History of Atchison Co V

History of Atchison County Kansas

by Sheffield Ingalls











Kansas is as rich in historic lore and resources as any other region of
the great West. Georg-e J. Remsburg, who has contributed two chapters
of this history, has, with great care and accuracy, put into readable form an
account of prehistoric times, Indian occupancy and the record of-earlier ex-
plorers in northeastern Kansas. It is a tale of absorbing interest to those who
would go back to the dawn of civilization here and study the force and char-
acter of men who paved the way for the developments that came after. To the
intrepid Spanish conquerors of Mexico of the sixteenth century, and the hardy
F'rench explorers, two years later, we are indebted for the opening up of the
Great American Desert, into which American pioneers, the century following,
found their way. Thousands of years before these came, Atchison county had
been the abode of hunting tribes and the feasting place of wild animals. Then
came the ceaseless flow of the tide of civilization, which swept these earlier
denizens from the field, to clear it for the "momentous conflict between the
two opposing- systems of American civilization, then struggling for mastery
and supremacy over the Republic." It was in Kansas that the war of rebel-
lion began, and it was in the northeastern corner along the shores of the
Missouri river擁n Atchison county"that the spark of conflict which had
irritated a Nation for decades burst into devastating flames."

It is a delicate task to convey anything approaching a truthful account of



38                               HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY


the storm and stress of opinions and emotions which accompanied the organiza-
tion of Kansas as one of the great American commonwealths, and the part
played by the citizens of Atchison county in that tremendous work, but sixty
years have served to mellow the animosities and bitternesses of the past, and
it is easier now to comprehend the strife of that distant day and pass un-
biased judgment upon it.

When the United States acquired from France, in 1803, the territory of
which Atchison county is a part, slavery was a legalized institution, and many
of the residents held slaves. In the treaty of cession, there was incorporated
an expressed stipulation that the inhabitants of Louisiana "should be incor-
porated into the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible,
according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all
the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and
in the meantime they should be maintained and protected in the free enjoy-
ment of their liberty, property and the religion which they professed.7' Thus
it came to pass for over fifty years after the time that vast empire was acquired
from France the bitter contest between the anti-slavery and the pro-slavery advocates ebbed and flowed, and amidst a continual clash of ideas and finally
after the shedding of blood, Kansas, and Atchison county, were born.

It was in the Thirty-second Congress that petitions were presented for
the organization of the Territory of the Platte, viz: all that tract lying west
of Iowa and Missouri and extending west to the Rocky mountains, but no
action on the petitions was taken at that time. December 13, 1852, Willard
P. Hall, a congressman from Missouri, submitted to the House of Representa-
tives a bill organizing this region. This bill was referred to the committee on
territories, which reported February 22, 1853, through its chairman, William
A. Richardson, of Illinois. A bill organizing the territory of Nebraska, which
covered the same territory as the bill of Mr. Hall, was met by unex-
pected and strong opposition from the southern members of Congress, and was
rejected in the committee of the whole. The House, however, did not adopt
the action of the committee, but passed the bill and sent it to the
Senate, where it was defeated March 3, 1853, by six votes. On the fourteenth
day of December, 1853, Senator Dodge, of Iowa, submitted to that body a new
bill for the organization of the territory of Nebraska, embracing the same
region as the bill wdiich was defeated in the first session of the Thirty-second
Congress. It was referred to the committee on territories, of which Stephen
A. Douglas was chairman, on January 4, 1854.

It was during the discussion of this bill that the abrogation of the Missouri


                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                              39

Compromise was foreshadowed. The story of the action of Senator Douglas
in connection with the slavery question has appeared in every history since the
Civil war. It is neither necessary nor proper to dwell at length upon his career
in connection with the history of Atchison county. However, it was follow-
ing a bitter discussion of the slavery question that the bill was passed, creating
Kansas a territory. The provisions of the bill, as presented, were known to
be in accordance with the wishes and designs of all the Southern members to
have been accepted before being presented by President Pierce by a majority
of the members of his cabinet, and to have the assured support of a sufficient
number of Northern administration Democrats, to insure its passage beyond a
doubt. The contest over the measure ended May 27, 1854, by the passage
of the bill, which was approved May 30, 1854, by President Pierce.

