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


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The Territorial organization of Kansas and Nebraska had its inception in the brains of a few Missourians, who believed the times and conditions were favorable for the work. The first move for a Territorial government, made within the limits of Kansas, was at the trading post of Uniontown, before mentioned. At that point was held, in the spring of 1852, what purported to be a mass meeting of the American citizens of the Indian Territory. The meeting and the proceedings are alluded to in a sketch of the early days of Pottawatomie County, by Hon. L. R. Palmer, who was present at the meeting. His version of the affair reads as follows:

About half a dozen persons, residents of the State of Missouri, assembled together in a shed. One of them took from his hat a paper, on which had been written a set of resolutions, brought all the way from the State of Missouri, and asked the assembled multitude to vote on them. One individual said aye. Noes were not called for. Two or three of these persons were sporting gentlemen, and the others were merchants, who had furnished goods for the Indians, and always came at such times to collect. These resolutions recited that there were hundreds of families in that vicinity in the interior of the territory, who were bona fide settlers, whose lives and property were in constant jeopardy, for want of civil protection, and memorialized Congress to organize a Territorial government. They purported to be the unanimous expression of a large number of citizens, assembled together for the purpose of calling the attention of Congress to the perils that threatened them.

Hon. James S. Merritt, in his manuscript history of Pottawatomie County, written in 1879, and now in the manuscript collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, says:

From the most authentic reports I can gather of this meeting, there were present not more than five or six persons, only one of whom took an active part. He was a resident of Missouri (a merchant of Westport), who had come to Uniontown for the ostensible purpose of collecting some debts owning to him by the traders. This gentleman was doubtless carrying out a prearranged programme, concocted in Missouri, among these chivalrous gentlemen, who, at that early day, were casting covetous glances upon the fair prairies and valleys of our eastern border, and were already commencing to lay their plans to add to the Union another slave State.

The petitions passed at this meeting were presented at the first session of the Thirty-second Congress, by Hon. William P. Hall, a Missouri member, who, in the following session, presented the first bill in Congress providing for the organization of the territory, in accordance with the prayers of his Uniontown constituency.

In the fall of 1852 (October 12), an election was held at Wyandotte, at which thirty-five votes were polled for Abelard Guthrie as Territorial Delegate to Congress. So far as the vote of the Wyandot Nation went, Mr. Guthrie's calling and election was sure beyond contest; but, as there was no Territorial bill passed for more than two years thereafter, it proved an empty honor. A manuscript copy of the returns of this election is among the collections of the Kansas Historical Society.

July 28, 1853, a convention was held at Wyandotte,* a Territorial government organized, and Abelard Guthrie nominated for delegate to Congress. He was put forward as a Benton man. His competitor for the nomination - a friend of Atchison, and a stanch pro-slavery man - was Rev. Thomas Johnson. A bolting convention was held at Kickapoo Village September 20, 1853, at which Johnson was placed in nomination as an opposition candidate. He was elected over Guthrie, as was claimed, by Indian votes. He went to Washington, but owning to the delay in passing the Territorial bill, was not received as a delegate.

* Wilder's Annals, p. 31.


All movements in the Territory or elsewhere, made for its organization, were provisional, being subject to the proprietary rights of the various Indian tribes whose reservations covered by defined boundaries, every acre of the eastern third of Kansas, except such small tracts as were reserved by the United States about the military stations and forts. The missionaries and Government employes had also some ill-defined rights and protection, but entirely subject to the provisions of the treaties with the Indians among whom they lived. The right of all white residents to a home, and all guarantees of personal safety or peaceable possession of lands, were derived from them. With the move for the organization of the Territory came a simultaneous effort to extinguish the Indian title to the lands, and to thus open them to white settlers. The treaties with the various tribes were stealthily effected, and attracted little attention outside the Missouri ring through whose management they were brought about. Greeley's Conflict, Vol. I, p. 235, gives the following statement concerning the situation at that time:

When the bill, organizing Kansas and Nebraska, was first submitted to Congress, in 1853, all that portion of Kansas which adjoins the State of Missouri, and, in fact, nearly all the accessible portion of both Territories, was covered by Indian reservations, on which settlement by whites was strictly forbidden. The only exception was in favor of Government agents and religious missionaries; and these, especially the former, were nearly all Democrats and violent partisans of Slavery. Among the missionaries located directly on the border, was the Rev. Thomas Johnson, of the Methodist Church South, who was among the few who had already introduced, and then held slaves in the territory which is now Kansas, in defiance of the Missouri Restriction. He was a violent politician of the Missouri border pattern, and in due time became President of the Council in the first Territorial Legislature of Kansas - elected almost wholly by non-resident and fraudulent votes. Within the three months immediately preceding the passage of the Kansas bill aforesaid, treaties were quietly made at Washington with the Delawares, Otoes, Kickapoos, Kaskaskias, Shawnees, Sacs, Foxes and other tribes, whereby the greater part of the soil of Kansas, lying within one or two hundred miles of the Missouri border, was suddenly opened to white appropriation and settlement.*** These simultaneous purchases of Indian lands by the Government, though little was known of them elsewhere, was thoroughly understood and appreciated by the Missourians of the Western border, who had for some time been organizing "Blue Lodges," "Social Bands," "Sons of the South," and other societies, with intent to take possession of Kansas in behalf of Slavery. They were well assured, and they fully believed, that the object contemplated and desired, in lifting, by the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the interdict of slavery from Kansas, was to authorize and facilitate the legal extension of Slavery into that region. Within a few days after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, hundreds of leading Missourians crossed into the adjacent Territory, selected each his quarter-section, or larger area of land, put some sort of mark on it, and then united with his fellow-adventurers in a meeting or meetings, intended to establish a sort of Missouri pre-emption upon al this region.

** The extinction of the Indian title to the lands, the work of the missionaries, etc., are detailed fully elsewhere.

*** March 15, 1854, Otoe and Missouri Indians cede to the United States all their lands west of the Mississippi, except a small strip on the Big Blue River. May 6, Delawares cede lands, except a reservation defined in the treaty. May 10, the Shawnees cede 6,100,000 acres, except 200,000 acres reserved for homes. May 17, the Iowas cede their lands, except a reservation. May 18, the Kickapoos cede their lands, except 150,000 acres in the western part of the Territory. Lands were also ceded by the Kaskaskias, Peorias, Plankesbaw and Weas March 30, and by the Sacs and Foxes May 18. Nearly all the tribes in the eastern part of the Territory ceded the greater part of their lands prior to the passage of the territorial act. Full accounts of the various treaties appear elsewhere.


The influx of Missourians into Kansas occurred immediately after the passage of the Territorial act; indeed, prior to its final passage, the best of the lands ceded by the tribes had been spotted and marked for pre-emption by residents of Missouri. This occupation was made with undue haste, and against the protest of the Indians whose time of occupancy under the treaties was yet unexpired. This precipitate and irregular pseudo settlement of the Territory was doubtless stimulated by the knowledge that organizations were being formed in New England and other sections of the North, with the object of sending in, as soon as practicable, a large emigration from the Free States. Of these, further accounts will be given. The ubiquitous citizens, having homes in Missouri, and squatters' claims in the adjoining Territory, promptly organized defensively against the possible encroachments of the expected and hated emigrants from the North. As early as June 10, 1854, they held a meeting at Salt Creek Valley, a trading post three miles west from Fort Leavenworth, at which a Squatter's Claim Association was organized, and the following preamble and resolutions adopted:

WHEREAS, We the citizens of Kansas Territory, and other citizens of the adjoining State of Missouri, contemplating a squatter's home on the plains of said Territory, are assembled at Salt Creek Valley for the purpose of taking such steps as will secure safety and fairness in the location and preservation of claims; therefore be it


(1) That we are in favor of a bona fide Squatter Sovereignty, and acknowledge the right of any citizens of the United States to make a claim in Kansas Territory, ultimately with the view of occupying it.

(2) That such claim, when made, shall be held inviolate so long as a bona fide intention of occupying is apparent, and for the purpose of defending and protecting such claim, we agree to act in concert, if necessary, to expel intruders.

