SATURDAY afternoon, April 19, 1879, had become a littletoo warm for the Negroes clustered around the depot inWyandotte, and they were forced to find protection from thesun's rays. Some were seen under the railroad stationitself, which was built on trestle-work, while others hadsought refuge among the lumber piles near the Missouririver, a short distance from the tracks. All were awaitingthe arrival of the train which was to carry them toLawrence, where they expected to find homes and a welcomeconclusion to a journey begun weeks before on the riverbanks of Louisiana and Mississippi.
These were some of the"Exodusters," or Negro migrants who had gained nationalattention by their unprecedented mass movement up theMississippi river to Kansas. They and hundreds morethroughout the river parishes and counties of Louisiana andMississippi had been pouring northward since early March inquest of a new life on the plains of Kansas.1
Walking or riding to the river, carrying what fewpossessions they had not sacrificed in the rush to leave,the migrants deserted the plantations in great numbers.Negroes, who previously had been ignorant of the veryexistence of the Sunflower state, soon began filling thetowns and cities along the river. Even at places where thesteamers made no regular stops, freedmen had gathered inlarge groups endeavoring to attract the attention of thepassing vessels.2
The first boatload ofmigrants had arrived in St. Louis aboard the steamerColorado on the evening of March 5. The newcomers,apparently expecting some kind of assistance on the last legof their journey to Kansas, were greatly disappointed whenno such help was forthcoming.3A reporter of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, whovisited the levee the following morning, found 280 men,women, and children in "utter want." The women and childrenwere sitting dejectedly around several fires, while the menwere either loafing on the levee, or had gone into the cityand elsewhere, probably in search of food and shelter.Nothing more than a few chunks of bread was discovered amongthe whole group.4
The plight of the newcomershad apparently aroused little more than curiosity among thewhite residents of St. Louis. The colored people of thecity, however, had quickly begun to provide relief for theirSouthern brethren. Charleton H. Tandy, a Negro resident ofSt. Louis, was the first of his race to become concernedabout the condition of the new arrivals. He found shelterfor a part of the group, and many of the remainder sought awelcome among the Negro residents of St. Louis, where theywere provided with food and shelter.5
Scarcely had the firstboatload been settled in the city than the steamer GrandTower docked on March 16 with a record of 500 to 600 onits decks.6 This development,plus news from the South of thousands more awaitingtransportation northward7,compelled the colored people of St. Louis to put relief on amore permanent basis. Two Negro churches, St. Paul's chapel(A. M. E.) and the Eighth Street Baptist church were thrownopen to the migrants. In addition, a mass meeting of coloredpeople was held at St. Paul's chapel on March 17, at whichmeeting it was agreed to undertake the relief of therefugees from the South who were temporarily "stalled" inthe city. A committee of 15 (latter expanded to 25) wasappointed to provide ways and means to relieve themigrants.8
The problems confrontingthe committee were more than merely providing food andshelter, however. Unless the migrants were shipped from thecity periodically, relief work would soon become impossiblethrough sheer weight of numbers. This question was discussedat the first meeting of the committee of 15, and it was feltnecessary to inaugurate the transporting of the Negroes onto their destination as soon as possible. Accordingly, atransportation committee was created with one Charles V.Prentice at its head, and arrangements were made with theMissouri River Packet Company to transport the firstboatload westward on March 22. 9
The movement of migrantsfrom St. Louis to Kansas had already begun, however. OnMarch 16 the steamer Fanny Lewis had departed for the"Promised Land" carrying 150-200 of the Grand Towergroup capable of paying their own passage.10Such financial independence among the migrants proved anexception, however, and the remaining shipments to Kansas,beginning with the Joe Kinney on March 22,11were financed and supervised by the St. Louis relief group.These were destined for Wyandotte, which soon became therecipient of all migrants arriving in that state.
It was not chancethat had given Wyandotte such a prominent role in themigration, for with the exception of Kansas City, Kan., noother town was as geographically well located to receive theNegroes. Kansas City, with a population of about 3,200, hadbeen considered as the objective point for the migrationuntil the authorities there had announced that they would"positively" refuse to allow the Negroes into thecity.12 Kansas City, Mo., withwell over 55,000 inhabitants 13and a prosperous business community, would have been alogical depository for the migrants had it been a Kansastown. In this respect it failed to meet a most importantrequirement.