The act organizing Nebraska and Kansas contained thirty-seven sections.
The provisions relating to Kansas were embodied in the last eighteen sec-
tions, summarized as follow:

Section 19 defines the boundaries of the territory; gives it the name of
Kansas, and prescribes that w'-hen admitted as a State, or States, the said terri-
tory, or any partion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or
without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admis-
sion. Also provides for holding the rights of all Indian tribes inviolable, until
such time as they shall be extinguished by treaty.

Section 20. The executive power and authority is vested in a governor,
appointed by the President, to hold his office for the term of four years, or
until his successor is appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the
President of the United States.

Section 21. The secretary of State is appointed and subject to removal
by the President of the United States, and to be acting governor with full
powers and functions of the governor in case of the absence of the gov-
ernor from the territory, or a vacancy occurring.

Section 22. Legislative power and authority of territory is vested in
the governor and a legislative body, consisting of two branches, a council and
a house of representatives.

Section 23 prescribes qualifications of voters; giving the right to every
free white male inhabitant, above the age of 21 years, who shall be an actual
resident of the territory, to vote at the first election.

Section 24 limits the scope of territorial legislation, and defines the veto
power of the governor.



40                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

Section 25 prescribes the manner of appointing- and electing officers, not
otherwise provided for.

Section 26 precludes members from holding- any office created or the
emoluments of which are increased during- any session of the legislature of
which they are a member, and prescribes qualifications for members of the
legislative assembly.

Section 27 vests the judicial power in the supreme court, district courts,
probate courts and in justices of the peace.

Section 28 declares the fugitive slave law of 1850 to be in full force in
the territory.

Section 29 provides for the appointment of an attorney and marshal for
the territory.

Section 30 treats with the nomination of the President, chief justice, asso-
ciate justices, attorney and marshal, and their confirmation by the Senate,
and prescribes the duties of these officers and fixes their salaries.

Section 31 locates the temporary seat of government of the territory at
Ft. Leavenworth, and authorizes the use of the Government buildings there
for public purposes.

Section 32 provides for the election of a delegate to Congress, and abro-
gates the Missouri Compromise.

Section 33 prescribes the manner and the amount of appropriations for
the erection of public buildings, and other territorial purposes.

Section 34 reserves for the benefit of schools in the territory and states
and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same, sections number 16 and
36 in each township, as they are surveyed.

Section 35 prescribes the mode of defining the judicial districts of the
territory, and appointing the times and places of holding the various courts.

Section 36 requires officers to give official bonds, in such manner as
the secretary of treasury may prescribe.

Section 37 declares all treaties, laws and other engagements made by
the United States Government with the Indian tribes inhabiting the territory
to remain inviolate, notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of
the act.

It was under the provisions of the above act that those coming to Kansas
to civilize it and to erect their homes were to be guided.

Edward Everett Hale, in his history of Kansas and Nebraska, published
in 1854, says, "Up to the summer of 1854, Kanzas and Nebraska have had
no civilized residents, except the soldiers sent to keep the Indian tribes in



                                      HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                             41

order; the missionaries sent to convert them; the traders who bought furs of
them, and those of the natives who may be considered to have attained some
measure of civilization from their connection with the whites." So it will
be seen that at the time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, Atchison
county was very sparsely settled.

