Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Legend of Pawnee Rock


Pawnee Rock is located in Barton County, Kansas and reportedly received its name (according to Stories of the Old Santa Fe Trail by Henry Inman, 1881) when a troup of hunters bound for the west in 1833, which included a young Kit Carson, camped at the landmark and engaged the Pawnee near that location. As travel increased along the route to Santa Fe, this story began circulating in newspapers across the country.

*Disclaimer* The legend presented here is transcribed in its entirety without edits to remove the prejudices of the day. The views included do not reflect our own.


The Legend of Pawnee Rock

The Times-Picayune, November 15, 1840, New Orleans, LA.


A portion of Pawnee Rock, photo taken in 2017

“The rock is cleft as if by the lightning, and one portion of it stands inaccessible except by a dangerous jump by the other part. Thus discovered, this solitary heap of stone bears some resemblance to the huge head of a buried monster, with its jaws open, gasping for air and liberty.

From the legend as told, and even to this day believed by the Pawnees, it is evident there had been in practice among the Great Medicines a system of imposition very similar to the exploded religious charlatanry of ancient times in other countries. This petrified Gorgon was represented by the priests as the bad spirit who caused earth-tremblings, storms and inundations of the land. He was at certain times of the year to be conciliated with presents, and in hunting seasons especially plentiful stores of the finest buffalo meat were always placed in the jaws of Pawnee Rock before the hunters dare venture upon regaling themselves. When war was to be made, or sickness spread among the tribes, or any calamity or danger threatened the people, the first thing thought of was a pilgrimage to the rock, where prayers and presents were duly offered up, and the pleasure of Manito was made known with mysterious solemnity by the priests. Malefactors were sometimes dropped into the bad monster’s jaws, tied hand and foot and left through the night to his fate. Then the next day the whole tribe would return and find the clean picked bones of the criminal scattered about the rock. Of course he had been eaten by the earth fiend, and none but the cunning priests themselves ever suspected the wolves of the unhappy man’s death.

They also tell how this monster of stone was once free and used to travel about the land drinking the rivers dry, tearing up the trees, upon which he existed, and tumbling in the night great stones down the mountain side. It was him, they say, who caused the prairies, by eating away the trees and even tearing up their roots so they never sprouted again. At length Manito enchained him here in the earth lest he should destroy the red men, and now he is quite harmless, save that now and then he groans and spits forth storms and shakes the earth with struggles to be free.

A terrible punishment, it is said, is sure to fall upon any who are rash enough to interfere with the fate of a condemned criminal, and one little story is told, of deep and pathetic interest – doubtless, too, the relation of an actual occurrence – which we shall here set down, if possible in the same simple manner in which we heard it.

A white boy, the son of a Canadian trapper who was drowned in one of the forks of the Platte, had fallen among a tribe of Pawnees, and lived with them until manhood found him one of the bravest and most expert of the young warriors of the nation. He loved the daughter of the chief in whose wigwam he had been nurtured, and the devoted Indian girl gave up her whole heart and being to the young American. Though Indian in all his habits and tastes, he yet possessed instinctively the superior intelligence of his own nation, and though yielding obedience to the superstitious observances of the tribe, his lip curled in derision whenever called upon to practice them. The priests read these thoughts in the young Canadian’s mind, and his destruction was soon resolved upon. Being in high favor with the whole tribe, they could not proceed directly against him, but through the girl he loved, the old chief’s daughter, they determined to inflict their first stroke of revenge.

An alarming visitation of the small pox soon afforded the vengeful Great Medicines an opportunity to carry out their designs. They addressed the Great Spirit with mystic rites and incantations, and then pronounce to the tribe the will of Manito that the old chief’s daughter should be sacrificed to the stone fiend of the prairie. Disputing one of these decrees was a thing never dreamed among the Pawnees, and the young Canadian knew that to offer even the slightest opposition would be to turn the whole nation against him, even to the very father of his betrothed, and inevitably stamp his own destruction. The priests expected him to oppose the decree, which was the end they aimed at, as then they would have pronounced the same doom upon himself, and nothing could have saved him or the poor Indian girl. So only despair or the alternative of some desperate strategies was left for the young white lover.

