 15th, over which he presided. While the recruiting was going on, he sent a squad of men over to Kansas City, to "make converts." They succeeded in gathering together a number of negroes, and, had their boatman been on time, would have landed them safe in Kansas. As it was, while they were secreted in the bushes, one of their number, making signals to attract the attention of some one in Wyandotte, the whole party were set upon by the Missouri militia, and, though they returned the fire, were taken prisoners. One of their number, who was severely wounded and left for dead, returned to tell the tale at once. Within a few weeks the prisoners, who were confined in the Platte County jail, broke out and returned to Kansas. Capt. J. C. Williams established recruiting headquarters here, and his regiment was mustered in as the Seventy-ninth United States Colored Troops. This was the period of greatest excitement over Quantrell's raids. In September, 1862, he entered Olathe, but Wyandotte escaped. Up to this time, the county had enlisted about 500 men, 100 of this number being composed of the Delawares under Sarcoxie, their chief. The Wyandots enlisted as citizens, and their names appear repeatedly in the roll of honor. For further particulars in regard to the part which the people of Wyandotte County took in the war, the reader is referred to the general State History.

During the war and for several years after, the county was infested with bands of lawless men. The "Red Legs," so called from the style of their leggings (red morocco) were virtually guerrillas, favorable, however to the Union cause, and countenanced b y Gen. Lane. But their independent and reckless spirit made them offensive not only to the regular militia, but to citizens at large. Among their noted leaders in this region were Lieut. Col. Hoyt (now dead), and Lieut. Swain (alias "Jeff Davis"), who was one of the party sent by Gen. Lane to bring colored recruits from Missouri. A band under Col. Hoyt was called from Leavenworth, when citizens of this county organized a force to "correct" J. A. Bartels and his son, Theodore, who lived in the "six-mile house." Both forces were armed, but the citizens surrendered, and, it is said, were kept prisoners over night.

Then, also, there was a large gang of "bushwhackers," cattle and horse thieves, robbers and murderers, whose presence was a terror for a number of years. Jim Vaughn, one of Quantrell's band, a noted "bush-whacker, who admitted that he had killed many Union men, was captured in Wyandotte in May, 1863, turned over to the military authorities, and hung in Kansas City. Union men were robbed and assaulted, and some of them driven out of the county. "Jay-hawking" raged. The county was so infested with rascals of all descriptions, that the citizens of Wyandotte finally felt called upon to put it on record that they had no sympathy with such doings; which they accordingly did at a public meeting held August 26, 1862, in the following resolutions:

WHEREAS, Our duty to our country is paramount to all others; and

WHEREAS, The best authenticated facts warrant us in the belief that an irresponsible band of armed men crossed the Missouri River from Wyandotte, none of whom were citizens thereof, on the night of the 22d of August inst., for the double purpose of stealing negroes and horses, and to that end did steal a large number of both, and collect them on the bank of the river opposite Wyandotte, with a view to crossing into Kansas through Wyandotte; and,

WHEREAS, They stated that their headquarters were in Wyandotte; * * *

Resolved, That while we are in favor of using all means in our power for crushing this rebellion, we unqualifiedly condemn kidnapping, negro stealing and horse-stealing; that we regard bushwhacking and jayhawking as the natural products of rebellion, moral deformities, and disorganizing in their tendencies, and producing war, conflagration and destruction."

The close of the war did not end this lawlessness. In the spring of 1866, John Tehan, a section boss on the Missouri Pacific, was hung on the court house steps of Wyandotte for shooting the liveryman J. L. Conklin. Newt Morrison, a noted desperado, was hung in the summer for an aggravating murder, and a few months afterward two negroes were taken from the calaboose and both shot and hung. It is the old story, and to write it in detail would not throw light upon any historical matter - it is the old story, repeated all over the country, especially in the border districts, of the gradual cooling of the passions of the war through a fearful series of criminal acts.


Wyandotte is now a city of 9,000 inhabitants, growing rapidly in importance in social and business life. Its situation at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, makes its natural advantages great as a commercial center. The city has already absorbed Armstrong, one of its former suburbs, in which were situated the extensive shops of the Union Pacific road - Kansas Pacific division - and it seems only a question of time when Kansas City, Kansas, Wyandotte, Armourdale, Argentine and Rosedale will form one grand commercial and manufacturing city. The grading of streets, construction of public and private buildings, and general internal improvement of Wyandotte is progressing in a scale which not only evinces confidence on the part of her citizens, but inspires the feeling in others. A system of water-works and gas-works are about to be inaugurated. Her fire and police departments are already sufficient for present needs. The nucleus of a public library has also been formed. The institution for the blind is located here. She abounds in social organizations, schools and churches, and her press is as a unit in working for her progress. What follows, however, will give the best possible idea of ''her institutions."


Situated upon a commanding eminence and rising from a restful mass of foliage, in the northwestern part of the city, is the State Institution for the education of the blind. The naturally beautiful grove of ten acres, which comprise the grounds, has been tastefully improved, and the number of imposing buildings which have been erected during the last fifteen years, make the scene a stately as well as a beautiful one. What is now the south wing of the main building was erected in 1867, an appropriation of $20,000 having been obtained from the State for the erection of the building and improvement of the grounds. The institution opened September 7, 1868, under the supervision of H. H. Sawyer, and with an attendance of seven. From the first, the aim of the management was to educate pupils, and not to treat them as patients. They were, and are now required to be healthy mentally, morally and physically. In March, 1867, the act was passed by the Legislature to regulate an asylum for the education of the blind, and appointing Dr. Fred. Speck, of Wyandotte, Hon. F. P. Baker, of Topeka. and Gen. William Larimer, of Leavenworth, as a commission to locate the institution. They selected Wyandotte. In March, 1870, Dr. W. W. Updegraff assumed charge, and in 1871, Prof. J. D. Parker. It was during his able administration (in 1872) that the scope of the asylum's usefulness was further enlarged by the establishment of an industrial department - the educational department had been in existence from the first, and the study of music was brought into the course in 1869. In 1872, the Legislature appropriated $3,000 for the erection of a shop, in which the male inmates of the asylum could learn to make brooms, brushes, mattresses, cane seated chairs, etc. It was occupied in the spring of 1878. The hospital building, a substantial three-story brick structure, was erected in 1879. Dr. Speck has always been the physician. The main, or executive building, was erected in 1882, being occupied in June of that year. It is a commodious brick building, three stories and basement, with lofty tower, the schoolroom being in the first story, the chapel in the second and the dormitories in the third, dining-room in the basement. The asylum has accommodations for 125 pupils. Seventy are in attendance.

The faculty consists of five teachers, beside the Superintendent, Hon. George H. Miller. He succeeded Dr. Parker in June, 1875, and under his management the asylum is prospering as never before. Several of the young ladies are anxious to enter the industrial department, heretofore filled by the young men. Their industrial course has been confined to the wielding of the needle, plain and fancy sewing, knitting, etc. But the experiment is soon to be made of putting them in the shop to compete with masculine skill, in the branches named. The male inmates are obliged to pursue both industrial and literary courses, while they remain inmates of the asylum. With the young ladies, it is optional whether they chose the industrial or the musical course. It is thus seen, without going further into details, that the asylum must, as it does, turn out industrious and useful members of society, able, as a rule, to "hold their own" in their struggle with the "worldings" at large, who have all their faculties.

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]