What was the underlying issue, or issues, in settling the Kansas Territory? Why all the concern about settling this territory? In 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million, or about 3 cents an acre. This good buy would set in motion the "Bleeding Kansas" days to eventual statehood for the Kansas Territory.
In 1817, when Missouri sought admission to the Union as a slave state, this threatened the balance of political power between the pro-slavery South and the anti-slavery North. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 resulted in the number of free states and slave states remaining equal, thus ending slavery as a political issue.
However, when territories were added to the United States, the compromise would fail to resolve the slavery controversy, and the balance of power would be disrupted. This concerned not only slavery but also state's rights, which opposed the growing federal power.
"Free-staters" or "free-soilers" who favored free state rights did not necessarily oppose slavery. The state's rights issue became obscured as the slavery question became predominant. The Missouri Compromise, intended to resolve the slavery controversy that had been in existence even before the American Revolution, did not do so. Settling the Kansas Territory was seen as a means to determine the status of the "Slave vs. Free State" question. However, if Kansas became a slave state, the balance would be disrupted; slavery states would outweigh the free states.
Samuel Walker, Thomas and Oliver Barber, and Thomas Pierson from Indiana toured the Kansas Territory for the Ohio Emigrant Aid Society. An Indian guided them into the Kansas Territory along the California Road to where it crossed the Wakarusa River.
The next day, they passed over the future site of Lawrence. On May 10, 1854, they camped on what would soon be called Mount Oread in Lawrence.
On May 30, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed. This gave Kansas residents the responsibility to vote on the question of slavery and the Southern slave states the chance to retain the balance of power. As a result, both South and North used any available resource to send people to the territory to ensure votes. Large sums of money were contributed for recipients to settle in Kansas, vote for Kansas to be a slave state, and be willing to shed blood if necessary.
Pro-slavery Missourians crossed the Missouri River staking claims on land still owned by the Indians. Some wanted the land to live on or to sell later with pre-emption right. They organized defense associations, proclaimed Kansas a slave state, then many returned home.
Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut established emigration societies to assist abolitionist emigrants to move to Kansas. Their goal was to influence election results by bringing anti-slavery social traditions and institutions to the Kansas frontier.
With their money, blocks of land were pre-empted, and settlers assisted in developing farms and villages. Accommodations, mills and newspapers were made ready for the first settlers as well as sawmills, grist mills and a large stone hotel in Lawrence.
On March 12, 1855, an organized party from Ohio and Indiana embarked from Cincinnati including the scouting party of May 1854: Samuel Walker and family; Robert Barber and family; Thomas Barber, his wife, Tillie Maxwell Barber, and her niece, Anna Eliza Cosley; and Thomas Pierson and family.
This also included my great-great-grandfather George Washington Cosley and family from Xenia, Greene County, Ohio, with his eldest daughter, Anna Eliza Cosley, who would later meet and marry Henry Lyman Baldwin.
According to Andreas, they changed boats at St. Louis bound for Westport, and then proceeded to Booneville, Mo., where they were put off the boat to prevent them from arriving in Kansas in time for the election that was to determine if Kansas were to be a free or slave state. They had come to the Kansas territory to stay and were not discouraged by the Missourian attempts to dissuade them. They had brought seeds, implements and fruit trees. Some had even brought prefabricated house parts that would fit together without using scarce nails.
They now purchased oxen and wagons to continue their journey by land. Their efforts were rewarded as they settled in and near Lawrence. (By July 30, 1855, emigrants from the Eastern states would be advised to avoid Missouri by going through Iowa to enter Kansas.)
In early spring of that same year, my great-grandfather Henry Lyman Baldwin and his brother Andrew traveled by horse and wagon to take part in the anti-slavery formation of the Kansas Territory. The Log-Cabin bill enabled each to claim 160 acres of land before it was offered publicly for sale, and later pay $1.25 an acre for it.
They experienced the fraudulent elections and violence by the Border Ruffians. Horses and cattle were stolen or killed, and fields burned. Henry's cabin was robbed several times and once set on fire. He was shot at by a marauding band of bushwhackers, and he and his neighbors were forced from their homes to find refuge elsewhere. The Kansas Territory was appropriately called "Bleeding Kansas,"
However, slavery and the balance of power were not the only issues in the United States at that time.
On Feb. 3, 1855, The Herald of Freedom, a Kansas newspaper in Lawrence, wrote "... thousands in the East were suffering from the effects of hard times. Many will of course find their way to Kansas in the spring, with the certainty of bettering their condition, provided they come to 'labor and to wait' -- come as pioneers, expecting for a year or two to experience the rough of life, as the thousands have and are daily doing who are already here in advance of them ..."
The railroads were also involved and glowingly described Kansas Territory to promote their economic agenda. They desired to build the Kansas Territory, as they were considering expansion to the West. Many emigrants would be unable to endure the hardships that had not been described and would return home.
The differing motives and efforts to settle Kansas continued throughout challenging days until Kansas at last left behind the "Bleeding Kansas" description to became a free state. This we will celebrate on Jan. 29, Kansas Day.
Kansas is aglow with written and spoken stories of the undaunted spirit and hard work of our early settlers' struggle for statehood. I was very fortunate some time ago to unearth the stories and history of my great-grandparents through research, genealogy and other sources.
We need to preserve these memories of our past lest they be lost to upcoming generations. Perhaps you have a family story that brings alive our wonderful history.
Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.