The day of doom arrived, and a mourning train of warriors and women left the village and set forward to the distant rock. The song of sacrifice was chanted at nightfall, and the young betrothed of the white man was consigned to the rocky jaws of her lonely desert bridegroom, while the poor Indians turned back to their homes again, believing the angry spirit was appeased and they would now be released from the terrible disease under which they were groaning.

That night the young white man disappeared from the village and was never heard of more. The Indian legend ends here, and nothing further is told of the forest girl and her lover. But as the traders elaborate the story, it would seem that the lover sought Pawnee Rock in the night, released his betrothed, and, not daring to be seen again among the Pawnees, they wandered about the wilderness, seeking to reach the white settlements of Missouri. Not many years since a rude cross was discovered upon the bank of a small creek which the Santa Fe traders cross in their progress, and upon digging beneath it, the bones of a female were found, together with beads and ornaments such are usually worn by a Pawnee girl. This incident has been attached as a sequel to the Legend of the Rock, and the place is now pointed out as the poor girl’s lonely grave. But the most ingenious story teller among the old travelers has never yet attempted to finish the narrative with the fate of the young white warrior.”


Monday, May 25, 2020

The Stone Cutters (Part 2): John DeLeeuwe, artist

Despite the financial ruin that the 1890s brought for George Evans, the flourish with which he handled his finances also brought about his desire to spend monies on embellishment in his architectural creations. Evans first partnered with French born stone carver John DeLeeuwe while constructing the Fort Worth post office in 1893. DeLeeuwe had had a varied artistic background. While he learned his stone carving trade at his father’s art school in Brussels, Belgium, he also performed as an opera singer prior to his arrival in America. DeLeeuwe’s first work for Evans at the post office at Fort Worth was primarily limited to gingerbread features. He became one of Evans’ “go to” men for services, and during their working relationship DeLeeuwe created a lifelike bust of Evans which Evans displayed in his office. DeLeeuwe’s next project with Evans gave him an opportunity to further showcase his clever and artistic talents on the Shawnee County (KS) courthouse in 1896. 

Shawnee County Courthouse

DeLeeuwe was an advocate for making public buildings not only functional, but beautiful: “There is no reason in the world why we don’t have more decorations on the public buildings.” In preparation for the courthouse work, DeLeeuwe built plaster of paris models in a small artist shed outside of his residence. DeLeeuwe was assisted by craftsman George Ward and their creations for the courthouse included dragons, lions, and floral designs. The main courthouse building was constructed of stone from Colorado quarries, but the trim was done in Bedford, Indiana stone. 

One of DeLeeuwe's dragons from the courthouse

With the collapse of Evans’ empire, DeLeeuwe moved west. In the late 1890s, he was chosen as one of the artists for the new Thomas Melton Stanford library construction at Stanford University. DeLeeuwe’s part was to create a sandstone likeness of Benjamin Franklin for display on the front of the building. Sadly, the library was considerably damaged in the 1906 California earthquake and replaced with the current building. DeLeeuwe’s last documented employment was at a monument company in San Luis Obispo, but he had started to drink heavily and deplete his personal funds. He left town abruptly after forging checks under his employer’s name. 

San Francisco Chronicle July 1899

Evans’ Shawnee County Courthouse was razed in 1965, but examples of DeLeeuwe’s work can still be seen in a pocket park called the Chandler Library Pavillion adjacent to the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library. The park was created in 2004 by local architect Raymond Sherwood “Bud” Smith II. 

Gateway of the Chandler Pavilion featuring DeLeeuwe's work


San Francisco Chronicle
1899    “Statue of Benjamin Franklin For the Stanford Library.” San Francisco Chronicle (newspaper), San Francisco, CA. July 14, 1899. Page 3.

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram
1909    “Sculptor’s Clever Work. Mr. DeLeeuw is Completing a Massive Figure of Art for Mr. Troy’s Office.” San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram (newspaper), San Luis Obispo, CA. February 24, 1909.

Topeka Mail
1894    “The New Court House.” Topeka Mail (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 18, 1894. Page 3.