(3) That every person of lawful age who may be at the head of a family, who shall mark out his claim of 160 acres, so that it may be apparent how the same lies, and proceed with reasonable diligence to erect thereon a cabin or tent, shall be deemed to have made a proper claim.

(4) That any person marking out his claim shall be deemed to have forfeited it unless he commences his cabin, or pitches his tent within two weeks thereafter, unless the same be on lands which prohibit it by military or Indian reservations.

(5) That all persons now holding claims shall have two weeks from this day, in which to make the improvements contemplated by the foregoing resolutions.

(6) No person shall be protected by the Squatter's Association who shall hold in his own right more than one claim.

(7) That a citizen of the Territory be appointed as register of claims, who shall keep a book in which he shall register the name and description of all squatters, and their claims, and the dates of making the same, for which registration he shall be allowed the sum of fifty cents, to be paid by the claimant.

(8) That we recognize the institution of slavery as always existing in this Territory, and recommend slaveholders to introduce their property as early as possible.

(9) That we will afford protection to no Abolitionists as settlers of Kansas Territory.

(10) That a "Vigilance Committee" of thirteen be appointed by the Chairman to decide upon all disputes in relation to claims, and to protect the rightful party; and for that purpose shall have power to call together the entire "Squatter's Association."

(11) That all persons who wish to becomemembers (sic) of the Squatter's Association shall subscribe to the foregoing preamble and resolutions.

(12) That the Secretary of this meeting be instructed to hand these proceedings to E. S. Wilkinson and S. J. Finch, or either of them, for immediate publication and reference.

Lewis Burnes, President.

J. H. R. Cundiff, Secretary.

A few extracts from the journals of that time are given, indicative of the sentiment prevailing on the Missouri border, and the bitter intensity with which the early squatters prosecuted their plans.

The Democratic Platform, Liberty, Mo., June 8, 1854, says:

We learn from a gentleman lately from the Territory of Kansas that a great many Missourians have already set their meg (sic) in that country, and are making arrangements to "darken the atmosphere" with their negroes. This is right. Let every man that owns a negro go there and settle, and our northern brethren will be compelled to hunt further north for a location.

Under date of June 27, 1854, it says:

We are in favor of making Kansas a "Slave State" if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even sacrifice their lives in accomplishing so desirable an end.

To which the Western Chronicle responds: "Them's our sentiments."

The Liberty Platform says:

Shall we allow such cut-throats and murderers, as the people of Massachusetts are, to settle in the territory adjoining our own State? No! If popular opinion will not keep them back, we should see what virtue there is in the force of arms.

The Platte Argus, Missouri, has the following:

MORMONS. - We are advised that the abolition societies of New England are shipping their tools, at the public expense as Mormons, ostensibly for Salt Lake, but that it is the real design of these worthies to stop in Kansas Territory for the purpose of voting to establish a free State and an underground railroad. We say, let the Mormons go their way in peace to Utah, but if they remain in Kansas to inflict the blighting curse of their principles upon the future policy of the country - let a Mormon war be declared forthwith.

Citizens of the West, of the South and Illinois! Stake out your claims, and woe be to the abolitionist or Mormon who shall intrude upon it, or come within reach of your long and true rifles, or within point blank shot of your revolvers. Keep a sharp lookout, lest some dark night you shall see the flames curling from your houses or the midnight philanthropist hurrying off your faithful servant.

In another issue of the same paper, it gives Eastern emigrants warning as follows:

The abolitionists will probably not be interrupted if they settle north of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, but south of that line, and within Kansas Territory they need not set foot. It is decreed by the people who live adjacent that their institutions are to be established, and candor compels us to advise accordingly.

At a meeting held in Westport, Mo., early in June, the following was adopted:

Resolved, That we will carry with us into the new Territory of Kansas every species of property, including slaves, and that we will hold and enjoy the same. That we desire to do so peacefully, and deprecate any necessity for resorting to violence in support of our just and lawful rights. Yet (in no spirit of bravado and with the strongest wish for peace), apprehensive of interference with our private and domestic concerns by certain organized bands, who are to be precipitated upon us, we notify all such that our purpose is firm to enjoy all our rights, and to meet with the last argument all who shall in any way infringe upon them.

