Kansas Territory ~ Sack of Lawrence

I sure do hope y’all aren’t getting tired of my Kansas posts. I know they seem to be going on forever and ever, but there was a lot going on in this territory in 1856, which eventually led up to the War between the States.

Public domain in U.S. published prior to 1923

Public domain in U.S. published prior to 1923

If you remember from my last post, Thomas Barber, an abolitionist, was killed on December 5, 1855. Three short days later winter hit this part of Kansas, and hit it hard. Many of the residents hadn’t quite finished building more permanent lodgings. Many were still living in what was known as hay tents, shanties and poorly built log cabins.

A letter written by Captain Sam Walker during this winter may be taken as illustrating the common condition:

“I failed to complete my log house before the winter of 1855-56 set in. The sides were up, roofed, and partly plastered when the Wakarusa war interrupted work. On my return home, on the conclusion of peace, the cold was so severe that nothing more could be done, and we had to shift the best we could till warmer weather. Our cabin had no floor, but we were as well off in this particular as most of our neighbors. Chinks and fissures abounded in roof and gable, as the green slabs with which they were covered warped badly. Seven of us made up the family, five children mostly small. At times when the winds were bleakest we actually went to bed as the only escape from freezing. More than once we woke in the morning to find six inches of snow in the cabin. To get up and make one’s toilet under such circumstances was not a very comfortable performance. The wolf was never very far from our door during that hard winter of 1855-56.”

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

Although the winter was harsh, and one of the most difficult in Kansas history as of the year 1895, the free-staters were able to live in peace for a short time. However, it was to be short lived. While many settlers shivered in their beds, Missourians and the Southerners were making their plan of attack.

All over Missouri and the south preparations were going on to push the controversy to a successful issue for slavery. The shrewdest men in the land were planning together for the summer campaign. The general idea was to make it so uncomfortable for the free-state men that they would flee the country, and so that others would not come.

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

Before we go onto the sacking of Lawrence, I guess I should tell you that in the fall of 1855 the free-staters held a constitutional convention and adopted the Topeka constitution. It was sent to Congress with the request of being admitted into the union. The House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate rejected it. Now, there is a bunch of stuff that I don’t quite understand that went on during all this time, but from the sound of it the pro-slavery people had a judiciary ally. The Douglas County grand jury met in Lecompton, Kansas where Judge Samuel Lecompte (guess he was pretty powerful had a town named after him) set the line for treason, which specifically pointed fingers at free-staters.

“This territory was organized by an act of congress, and so far its authority is from the United States. It has a legislature elected in pursuance of that organic act. This legislature being an instrument of congress by which it governs the territory, has passed laws. Those laws, therefore, are of. United States authority and making, and all who resist those laws resist the power and authority of the United States, and are therefore guilty of high treason. Now, gentlemen, if you find that any persons have resisted these laws, then you must under your oath, find bills against them for high treason. If you find that no such resistance has been made, but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, and individuals of notoriety have been aiding and abetting in such combinations, then must you find bills for constructive treason.”

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

After a few incidences, all of which seemed to be provoked by ‘Bogus’ Sheriff Jones, 800 men, led by Jones himself, rode into Lawrence, Ks, all bearing arms and cannons. Most of these men were Southerners and very few, if any, intended on staying in Kansas. They were there for one reason only, to strong arm Kansas into the Union as a slave state.

It’s said once they ‘sacked’ Lawrence, which included destroying two abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel (which by the way took over fifty cannon shots and several kegs of powder with little damage) the Southerners hoisted a ‘blood red’ flag with the words ‘Southern Rights’ on it. It flew right beside the ‘stars and stripes’ flag. Homes, churches and schools were taken over. Many free-staters were taken prisoner and charged with high treason.

It wasn’t looking good for the free-staters.

This post was originally posted here at Christian Fiction Historical Society by me.



Kansas Territory ~ Bleeding Kansas

Fort Scott 286This whole Bleeding Kansas topic is a hard one to follow. One minute Kansas was a free-state territory, the next pro-slavery, only to find themselves free-staters again. Problem was most of the pro-slavery population weren’t even Kansans, they were Missourians and South Carolinians and whateverians. They weren’t there for the long haul, they were there to see Kansas admitted into the union as a pro-slavery state and then leave. Now, granted, when Kansas opened up for settlement emigrant aid societies formed in the East helping free-staters to settle. Settle, as in stay, live, work the land.