Topeka State Journal
1894a  “De Leeuw Will Do It.”  Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. June 23, 1894. Page 8.  
1894b  “Snap Shots at Home News.” Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. July 18, 1894. Page 5.  
1894c  Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. July 23, 1894. Page 5.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Stone Cutters (Part 1): George H. Evans

The work on the Kansas Statehouse influenced some of the men hired on as laborers to pursue, at least temporarily, a career in stonework, leading to a profitable career in either the stone industry or as a jumping off point for other successes. Within the past couple of years, three of these individuals have wandered into the cultural resource investigations performed by our company. I am going to do my best to narrate the stories of these amazing men, and hopefully someone can latch on to them and give them more attention <3 . ~wmb

Photo from Illustrated Weekly 1895

Work on the Kansas Statehouse began in the fall of 1866, a contract originally granted to John G. Otis. One of the laborers on the east wing whose work at the capital would lead him to another capital project is George H. Evans. Evans was born in 1849 in Indiana, where he would serve at a young age in the Civil War. He joined the Kansas Statehouse crew first as a teamster and later as a common laborer. His experience on the east wing of the capital compelled him to learn the stone mason’s trade, where he would continue for 5 years as an apprentice and then journeyman before he struck out on his own.

His first individual projects began with limited funds and included owning tenement properties in the capital city of Topeka. Evans filled a niche with his stonework by replacing local bridges that were falling apart, constructing at least 21 bridges in Topeka and the surrounding area by 1884. Evans’ first major solo project was the $30,000 contract on the Old Soldier’s Home in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1885. In the 1890s, more big projects rolled in after he partnered with Joe Cox of Lawrence. The team would use Evans’ ties gained from his work in the capital city to win government funded projects. Evans and Cox would secure the contracts for the addition at the Osawatomie Insane Asylum; buildings at the Indian schools at both Haskell in Lawrence and Osage Mission and others listed at the end of this article.

Because of his previous relationships with others in the stone business, Evans had the inside track on both supplies and equipment that gave him the upper hand in the bidding process. His most important work came with what was ultimately a $1 million contract for the central portion of the Kansas Statehouse in the late 1880s. Evans and Cox were preferred for this project, not just because of the influence of Evans’ political connections, but in part by Evans’ electric derrick which Evans thought gave them a $25,000 advantage. The derrick was an amazing time and laborsaving device that would lift the large stones quickly and easily and place them accurately. The statehouse construction brought the firm significant profits and propelled them further to financial success.

Multiple high cost projects in the 1890s brought the firm increased recognition, however, bad business decisions, loose financial spending and a deterioration of the partnership in this time led to Evans’ downfall. The contracts for the buildings at the new Fort Bliss outside of El Paso, Texas and the Shawnee County, Kansas courthouse were significantly underbid, causing a financial burden on the partnership. Evans became convinced that Joe Cox came under the influence of another Kansas contractor, John Jack, which led to a $50,000 mistake on the Fort Bliss project, even though Evans himself was splashing around money on things like a $2000 banquet for the fort officers. The situation had shifted so significantly that Evans, who had originally prided himself on his fairness to his workers, appreciation for organized labor, and paying of union wages, had in the end had lost the respect of his foremen and ended up paying the price. Financial trouble escalated to the point that the Shawnee County Courthouse had to be completed by another contractor and Evans began losing his tenement properties for his inability to pay the mortgages. 

Shawnee County Courthouse

At the end, Evans was left utterly destitute. The respect he had gained among his peers in the capital city prompted those in the legislature to vote in 1903 to give Evans funds to pay off his depts, keeping him from total financial ruin. With the leftover money from the legislative gift, he bought a modest home in the Oakland neighborhood of Topeka. Still struggling financially, he moved in with his daughter and benefitted by a $.50 per day allowance offered him by the Rev. Charles M. Sheldon (author of the popular novel, In His Steps). Evans died in 1905, a shadow of the architectural giant he had been. He is buried in historic Topeka Cemetery. 

Cooper Memorial College Building, Sterling, KS
Water Works Pump House, Kansas Arts & Industries 1891
Atchison post office during construction. 1893

Evans construction projects (year in parentheses indicates date contract granted or by year mentioned):

4 dwellings and one tenement house in Topeka (1882)

Moon bridge over Mission Creek (T12, R14, Sec.9-razed) (1884)

21 bridges in Shawnee County area (1885)

Cooper Memorial College, Sterling (1887)

Topeka 6th Street Viaduct (1888)

State Industrial/Reformatory School, Hutchinson (1889)

Kansas Statehouse (1890s)

Topeka Water Works Pump House (1891)

Osawatomie Insane Asylum Addition Building (1891)

Indian School Buildings at Osage Mission and Lawrence (1891)

Atchison Post Office (1892/3)

Approaches to El Paso “public building” (1892)

Paving Harrison St., Topeka (1893)

Fort Worth Post Office (1893)

Episcopal Cathedral, Dallas (1893)

Fort Bliss (barracks, officers’ quarters, fort) El Paso (1893)

Shawnee County Courthouse (1894)


 Atchison Daily Globe
1905       Atchison Daily Globe (newspaper), Atchison, KS. August 10, 1905. Page 2.

