Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson



WHEN these things were being done in Missouri, the press of the North was publishing accounts of the new country opened to settlement, and directing the attention of emigrants, seeking a western home, to this Eden of America. It was evident that a large emigration would naturally flow into Kansas from the North and East; and, to enable the emigrant to reach his destination easily and cheaply, an association was formed, which completed its organization in July. The purpose of this association, as declared by themselves, was to "assist emigrants to settle in the West." Their objects were to induce emigrants to move westward in such large bodies, that arrangements might be made with boat lines and railroads for tickets at reduced rates; to erect saw-mills and boarding-houses, and establish schools in different localities, that the people might gather around them, and not be obliged to wait years for the blessings and privileges of social life, as most early settlers in the West have done. Transplanted into the wilderness, they hoped to bring to them the civilization and the comforts of their old homes.

Mr. Eli Thayer, of Worcester, Mass., was one of the first movers in the scheme. To some suggestions of his the association owed its birth. He, with A. A. Lawrence of Boston, Mass., and J. M. F. Williams, of Cambridge, Mass., acted as trustees of the Stock Company formed July 24, 1854. They are all gentlemen of sterling integrity and noble purpose, and with untiring energy have devoted their labors and money to the cause of freedom. Dr. T. H. Webb has from the first acted as secretary of this association, and by day and night has given himself to the work of aid for Kansas. His courage has never faltered, or his efforts been diminished, in the hour of prosperity, or when dark hordes of invaders hovered in our borders; and, with unabated zeal, he still looks forward to the day of our deliverance from the bonds of the oppressor.

On the 21st of February, an act was passed to incorporate the New England Emigrant Aid Company. The purposes of the act were distinctly stated to be "directing emigration westward, and aiding and providing accommodation for the emigrants after arriving at their place of destination."

The first of August, 1854, a party of about thirty settlers, chiefly from New England, arrived in the territory, and settled at Lawrence. Mr. C. H. Branscomb, of Boston, on a tour in the territory a few weeks earlier in the summer, had selected this spot as one of peculiar loveliness for a town site. A part of them pitched their tents upon the high hill south-west of the town site, and named it Mount Oread, after the Mount Oread School in Worcester, of which Mr. Thayer was founder and proprietor.

When the party arrived, one man only occupied the town site with his family. His improvements were purchased, and he abandoned his claim for the town. This party was met with insult and abuse on the Missouri river, and on their way into the territory. After they arrived in Lawrence, bands of these Missourians gathered along the river bottoms, and wherever they put a stake they made a pretended claim. They invaded the meetings of the actual settlers in the neighborhood, and attempted to control them. Attempts were also made to frighten and drive them from the territory by fomenting disputes about claims, and other quarrels. Sept. 28, 1854, a squatter meeting was held at Homsby & Ferril's store, on the California road, about two miles from Lawrence, at which the free-state men had a majority.

The squatters at length decided by vote that no person, resident of another state, should be allowed to vote at these meetings, etc., and for a while they made their own regulations.

About the first of September, the second New England party arrived and settled at Lawrence. As soon as it was known that a New England settlement was to be made at Lawrence, every means was resorted to, to break it up.

About the first of October, a man from the Western States, who said Stephen A. Douglas was a better man than Jesus Christ, made his appearance with his friends, and used every effort to break up the New England settlement. The people however proceeded with their improvements, erecting a saw-mill, boarding-houses, and stores.

On the sixth of October, a demand was made that a certain tent, standing within five rods of the house occupied by the original claimant, should be removed from its present location, and no more improvements should be made in that part of the town. Several pro-slavery men, mostly from Missouri, assembled in the vicinity of the tent, and kindly notified Dr. Robinson "that if he did not remove the tent in thirty minutes, they should." The following laconic reply was returned to them: "If you molest our property you do it at your peril." The citizens of the settlement came together to witness the removal, and with praiseworthy patience waited for the half hour to expire. The time at length passed by, and no movement was made toward removing the tent. Another half hour was waning fast, and the thirty New Englanders were quietly waiting for the tent's removal. At last one of the citizens asked another if it "would be best to hit the first man who attempted to remove it, or fire over his head?" The decisive reply was, "I would be ashamed, for the rest of my life, to fire at a man and not hit him."