All movements in the territory, or elsewhere, made for its organization,
were provisional, as they were subject to the rights of the various Indian tribes,
whose reservations covered, by w^ell defined boundaries, every acre of north-
eastern Kansas, except such tracts as were reserved by the Government about
Ft. Leavenworth, and other military stations, but with the move for the
organization of the territory came an effort to extinguish the Indian's title
to the lands and thus open them to white settlers. One of the most interesting
books bearing upon the history of Kansas of that time was "Greeley's Con-
flict." He makes the following statement with reference to this subject:

"When the bill organizing Kansas and Nebraska was first submitted to
Congress in 1853, all that portion of Kansas which adjoins the State of Mis-
souri, and, in fact, nearly all the accessible portion of both territories, was cov-
ered by Indian reservations, on which settlement by whites was strictly for-
bidden. The only exception was in favor of Government agents and reli-
gious missionaries; and these, especially the former, were nearly all Democrats
and violent partisans of slavery. * * * * Within 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 the Indian land by the Government, though little was known of them else-
where, were thoroughly understood and appreciated by the Missourians of the
western border, who had for some time been organizing 'Blue Lodges,7 'Social
Bands,' 'Sons of the South,' and other societies, with intent to take posses-
sion of Kansas in behalf of slavery. They were well assured and they full}'
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 author-
ize 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 sec-
tion, or a 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 preemption upon all this region."



42                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

Immediately following the passage of the territorial act the immigration
of Missourians to Kansas began, and, indeed, before its final passage the best
of the lands had been located and marked for preemption by the Missourians.
This was true, apparently, in the case of George M. Million, whom the rec-
ords disclose was the first settler in Atchison county, after Kansas was made
a territory. Mr. Million was of German descent and came to the vicinity
of Rushville in the hills east of Atchison from Coal county, Missouri, prior
to 1841, where he was married to Sarah E. Dixon before she was fifteen
years old. In 1841 Million occupied the present site of East Atchison as a
farm. At that time the bottom land just east of Atchison was covered with
tall rushes and was known as Rush bottom. The town of Rushville was
originally known as Columbus, but the name was subsequently changed to
Rushville because of the character of the country in which it was located.
During the winter Million eked out his livelihood by cutting wood and haul-
ing it to the river bank, selling it in the spring and summer to the steam-
boats that plied up and down the Missouri river. Sometime subsequent to
1841, Million built a flat-boat ferry and operated it for seven or eight years
and did a thriving business during the great gold rush to California. He
accumulated considerable money and later operated a store, trading with the
Indians for furs and buying hemp, which he shipped down the river. In
June, 1854, he "squatted" on the present townsite of Atchison, and built a
log house at the foot of Atchison street, near his ferry landing, and just op-
posite his cabi'n on the Missouri side of the river. Following' Million, in June,
1854, came a colony of emigrants from latan, Mo., and took up claims in
the neighborhood of Oak Mills. They were F. P. Goddard, G. B. Goddard,
James Douglass, Alien Hanson and George A. Wright, but the actual set-
tlers and founders of Atchison county did not enter the territory of Kan-
sas until July, 1854. On the twentieth day of that month Dr. J. H. String-
fellow with Ira Norris, Leonidas Oldham, James B. Martin and Neil Owens
left Platte City, Mo., to decide definitely upon a good location for a town.
With the exception of Dr. Stringfellow they all took claims about four miles
southwest of the present city of Atchison. . Traveling in a southwesterly
direction from Platte City the party reached the river opposite Ft. Leaven-
worth and crossed to the Kansas side. They went north until they reached
the mouth of Walnut creek, "and John Alcorn's lonely cabin upon its banks."
They continued their course up the river until they came to the "south edge
of the rim of the basin which circles around from the south line of the city,
extending west by gradual incline to the divide between White Clay and


                                 HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                          43