Daily Commonwealth
1884      “The Improvements at Tenth Avenue Bridge – How the Work Has Been Done – A Better Class of Bridges in Shawnee County.” Daily Commonwealth (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 27, 1884. Page 4.

1885     “Good for Topeka.” Daily Commonwealth (newspaper), Topeka, KS. April 29, 1885.       Page 5.

Illustrated Weekly
1895     “A Self Made Man,” Illustrated Weekly (newspaper), Topeka, KS. June 15, 1895. Page 3.

Kansas Arts and Industries
1891     “The Topeka Water Company,” Kansas Arts and Industries (newspaper), Topeka, KS. November 1, 1891. Page 6.

Lawrence Daily Journal
1895     Lawrence Daily Journal (newspaper), Lawrence, KS. February 2, 1895. Page 4.

Topeka Mail
1894    “The New Court House.” Topeka Mail (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 18, 1894. Page 3.

Topeka State Journal
1905    “George Evans Dead,” Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. August 9, 1905.     Page 6.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Pondering the Holidays

Pension records are precious documents that offer up information that might not normally be obtained from the usual sources. Among all the facts offered, is also the opportunity to hear the "voice" of those giving statements in regards to the veteran in question. This became strikingly obvious when I was recently reading through the pension application for former veteran Frank Austin by his widow Lizzie. Frank had served in Company F of the 83rd United States Colored Troops (2nd Kansas Colored), and passed away in 1902. In her statements as a claimant for Frank's pension, Lizzie gave more than just the facts for the pension examiner, she gives us a glimpse into her personality. In relaying her connection personal history to the examiner, she relates time to the "Holidays".

While this is important in ascertaining that important dates for a family tree, the repetition of the statement also shows the importance of the season to Lizzie.

When looking at your pensions, don't forget to read between the lines, your people might be saying more than you think they are! 

We wish you your own historic holiday season! ;) 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Taking a Look at a Page

Recently I was conducting some research for a book I’m writing and was delving into the realm of the legislative panels at the Kansas Historical Society in order to find portraits of some key individuals for that project. Early panels are rather simple, became more complex through the years as the state grew and more features started appearing within them – pictures of anyone associated with legislative activities (doorkeepers, sergeant at arms, clerks, etc…). One feature that caught my eye was pictures of children like this one of the 1875 House of Representatives: 

Original photo on file at the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, KS

Who are they? Was the answer as simple as the youth being legislative pages? If so, the African American boy may be easy to identify because he would be a rarity for this time societal views on people of color. I love tackling bunny trails like this because they present a challenge – it’s like a personal check on my research skills. Actually, I may need a twelve-step program for it, but we’ll go with the former because using it to continue my education sounds better right? ;) The short answer to my question is – yes! They are pages.

Becoming a page at this time was highly competitive, applicants would at times number more than a couple of dozen, with just a handful being selected for the honor. “There is a young army of little boys and girls seeking positions of page in both houses of the legislature, and some of them display remarkably fine judgment in electioneering and presenting their respective claims for the positions they are seeking.” (Holton Express 1875:2).

Narrowing down the number of applicants for the final selection of Senate pages in 1875 was so intense that the Senate took a 25-minute recess and then went directly into caucus to decide upon two page positions (Daily Commonwealth 1875:1). For the House of Representatives in 1875 (above picture), selection was finally made for Josie Bell, Charles Jones, Emma Duncan, Minnie A. Scrafford, Jennie Maxwell, and Thomas Taylor (Wyandotte Gazette 1875:2).  