There was a spy among them, and, as soon as he heard this conversation, so brief, yet pointed, he went over to the enemy's camp. The intelligence he imparted, of whatever nature it might be, had the effect to scatter the Missourians at once. They left with oaths, and threats that "in one week they would return with twenty thousand men from Missouri, and then the tent should be removed."

The week came and went, and about the same number of Missourians as before appeared, but not to remove the tent. For some reason, the people of Missouri, although urgently called upon, did not respond, and the belligerent parties concluded to postpone any warlike action.

The people of Missouri call all eastern and northern men cowards, and are evidently disappointed at the calm determination of the people of Lawrence to protect themselves from mob violence. They do not understand how a people can be brave, yet quiet. With them, loud swelling words are received as evidence of valor; and they could not therefore comprehend the quiet, yet firm preparations for deadly conduct made by the few settlers in Lawrence.

The buildings erected in Lawrence were of most primitive style, of pole and thatch. Most of the people for some weeks boarded in common, and, in such a dwelling, sleeping upon the ground on buffalo robes and blankets.

Oct. 1st. -- Rev. S. Y. Lune preached the first sermon in Lawrence, in the "Pioneer House." A few rough boards were brought for seats, and, with singing by several good voices among the pioneers, the usual church services were performed. The first Bible Class in Lawrence was formed that day. The people then, as many succeeding Sabbaths, were gathered together by the ringing of a large dinner-bell.

6th. - At a meeting of the association, it was decided that the town be named Lawrence, after Amos A. Lawrence, of Boston, who was doing much for the settlement. It had been called previously Wakarusa and New Boston, while the Missourians gave it the name of Yankee town.

9th. - Gov. Reeder and other officers appointed by the President arrived in the territory. On the nineteenth of the month they came to Lawrence, and were received with a general greeting by the people. A dinner was provided for them, and with, speeches and sentiments some pleasant hours were passed.

The first child born in Lawrence was named Lawrence Carter, the city association presenting him with a lot. He was born October 26.

The first election of the territory was for delegate to Congress, and was held on the twenty-ninth November, 1854. The conspiracy against the rights of the settlers was gaining ground in Missouri, and, before the day of election, armed hordes poured over her borders. In the second district, one of the citizens, who was a candidate for delegate to Congress was told, by one of the Missourians, he would be abused and probably killed if he challenged a vote. He was at length compelled to seek the protection of the judges. After the election these men mounted into their wagons, crying out, "All aboard for Westport and Kansas City!"

Similar frauds were practiced in the other districts. In the eighth district, five hundred and eighty-four illegal votes were cast, and only twenty legal. It was a remote district, with a sparse population. At Leavenworth, then a little village, several hundred men came over from Platte, Clay and Ray counties, camped around the town, and controlled the polls. Many of them were men of influence in Missouri. Gen. Whitfield was, by these illegal votes, elected delegate to Congress.

In January and February, 1855, Gov. Reeder caused the census to be taken. The whole number of inhabitants was found to be eight thousand five hundred and one.

The same day that the census returns were brought in complete, Gov. Reeder issued his proclamation for an election to be held March 30th, 1855, for the Legislative Assembly.

The winter in Kansas was very mild and pleasant. There was not a day that the people could not follow their out-door employments, and but little snow fell. With occasional lectures before the Atheanum just formed, and a general prevalence of kindly feeling, the pioneers passed a pleasant winter amid the uncouth arrangements of the new home.