Stranger creek, then north and east around to the northern limits of the city."
It was at this point that the Missouri river made the bend from the north-
east, throwing the point where Atchison is now located, twelve miles west of
any locality, north, and twenty miles west of Leavenworth, and thirty-five
miles west of Kansas City. When they descended into the valley, of which
Commercial street is now the lowest point. Dr. Stringfellow and his com-
panions found George M. Million and Samuel Dickson. Mr. Dickson fol-
lowed Million to Kansas from Rushville, and while there is some dispute as.
to who was the second resident in Atchison county after the passage of the
Kansas-Nebraska bill, the best authorities lead to the conclusion that to Sam-
uel Dickson belongs that honor. Mr. Dickson erected a small shanty near
the spring, which bore his name for so many years, on the east side of South
Sixth street, between Park and Spring streets. His house is described as
a structure twelve feet square, having one door and one window and a large
stone chimney running up the outside. As soon as Dr. Stringfellow ar-
rived he at once commenced negotiations with Mr. Million for the purchase
of his claim. Mr. Million, apparently, was a shrewd real estate speculator
and only surrrendered his claim upon the payment of $1,000. Dr. String-
fellow considered this a very fancy figure for the land, but he and his associ-
ates were firm in their decision of founding a city at this point on the Mis-
souri river and they gave Mr. Million his price. The organization of a
town company which followed will be discussed in a subsequent chapter of
this territory.

The first territorial appointment for the purpose of inaugurating a local
government in Kansas was made in June, 1854. Governor Andrew H.
Reeder, of Easton, Pa., was appointed on that date. He took the oath of
office in Washington, D. C, July 7, and arrived in Kansas at Ft. Leaven-
worth October 7, becoming at once the executive head of the Kansas govern-
ment.. Governor Reeder was a stranger to Kansas. With the exception of
Senator Atchison he scarcely knew anybody in Kansas. He was a lawyer by
profession, one of the ablest in the State of Pennsylvania. From early man-
hood he had been an ardent and loyal Democrat and had defended with vigor
and great power the principle of squatter sovereignty and the Kansas-
Nebraska bill. He was not a politician and was an able, honest, clear-think-
ing Democrat. Upon his arrival in Kansas he set himself at once to the
task of inaugurating the government in the territory. According to his own
testimony before the special congressional committee appointed by Congress
to investigate the troubles in Kansas in 1856, he made it his first business to



44                                    HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

obtain information of the geography, settlements, population and general
condition of the territory, with a view to its division into districts; the de-
fining of their boundary; the location of suitable and central places for elec-
tions, and the full names of men in each district for election officers, per-
sons to take the census, justices of the peace, and constables. He accordingly
made a tour of the territory, and although he did not come to Atchison
county his tour included many important and remote settlements in the ter-
ritory. Upon his return he concluded that if the election for a delegate to
Congress should be postponed until an election could be had for the legis-
lature, which, in the one case required no previous census, and in the other
a census was required, the greater part of the session of Congress; which
would terminate on the fourth of March, would expire before a congressional
delegate from the territory could reach Washington. He, therefore, ordered
an election for a delegate to Congress, and postponed the taking of the cen-
sus until after that election. He prepared, without unnecessary delay, a
division of the territory into election districts, fixed a place of election in
each, appointed election officers and ordered that the election should take
place November 29, 1854. Atchison county was in the fifteenth election
district, which comprised th^ following territory: Commencing at the
mouth of Salt creek on the Missouri river; thence up said creek to the mili-
tary road and along the middle of said road to the lower crossing of Stranger
creek; thence up said creek to the line of the. Kickapoo reservation, and
thence along the southern and western line thereof to the line of the four-
teenth district; thence between same, and down Independence creek to the
mouth thereof, and thence down the Missouri river to the place of beginning.
The place of the election was at the house of Pascal Pensoneau, on the Ft.
Leavenworth and Oregon road, near what is now the town site of Potter.
The election which followed was an exciting one. Public meetings were
held in all of the towns and villages, at which resolutions were passed against
the eastern abolitionists, the Platte County Argus sounding the following

"We know we speak the sentiments of some of the most distinguished
statesmen of Missouri when we advise that counter-organizations be made,
both in Kansas and Missouri, to thwart the wreckless course of the abolition-
ists. We must meet them at their very threshhold and scourge them back to
their covers of darkness. They have made the issue, and it is for us to meet
and repel them."

