A History of Lawrence, by Rev. Richard Cordley.



     The year 1858 was the reverse of 1857. In the favorite words of Governor Geary, "the benign influences of peace had been restored to the country." But the benign influences of peace had a different effect from what many people expected. For three years Kansas had been the observed of all observers. All eyes were turned towards her, and many feet also turned their steps her way. Notwithstanding the difficulties of travel, and the hindrances thrown in the way, and the disturbances in the territory itself, immigrants came from every quarter and in every conceivable manner. When peace and quiet came and the slavery question was settled, the people expected that this would not only continue, but increase. If people came to Kansas in such crowds, when there were so many hindrances and so much peril, they would come in still greater crowds when the hindrances were removed and the perils had ceased. As times were lively in 1857, they expected still more lively times in 1858. But they were mistaken as to the spirit, of the north, and as to the causes which gave Kansas her prominence. Her troubles and her perils gave her the prominence she enjoyed, and drew towards her such crowds of immigrants. They came at the call of an idea; at the call of freedom. The greater the obstacles the more they came. But now the conflict was over and the question was settled, immigration instead of increasing, almost ceased. Many who had come were compelled to go back. There was nothing to prevent their returning. For the next three years probably as many left as came. The result therefore which followed the disturbances was a more complete quiet than most of the people cared to see. A general business depression throughout the country increased the depression in Kansas.

     It began to be dull in the autumn of 1857, but people said that "Spring immigration would brignten (sic) things up." But spring immigration did not come. All things were ready, but the immigrant failed to fulfil (sic) his engagement. Land agents sat in their offices as of old, and their maps and diagrams hung around the walls, but no one came to enquire the price of lots, or if any came it was some one who wished to sell and not some one who wished to buy. Merchants stood behind their counters with large stocks of goods about them, but the customer did not appear. The next three years were dull ones, as dull as the preceeding three years had been lively. The people were very slow to understand what had happened. They clung to a hope of a return of the former days, but those days never came back. For a time property was still high, but nobody wanted to buy; money was still held at high rates, but nobody wanted to borrow. Gradually even this found its level, as it always does, and a very low level it proved to be. In real estate and other lines of business the final purchaser had been found, and he was left to hold his purchase. The fortunes gathered in a day dissolved in a night, and men worth vast fortunes in city lots were borrowing money to pay their board. In the spring of 1859, quite a number of the enterprising young men of Lawrence, growing weary of waiting for the tardy immigrant, concluded to turn emigrants themselves. They started over the plains for "Pike’s Peak," and were the inaugurators of the movement which brought Colorado in such prominence.

     These years, however, were not destitute of exciting incidents. January 20, 1859, John Brown spent a night in Lawrence as he was leading eleven slaves to Canada and freedom. It was John Brown’s last appearance in Kansas. In October of that year he made his attack on Harper’s Ferry, and December 2, 1860, was hanged by the authorities of the state of Virginia. During the winter of 1859, John Doy and his son, Charles Doy, led a company of slaves through Lawrence northward. The whole party was captured twelve miles from Lawrence and imprisoned at Weston. Doy and his son were afterwards taken to St. Joseph for trial. At a large public meeting in Lawrence funds were raised to assist in their defense at the trial of their case in June. Ex-Governor Shannon was secured as one of the lawyers for the defense. The trial was reported for the eastern and other papers by such correspondents as A. D. Richardson, Henry Villard, and D. W. Wilder. After a tedious trial the son was released, and Doy himself was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Before he was taken from the St. Joseph jail to the state prison, he was liberated one night and came back to Lawrence, where he remained unmolested. Nobody ever exactly knew who did the liberating.

     Lawrence had the reputation in Missouri of being one of the stations on the underground railroad. In a certain sense perhaps she deserved that reputation. Most of her people had no sympathy with any attempt to stir up insurrection among the slaves, or to entice them from their masters. But they hated human slavery and believed in every man’s right to freedom. They would never consent that any man should be taken back to slavery who came to them in his effort to be free. There is no doubt that a good many slaves, fleeing from bondage, made their way to Lawrence, and there were aided on their journey towards Canada. Not many of the people knew anything about this, but there were a few to whom such fugitives always went and were never betrayed. But the sympathy of the people was with every one who was struggling for freedom. The town was founded in opposition to slavery, and it could not be otherwise than antagonistic to the right of property in man.