Before the time of the election in March, the border papers were again rife with their threats of outrage. The following, from the Leavenworth Herald, will suffice to show the character of the leaders of the pro-slavery party, and their intentions regarding the manner in which Kansas was to be made a slave state. The plan of operation was laid down in an address to a crowd at St. Joseph, Missouri, by Stringfellow. "I tell you to mark every scoundrel among you that is the least tainted with free-soilism, or abolitionism, and exterminate him. Neither give nor take quarter from the d--d rascals. I propose to mark them in this house, and on the present occasion, so you may crush them out. To those having qualms of conscience, as to violating laws, state or national, the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, as your lives and property are in danger, and I advise you one and all to enter every election district in Kansas, in defiance of Reeder and his vile myrmidons, and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and revolver. Neither give nor take quarter, as our cause demands it. It is enough that the slave-holding interest wills it, from which there is no appeal. What right has Gov. Reeder to rule Missourians in Kansas? His proclamation and prescribed oath must be disregarded; it is your interest to do so. Mind that slavery is established where it is not prohibited."

Laws, state and national, are to be disregarded; every one tainted with any sentiment of freedom to be murdered; every election district to be invaded, and votes cast in a neighboring territory at the point of bowie-knife and revolver. This same Stringfellow is one of the leaders of the "law and order" party.

A few days before the thirtieth of March crowds of men might be seen wending their way to some general rendezvous in the various counties of Ray, Howard, Carroll, Boone, Lafayette, Saline, Randolph and Cass, in Missouri. They were rough, brutal looking men, of most nondescript appearance. They had, however, one mark upon them, a white or blue ribbon, to distinguish them from the settlers. This was wholly unnecessary, no one ever mistaking one of these men for an intelligent, educated settler in the territory. Those Missourians who did not feel the interest to come over to vote, paid their money, or contributed provisions and wagons for the new raid. The expenses of the vandal horde were paid, and they were en route again to overrun the fair country, with drunkenness, and fraud, and murder, if the cause demanded it. Their watchword was, "Neither give nor take quarter."

The people of Missouri had been excited by the inflammatory rumors, put in circulation among them by their leaders, regarding the design and character of eastern emigration. Aided by the oaths of their secret societies, they had acted upon their base passions and prejudices to such a degree that they were fully equal to any deeds of violence.

Provisions were sent ahead of the parties, and those intended for the invaders at Lawrence were stored in the house of W. Lykins. The polls were also opened at the same place. Some of the party came in on the evening previous to the election, and on the morning of the thirtieth of March about one thousand men, under the command of Col. Samuel Young, of Boone county, and Claiborne F. Jackson, came into Lawrence. They came in about one hundred and ten wagons, and upon horseback, with music, and banners flying. They were armed with guns, pistols, rifles and bowie-knives. They brought two cannon loaded with musket balls.

The evening preceding the election, these men were gathered at the tent of one of their leaders, Capt. Jackson, and in speeches made to them by Col. Young, and others, it was declared, "that more voters were here than would be needed to carry the election," and that there was a scarcity at Tecumseh, Bloomington, Hickory Point, and other places, eight, ten, and twelve miles distant. Volunteers came forward, and the next morning left Lawrence for those places.

When this band of men were coming to Lawrence, they met Mr. N. B. Blanton, formerly of Missouri, who had been appointed one of the judges of election by Gov. Reeder. Upon his saying that he should feel bound, in executing the duties of his office, to demand the oath as to residence in the territory, they attempted, by bribes first, and then with threats of hanging, to induce him to receive their votes without the oath. Mr. Blanton not appearing on the election day, a new judge, by name Robert A. Cummins, who claimed that a man had a right to vote if he had been in the territory but an hour, was appointed in his place. The Missourians came to the polls from the second ravine west of the town, where they were encamped in tents, in parties of one hundred at a time.