One such group settled in Lawrence, KS August 1, 1854, only fifteen short days after leaving Massachusetts. Lawrence was named for Amos Lawrence a major financial supporter to the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Other settlements were popping up all over, most were free-staters, some weren’t.

Fort Scott 288On November 21, 1855 Charles Dow, a free-stater was killed over a land dispute with Franklin Coleman, a pro-slavery man. He’s the first reported death during the Bleeding Kansas conflict. Thomas Barber, a manufacturer of woolen cloth, was killed on December 5, 1855 by George W. Clark, an Indian agent and a member of the pro-slavery party. Barber was on his way to help fight in the Wakarusa War. His death caused an uproar and he became a martyr for the free-staters in Lawrence. A poem was even written by John Greenleaf Whittier in his honor in which became a call to arms. Here is a small portion. To read the poem in it’s entirety go here.


Frozen earth to frozen breast,

Lay our slain one down to rest;

Lay him down in hope and faith,

And above the broken sod,

Once again, to Freedom’s God,

Pledge ourselves for life or death,


That the State whose walls we lay,

In our blood and tears, to-day,

Shall be free from bonds of shame,

And our goodly land untrod

By the feet of Slavery, shod

With cursing as with flame!


Plant the Buckeye on his grave,

For the hunter of the slave

In its shadow cannot rest;

And let martyr mound and tree

Be our pledge and guaranty

Of the freedom of the West!

I’d love to tell you that these two deaths were the only ones, but unfortunately they were the first of many more to come. After Dow’s death Jacob Branson, a friend, became outraged over the lack of justice and threatened to kill Franklin Coleman himself. Branson was arrested by Sheriff Samuel Jones. Remember the ‘bogus sheriff’ from my previous post? Yep, that’s him. Anyway, Jones had hoped Branson’s friends would try to rescue him near Lawrence, giving Jones and his buddies prime opportunity to sack the free-state settlement. Branson’s friends were onto Jones and rescued him outside of Lawrence. Stories told say Jones had fifteen men and the free-staters had about the same. Not wanting bloodshed, Jones let them go but as we’ll see next month, he wasn’t happy about it. His actions led to a battle that some call the real start of the Civil War.

This post was written by Christina Rich and originally posted on Christian Fiction Historical Society.

Photos were taken by Christina Rich at Fort Scott

Kansas Territory ~ Conflict for Freedom

If you recall from my previous post, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed the settlers in Kansas and Nebraska to decided through ‘Popular Sovereignty’ whether they would be free or
slave states. But before they could become a state they first had to adopt a state constitution. A task not easy in the best of circumstances, but with the added issue of slavery to the table the whole thing became a whirlwind of chaos, a downright nasty cyclone like nobody had really seen. It also set the stage for what would become known as the War between the States.

Imagine with me if you will for a moment, a great wall, much like the one in China with thousands of people standing with bated breath, waiting for it to crumble. Of course, and remember I’m a born and bred Kansan, the Missourians weren’t waiting, they were snickering as they climbed over the wall and once there they set up their little camp fires, relaxed against their bedrolls. They’d be ready to elect ‘pro-slavery’ officials who would create a favorable state constitution.

The ‘pro-slavery’ faction relaxed even more when Andrew H. Reeder was appointed territorial governor of Kansas in June 1854. An avid supporter of Democratic Senator Stephan Douglas from
Illinois and his popular sovereignty policies, pro-slavery advocates
cheered the appointment. What the pro-slavery party hadn’t counted on
was Reeder’s determination to hold up  the idea of popular sovereignty
and maintain a middle ground.

The concept of Popular Sovereignty was a good idea, but. . . pro-slavery advocates weren’t taking
chances, especially with the influx of Northerners into the territories. You see, it
didn’t take long for ‘anti-slavery’ factions to set up emigrant societies. Soon these societies began to pop up all over New England. Some of these societies helped fund the emigrants move by selling shares at twenty dollars a pop in exchange for their name in the paper. Here
is a link to a letter written by Lyman Beecher to fellow ministers asking for their help. You may recognize him as the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Thomas Webb and Edward Hale  produced
literature on various things such as when to travel, the costs, what to
expect as far as farming and Indians.

Back to our elections: When an election was scheduled for the Kansas Territory
Legislature in March 1855, the good ol’ Bushwhackers and many boys hired from one of the southern states, crossed the territorial line and pretended to be Kansas settlers in hopes to elect
representatives with pro-slavery sympathies.