     This matter is alluded to here because some have sought to create an opposite impression. A recent writer on Kansas has said that "it is a significant fact, which forcibly illustrates the absence of any general or radical sentiment of abolition in Kansas, that so late as the year 1858 Missourians hired out slaves at Lawrence, received their wages, and nobody made objection." The italics are our own. Anyone who lived in Lawrence in 1858 would know that such a thing as this could not possibly be. Neither at that time nor any other, could a slave be held in Lawrence against his will, by owner or renter. If such a thing was ever done, it was with the mutual consent of all parties--owner, slave and renter. The writer of this knew of a slave who was in Lawrence a large portion of the year 1859. She was employed as a domestic in various families, but her wages were paid to her and not to her master. Late in the autumn her master offered a large reward for her arrest and return. It was decided to make a test case of it, and show that a slave could be taken from Lawrence and returned to slavery in Missouri. The United States marshal, with deputies and detectives, came stealthily to Lawrence, and set themselves to work to locate and capture this woman. They remained two days. There was no resistence offered, but they did not capture the woman, and presumably did not get the reward. So far as known, no slaves were ever taken from Lawrence and carried back to slavery. The Lawrence people were moderate in their views, but they were decided.

     In the way of material improvements there had been a good deal of advance. By far the finest building erected was the Eldridge House, which took the place of the Free-State Hotel destroyed by Sheriff Jones, May 21st, 1856. After the destruction of the old hotel nothing was done toward rebuilding for a year. In the spring of 1857 Colonel S. W. Eldridge and his brother began to rebuild the house or rather to build another on the same site. It was of brick, four stories high, extending one hundred feet on the east front and one hundred and seventeen feet on the north front. It was handsomely built and furnished elegantly, and was the finest hotel Lawrence has ever had. It was said to have cost $80,000. It was kept in a style befitting the building. Several other substantial brick buildings were begun on Massachusetts street during the year 1857, and completed in the year following.

     There had been considerable progress in the line of church work during this period. The Unitarians appealed to their friends at the east, and by the personal efforts of Rev. Ephraim Nute and Mr. E. B. Whitman they secured $5,700 for a church edifice. They began to build in 1856, but were hindered by various things, and the house was not ready for occupancy until the spring of 1857. The building was of stone of good size, with basement rooms for school purposes. Their eastern friends also gave them a bell and a town clock. The bell was suspended on a temporary frame for many years and was used for a school bell as well as a church bell. The bell was of very fine tone. The clock and bell were afterwards purchased for the city schools, and are now in use on the city high school. About 1858 Mr. Nute resigned and on the breaking out of the war entered the army as a chaplain. Rev. John S. Brown became pastor of the church.

     The Congregational Church also erected a house of worship during this period. This church had a varied experience. It was the first church formed in Lawrence; formed before there was a house built. Deacon Franklin Haskell of this church made the first public prayer offered upon the Lawrence town site. Rev. S. Y. Lum, the pastor, preached the first sermon. When the Kansas question began to loom up now urged the church to look for a permanent pastor. Soon after its organization, therefore, the church secured as pastor Rev. William Bishop, who now resides at Salina. Dr. Bishop was born in Scotland, but came to America in his ninth year. He is a graduate of Illinois college and Princeton theological seminary. He served as tutor in Greek in his alma mater for two years, and was professor of Greek in Hanover college, Indiana, from 1852 until 1858, when he came to Lawrence. He was strong in logic and scholarly in his tastes, a forcible writer and a fluent speaker. In his ministry of three years the church increased nearly four-fold. In 1860 Mr. Bishop resigned and went with Colonel William A. Phillips to Salina where he assisted in developing the town and forming a church, and where he still resides. The church at Lawrence continued to worship in rented houses until they built their present stone edifice on the corner of Vermont and Warren streets.

Mrs. O. E. Learnard

Mrs. Dr. R. Cordley

Mrs. H. M. Simpson

Mrs. Gov. Chas. Robinson


     The Episcopal Church was also formed in 1858 under the lead of Rev. Charles Reynolds, afterwards a chaplain in the United States army. Mr. Reynolds was born in England and came to this country in his thirteenth year. He graduated at the Protestant Episcopal seminary in New York in 1846, and was settled over a church in Brooklyn. In 1855 he became rector of Trinity Church, Columbus, Ohio, and had for his parishoners such men as Salmon P. Chase. He was a man of fine presence and great executive force, and of high character. He remained in Lawrence five years, and during his ministry here he thoroughly organized the parish and built the main part of the unique and beautiful chapel which still stands upon the grounds of the church. He also secured a rectory for the parish. He resigned about 1863 to enter the army as a chaplain, and continued in that service the remainder of his life.