Before the voting commenced, however, they said, that "if the judges appointed by the governor did not allow them to vote, they would appoint judges who would." They did so in the case of Mr. Abbott, one of the judges, who had become indignant, all law being outraged, and resigned. Mr. Benjamin was elected in his place. Soon after the voting commenced, some question of legality was raised in regard to the vote of a Mr. Page. Col. Young interfered, saying he would decide the matter. Mr. Page withdrew his vote, and Col. Young offered his, saying he was a resident of the territory, but refusing to take the oath. His vote was registered. When asked by Mr. Abbott "if he intended to make Kansas his future home," he replied, that "it was none of his business;" that, "if he was a resident there, he should ask no more." Col. Young then mounted on to the window-sill, telling the crowd "he had voted, and they could do the same." He told the judges "it was no use swearing them, as they would all swear as he had done." The other judges deciding to receive such votes, Mr. Abbott resigned.

The crowd was often so great around the log cabin, that many of the voters, having voted, were hoisted on to the roof of the building, thus making room for others. Afterwards, especially when the citizens began to vote, a passage-way was made through the crowd. Between a double file of armed men, while they were continually asking for the prominent men in Lawrence, their questions always coupled with threats of shooting, or hanging, our citizens passed to the polls. Several citizens of Lawrence were driven from the ground during the day, with threats of fatal violence. One man escaped by a perilous leap off the high bank of the river, several shots whizzing past him.

As a special favor to the old men, who were weary with traveling, and wanted to get back to their tents to rest, they were allowed to vote first. Many of the Missourians left for home as soon as they had voted, while others remained until morning. They entered freely the houses of the citizens, without ceremony or invitation, in some instances taking their meals with them. So loud were the threats of the Missourians against the town, that a guard was kept around it the following night. There was, however, no disturbance.

The whole number of names on the poll lists was one thousand and thirty-four, of which eight hundred and two were non-residents and illegal voters.


Early on the morning of the day of election, five or six hundred Missourians, armed with rifles, guns, pistols and bowie-knives with flags flying, went to Bloomington, in wagons, and upon horseback. Samuel J. Jones, of Westport, Claiborne F. Jackson, with his volunteers from the camp at Lawrence, and a Mr. Steely, of Independence, were the leaders of this motley gang. The day here was one continual scene of outrage and violence. Scarcely were the polls open, before Jones marched up to the window, at the head of the crowd, and demanded that they be allowed to vote without being sworn as to their residence. Little bands of fifteen or twenty men were formed by Jackson. He gave to them the guns from the wagons, which some of them loaded. Jackson had previously declared, amid repeated cheers, that "they came there to vote;" "if they had been there only five minutes they had a right to vote;" "that they would not go home without voting." Like the party at Lawrence they tied white ribbons in their buttonholes. Upon the refusal of the judges to resign, the mob broke in the windows, glass, and sash, and, presenting pistols and guns, threatened to shoot them. A voice from the outside cried, "Do not shoot them; there are pro-slavery men in the house!" A pry was then put under the corner of the log cabin, letting it rise and fall; but the same fear of injury to pro-slavery men proved the security of the others. The two judges still remaining firm in their refusal to allow them to vote, Jones led on a party with bowie-knives drawn, and pistols cocked. With watch in hand, he declared to the judges, "he would give them five minutes in which to resign, or die." The five minutes passed by. Jones said he would give another minute, but no more." The pro-slavery judge snatched up the ballot-boxes, and, crying out a "Hurrah for Missouri!" ran into the crowd. The other judges, persuaded by their friends, who thought them in imminent peril from the rough and reckless men, brandishing their deadly weapons at every moment, while curses and oaths were a part of every sentence, passed out, one of them putting the poll-books in his pocket. Jones, seeing the movement, snatched from him some papers, which were of immaterial value; but, not finding his mistake, he also ran out crying, "Hurrah for Missouri!" They took Judge Wakefield, one of the citizens, a prisoner, and made him stand upon a wagon and make them a speech. After tying a white ribbon in his buttonhole they let him go.

