Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kansas Territory - Conflict for Freedom

by Christina

First I'd like to get the prize vault out of the way. Last month I gave away a scarf and the winner is Pam! Pam, will you please contact me at christinainspirationals at gmail dot com.

Thank you!


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.

Born and raised in Kansas, where she currently lives with her husband and children, Christina loves to read stories with happily ever afters, research,  take photos, knit scarves, dig into her ancestry, fish, visit the ocean, write stories with happily ever afters and talk about her family and Jesus.
A semi-finalist in the Genesis, she just recently signed two contracts with Love Inspired Historical for a Biblical romance. You can find her at http://christinarich.wordpress.com/


  1. What a mess! Reminds me of politics today, unfortunately. It's a good reminder that, ever since Adam and Eve, sin has reigned in the hearts of men and will continue to do so until they accept forgiveness for that sin through Jesus Christ.

    1. As I was writing this article I kept thinking about how voter fraud isn't anything new. I am so glad I have Jesus.

  2. We tend to think of our country as founded on moral principles, but more often it was based on who could outsmart--or out-wrestle--the other side. Guthrie used to be the capitol of Oklahoma Territory until some men stole the state seal and took it to Oklahoma City.

    1. Vickie, have you ever read Rifles for Watie? It's a middle grade book filled with adverbs but great history. Harold Keith actually interviewed men and women who lived during the Civil War. It's a fabulous telling of a young boy from Kansas who ends up seeing several different sides of the war. It retells portions of the war in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. It's totally worth the read.