The elimination of thesetwo cities narrowed the choice to the settlements on thewest side of the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.Although this area would one day become a part of a greatindustrial city, in 1879 there was little to indicate itsfuture growth. Except for Wyandotte, located immediatelywest of the river junction, the region was in its infancy.North of Wyandotte a few miles, on the long trip up theMissouri river to Leavenworth and Atchison, was the formerFree-State town of Quindaro, which had declined rapidlysince the Civil War. Near Wyandotte on the south was thevillage of Armstrong with its nearly 718 inhabitants. Stillfarther southward, beyond the bend in the Kansas river, wasRosedale, whose population of around 962 afforded littlerivalry to its bustling sister city at the confluence of thetwo rivers.
Wyandotte was, therefore,the bright spot in the whole area around the junction of thetwo rivers, and by 1879 it could boast a population ofnearly 5,000.14 The "click ofthe trowel and the sound of the hammer," heard throughoutthe town, testified to its prosperous condition. The towncould point to frequent visits by Jay Gould, the well-knownfinancier, who "pranced around over the macadam" as thoughwishing to invest in the "Metropolis of Kansas." It was evenrumored he had threatened to make a "whistling station" ofKansas City, Mo., because of its opposition to him, and tolocate a "big town" on the Kansas side of the stateline.15 Certainly, theprospects for Wyandotte never looked brighter than on theeve of the influx of the migrants from the South.
Yet in spite of thefavorable condition of the city, it was not prepared toweather the deluge of destitute Negroes that began arriving.Following the landing of the Fanny Lewis, previouslymentioned, came the Joe Kinney on March 31 with over400 migrants,16 and the E.H. Durfee on April 6 with 450 on its decks.17This mass of humanity, numbering close to 1,000, wassheltered in the Negro churches of Wyandotte and supportedfrom whatever the citizens of the city couldsupply.18
The Wyandotte Heraldof May 1, 1879, in describing the first arrivals in thecity, recalled that they had been composed almost entirelyof helpless children and aged and infirm people, many ofwhom were sick and some of whom had been paralytics for aseries of years." V. J. Lane, editor of the Herald,in his testimony before the senate committeeinvestigating the exodus, further described the newcomers as"the most God-forsaken set of people" he had ever seen."They were entirely destitute," continued Lane, "and itlooked like the almshouses of the Mississippi valley hadbeen searched to get them together, and it became an act ofhumanity to do something for their relief."19
Initially, the migrants hadbeen received by most of the residents of Wyandotte with amixture of surprise and sympathy. As the numbers in the cityincreased, however, this attitude turned to one of fear andindignation -- fear because it was generally believed theNegroes baggage carried yellow fever germs; indignationbecause the burden of caring for so many indigent personshad soon become an intolerable imposition. This feeling ledto a demand by a large segment of the population that themigrants in the city be transported away, and new arrivalsbe excluded.20
In the face of thismounting discontent, Mayor J. S. Stockton, who had beenappointed chairman of the Wyandotte relief committee formedon April 8 to care for the migrants,21selected an executive committee of three to expedite thetransporting of the newcomers from the city.22Such a course of action had become increasingly necessary.On April 13 the steamer Joe Kinney made its secondappearance in the city with around 200 more Negroes. Newshad also arrived that over 300 migrants were leaving St.Louis on April 14 aboard the E. H. Durfee.23These developments hastened the committee to appeal tothe "Generous of The United States" for their help inproviding for the destitute freedmen.24
The response to thecommittee's appeal for help was heartening, especially inKansas where several of Wyandotte's neighbors agreed toreceive some of the newcomers. Among them was Lawrence,whose offer to take 100 of the migrant families was quicklyaccepted by the Wyandotte committee.25Throughout the morning the migrants had been transported inwagons from the African Methodist church, one of the placesin which they had been quartered, to the Wyandotte depotwhere the arrival of the chartered "cars" was expectedmomentarily. Morning had slipped into afternoon, however,and still the Negroes waited patiently, bedding, fryingpans, coffee pots, and other household gear forming thenucleus around which the families gathered. Their vigil wasfinally rewarded when the train, with "comfortable passengercoaches" adequate for the crowd, came into the station andwas quickly loaded. After consigning the shipment to T. D.Fisher editor of the Lawrence Journal, members of theWyandotte relief committee distributed loaves ofbread among the travelers, and, much to the joy andrelief of the citizens of the city, the train pulled out ofthe station.26
The migrants had scarcelygotten underway, however, when word came from Mayor IsaacNewton Von Hoessen of Lawrence countermanding the earlieroffer to receive the freedmen. No effort was apparently madeby the Wyandotte committee to comply with the order. but asthey began preparations for the next shipment of migrants toLeavenworth, they must have wondered how the newcomers wouldfare in a city which had so nearly rejected them.