The page’s residence like today was not limited to just the surrounding area, which begs the question of how the duties were worked around their school terms. Jennie Maxwell, however, of the House pages was from Topeka. A bright and responsible student, this was Jennie’s second time as a legislative page; she first served in 1871 at the age of 12. At the end of the 1875 session, she was named specifically by the legislature for her and “the other pages for the unvarying courtesy, thoughtful attention and marked promptitude and ability with which each and all have discharged their several duties” (Atchison Weekly Patriot 1875:2). Duties for the pages were much like they are today, carrying messages, bringing water to the representatives, etc… (Winfield Courier 1876:2).

Despite her age at the time of her first term of service in 1871, Jennie was accepted into a group of women who met at the Tefft House (owned by Charles Jennison of Kansas Civil War notoriety) that were active in various positions in the legislature, such as clerks (Kansas State Record 1871:4). The suffrage movement had started gaining momentum in the early 1870s and legislative positions were freeing for women and allowed them a chance to take part in the political process even before they were allowed to vote.

Allowances as clerks and pages were still disputed among some legislators that held anti-suffrage views. Such is the case in 1876 when Rosa Blanton was chosen as a page to the House of Representatives (Rosa was the niece of Napoleon Blanton who was well known in early Kansas for his crossing of the Wakarusa River in Douglas County): 

“There were twenty-seven candidates for pages, and the discussion on the claims of each was earnest, spirited and prolonged. Mr. Eskridge made an eloquent speech in favor of a young man named Blanton, stating that he was prompted in his efforts in favor of his candidate at the request of a brother member, Mr. Wood, who was now absent. After Mr. Eskridge had concluded his thrilling effort in favor of his candidate, the young man, and had taken his seat, he again rose and stated that he had been mistaken in the sex of his candidate – that it was a young lady – Rosa Blanton, whom he wished to have elected. This statement was received with shouts of laughter, the well-known opposition of Mr. Eskridge to female suffrage doubtless contributing to the amusement. Mr. Eskridge gracefully relieved himself from his embarrassment by explaining that it was the principle he was contending for, not personal preferences" (Kansas Daily Tribune 1876:5).

Women were not the only ones that found empowerment though legislative positions. In 1875, John Carter who was a man of color from Topeka, was elected to the position of assistant doorkeeper (Winfield Courier 1876:2). Mr. Carter was the only individual in the legislature in that year, aside from the aforementioned young page, to be of African descent. The doorkeeper position was the only position allowed to speak during legislative proceedings, announcing the various members. An 1885 panel showed an African American man, Sam Lee of Lawrence, that held the assistant doorkeeper position. He was paid $3 a month for his service (CITE).

I finally had to tear myself away from all the bunny trails that arose from looking at these panels. It is something that would be fun to return to again. Many of the Kansas panels can be found on, search term “legislative panel.”

References Cited:
Atchison Weekly Patriot
1875    Atchison Weekly Patriot (newspaper), Atchison, KS. March 13, 1875, page 2.

Daily Commonwealth
1875     "Kansas Legislature". Daily Commonwealth (newspaper), Topeka, KS. January 13, 1875, page 1.

Holton Express
1875       Holton Express (newspaper), Holton, KS. January 15, 1875, page 2.

Kansas Daily Tribune
1875       “House”, Kansas Daily Tribune (newspaper), Lawrence, KS, January 15, 1876, page 5.

Kansas State Record
1875       “A Levee”, Kansas State Record (newspaper), Topeka, KS. January 10, 1871, page 4.

Winfield Courier
1876       “Conclusions Concerning Capital City Carpet Baggers”, Winfield Courier (newspaper), Winfield, KS. February 17, 1876, page 2.

Wyandotte Gazette
1875       “Legislature Organized”. Wyandotte Gazette (newspaper), Wyandotte, KS. January 15, 1875, page 2.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ewing L. Moxley

The background research our company performs prior to archaeological investigations causes me to dig in for the earliest historical accounts of an area. I love digging in deep, finding information to make our reports more than just names and dates. Trying along the way to ferret out the whys behind the locations we investigate. One of my hobbies (I have many that I’ve picked up in my background research) is documenting trading posts and traders. The fascinating stories that follow these guys captivate me. My newest bunny trail caused me to follow Ewing L. Moxley, a trader among the tribes in Sedgwick County, Kansas.

