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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"Slavery Question"

William Walker thought it was all right to own slaves.  On January 1, 1847, he attended a sale in Missouri and bought a female slave named Dorcas, thirty-two years old.  He asked God to forgive him, though, he added, "I feel no condemnation for the act."  When the auctioneer told Dorcas that she would have a good, kind master, Walker was pleased.  Later he wrote a letter asking the price of a slave named Ben.

Another Wyandot man, Charles Garrett, owned slaves.  He had built a fine home near what is now Seventh and Virginia.  In the yard behind the house were the slave quarters.  When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Mrs. Garrett said that not alone did her husband believe in slavery; he hated everyone who talked against it.  He "cursed Abe Lincoln and any man who did not curse Abe Lincoln."

On the other hand, many Wyandots were opposed to slave ownership.  Among them were John M. Armstrong and his wife, Lucy.  When Mrs. Armstrong's friends joined the South Church, she remained with the North.  At the time of the Civil War, several families, loyal to the Union, returned to the North Church.

In later years, Mrs. Armstrong recalled that, in 1848, she had said:  "In fifty years we will be proud that we held on to our opposition against slavery."

Once a group of ruffians shot into the Armstrong yard and yelled, "Abolitionists!"  On another occasion, a man who was drunk forced his way into the home.  Mrs. Armstrong had left the day before a visit in Ohio.  Enraged at finding her away the man stabbed his knife several times into the door and muttered, "This is what I would do to the Abolitionist if I could find her!"

[Annotation:  In the previous paragraph, it is possible that Ms. McGuinn is referring to a "Border Ruffian" during the time of what was known as "Bleeding Kansas", prior to the Civil War. 

Transcribed from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.
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Border Ruffians.—The term "Border Ruffian" in early days was applied to those individuals on the western border of Missouri, who sought by illegal and violent means to determine the domestic institutions of Kansas Territory. The appropriate name was liked by the owners, and Holloway writes: "Nor was this an unpopular appellation among the border gentry. They gloried in it as much as Cicero or Socrates did in that of philosopher, or the soldiers of the seven-hilled-city that of Roman. Boats on the Missouri river took to themselves the name, hacks, omnibuses, hotels, houses and dogs, were not infrequently adorned by the title 'Border Ruffian.' And woman so far became blinded to the pure and virtuous, as to take unto herself the name of Border Ruffian, and admire and praise those of that character."

The commerce of the plains, that in its width had given to the frontier a commanding place in population, wealth and political influence, had also bred and trained an army of plainsmen, restless, daring, adventurous, impatient of the bounds of civilization, passing the freighting season beyond the restraints of law. In winter, and seasons of idleness, they made residence in the border counties and were ready for any adventure suggested. Also there were a large number of citizens on the border between Kansas and Missouri who spent much time in loafing, gambling, drinking and carousing, and who were genuine ruffians before the troubles in Kansas arose. A great many of these men became willing tools of the politicians who sought to oppress, harass and defeat the free-state men. In most of the invasions in Kansas the ruffians were joined or led by the more respectable men of the border. Some of these were men of ability who had occupied high positions of public trust and profit, but who during the border wars, agitated by the slavery question, unmindful of their dignity or honor, would throw off restraint and play the coarse part of the real ruffian.

While the main objects of the Border Ruffian chiefs were the overthrow and destruction of free-state men and the establishment of slavery in Kansas, the ruffian border bands delighted in raiding towns, ransacking houses, stealing horses, and doing whatever they could that was annoying, exciting and rough. The towns and country along the eastern tier of counties were raided with uncomfortable frequency. Free-state men holding claims were driven from them, elections were molested and crimes of violence committed. When the crash came between north and south many of these men became bushwhackers or guerrillas.

Page 207 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.]

Early Records

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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