The residents of Lawrence,however, displayed no sign of contempt or regret as thetrainload of Negroes arrived in the city on April 20. Norwas such a spirit in evidence four days later when thecitizens of the city filled Frazer Hall to "overflowing" inan effort to provide aid for their new charges. The"undivided sentiment" of those present saw the exodus as the"legitimate result of the injustice" inflicted upon thefleeing migrants by the Southern whites. Not only did theyprotest the misuse of the ex-slaves, but they also pledgedtheir continued demand that the Negroes receive fullpolitical rights in the South.27
The main accomplishment ofthe evening, however, was the appointment of a seven-mancommittee to provide aid for the migrant in the city.The group was also instructed to co-operate with other localaid societies to assure the creation of a system ofstate-wide relief administered by an "efficient andresponsible State executive committee." 28The citizens of Lawrence had apparently come to realize, ashad other groups in the state, that the exodus was becomingtoo large for the resources of individual cities. This wasalso the attitude taken by the Topeka Commonwealth,which had been urging the formation of a state organizationto cope with what it considered a critical problem. A callfor a meeting of Topeka citizens at the Opera House onSunday evening, April 20,29was heartily endorsed by the newspaper, which urged theattendance of every person having an interest in the welfareof the state. The meeting resulted in the formation of theCentral Freedmen's Relief Committee with Gov. John P. St.John at its head.30 Theobjectives of the group were fully revealed on April 24,when the executive committee appointed by the governor onApril 21,31 published anappeal "To The People of Kansas." The various citiesthroughout the state were asked to establish freedmen's aidesocieties to assist the central committee in placing themigrants in jobs and homes where they might become useful,self-sustaining citizens. 32
The inauguration ofcentralized relief on a scale proposed by the executivecommittee in Topeka coincided exactly with the wishes of theLawrence meeting. The resolutions of the latter groupexpressed the conviction that a state which had secured itsown freedom through "suffering and blood" would beuntrue to its history by refusing succor to the Negroescoming into the state. As the migrants were fleeing theSouth to the protection of "free institutions and equallaws" so should they be aided in their efforts to settle inthe state.33
While the citizens ofLawrence were advocating the relief of thousands on astate-wide scale, the local committee found that the handfulin their midst was enough to keep them occupied. Thenewcomers, with nothing material to contribute to their owncause, had to be provided with all the necessities of life,in addition to being helped to eventual self-support. TheNegroes had already been quartered in an old school house,where, with the assistance of the colored citizens ofLawrence, they were soon provided with food, clothing, andmedical attenion.34
A more important problemthan relief was facing the authorities at Lawrence, however.It was manifest that the Negroes could not be supportedindefinitely by the city, and the sooner they becameself-sufficient the better it would be for all concerned. Itwas hoped that some of them could be placed on thesurrounding farms, and the remainder either transported toneighboring towns that had not received migrants, or to oneor more of the Negro colonies established throughout thestate. Placing the migrants was only a part of the problemplaguing the committee, however.