Moxley grabbed my attention because in my quest to find out his importance to the area, I found actual descriptions of his physical appearance as well as his character. He is described as having a fair complexion, with “light hair and whiskers” (Oskaloosa Independent 1863: 3) and as being “a thorough frontiersman, born in the wilds, an unerring marksman, fearless, honest and simple and tender as a child” (Mooney 1916:105).

Moxley and his trading partner Edward H. Mosely were among the first Euro-Americans in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Moxley’s background is rather hazy. He is potentially born prior to 1837, the son of Judge Solomon R. Moxley of Lincoln County, Missouri, but that remains to be proven (Goodspeed Pub. Co. 1888: 583). His partner Mosely was an Indiana native (Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886).  The two were noted as first meeting in Coffey County, Kansas around present day LeRoy (Mead 1986: 139; Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886). Apparently, Mosely and Moxley attempted farming, but on account of the drought found a more profitable business in trading. It is highly probable that their early introduction to trading could have been by utilizing trade along an Osage trail at the nearby Burlington Crossing (Burns 2004:75)

In 1857, the two were among the first settlers in Sedgwick County and established a mercantile or trading post on the Little Arkansas River where an Osage trail crossed. The pair capitalized on the buffalo hunting in the area and would sell the surplus of their hunts as well as other trade goods to the inhabitants of the surrounding area (Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886). This was the first “ranch” in the county along with one established by Bob Duracken a few miles away, but it consisted of little more than a cabin on a claim but was profitable for the pair.

By 1858, Moxley was in Butler County in the Chelsea area. Chelsea, now defunct, was an up and coming town in this period and was at this early date the county seat of Butler County (Mooney 1916: 54). Butler was among the first 36 counties established with the organization of Kansas Territory.

Even with his travels, Moxley’s home base was in Jefferson County, which further intrigued me because that is the home base of Buried Past! In 1857, with the sale of the Delaware lands in that county, Moxley purchased the northwest 1/4 of Section 19, Township 8 South, Range 20 East for farming purposes. He is noted as working with two other settlers of the area, George W. Crump and Joseph Hicks to establish a territorial road from Crump’s land in Section 9 of the same Township/Range to Osawkee (now near modern-day Ozawkie) (State of Kansas 1861:317).

When the war erupted Moxley ran what famed buffalo hunter James R. Mead called a “side show” to the Union army, picking Confederates off their horses with his Sharp’s rifle or Navy revolver and taking their horses for his pay (Mead 1986: 140; Moxley 1865). Moxley met his end while attempting to swim some of his contraband stock across the Kansas River at nearby Lawrence. His short but varied career gathered a sizeable estate valued at $1200.99 and no one around to claim it (Oskaloosa Independent 1863; Moxley 1865). He had limited contact with his family at the end of his life, and his final resting place is unknown (Moxley 1865).


Burns, Louis F.
2004    History of the Osage People. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL.

Goodspeed Publishing Company
1888    History of Lincoln County, Missouri, from the Earliest time to the Present. The Goodspeed Pub. Co. Chicago, IL.

Mead, James R.
1986    Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains, 1859-1875. Rowfant Press, Wichita, KS.

Medicine Lodge Cresset
1886    “Our Early Settlers” Medicine Lodge Cresset (newspaper), Medicine Lodge, KS. May 27, 1886, p. 1.

Mooney, Vol. P.
1916    History of Butler Co., Kansas. Standard Publishing Co., Lawrence, KS.

Moxley, Ewing L.
1865  Probate Case Files (Estates), ca. 1858 - 1917; Indexes, ca. 1860-1960; Author: Kansas. Probate Court (Jefferson County); Probate Place: Jefferson, Kansas, No. 416. Accessed on-line:

Oskaloosa Independent
1863    “Notice to Unknown Heirs”, Oskaloosa Independent (newspaper), Oskaloosa, KS.  August 8, 1863, p.3.