Reeder wasn’t blind to the voter fraud and refused to certify the votes and called for a new election. It’s believed that nearly 4500 out 7000 votes were from non-Kansas settlers, and that was just in one town. One specific incident included a ‘pro-slavery’ advocate some called ‘bogus’ Sheriff, Samuel J. Jones. Supposedly he entered an election and gave the election officials five minutes to leave or be killed.

A Free State reporter had this to say about Jones, “the immortal bogus Sheriff Jones, a tall, muscular, athletic loafer, with a cruel Mephistophelean expression, clad in the Border Ruffian
costume-blue military overcoat, large boots, skull cap and cigar in mouth.”

He’s not somebody I’ want to mess with.

In the summer of 1855, nearly a year after his appointment, Reeder moved his executive
office in Leavenworth, KS, situated near the Missouri border, to Pawnee, KS, a small town nearly one hundred-twenty miles away. Now, I’m not sure why he chose this town other than one, it was far from Missourian interference, and two, it was close to Fort Riley, which was necessary to keep a capitol safe from the so-called savages settlers feared.

On July 2, 1855, Reeder called to order the First Territorial Legislature (also known as the Bogus Legislature) in Pawnee, KS, the appointed territorial capitol. On July 4, against their governor’s wishes, the legislature voted to reconvene at a new territorial capitol and, on July 16, the capitol was moved back near the Missouri border in a place called Shawnee Mission, KS, where the legislature adopted the slave laws of Missouri.

By the end of July President Pierce dismissed Reeder as territorial governor. Of course it had nothing to do with Reeder’s political policy at fair voting and everything to do with some sort of illegal activities concerning land speculation.

Between the years of 1855 and 1859 Kansas had written and voted on four different constitutions and had five different capitals.

I’d love to tell you that the conflict between the Free-Staters and the pro-slavery factions was contained only within the governing bodies, but as we’ll see next month that was not the case.


What Now?

Now that LATP is out on submission, I don’t dare stop. What I mean by that is I must move on to the next story. My dilemma, which one?

I already have another story in the revision process which is taking me a little longer than I would like, but that is all right. I’m after a standard of excellence. Besides, I thought I could give myself a few days off. Okay, maybe more than a few days.

Anyway, I’ve written in the past how I’d like to have three projects in various writing stages. I’m not sure that is a realistic goal, but I’d like to try and work it with two. Since I’ll be polishing up my Biblical and sending out to my critique partners over the next few months, I thought I would work on something in the pioneer era, especially since I’ve been told by many people to never begin a second story in a possible series until you know if you can sell the first. I’m thinking I should shelve my ideas for book 2 and book 3 in The Heart of an Outlaw series. So, that leaves me with one of several ideas I’ve come up with surrounding a once bustling town about twenty miles northeast of Topeka.

Supposedly, one of the founders happened to be Wild Bill Cody’s father. Cody’s uncle owned a printing press and his aunt ran it. This all several years before the Civil War broke out, during a time known as ‘Bleeding Kansas’.

With immigrants looking for the American dream and with anti-slavery Bostonian and pro-slavery Missourians settlers all moving into grab up land in order to earn the right to vote, the era is filled with all kinds of conflict, which makes for an excellent plot.

I have one in mind that I’m itching to plot out on my index cards. And although I know it’s been done before I plan on using scriptures from Proverbs 31: 8-31with a bit of a twist. BUT, I have a story that I’ve already begun and I’d love to finish it. I just don’t know if the publishing world is ready for it as it is a bit out of the box when it comes to writing inspirationals.

On one hand I want to write something that might be sellable and on the other I want to finish what I’ve started. Above all I want to glorify God with my words and after many prayers I have no leading on which direction I should go. Do I step out and just write or do I wait?

Kansas Pioneer Encounters

One of the best research tools I’ve found for Kansas Pioneers has been Books of the Kansas Collection. Most of them are diaries written by pioneers. Some are stories passed along. All the ones I’ve come across have been very entertaining.
The following excerpts come from one woman’s account. You can tell from her musings she was a woman who knew how to find humor in even the worse of situations. I have a feeling, though, that with constant cannon fire and cholera, rattlesnakes were the least of this author’s fears.
This first selection comes from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior by Sara T. L. Robinson. The author, as you can see, seems to have been a guest of a state prison. For those of you who do not know much about this era in Kansas history, it was during a time known as Bleeding Kansas. A time when pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions warred fiercly. If Mrs. Sara Robinson was a prisoner at Lecompton, Kansas’ first capital, a pro-slavery capital, then she most likely held the values of the anti-slavery camp dear to her heart. Bleeding Kansas deserves many, many blogs of its own.