A Mr. Mace was abused by them in a most ruffianly manner. He having replied in the affirmative whether he would take the oath, he was dragged away from the polls by the brutal crowd, with instant death staring him in the face, the incessant yells of the mob being, "Cut his throat!" "Tear his heart out!" "Kill the d--d nigger thief!" After getting him away from the house, they stood around him with bowie-knives drawn and pistols cocked; one man putting to his heart a drawn knife, another holding a cocked pistol by his ear, and another yet striking at him with a club.

A great many threats were made "to kill the judges, if they did not receive their votes;" "no man should vote who would submit to be sworn;" "no man should vote who was not all right on the goose;" and "they would vote by foul if not by fair means."

Cries of "Shoot him!" resounded during the day, and, in such a Pandemonium as would shame even Pluto's dark domains, three hundred and eleven illegal votes were polled.

Will not Americans blush that such indignities have been offered her citizens, and no remedy been afforded by those in power?

In the other districts the polls were taken possession of by bands of these marauders, and similar scenes of violence were enacted. They not only came in numbers sufficient to carry the election over the votes of the actual settlers, but by their outrageous conduct compelled them, in most instances, to keep away from the polls. Not satisfied with once voting, many of them, by changing hats and coats, repeatedly voted in the same precinct, or, after voting at one, went to another. At Marysville, a settlement in the northern part of the territory, twenty-five or thirty men polled one hundred and fifty votes.

Many of the men elected to the Legislature were, and still are residents of Missouri. The judges of election appointed by Gov. Reeder were obliged, by threats of death, to leave the polls, and others were appointed from among the Missourians. One of the judges of election, for refusing to sign the returns, in spite of many threats, was fired upon on his way home, but fortunately was uninjured. These bands of whiskey-drinking, degraded, foul- mouthed marauders came under the leadership of Sam'l J. Jones, of Westport, Col. Sam'l Young, and C. F. Jackson, Col. Sam'l H. Woodson, of Independence, Mo., Gen. D. R. Atchison, of Platte City, and Gen. B. F. Stringfellow, of Weston.

Col. Woodson was the leader of the rabble of Tecumseh, while B. F. Stringfellow was very active in his efforts to promote the pro-slavery interests in one of the northern precincts. Atchison, the urgent advocate of squatter sovereignty, the former Vice President of the United States, after controlling one of the primary elections in the fourteenth district, was the acknowledged leader of a gang at the Nemaha. In opposition to the wishes of the actual residents (pro-slavery), he caused a set of candidates to be nominated. His words at the time were, "There are ten hundred men coming over from Platte county, and if that isn't enough we will send five thousand more. We've come to vote, and will vote, or kill every G--d d--d abolitionist in the territory." In these northern precincts, besides being armed to the teeth with guns, bowie-knives, and revolvers, the ruffians wore hemp in their button-holes, as a pledge to carry out the designs of their secret societies, and singularly significant of the fiendish nature of the institution, while their password was "All right on the hemp."

Major Mordecai Oliver, member of Congress from Missouri, -- who, it will be remembered, stated on the floor of the House last spring (during the debates preceding the appointment of a committee to look into the wrongs of the people of Kansas, and was appointed one of the number at his own request), that he knew of no one who came from Missouri to vote in the territory, -- was himself present at the election, and, while it is not known with certainty that he voted, he did make a speech, excusing the Missourians for voting. Four hundred and seventeen votes were polled at this precinct, of which no more than eighty can be legal. It is not to be supposed that even willful blindness could have concealed these facts from his sight. Another instance of the elasticity which one's conscience may attain may be cited here. While the investigating committee were holding their session at Westport, and bands of armed men from the border towns were continually in the streets, making both day and night hideous with their vile curses, and by their oaths calling down the swift vengeance of Heaven, Mr. Oliver to the committee discountenanced such unlawful measures in the attempt to make Kansas a slave state, but was said to have been heard repeatedly urging on the ruffians to deeds of horror, in words of their own choosing, such as "Wipe out the d--d abolitionists!" "Drive them from the territory!" At this precinct, where Major O. made his speech, the voters took the oath as to residence in the territory. The grounds of their residence were the following: One man had cut some poles, and, laying them in the form of a square, it constituted his claim. Another based his right to a claim in having cut a few sticks of wood. Col. Burns recommended all to vote, and not to go home without voting. The pro-slavery residents in this precinct, as in some others, became so outraged at the course pursued by the lawless invaders, that they gladly came over to the ranks of the free-state party, and have since then been among the firmest in the cause of freedom.