     It has often been noticed that reforms go in groups, and the ardent friends of one reform are usually the friends of all reforms. So it happened that the early settlers of Lawrence were also friends of temperance. Almost without exception they were not only abstainers themselves, but ardent opponents of the liquor traffic. Nearly all the leading men were earnest advocates of temperance. A few days after the first immigrants arrived, the town company adopted unanimously the principles of the Maine law, and it was expressed in all deeds given that liquor should not be sold upon the lots defined therein. In July 1855 a prohibitory liquor law was submitted to a vote of the people and was adopted by a vote of seventy-four to one. In the disturbances that followed the matter was overlooked, and some tippling shops were opened. In the summer of 1856 meetings were held to arouse public interest, and then the women took the matter in hand. They first tried to buy the stock of liquor and thus close up the business. When this was found impossible, they took the hatchet and poured all the liquor they could find into the streets. After this there was no selling for some time. But as the town grew, wild and restless spirits came in, and several saloons were kept in full blast. At last the women undertook the work again, and in January 1857 forty of them visited every saloon in the town and persuaded their owners all to close them. In some cases they used moral suasion, in other cases they used another kind of argument. But in every case they won the battle and closed the saloon. The women had the sympathy of most of the men. The friends of temperance then met and organized a vigilance committee to keep out the sale of liquor from Lawrence. For a long time after this the town had a rest and was free from saloons. There has never been lacking in Lawrence something of the same spirit which manifested itself in those early days.

     The part taken by the women of Lawrence in the temperance cause was only characteristic of them in all lines. They came to Kansas with a full understanding of what they had to meet, and with a full determination to endure their share of the burden and do their share of the work. In all the excitement of those troubulous years there is no record of a woman who deserted her post. When the men were on duty the women were providing rations. When the men were in the trenches with their guns, the women were making bullets for them at home. As has been narrated, when ammunition failed, two women boldly rode through the besiegers lines and brought in new supply. Often and often were they left in lonely cabins on the prairie, while their husbands were on the match or in the camp. If any should think that they were of the kind who take naturally to scenes like these they are very much mistaken. The women of Lawrence were womanly. They had been tenderly reared in cultured homes, and were as modest and retiring as any that could be found. They simply had strong convictions, and devoted their lives to their maintenance. If the pilgrim mothers deserve equal praise with the pilgrim fathers, the women of Lawrence, and of Kansas, deserve equal praise with the men of Lawrence and of Kansas.

     In 1860 there came what has ever since been known as "the drouth." There have been other dry seasons, but this was preeminently "the drouth." It needs no descriptive adjectives, and no date, to make any old Kansan know what is meant. He never uses any adjective in speaking of it, any more than he would use an adjective in speaking of the flood. Since then dry spells have destroyed this crop and that, sometimes at one end of the season and sometimes at the other. But this drouth of 1860 swept the calender. It commenced in September 1859, and continued until October 1860, a period of thirteen months. I am not able to say what the rainfall of this period was. The annual rainfall reported at Fort Riley for 1860 was seventeen inches, about one-half of the usual amount. But that report includes the rain that fell in the autumn of that year after the drouth was broken. During the whole period there was not a shower that wet the earth more than two inches deep, and very few that did more than lay the dust. There was a little snow in the winter, but it evaporated as it melted. In April the ground was dry as ashes. Seeds sown in the garden did not even come up in many cases, and in some cases came up the next spring, hale and hearty. On the rich bottom lands below Lawrence, and a few other favored spots, there was a little corn grown in fields that were sown early and well cared for. But over the country generally there were thousands of acres from which not an ear was gathered. The prairie grass, which other years often produces two tons of good hay to the acre, was scarcely two inches high, and it was dried to a crisp. On some low spots near the streams, where the grass often grows ten feet high, a little hay could be gathered. Two brothers, farmers just west of Lawrence, went about the country with team and tools, and gathered up bits of grass here and there as they could find it, and had all the hay they needed. But those less enterprising were as destitute of hay as they were of corn. The streams and wells mostly went dry, and farmers were compelled to haul water for miles for their cattle. The Wakarusa river had pools of water along its course in deep and sheltered places, but there was no stream, whatever, running in the channel. The writer of this drove from Wyandotte to Lawrence in July on the south side of the Kansas river. For twenty-five miles he could, not buy or beg a pail of water for his horse. At one farm house after another he was refused. There was no unkindness in it, but the people had not the water to spare for travelers’ horses. During this summer the sun poured down its burning rays day after day, and the hot winds seemed like the breath of a hot furnace.