Money with which totransport the newcomers from the city was wholly lacking,and it was not until Jay Gould had written offeringtransportation on the Kansas Pacific railroad that theproblem was solved.35
With this assurance, therelief committee met in the office of the LawrenceJournal on May 2 to make plans for sending theNegroes to other localities in the state. One place thecommittee had in mind was Nicodemus colony, in Grahamcounty, Kansas, a Negro settlement planted in 1877 mainly bycolonists from Kentucky.36Sidney Clarke, a member of the Lawrence group, had conferredwith the central committee in Topeka, and reported that thatbody was not yet ready to advise shipping the migrants toNicodemus until a closer examination of the settlement couldbe made.37
The Lawrence committeeturned to the alternative of settling the migrants in thesurrounding area. The group had earlier issued an address"To the People of Douglas and the Adjoining Counties,"explaining that a considerable number of families were stillin Lawrence living on charity, and requesting the farmers tofurnish employment for them.38The central committee in Topeka was also petitioned for$150, which was promptly sent, not only to help providerelief for the migrants in the city, but also to finance asurvey of employment opportunities in the surroundingcounties.39
The necessity of removingthe Negroes had become more apparent when a delegation thatinvestigated the migrants' condition reported muchuneasiness and discontent among them. In addition, Dr. C. W.Lawrence explained that overcrowded conditions among thenewcomers, and the approach of warm weather necessitatedtheir removal to prevent an outbreak of disease.40
The committee's plan todisperse the migrants was not immediately accomplished,however. The Lawrence Tribune of May 8, voiced itsopposition to the newcomers remaining in the "crowdedconditions" any longer, reminding the authorities of thedanger of disease spreading throughout the city.41This, however, was the last appeal that was necessary, andby May 14 the migrant camp was "mainly" broken up.42The committee had been successful in its efforts to placemost of the Negroes on surrounding farms, while theremainder were shipped to Topeka where they were againtransported to other localities by the centralcommittee.43
Lawrence took great pridein the manner in which it had welcomed and cared for themigrants.44 The city, however,was in a position to boast of its humanity, since being offthe transportation routes followed by the migrants, it couldaccept or reject the Negroes as it chose. This was not thecase with such Missouri river cities as Leavenworth andAtchison, where the whistle of every steamboat might proveto be the herald of an addition to the migrants already onhand.
While the steamboats werelater to play a part in the migration in Leavenworth, thecity's initial contact with the Freedmen came when atrainload was shipped from Wyandotte on April 23, arrivingin Leavenworth the following morning. During the forenoonthe residents of the city were en visiting the tracks toview this latest of spectacles. Upon arrival of the tencarloads of migrants, numbering about 300, had been switchedoff near "Ryan's pork house,' but in the afternoon they werereturned to the depot where the group was unloaded.45
The Leavenworth Appealwas not optimistic concerning the city's latestacquisition. "We are compelled to say they are a sorry lot,and are evidently the rag-tag-and-bobtail of the pilgrims."Besides their obvious hunger and "seedy" appearance, thenewspaper especially noticed the lack of "good field hands"among the number, the majority being old men, women, andchildren.46 But the WyandotteHerald, probably intending to be more humorous thaninformative, observed that the Appeal was mistaken inits appraisal of the new corners. "We shipped them ourself,"continued the Herald, and picked a goodlot."47
Regardless of the newcomersworth, relief was set in motion that evening by a meeting inLaing's Hall. A collection of $22 was taken with pledgesreceived for a like sum. A previous meeting had produced$12, making a total of $56 in all, which the Topeka DailyCapital thought was "pretty good, for Leavenworth," acity with a population of 16,546 by 1880!48Unfortunately, the small but humane efforts of the citizensof Leavenworth were mostly undone by the subsequent actionof the city authorities.
On April 28, four daysfollowing the migrants' arrival, Mayor W. M. Fortescuecalled a special session of the city council to decide upona course of action in dealing with the migration. The boardof health was instructed to determine whether "contagiousdiseases or the germs of yellow fever" were being carried inthe Negroes' baggage. If an investigation produced suchevidence, the newcomers were to be removed to the quarantinelimits, five miles from the city, and further groups of therefugees, "or other persons so afflicted," were to beprevented from entering the city.49A supplementary resolution, perhaps the most unfriendlyofficial action taken by any city affected by the exodus,ran as follows:
Resolved, That the Mayor be, and is herebyinstructed to call upon the Captain of any boat bringingcolored refugees to this city, and make arrangements totransport said refugees to other points, and we herebyappropriate any sum of money necessary for saidpurpose.50
At the moment this measureoccasioned little response from Leavenworth's neighbors, buta few more days were to produce a sharp reaction.
The Wyandotte Herald,in the meantime, thought the idea of Leavenworth, headand ears in debt, and that for months has been attempting torepudiate its honest obligations, appropriating money tocarry the colored refugees to some other point ispreposterous. Better set them to work and try to build upthe failing fortunes of the city.51
The determination of theLeavenworth city council to quarantine the town against theentrance of more migrants was not original with that group.A number of cities either had such laws or had toyed withthe idea of passing ordinances of that nature. In the end,however, finding such statutes impractical or unenforceable,they turned to relieving the Negroes and transporting themaway in a more dignified manner. The practice of bribingsteamboat captains to carry the migrants away, however, wasa Leavenworth innovation, soon to be tested by the approachof the steamer Joe Kinney, laboring up the Missouririver with 275 migrants destined for Leavenworth.