The secret organizations, of which Greeley spoke, known as the "Blue



                                      HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                        45


Lodges," "Social Bands,'7 and "Sons of the South," became very active,
and knowing the condition of affairs along the Missouri border, and hav-
ing learned the needs and wishes of the actual settlers in the territory. Gov-
ernor Reeder decided that their rights should not be jeopardized. Therefore,
in ordering an election of a congressional delegate only, with the idea of a
later proclamation ordering a territorial election of a legislature, he knew
that much trouble would be spared. In his proclamation for the con-
gressional election, provision was made for defining the qualifications of
legal voters, and providing against fraud, both of which provisions were re-
ceived with alarm by the leaders of the slavery Democracy, who, up to that
time had hoped that the administration at Washington had sent them an
ally. It was not long until they discovered that they were mistaken.

The actual settlers of the territory did not evince much interest in the
election. They were all engaged in what appeared to them to be the more
important business of building their homes and otherwise providing neces-
sities before the approach of winter. There were no party organizations
in the territory. The slavery question was not generally understood to be
in -issue. The first candidates to announce themselves were James N. Burnes,
whose name has for sixty years been prominently identified with the social,
political and business history of Atchison county, and J. B. Chapman. These
two candidates subsequently withdrew from the campaign, and the names
finally submitted to the voters were: Gen. John W. Whitfield, Robert P.
Flenneken, Judge John A. Wakefield. Whitfield ignored the slavery issue
during his canvass, but hi's cause was openly espoused by the Missourians.
Flenneken was a friend of Governor Reeder, with Free Soil proclivities.
Wakefield was an out-spoken Free-Soiler. Hon. David R. Atchison, then a
United States senator, and for whom Atchison county was named, was the
head and front of the pro-slavery movement. He had a national reputation
and was a power in the United States Senate, and won for himself the high-
est position in the gift of the Senate, having been chosen president pro-
tempore of that body after the death of Vice-President King. He was loyal
to the southern views regarding slavery and this made him the unquestioned
leader of the party which believed, as Senator Atchison himself believed,
that the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill would inevitably result in a
slave State west of Missouri. It was to Senator Atchison that Dr. J. H.
Stringfellow, himself one of the strong leaders of the pro-slavery forces,
looked for inspiration and direction. In a speech Senator Atchison made in
Weston, Mo., November 6, 1854, which was just prior to the congressional
election in Kansas, he said:



40                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

"My mission here today is, if possible, to awaken the people of this
country to the danger ahead and to suggest the means to avoid it. The peo-
ple of Kansas in their first elections will decide the question whether or not
the slave-holder was to be excluded, and it depends upon a majority of the
votes cast at the polls. Now, if a set of fanatics and demagogues a thousand
miles off could afford to advance their money and exert every nerve to
abolitionize the territory and exclude the slave-holder, when they have not
the least personal interest in the matter, what is your duty? When you re-
side within one day's journey of the territory, and when your peace, your
quiet, and your property depend upon this action you can without any exer-
tion send five hundred of your young men who will vote in favor of your

On November 28, the day preceding the election, the secret society voters
in Missouri began to cross over into Kansas. They came organized to carry
the election and in such overwhelming numbers as to completely over-awe
and out-number the legal voters of the territory at many of the precincts.
They took possession of the polls, elected many of the judges, intimidated
others to resign and refusing to take- the oath qualifying themselves as voters
and prescribe to the regulations of the election, cast their ballots for General
John W. Whitfield and hastily beat their retreat to Missouri. The whole
number of votes cast in that election was 2,233, of which number Whitfield
received 2,258; Wakefield, 248; Flenneken, 305, with twenty-two scattering
votes. The frauds which were at first denied by both the pro-slavery news-
papers and General Whitfield himself, were not long in being discovered.
In the Fifteenth district, of which Atchison county was a part, the total
number of votes cast was 306, of which Wakefield got none; Flenneken, 39,
and Whitfield, 267. The total number of votes given by the census was 308,
and in the majority report of the congressional committee of the following
year 206 illegal votes were shown to have been cast in that district. How-
ever, there was little immediate disturbance following the. election. The set-
tlers continued to busy themselves in completing their homes and were more
interested in securing titles to their lands than in the future destiny of the