     As the autumn came the question pressed "what must the people do?" Most of them were new-comers and had no accumulated stores. A great many left the country. It is said that thirty thousand people, one-third of the population, left the territory. As many more would be compelled to leave unless they could have relief. They would thus have to abandon all they had done and all they had gained. It would throw the country back several years. Under the lead of General S. C. Pomeroy and other far-seeing men, appeal was made to the more fortunate sections, and a very liberal response was given. From Illinois and other prosperous states, large quantities of corn and other provisions were sent, which were distributed among the people. Thus thousands were enabled to remain who would otherwise have been compelled to abandon their farms and their homes and lose all they had gathered. It was feared there would be a great loss in stock as there was no hay and no feed. But the short prairie grass, dried in the rainless air, was cured on the ground like hay. Until the snow came in January, 1861, cattle kept in good condition, running at large on the prairie. They were very lean and weak in the spring, but most of the stock came through the winter alive.

     There was less distress about Lawrence than in newer sections. The country was older and the farmers were better fixed. But even here very many farmers would have suffered but for the timely aid rendered them.

     The territorial legislature met for the last time January 7th, 1861. The usual order was followed, and they met in Lecompton and adjourned to Lawrence. They did not do much except wait the tardy action of congress in admitting Kansas into the union. The Wyandotte constitution had been framed and ratified more than a year before. It had been presented to congress the preceding April, and had passed the house April 11th, 1860. In the senate it hung fire for months, being opposed by the administration and the entire force of its party. But a great change had come over the country. Lincoln had been elected president, and the southern states began to secede, one state after another. January 21st, 1861, the senators for Alabama, Mississippi and Florida withdrew from the senate to go with their states which had seceded. William H. Seward at once moved to take up the Kansas bill, and the bill was passed. The house immediately accepted the senate amendments, and the bill went to the president. Mr. Buchanan signed it and Kansas became a state January 29th, 1861. The news was received at Lawrence with unbounded delight. In his speech on the Wyandotte convention at the quarter centennial of the admission of Kansas, Hon. B. F. Simpson describes the scene.

     "I well remember the earlier part of the night of January 29th, 1861. I was at the Eldridge House in Lawrence, a member of the last territorial legislature that was holding its session in that dearly beloved free-state city. There was from three to four inches of snow on the ground * * * and the night was windy and cold. It must have been as late as nine o’clock when D. R. Anthony came into the hotel with a sturdy stride and flashing eyes, and told us that the president of the United States had that day signed the bill admitting Kansas into the union. He brought with him and scattered around extras of a newspaper published at Leavenworth called The Conservative, announcing the joyful tidings in flaming headlines. * * * There was a sound of revelry that night in Lawrence, for the news spread like wildfire through the town. Houses were lighted, doors were thrown open, and the people gathered in public places. Old Sacramento was taken from his resting place and emphasized with hoarse throat the good tidings."

     The rejoicing was universal and sincere. Kansas had good reason to rejoice in the new order. The territorial condition had proved a hard one to her, and admission into the union was her deliverance from oppression. The rejoicings however were moderated by the thought that she came into the union, just as the union seemed to be going to pieces. But she believed in the union, and believed it would be maintained, and was ready to help maintain it whenever her help was called for.

     The territorial authorities now gave way to the state authorities. Very appropriately Charles Robinson, who had led the free-state cause with such consummate wisdom, became the first governor of the new commonwealth. As often happens, the political importance of Lawrence was to decline with the success of the cause for which she had stood so long, and for which she had suffered so much. Up to this time she had been the center of all public interest. She might be called the capital of the free-state party, and now the freestate party was co-extensive with Kansas. After the freestate people secured control of the legislature Lawrence was "de facto" the capital of the territory, though legally Lecompton still held that distinction. The new constitution under which Kansas now was to live, provided that the legislature should hold its first session at Topeka. This legislature passed a bill submitting the question of the permanent capital to a vote of the people. That vote was taken November 5th, 1861. Lawrence and Topeka were the two competitors. In the election, Lawrence received 5,291 votes and Topeka received 7,996 votes. Thus Topeka became the capital of the state.

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