The Kinney had leftSt. Louis on April 20 carrying the migrants in the hold of abarge it was towing. In spite of mechanical trouble thevessel reached Wyandotte on May 1, where the Negroes wereprovided with enough food for the trip toLeavenworth.52 On the morningof May 2, therefore, the steamer docked at Leavenworth andwas preparing to discharge its cargo when Mayor Fortescuewent aboard. The ensuing conversation was not recorded, butample evidence left no doubt that the mayor gave the captain$250 with the understanding that the load would be taken onup the river, and as no other suitable depository thenexisted, obviously to Atchison.53
News of the arrival of theKinney in Leavenworth and its subsequent departurewith the migrants still in tow had preceded the vessel toAtchison.54 The captain,therefore, probably feeling the urgency of a quick retreatfrom the city, landed "below Ketcham's mill," withoutsounding his whistle, ran the migrants ashore and was on hisway in around 15 minutes.55The operation was performed with such dispatch that MayorJohn C. Tomlinson scarcely had time to go aboard to make hisunsuccessful remonstrance. According to the AtchisonGlobe, a critic of the migration, the captain was"driven away from Wyandotte by force, and bribed by theLeavenworth people to come to Atchison," and his onlyobjective was to be released from his cargo as soon aspossible.56
As the citizens of the citygathered to view these much-publicized Southerners, thenewcomers, mainly from Warren county, Mississippi, weresitting on the river bank "blinking at the sun" and awaitingthe next move. A reporter for the Atchison DailyChampion was reminded of the recent war on seeingthe
old and young, big and little, huddled togetheron the river bank with their queer collection ofhousehold gear. All were plantation negroes, the womenwith their handkerchiefs tied around their heads, and themen clad in a general assortment of rags.57
As the afternoon wore on,it suddenly dawned on the residents of the city that theirvisitors, even though uninvited, must be cared for, and arelief movement was immediately begun. The African MethodistEpiscopal and the Ebenezar Baptist churches were opened toprovide shelter, with priority given to women, children, andthe sick.58 A wagon was hauledthroughout the city collecting staples, and the citizensresponded generously. The relief efforts were continuedafter dark, and at a "late hour" some of the colored menwere still sitting on the river bank warming themselves atseveral fires. The emergency, however, had passed and thecity relaxed momentarily to ponder the next move.59
The following morning, May3, found the citizens of Atchison at work completing thelabors of the previous night. All the Negroes were fed, andafter covering the basement floor of the Methodist churchwith bedding, the sick were made comfortable. The long tripfrom the South, involving some 20 days of exposure andinadequate food had taken its toll. There were about sixcases of pneumonia, 27 afflicted with bronchitis, fivesuffering with measles and many with chills. Several caseswere critical.60
In the afternoon, theAtchison city council held an emergency meeting, and "inconformity with the state law," passed an ordinance designedto prevent the landing of paupers, or persons likely tobecome charges on the city. Violators were to be punished bya fine of not more than $100, or imprisonment for threemonths, or both. The river banks were to be patrolled toassure that Atchison received no more migrants.61
With the safety of the cityapparently secured, the attention of Atchison turned toLeavenworth, the instigator of the recent deluge. Insult wasadded to injury when Mayor Fortescue of Leavenworthtelegraphed Mayor John C. Tomlinson asking if Atchison couldcare for more migrants, for his city had an ample supply andtwo boatloads were expected there momentarily.62The answer was emphatic and to the point:
No. We have all the city can provide for. Ihereby respectfully notify you and the city ofLeavenworth that the city of Atchison will hold you andyour city responsible for the paupers you caused to besent here yesterday.63
The Atchison Champion,never slow to come to the defense of the city, took upthe pen against Leavenworth. After referring to the humor ofthe Leavenworth mayor as about "the consistency of Missouribottom gumbo," it proceeded to give that city what itconsidered sound advice:
As these refugees are all farm hands, the properplace for them to stop is evidently Leavenworth. Theymight be profitably employed cultivating patches ofgarden truck in the streets of that city. The ground isuseless for any other purpose. And at least five thousandof them could find shelter in the vacant houses of thatdeserted village.64
Even the boatload sent toAtchison, continued the Champion, "would have giventhe town a business look it has not known for years."65