In the following January and February Governor Reeder caused an
enumeration of the inhabitants to be taken preparatory to calling an election
for a legislature. H. B. Jolly was named as enumerator for the Fifteenth
district and Mr. Jolly found a total of 873 persons in the district, divided as
follows: Males, 492; females, 381; voters, 308; minors, 448; natives of the


                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                              47

United States, 846; foreign born, sixteen; negroes, fifteen; slaves, fifteen.
The date appointed for the legislative election was March 30, 1855. The
proclamation of the governor defined the election districts; appointed the
voting precincts; named the judges of the election, defined the duties of the
judges, and the qualifications of voters. Thirteen members of the council
and twenty-six members of the house of representatives were to constitute
the legislative assembly of the territory. Atchison was in the Ninth coun-
cil district and in the Thirteenth representative district. Following the prec-
edent established in the election for congressional delegate the November
before the blue lodges of Missouri became active and large numbers of
members of the secret societies of Missouri were sent into every council and
representative district in the territory for the purpose of controlling the elec-
tion. They were armed and came with provisions and tents. They over-
powered and intimidated the resident voters to such an extent that only
1,410 legal votes were cast in the territory out of 2,905 enumerated in the

D. A. N. Grover was the pro-slavery candidate for councilman in the
Ninth Council district with no opposition and he received 411 votes which
was the total number of votes enumerated for that district. H. B. C. Harris
and J. Weddell were the pro-slavery candidates for representative in the
Thirteenth district with no opposition. They each received 412 votes, being
the total number of votes enumerated in the district.

It was another victory for the pro-slavery sympathizers and the Free
State men were indignant, while on the other hand the pro-slavery residents,
with their Missouri allies, did not conceal their joy, at the same time ad-
mitting frankly the outrages which were practiced at the polls. The Leaven-
worth Herald of April 6 headed its election returns with the following:

"All Hail.
Pro-Slavery Party Victorious.
We have met the enemy, and they are ours.
Veni Vidi Vici!
Free White State Party used up.

"The triumph of the pro-slavery party is complete and overwhelming.
Come on. Southern men; bring your slaves and fill up the territory. Kansas
is Saved! Abolitionism is rebuked. Her fortress stormed. Her flag is
dragging in the dust. The tri-colored platform has fallen with a crash. The
rotten timbers of its structure were not sufficient to sustain the small frag-
ments of the party."



48                                 HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

The Parkville Luminary, which was published in Platte county, Missouri,
very mildly protested against the manner of carrying the election and spoke
in friendly terms of the Free Soil settlers. The following week its office
and place was destroyed by a mob and forced its editors to flee the country
for their lives.

The election of November 29, 1854, so incensed the Anti-Slavery ele-
ment that the Free State movement was given a great impetus. A conven-
tion of Free State men at Lawrence June 8, 1855, and the Big Springs con-
vention September 5, 1855, were the result, and from that date many other
public meetings of Free State men followed. The Free State sentiment
fully crystalized itself in the momentous election of October 9, 1855, follow-
ing eight days after the date set by the pro-slavery legislature for an elec-
tion of delegate to Congress to succeed J. W. Whitfield, who had been elected
the year before. The first election in 1855 was held October i but was par-
ticipated in only by pro-slavery men. The abstract of the poll
books showed that 2,738 votes were cast in the territory and
Whitfield received 2,721, of which it is only fair to say that
857 were declared illegal. In the Free State election Ex-Governor An-
drew H. Reeder received 2,849 votes, of which 101 were cast in Atchison
county. On the same day an election for delegates to a constitutional con-
vention to be held at Topeka took place and R. H. Crosby, a' merchant of
Oceana, Atchison county, and Caleb May, a farmer, near the same place,
were elected delegates.

