Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sesquicentennial briefs

September 19, 2004


First charter in 1858 establishes city limits

The city of Lawrence received its first legislative charter Feb. 11, 1858, two years before Kansas became a state and a year before the Kansas Legislature granted a charter to the city of Denver (now in Colorado).

The eastern boundary of the original town site was Maryland Street; the southern boundary was Adams (14th) Street, from Maryland to Illinois, and Warren (Eighth Street) from Illinois westward 4,461 feet. The western boundary was from Warren Street northward 5,500 feet, and the northern boundary turned eastward until it met the Kansas River and continued southeasterly to the place of beginning.

Help from the enemy

Shortly after the "rescue" of Jacob Branson from Sheriff Samuel Jones and while the settlers in Lawrence feared an attack by the sheriff and 3,000 troopers, word came that a 12-pound howitzer had arrived at Kansas City for Lawrence.

Capt. Thomas Bickerton and two youths named Buffam went for it. The commission merchant was not disposed to release the boxes until he knew what was in them, but one of the Buffam boys broke into a box with an ax, disclosing some wheels. He said he believed it was a carriage, satisfying the merchant.

The Lawrence party took the Leavenworth Road across the Delaware reserve, but it found the road up the bluff to Wyandotte too steep for its heavily loaded wagons.

Some Missourians were asked to help, and they, believing the wagon was on the way to Leavenworth, put their shoulders to the wheels.

After passing the Delaware reserve, the Yankees turned westward and made fast time to Lawrence.

Land disputes significant to early settlements

Early settlers found in many places stakes bearing the name of some person later found to be living elsewhere, but ready to defend his "claim" by gun or Bowie knife.

The Baldwin case shows the situation: Baldwin erected a tent on land claimed by the New England Emigrant Aid Company by purchase from one Stearns. New Englanders erected a tent nearby.

A woman, believed to be a sister of Baldwin, packed up the New England tent; the town marshal tried to recover it. Baldwin and friends then sent a formal note to Charles Robinson and friends to move within a half hour.

"If you molest our property, you do it at your peril," replied Robinson, also in a formal note. About 18 or 20 of Baldwin's friends faced about 30 New Englanders. Neither would start hostilities.

John Hutchinson asked Robinson if they should shoot over the heads of the others or at them if they tried to remove the tent. "I'd be ashamed to shoot at a man and miss him," said Robinson. A man was soon noted leaving the party and joining Baldwin's men, who soon dispersed.

Women aid defense

While Lawrence was awaiting a visit from Sheriff Jones and his large posse, ammunition for the Sharps rifles ran low.

There was a supply at the home of a free-state man on the Santa Fe Road, but how to get it was the problem, as there were parties of pro-slavery pickets at many points about Lawrence.

Finally, Mrs. S.N. Wood and Mrs. G.W. Brown volunteered to go. They stowed powder and caps in their clothing, and although they were stopped by the pickets, the "ruffians" were too gallant to molest women and allowed them to pass. Lawrence was in a state of "siege" the first week in December, but there were no open clashes.

How the settlers lived the first year in Lawrence

Tents were soon supplanted by "hay tents," built by erecting two rows of saplings then bringing the poles together at the top and thatching the sides with prairie hay. The gables were of sod walls. The "Pioneer Boarding House" was of this sort, 20 feet by 50 feet.

The first cabin was of logs, but "the logs were small and the openings between were large."

The first frame house -- the only one built the first season -- was for the Rev. S.Y. Lum, and it had no sawed timber. "Shakes" or split boards, much like shingles, covered it.

Smoking out the foe

Free-state men attacked the town of Franklin four miles east of Lawrence. A wagon-load of burning hay was pushed against the blockhouse where the pro-slavery men were, causing them to surrender. No fatalities reported.

'Sound of the Goose'

"It will be difficult to find one more sound on the 'goose' than I am," appears in an advertisement of a Missouri River ferryman who was answering charges that he had refused to transport persons desiring to enter Kansas to participate in the fall election of 1854.

Wilder's Annals quotes the advertisement without comment, but it elsewhere explains a quotation from the Leavenworth Herald. The paper ends a story, "Kansas has proved herself to be S.G.Q." The letters, Wilder says, mean, "Sound of the Goose Question -- pro-slavery."

Beecher's Bibles

The New York Evening Post quoted Henry Ward Beecher as saying: "He believed the Sharps rifle was a truly moral agency, and there was more moral power in one of these instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles."

"You might just as well," he said, "read the Bible to buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow."

The rifles took the name of "Beecher's Bibles," and many of them were sent to Kansas, sometimes in boxes labeled "books," so they would pass the embargoes set at ferries across the Missouri.

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