The latter conclusion wasevidenced by the fact that the migrants were findingthemselves useful in Atchison. Some were seen unloadingrailroad ties at the tracks, others were cutting wood, andthe women generally found household work. The remainder,however, "quite a large number." according to theChampion, were seen at the churches loafing, "anoperation which they conducted with singular fidelity andsuccess."66
Meanwhile, the authoritiesof the city continued to have the river banks patrolled toprevent another landing such as that of the previous Fridayafternoon, but nothing rewarded their vigil. The city was,however, greatly disturbed by a report that a vessel with400 migrants on board was approaching the city. This, muchto the relief of all, turned out to be a "crueljoke."67 With steps taken toprevent the entrance of more Negroes, the council beganmaking plans for the removal of those in the city. TheCentral Branch of the Union Pacific, as well as the Atchisonand Nebraska railroads both offered to transport thenewcomers for one cent per mile, which the city councilquickly accepted.68
While efforts were beingmade in Atchison to clear the city of its newly acquiredcharges, the Leavenworth Times renewed the contentionbetween the two cities by accusing Atchison of "beingthe only town in the State to cry and whine" over themigrants she had received.69The Champion responded in a similar vein, laying thewhole blame for the unpleasantness between the two cities onthe "impudent, foolish telegram" sent by the mayor ofLeavenworth. He had done a "mean thing" to divert themigrants from a city with plenty of empty houses to a citywith none.70 The Times,however, felt that the chief complaint was that theNegroes had been sent from Leavenworth, "as though they hadnot been sent to Leavenworth from Wyandotte, and toWyandotte from St. Louis."71
The Democratic newspapersacross the river in Missouri were delighted with the feudbetween Atchison and Leavenworth. The St. Joseph (Mo.)Gazette, however, was inclined to agree with the latter cityconcerning the nature of Kansas relief. Noting that the"philanthropic" people of Leavenworth "shoved" the migrantsup the river to Atchison, the Gazette thought it inline for the latter city to pay their fares to Elwood.Perhaps Elwood could then send them on to Nebraska."Philanthropy," sarcastically added the Gazette, "isof the telescopic order, alas! too frequently."72
The St. Joseph Herald,on the other hand, was amazed at the attitude ofLeavenworth and Atchison. It was common knowledge, said theHerald, that both of the cities were "strong oncolored people, although a little stronger on days when theNegroes were voting. And since elections ran close in bothtowns, the migrants should have been welcomed with open armsby the Republicans. "You see," continued the Herald,
Republicanism in the abstract, in the clouds, inspeeches and delightful editorial articles, is notprecisely the same as a nigger at your door whowants a dinner and a bed. Now Atchison is the mosthospitable little village in the world. And she is prettyRepublican. But here are these niggers, so to speak.73
In spite of the ridiculefrom the Democratic side of the Missouri river, Atchison wasproceeding with plans to divest itself of the migrants. OneGiles E. Scoville of the city was sent out to arrange fortransporting the migrants to towns on the CentralBranch.74 On May 8 groups weresent to Muscotah, Whiting, Netawaka, and as far as Scandia.There were also shipments made on the Atchison and Nebraskarailroad consisting of 13 migrants destined for Brenner andHiawatha. By May 10 it was reported that only 17 familiesremained in Atchison.75 Thesewere later sent to Topeka where they were cared for by thestate relief committee, which, by this time, has assumed theresponsibility for all migrants arriving in Kansas.
Only a few days earlier, onMay 5, the central committee, through the insistence of theWyandotte relief group, had made arrangements to meet allnew arrivals in Kansas City, Mo., and to forward them byrail to Topeka.76 This newswas joyously received in Wyandotte, which had borne thebrunt of the migration since its beginning. Relief of thatcity was only one of the several benefits derived from theaction of the central committee.
It marked the end of ahaphazard and often ineffective system of reliefadministered by the various cities. The danger of a clashbetween the races, such as almost occurred in Wyandotte, waslikewise considerably lessened. Centralized aid was alsoresponsible for ending needless duplication of reliefefforts, and made possible a more economical and orderly wayof handling the Negroes. More important, perhaps, was thedignity and responsibility given to the relief movement bythe leadership of Gov. John P. St. John. His presence helpedinsure adequate relief supplies, since philanthropists andhumanitarians in New England and throughout the East,feeling confident their contributions were in safe hands,gave generously to an organization so ably led.