The returns of the pro-slavery election having been made according to
law, the governor granted the certificate of election to Whitfield, who re-
turned to Washington as the duly elected delegate from Kansas. The terri-
torial executive committee, elected at the Big Springs convention, gave a cer-
tificate of election to Reeder. The Topeka constitutional convention subse-
quently convened October 23, 1855, and was in session until November 11.
This body of Free State men framed a constitution, and among other things
memorialized Congress to admit Kansas as a State. It was understood by
all that the validity of the work of th^ convention was contingent upon the
admission of Kansas as a State. Meanwhile the executive committee of Kan-
sas Territory, appointed at the Topeka primary, September 19, 1855, under
the leadership of James H. Lane, continued to direct and inspire the work
for a State government.

As a counter-irritant to the activities of the Free State men, and for the
purpose of allaying, the insane excitement of the territorial legislature, the


                               HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                                 49

pro-slavery followers organized a Law and Order party, which was pledged
to the establishment of slavery in Kansas. From thenceforth it was open
warfare between the two great forces contending for supremacy in the terri-
tory. Atchison was the stronghold of the Law and Order party, as Lawrence
was the stronghold of the Free State party. The Free State party was looked
upon by the Law and Order advocates as made up of revolutionists and the
Law and Order party was determined to bring them to time as soon as pos-
sible, but as the members of the Free State party held themselves apart from
the legal machinery devised for the government of the territory, bringing no
suits in its courts; attending no elections; paying no attention to its county
organizations; offering no estates to its probate judges, and paying no tax
levies made by authority of the legislature, they were careful to commit no
act which would lay themselves liable to the laws which they abhorred. They
settled all .their disputes by arbitration in order to avoid litigation, but as they
could build, manufacture, buy and sell and establish schools and churches
without coming under the domination of the pro-slavery forces, they man-
aged to do tolerably well. Where the inhabitants were mostly Free State,
as in Lawrence and Topeka, conditions were reasonably satisfactory, but in
localities like Atchison and Leavenworth, where the Law and Order party
dominated affairs, the Free State inhabitants were forced to suffer many
indignities and insults.

During the month of August, 1855, a negro woman belonging to Graf-
ton Thomassen, who ran a sawmill in Atchison, was found drowned in the
Missouri river. J. Wl B. Kelley, a rabid anti-slavery lawyer, from Cincinnati,
who became a resident of Atchison, expressed the opinion that if Thomas-
sen's negro woman had been treated better by her master she would not have
committed suicide by jumping into the river. Thomassen was greatly angered
at this personal illusion and deluded himself into believing that if he satis-
fied his own vengeance he would at the same time be rendering the pro-
slavery party a service. He therefore picked a quarrel with Kelley and they
came to blows, after which Thomassen's conduct was sustained by a large
meeting of Atchison people. While it is said that Thomassen was a larger
and more powerful man than Kelley, the people did not consider this fact,
but rather considered the principle involved, and as a result they commended
the act in the following resolution:

"l. Resolved, That one J. W. B. Kelley, hailing from Cincinnati, hav-
ing upon sundry occasions denounced our institutions and declared all pro-
slavery men ruffians, we deem it an act of kindness and hereby command him



50                                     HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

to leave the town of Atchison one hour after being informed of the passage
of this resolution never more to show himself in this vicinity.

2. Resolved, That in case he fails to obey this reasonable command,
we inflict upon him such punishment as the nature of the case may require.

3. Resolved, That other emissaries of this ^Aid Society7 now in our
midst, tampering with our slaves, are warned to leave, else they too will meet
the reward which their nefarious designs so justly merit.幽emp.

4. Resolved, That we approve and applaud our fellow-townsman, Graf-
ton Thomassen, for the castigation administered to said J. W. B. Kelley,
whose presence among us is a libel upon our good standing and a disgrace
to our community.

5. Resolved, That we commend the good work of purging our town
of all resident abolitionists, and after cleaning our town of such nuisances
shall do the same for the settlers on Walnut and Independence creeks whose
propensities for cattle stealing are well known to many.