State of Kansas
1861    House Journal (Extra Session) of the Legislative Assembly of Kansas Territory for the Year 1857. Sam. A. Medary, Printer, Lawrence, KS.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Bleeding Kansas: Camp Sackett

Image of Camp Sackett taken from a daguerrotype
and published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, October 4, 1856.
Author's Note: Bleeding Kansas and the complexity of what was going on leading up to the Civil War fascinates me. This is a little piece I had written up as a result of a research project, but felt that it needed more work in primary sources to make it to publication stage. I think it's a good description of Sackett though, and my table of the troop population is my absolute favorite part of this. My main question though after working on this is, "where are the original daguerrotypes used in Leslie's publication?!?!". :) ~wmb

As conditions deteriorated within the newly established Kansas Territory, the need for a neutral military force became apparent to keep the peace (Table 1).   The first Territorial legislature, also called the “Bogus Legislature” had established a pro-slavery government within Kansas Territory and was upheld by President Pierce. In February of 1856, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cook received instructions from the Secretary of War that troops were to be used within the Territory.  On March 26, Colonel Edwin V. Sumner enlisted the government troops in the growing conflict between free-state and pro-slavery forces (Robinson 1892).

Table 1: Timeline for troops at Camp Sackett within
Kansas Territory events in 1856.
Troops in Kansas Territory were stationed near military roads at Westport, Franklin, Baldwin City, Lecompton (Lowe 1906:226) and other strategic communities and planned as headquarters from which troops could move quickly when necessary, with food and supplies arriving every ten days (Lowe 1906). In the spring of 1856, the territorial capital was moved to Lecompton from Shawnee Mission. This area was then chosen for a primary camp for the government troops with easy access to the capital. Access to the camp would primarily have been the Lecompton to Big Springs Road or the California Road (Stuck 1857, Connelly n.d.).
1857 Douglas County map by J. Cooper Stuck
which shows the location of Camp Sackett
in relation to Lecompton and roadways.
First deployment to the camp was a group of troops under Lt. James McIntosh around April 23rd, followed by two squadrons under Col. Sumner (Ewy 1966: 389).  The camp was named for Lt. Col. Delos B. Sackett, the commanding officer early in its establishment.  This camp seems to be commonly called “Camp Sackett” primarily by those stationed at the camp. Within the newspaper reports, the camp was known as “the treason camp, near Lecompton”, “the camp near Lecompton”, or “the U.S. military camp near Lecompton”. Charles Robinson in his book, The Kansas Conflict calls it the “Treason Camp” (Robinson 1892).  Any designations, however, referring just to the “camp near Lecompton” should be analyzed and not be confused with the Titus’ pro-slavery camp near Lecompton.  Titus’ camp is primarily designated as “the pro-slavery camp” but on occasion is also only called the “camp near Lecompton”.  
United States military troops again deployed to the Lecompton area around May 23rd when Governor Wilson Shannon requested one company of the 1st Cavalry was to be posted near Lecompton and another company near Topeka (Mullis 2004). Later, in early June, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke would arrive from Fort Riley with a compliment of 2nd Dragoons consisting of 134 men, 124 horses, and one artillery piece (Coakley 2011: 157).
Beginning on and around May 20 (Brown 1880), political prisoners charged with high treason were delivered to the military camp: Charles Robinson, George W. Brown, George W. Smith, George W. Deitzler, John Brown, Jr., and Henry H. Williams.  The charge of treason was imposed on these individuals for supporting a free-state government and enforced because the pro-slavery government established in 1855 along with the Topeka Constitution had been federally recognized. Sara Robinson, in her book Kansas: Interior and Exterior Life gives Camp Sackett the nickname “Uncle Sam’s Bastille on the Prairie” because of the imprisonment of her husband and the other men accused of treason.
Left to Right: George W. Brown, John Brown, Jr.,
George W. Smith, Charles Robinson, Gaius Jenkins,
Henry H. Williams, George W. Dietzler.
From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, October 4, 1856.
Five political prisoners held on “Traitor Avenue” at Camp Sackett are as follows:
George W. Smith.
A Pennsylvania native.  Occupation - Judge. Elected by the free-state legislature to serve as the second territorial governor. 
George W. Brown.
A New York native. Occupation - Editor of the Kansas Herald of Freedom published in Lawrence.  He and Gaius Jenkins were arrested at Westport, MO.  Brown reached the Lecompton camp on May 20 (Brown 1880).
Gaius Jenkins.
A New York native. Occupation - Tailor.  Moved to Kansas in the fall of 1854 (Connelly 1925).  Brought to Camp Sackett after May 21 (Brown 1880). 
John Brown, Jr.
An Ohio native. Son of John Brown. He and Henry H. Williams were brought to Camp Sackett in mid-June. 
Henry H. Williams.
A New York native.  Came to Kansas in Spring 1855.  3rd settler on Pottawatomie Creek in Anderson County.  A commander in the Pottawatomie Guards, a group which worked with John Brown to secure the Pottawatomie Creek area in Anderson County.  Williams was a delegate to Big Springs Convention in 1855.  He was also a member of House of Representatives under Topeka Constitution.  (KSHS 2018).
Charles Robinson.
A Massachussetts native.  He arrived in Kansas in 1854 with the New England Emigrant Aid Company’s first colony in Kansas Territory.  Elected governor under Topeka Constitution.  Arrived at Camp Sackett after May 24th (Brown 1880).
George W. Dietzler.
A Pennsylvania native. Dietzler moved to Lawrence in Spring 1855. He was involved in the Wakarusa War in November 1855, as an aide as well as commanding officer.