Finally, the additionalresponsibility undertaken by the central committee forcedthat body to expand its relief facilities. This wasespecially significant, for after a lull in the exodusduring the summer of 1879, the migration was renewed on ascale that would have overwhelmed the resources ofindividual cities. Around 5,000 Negroes who entered Kansasbetween April and June of 1879, had been settled within thestate, but only with great difficulty.77The expansion of relief work would prove absolutelynecessary when the stream of migrants from the lowerMississippi river area was swelled by thousands of freedmenfrom Texas, who began pouring into the state in the winterof 1879. By rail, wagon, and often on foot, the Negroes fromthe Lone Star state moved across the Indian Territory tofind homes in southeastern Kansas. Their journey wasespecially difficult, and the end of the trek often clothedin disappointment, but still they came, refusing allentreaties to return to their Southern homes. The firmdetermination of the migrants to sojourn in the "Land ofPromise," to which they fondly believed the Lord was leadingthem, was a phenomenon difficult to explain. Perhaps it wasbest revealed by a group of "Exodusters" arriving in St.Louis, who spurned an offer to return to the South by simplydeclaring: "We'se goin' to Kansas, and we won't go backdar."78
Glen Schwendemann, native of Oklahoma andgraduate of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, isteaching in the Torrance, Calif., public schools.
1. For a discussion of the causes of themigration as well as the Negroes' departure from the South,see Glen Schwendemann, "Negro Exodus to Kansas: FirstPhase, March- July, 1879" (unpublished master's thesis,Department of History, University of Oklahoma, 1957), pp.1-39.
2. Ibid., pp. 36-39, 152, 153.See, also, the St. Louis Missouri Republican,April 27, 1879; the Atchison Daily Champion, May6, 1879, and an unidentified and undated newspaper clippingin "Horatio N. Rust Scrapbook; Relating to the Negro ExodusFrom the South to Kansas, 1880," Kansas State HistoricalSociety library, p. 48.
3. A St. Louis Globe-Democratreporter, who interviewed the migrants arriving on thesteamer Colorado, wrote of their "firm and abiding faiththat they would be furnished free transportation to Kansas,where the Government would not only provide each individualdarky with a good farm free of charge, but also with thenecessary mules and farming implements at the same price.Their mistaken belief, it was said, had been imparted tothem through the medium of printed circulars." -- St. LouisGlobe-Democrat, March 13, 1879. See, also, ibid.,March 12, 1879, for a further discussion of thissubject.
5. Ibid., March 16, 1879.See, also, the St. Louis MissouriRepublican, March 19, 1879, and Charleton H. Tandy'stestimony in "Report and Testimony of the Select Committeeof the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of theRemoval of the Negroes from the Southern States to theNorthern States," Senate Report, No. 693 (Serial1899), 46th Cong, 2d Sess., 1880, pt. 3, p 37.
10. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat,March 17, 1879, estimated that 150 took Fanny Lewisand 250 departed by rail. The latter group were probablythose who arrived in Topeka on March 19, the firstof the "Exodusters'' to enter the state. TheTopeka Commonwealth and the North Topeka Times,March 21, 1879, both estimated the group at 200 persons.See, also, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March23, 1879 (Supplement), for a report of this group ofmigrants.
14. See an unofficial censuspublished in the Wyandotte Herald, April 17, 1879,which set the population at 4,612. The decennial census of1880 gave the population as 6,149, an increase over theunofficial census of 1879 of 1,537, an increase explained inpart by the migrants who remained in the city, living inshacks along the river. Tenth Census, 1880, v. 1, p.449.
16. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat,March 23, 1879, set the number at 450; the WyandotteHerald, April 3, 1879, estimated the group to be 400,while the Kansas Pilot, Kansas City, April 5, 1879.Reported 350. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, however,arrived at its figure from the number of tickets bought inSt. Louis.
22. Senate Report, No. 693, Pt. 3,PP. 326, 327. See the testimony of V. J. Lane, editorof the Wyandotte Herald, who, with George H. Miller,head of the state asylum for the blind, and C. V. Bishop,made up the committee.