6. Resolved, That the chairman appoint a committee of three to wait
upon said Kelley and acquaint him with the actions of this meeting.

7. Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published, that
the world may know our determination."

After the passage of these resolutions they were circulated throughout
Atchison and all citizens were asked to sign the same and if any person re-
fused he was deemed and treated as an abolitionist. A few days after this
incident Rev. Pardee Butler7 a minister of the Christian church, who was
living at that time near the now abandoned townsite of Pardee, west of Atch-
i'son, about twelve miles, came to town to do some trading. Butler was an
uncompromising anti-slavery advocate and never overlooked an opportunity
to make his sentiments known. He had strong convictions backed by cour-
age, and while he did not seek controversies, he never showed a desire to
avoid them. He was well known in the community as a Free State man,
and so when he came into Atchison after these resolutions were passed and
the town was .all excited about them it did not take him long to get into the
controversy and he condemned in strong terms the outrage upon Kelley and
also the resolutions which were passed. In the course of a conversation
which he had at the postoffice with Robert S. Kelley, the postmaster and
assistant editor of the Squatter Sovereign, he informed Mr. Kelley that he
long since would have become a subscriber to his paper had he not disliked
the violent sentiments which appeared in its columns. Mr. Kelley replied:
"I look upon all Free Soilers as rogues and they ought to be treated as



                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                         51

such." Mr. Butler responded: "I am a Free Soiler and expect to vote for
Kansas as a Free State." "I do not expect you will be allowed to vote," was
Mr. Kelley's reply. On the following- morning Mr. Kelley called at the
National hotel, corner of Second and Atchison streets, where Mr. Butler had
spent the night, accompanied by a number of friends and demanded Butler
to sign the resolutions, which of course Mr. Butler refused to do, and walked
down stairs into the street. A crowd gathered and seized Mr. Butler, drag-
ging him towards the river, shouting that they intended to drown him. The
mob increased in size as they proceeded with the victim. A vote was taken as
to the: kind of punishment which ought to be given him and a verdict of death
by hanging-was-rendered. It was not discovered until forty years afterwards
that Mr. Kelley, the teller, saved Mr. Butlers life by making false returns to
the excited mob. Mr. Kelley subsequently was a resident of Montana and
gave this information while stopping in St. Joseph with Dr. J. H. String-
fellow, the former editor of the Squatter Sovereign. Instead of returning a
verdict of death by hanging Mr. Kelley announced that it was the decision
of the mob to send Mr. Butler down the Missouri river on a raft, and an
account of what followed is best given by Rev. Pardee Butler himself:

"When we arrived at the bank Mr. Kelley painted my face with black
paint, marked, upon it the letter "R." The company had increased to some
thirty or forty persons. Without any trial, witness, judge, counsel or jury,
for about two hours I was a sort of target at which were hurled impreca-
tions, curses, arguments, entreaties, accusations and interrogations. They
constructed a raft of three cottonwood sawlogs, fastened together with inch
plank nailed to the logs, upon which they put me and sent me down the Mis-
souri river. The raft was towed out to the middle of the stream with a
canoe. Robert S. Kelley held the rope that towed the raft. They gave me
neither rudder, oar nor anything else to manage my raft with. They put
up a flag on the raft with the following inscription on it:

"Eastern Emigrant Aid Express.
The Rev. Pardee Butler again for the underground road;
The way they are served in Kansas; Shipped for Boston; Cargo in-
                 sured. Unavoidable danger of the Missourians and Missouri river
Let future emissaries from the north Beware.
Our Hemp crop is sufficient to reward all such scoundrels.'

"They threatened to shoot me if I pulled the flag down. I pulled it
down, cut the flag off the flag staff, made a paddle out of the flag staff
and ultimately got ashore about six miles below."



back to Contents                                                                       Go to Chapter VI

                                                                                           ORGANIZATION OF COUNTY

                                                                                                AND CITY OF ATCHISON.