At a meeting held at Independence, Mo., the sentiment of the people was expressed as follows:

Resolved, That we, without distinction of party, desire to act in accordance with what is right and due, not only to interests of the South, but likewise to interests of the North, and though knowing that the North, through certain fanatics, has endeavored to dictate to the South, we yet wish to meet them as brothers and friends, and only ask our rights as compromise, viz:

"That we, the South, be permitted peaceably to possess Kansas, while the North, on same privilege, be permitted to possess Nebraska Territory."

The Industrial Luminary, Parksville, Mo., June 20, thus comments on the above resolutions and those of the Salt Creek Valley meeting heretofore given:

We give to-day, in another column, the resolutions passed at the meeting held in Kansas Territory on last Saturday week. They are more temperate than the Independence and Westport resolves. The claim-makers are right in organizing themselves, but they should avoid everything that savors of sectionalism. We hope fanatico-political combinations will be kept out of the new country, especially such as we read of being formed in some of the Eastern States. American freemen are wanted - not mercenary tools of furious demagogues either from the South or North.

A correspondent of the Baltimore Sun, under date of June 28, 1854, from "Salt Creek" gives a synopsis of the resolutions adopted at the recent Squatter's Convention, and states the situation at that time thus:

According to these resolutions abolitionists or free-soilers would do well not to stop in Kansas Territory, but keep on up the Missouri River until they reach Nebraska Territory, where they can peacefully make claims and establish their abolition and free-soil notions for if they do, they will be respectfully notified that but one day's grace will be allowed for them to take up their bed and baggage and walk.

It is estimated that some two thousand claims have already been made within fifteen miles of the military reserve, and, in another week's time, double that number will be made.

Under the manipulation and management of leading politicians and citizens of Western Missouri, intent on fastening the institution of slavery on the new Territory, "squatter's meetings" of like import as that held at Salt Creek Valley were held at all convenient localities along the border, at which similar claim associations were organized, and by-laws adopted. Before the first arrival of Free State emigrants from the Northern and Eastern States, nearly every gentleman in Western Missouri had a claim staked out, and, by virtue of the claim laws established had become a landed proprietor and "Squatter Sovereign" of Kansas Territory. Their claims covered nearly all the most desirable tracts open to settlement, and, on every hand, confronted the bona fide settlers on their arrival.


During the long and existing debate which preceded the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, it had become the settled opinion at the North that the only remaining means whereby the Territory might yet be rescued from the grasp of the slave power, was in its immediate occupancy and settlement by anti-slavery emigrants from the Free States in sufficient numbers to establish free institutions within its borders. The obstacles to individual success in that direction seemed well nigh insurmountable. The remoteness of the Territory; the avowed and well understood object and intention to make it a Slave Territory, and ultimately a Slave State; the open hostility and dire threats of the Missourians against all whom they termed Abolitionists, combined to render Kansas a most uninviting field for Northern emigration.

As counteracting influences, the Northern press teemed with most glowing accounts of the beauty and fertility of the country, aroused the indignation of the whole people at the enormity of the attempt to give it over to the vile uses of servile labor, and urged on them the duty to emigrate thither at once in such numbers as to give the region back to freedom, and thus thwart the designs of those who had so ruthlessly violated the Nation's plighted faith.

The desire to facilitate the colonization of the Territory took practical shape while the bill was still under debate in Congress, in the organization of numerous Emigrant Aid Societies, and co-operative associations having a more or less extended scope. Some were regularly incorporated with ample capital; others, only private associations of families from a neighborhood, combined in a communistic way for mutual aid and protection in establishing themselves in their new homes. Differing much in name, strength, means and methods, they all had a common end in view viz., to direct and facilitate emigration to Kansas, and to aid in its speedy settlement by a slavery hating population. Whatever other objects might be avowed, whether to establish a community, a sect, or a religion, it was well known to the South as well as the North, that if successful, this cooperative movement would result in making Kansas a Free State. Hence came the sudden and precipitate movement of the Missourians into the Territory, and their intolerant spirit toward the expected emigration as shown in the extracts before quoted.

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