Its pages were penned during a three months’ residence of the authoress in the United States Camp, at Lecompton, with her husband, one of the state prisoners.

This first was written in the month of June possibly in the year 1856.

7th. — Mr. H. was very ill with an attack of pleurisy. Doctor being absent, I felt anxious, yet did the best I could. A mustard plaster and some simples removed the difficulty of breathing, and he slept quietly. He said he never was as sick before, but I was thinking he imagined himself sicker than he was just before night, and as I was wondering where E. could be, she came in, pale and almost breathless, with just enough left of life to say, “O, that rattlesnake!” I laughed at her at first; but being convinced that seeing a snake of some kind was a reality to her, and not quite liking the idea of their making a home in our neighborhood, we started out with shovel and hatchet for a battle. The spot where she saw him was very easily found, as the pail she had in her hand, while coming up the path from the spring, she set down when she came upon him. She had heard a buzzing noise, like that made by a large grasshopper, for some minutes; but her attention was attracted by a small bird flying backward and forward across the path, and no great height above it, and did not, therefore, perceive the snake until she was within a foot of him. Hastily setting down the pail, as he lay there coiled ready to spring, she took another path to the house. We looked along both paths, above and below, and far out on the hill-side, but found nothing. His fright was undoubtedly equal to hers, not being particularly partial to the cold bath she gave him in getting down her pail so hastily.

10th. — Was awakened by a little tree-toad on my pillow this morning. He must have climbed up the low roof of the ell part, and in at the window. I found a mouse in the tub, and a swallow came into the kitchen flapping his wings wildly, and seeming much frightened, as we were at breakfast. I am wondering if all the “four-footed beasts and creeping things ” have appointed a place of rendezvous upon our premises; and suggest, laughingly, that “the rattlesnakes will come next.” Scarcely had we finished breakfast, before the cry from near the wood-pile was, “Here’s a snake!” It measured about eighteen inches in length, was ugly looking, and had four rattles.

June 12th

Many people were in, in the evening. The wind was blowing, and I heard a rustling near me. I looked, but saw nothing. An hour later, as I relinquished my seat, and went to make arrangements for extra beds, a gentleman very positively said, “I hear a rattlesnake.” Near where I had been sitting, the yellow-spotted reptile had crawled in between the last floor-board and the siding, and already his head had reached the window-casing. We had serious objections to his farther progress towards the chambers, or to his greater length of days. After a moment’s more envenomed rattling, all was still. Like the other, he had four rattles, and was undoubtedly looking for his lost mate. One of the gentlemen, Judge Conway, to whom the front room had been appropriated as a sleeping apartment, the mattresses being removed each morning, felt nervous about such companions for bed-fellows, and, to be prepared against the possible contingency of another similar visit, turned his boot-tops into one another upon retiring.

Although this one does not speak of an encounter, it is interesting as you will see.

18th. — The morning sun never shone more brightly than now. We found everything in the house damp, but had taken no cold. The cholera patient was doing well. The gentleman of the house assured me he slept well, but it was a mystery to me where he found a dry nook. Had a fine ride home in the early morning light, which gives to every object a double value. “Old Gray” nibbled at the “compass plant,” which always points northward in these prairies, occasionally cropping its bright yellow flowers with a satisfied air as he trotted along. The rattlesnake weed was also blooming in profusion. Nature is ever mindful of the needs of her children, and provides an antidote against the bane of rattlesnakes, and a sure guide over the wide prairie in the compass plant. When I reached home, found the doctor gone to attend upon a broken limb. A man, in rafting logs down the river, had met with this misfortune. The doctor has many calls professionally, and, though he assures them all that he is not now a practicing physician, he looks in upon many to advise them.

A note on the compass plant. First, the picture came from Oklahoma Biological Survey. Second, I have found several occasions where pioneers often believed off the wall tales, or remedies. Like how tying a raw chicken to your abdomen would draw rattlesnake venom from the body after having been bittern. So when I saw the little tidbit about the compass plant alway pointing north, I had to investigate further. And they were at least partly right. The flowers do point in a north-south direction. Most of the time.