Capt. John W. Martin who was given care of the prisoners for a time, was a member of the Kickapoo Rangers a pro-slavery contingent, but was partial to Charles Robinson, and provided the prisoners limited freedoms.  The prisoners were allowed visitors, primarily their wives, but also extended to certain members of the free state alliance.  Sara Robinson is known to have visited the camp (Robinson 1856), and Lois Gleason Brown wife of George W. Brown and her sister Annis Gleason also visited (Freeport Daily Journal 1856). 

The prisoners were held at Camp Sackett with a promise of a hearing in early June, but their release was not to happen until early fall.  By the fall, when conditions improved the prisoners posted their own bond and were released. 

Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke reported that by mid-June the “Kansas dispute had changed in nature as the emotional situation had attracted lawless men who regularly resorted to banditry and murder” (Ewy 1966: 392).  During this time troops stationed at Sackett included both the 1st Cavalry, 2nd Dragoons, and 6th Infantry (Ewy 1966).

There was an increase in U. S. military troops in direct relationship to the hostilities in the area (Table 1).  In mid-September after the battle of Hickory Point, the troops brought Free-State forces, about 100 prisoners, who had been under command of J. A. Harvey in that skirmish to Lecompton (Ewy 1966)*.  The increase in hostilities in August and September (at Osawatomie, Fort Titus, Hickory Point, etc…) increased the number of troops at Sackett’s location with 500 men in August, and 700 men in September (Coakley 2011).  Another influx of prisoners arrived in October when Lt. Col. Philip St. G. Cooke and U. S. Deputy Marshal William J. Preston captured 240 free-staters which included Shalor Eldridge and Samuel Pomeroy (Coakley 2011).   

As conditions settled in the territory troops were dispersed to other duties.  In early November the troops at Lecompton had been reduced to two companies of the 1st Cavalry and one company of the 6th Infantry and by the end of November only the one company of 6th Infantry remained (Coakley 2011:170).

1856 was the most turbulent year in the era of Bleeding Kansas, which prompted the need for this military installation. Wilson Shannon, who was Territorial Governor during this time, illustrated this with my favorite Bleeding Kansas quote, “Governing Kansas during 1856 was like trying to govern the Devil in Hell.”

References Cited
Brown, G. W.
1880   Reminiscences of Old John Brown: Thrilling Incidences of Border Life in Kansas.  Abraham E. Smith, Rockford, IL.
Coakley, Robert W.
2011   The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1789-1878. Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C.
Connelly, William E.
n.d.    Douglas County, Kansas Territory in the Era of Bleeding Kansas. Map on file at the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, KS.
1925   “The Lane-Jenkins Claim Contest.” Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1923-25, Vol. 16, pp.25-27.
Ewy, Marvin
1966   “The United States Army in the Kansas Border Troubles”. In Kansas Historical Quarterly.  Vol. 32, pp. 385-400.
Freeport Daily Journal
1856   “Kansas Correspondence” Freeport Daily Journal (newspaper), Freeport, Illinois.  July 7, 1856.
Kansas Historical Society
2018   “Henry Hudson Williams”.  Biography found on-line at:
Lowe, Percival G.
1906   Five Years a Dragoon. The Franklin Hudson Publishing Co., Kansas City, MO.
Mullis, Tony R.
2004   Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas.  University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO.
Robinson Charles
1892   The Kansas Conflict.  Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, New York, NY.
Stuck, J. Cooper
      1857    Map of Douglas County, Kansas Territory.
*this formerly read that J. A. Harvey brought the men to Lecompton.