In reference to the protests to the election, Major Richardson, who was a resident of Missouri, and whose family still resides there, but who was the pro-slavery candidate for council, with threats, told Dr. Cutter, the free-state candidate, that if he offered a protest, he and his office should be thrown into the Missouri river.

One of the judges in the third district, having at last been driven from his post, where he was determined to do his duty, made affidavit in a protest of the illegality of the election. An indictment for perjury was found against him by the grand jury fifteen months ago, and is still pending. Mr. R. has not been informed what is the nature of the evidence against him, or who is his accuser.

Mr. W. Phillips, a lawyer of Leavenworth, made affidavit also to a truthful protest concerning the election. A meeting was soon called, in which the right of free speech upon the peculiar institution is denied, as being subversive of the quiet of the community, and stigmatized peaceable citizens of free-state sentiments as fanatics, incendiaries and traitors. The following resolve was passed:

"Resolved, That the institution of slavery is known and recognized in this territory; that we repel the doctrine that it is a moral and political evil, and we hurl back with scorn upon its slanderous authors the charge of inhumanity; and we warn all persons not to come to our peaceful firesides to slander us, and sow the seeds of discord between the master and the servant; for, as much as we deprecate the necessity to which we may be driven, we cannot be responsible for the consequences."

A committee of vigilance of thirty men was then appointed. These steps were taken preparatory to acts of violence which would follow, that the pro-slavery party might be bound together in their deeds of blood, and, as one man, carry out their nefarious designs. Soon after this meeting, the vigilance committee waited upon Mr. Phillips, notifying him to leave. Upon his refusal to do so, he was seized by them, taken across the river to Weston, Missouri, several miles from Leavenworth. There, after being tarred and feathered, and one side of his head shaved, he was marched about the streets and sold at auction to a negro.

Just one week after the other meeting proposing these acts of lawless indignity upon any and all who should differ from them in sentiment, another meeting was called. R. R. Rees, a member elect of the council, presided at this meeting of the 25th of May, 1855. This same Rees, on the 30th of March, had declared that whoever should say that laying out a town, staking a lot, or even driving down stakes on another man's claim, did not entitle him to a vote, was either a knave or a fool. Judge Payne, a member elect of the House, offered the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

"Resolved, That we heartily indorse the action of the committee of citizens that shaved, tarred and feathered, rode on a rail, and had sold by a negro, William Phillips, the moral perjurer.

"Resolved, That we return our thanks to the committee for faithfully performing the trust enjoined upon them by the pro-slavery party.

"Resolved, That the committee be now discharged.

"Resolved, That we severely condemn those pro- slavery men who, from mercenary motives, are calling upon the pro-slavery party to submit without further action.

"Resolved, That, in order to secure peace and harmony to the community, we now solemnly declare that the pro-slavery party will stand firmly by and carry out the resolutions reported by the committee appointed for that purpose on the memorable 30th."

"This meeting was eloquently addressed by Judge Lecompte." Thus, Judge Lecompte, and the men elected by force and fraud, not "inhabitants of" the district for which they were elected, as the organic act requires (this act declaring that "the true intent and meaning of this act is to leave the people there perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject to the constitution of the United States"), are the leaders and instigators to a series of lawless acts, whose end we cannot even foresee, against the peaceable and order-loving citizens of the territory, exposing them to imminent peril from drunken mobs, and death by fiendish violence, if this judge and these lawmakers so desire. In such hands, and at the mercy of such men, are our lives and safety.

No other country than this witnesses so terrible a despotism.

Previous chapter     Next chapter     Return to Table of Contents