25. Other towns in the state offering toreceive the Negroes as of April 24, were Leavenworth,Tonganoxie, Manhattan, and Ottawa. Atchison had requested200 of the migrants but apparently withdrew the requestlater. Wyandotte Herald, April 17, 24, and May 1,1879.
26. See N. C. McFarland'sdescription of the migrants in Wyandotte in the TopekaCommonwealth, April 24, 1879. A more completeaccount, probably by McFarland also, appears in the TopekaDaily Capital, April 22, 1879.
37. The Kansas Freedmen's ReliefAssociation of Topeka established a colony in Wabaunseecounty, about 50 miles west of Topeka, and furnish thecolonists with everything necessary to begin farming.Although some assistance was given to other Negro coloniesin the state, the central committee generally ignored thesesettlements as depositories for the newcomers. It was widelybelieved that the plantation Negro could not maintainhimself on the frontier. The Negroes who colonized Kansaswere usually from Kentucky and Tennessee and were moreindustrious and self-reliant.
42. Ibid., May 14, 1879. The NewYork Daily Tribune, May 20, 1879, noted that themigrants' camp was "nearly deserted," and "the spot whichthe exiles made historic may soon be consecrated as a placeof mourning sacred to the use of those prophets of theunnumbered ills that were to befall the country inconsequence of the arrival of these hordes of paupers."
43. By May 24, the last of the migrantshad been shipped to Topeka. Topeka Daily Capital, May28, 1879. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat of May21, carried an article datelined, "Lawrence, Kansas, May 18,1879," in which is was reported that "600 colored refugees,"an exaggerated figure, had been absorbed into thesurrounding countryside and were working on farms.
45. The Leavenworth Appeal of anunknown date, as quoted in the Wyandotte Herald, May1, 1879, waxed poetic when it wrote: "The Africans came downlike the wolf on the fold, and they had nary cent in silverand gold." C. C. Baker of the Topeka Commonwealth,who visited the city at this time, reported that themigrants were the "chief topic" of conversation, and werecrowded into empty buildings all over the city. TopekaCommonwealth, April 29, 1879.
51. Ibid. During the Civil War,the terminal for the Western trade shifted from Kansas City,Mo., to Leavenworth because of the military protectionafforded by the latter city. By 1880, however, this tradewas again finding its way to Kansas City, occasioning a lossof population in Leavenworth amounting to 1,327 between 1870and 1880. Tenth Census, 1880, v. 1, p. 178.
57. Atchison Daily Champion, May3, 1879. "Had the King of the Cannibal Island, with hisstaff and a brass band suddenly arrived," reported theChampion, "a crowd would not have gathered morequickly. The newly landed were immediately surrounded by acrowd of curious questioners of both colors."
58. The Rev. William M. Twine (colored),pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist church, testified that heeven vacated his church office for a while to make room forthe migrants. Twine, however, opposed the exodus because hefelt Kansas had no use for so much unskilled labor.Senate Report, No. 693, Pt. 3, p. 319.
60. Ibid., May 4, 1879. Thecolored citizens of Atchison, who took the lead in relievingtheir Southern brethren, organized a relief committee on May5. See ibid., May 6, 1879, for a report of the Negromeeting.
65. Ibid. The Wyandotte Heraldof May 8, 1879, noting the difficulty betweenAtchison and Leavenworth, remarked quite appropriately, thatthe "Leavenworth and Atchison papers gave a large amount ofwholesome advice to Wyandotte while we had over 1,000 ofthem [the migrants] here, some of which they oughtto apply to their own cities now that they know how it isthemselves."
70. Ibid. The St. Joseph (Mo.)Herald, as quoted by the Atchison Globe of May7, 1879, noted that Atchison's philanthropy was bounded byher city limits," and that her excuse of inadequate housingas a reason for not wanting the migrants was "Very thin. NotChristian. Not Republican." Atchison's excuse was notwithout some foundation however. Between 1870 and 1880 thecity's population grew from 7,054 to 15,105, TenthCensus, 1880. v. 1, p. 17
71. Atchison Daily Champion, May7, 1879. The Atchison Globe of May 6, 1879, althougha critic of the migration, reminded the city of Leavenworth,that while Atchison was "willing to do [her] parttoward providing these miserable devils homes, and keep themfrom starving, we will not allow Leavenworth to ship herproportion to us, and then boast of it as a cunningtrick."