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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

"Kansas becomes a Territory"

All over the United States people were taking sides on the question of slavery.  The North wanted to abolish it.  In the South slaves were needed to work on cotton and sugar plantations.  If one state favoring slavery came into the Union, Congress would next admit a free state.  In that way the number of slave and free states were kept even.

Then in 1854 Congress passed a law known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.  It provided for a territory called Kansas.  It provided for a territory called Kansas, after the Kansas River.  It also created another territory to be known as Nebraska, which is the Indian name for the Platte River.  Then Congress put something else in the bill which later caused trouble in the new Kansas Territory.  Instead of saying whether these territories were to be slave or free states, Congress told the people of the two territories they could decide for themselves.  This is called Popular Sovereignty.

Missouri Compromise

Stephen A. Douglas

Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854

Transcontinental Railroad

Popular Sovereignty
(called Squatter Sovereignty by pro-slavery Southerners)

CITIZENSHIP

Within a few months the Wyandots were free to become United States citizens.  The government and the Chiefs signed a treaty that said the land was to be divided equally among the members of the tribe.  Most of them received about forty acres to do with as they chose.  General John Calhoun from Leavenworth moved into a log house near Fourth and State and with his men surveyed the land.

[Annotation:  Calhoun County was created in 1855 in Kansas and named For John Calhoun, first surveyor general of Kansas.  Calhoun County was renamed to Jackson County after the Civil War.]

Part of his office building was divided off and used for a jail.  An Indian was the only prisoner.  He was peaceful enough, but bored, so he played a flute for hours without stopping.  The men hated to take it away from him, for the poor fellow had no other amusement.

Although he was accused of murder, they unlocked his cell one day when they could stand the music no longer.  They told him to run away.  The surveyors were government men and not afraid of the Wyandot laws.  The Indian remained away from Wyandot for several years, but at length came back and was pardoned.

THE CATFISH HOTEL

The surveyors found that Wyandot ways of living differed from those in the East.  Across from the schoolhouse at Fourth and State stood a four-room log cabin owned by Ike Brown, an Indian.  This was the hotel in 1856-1857.  Indians going through town with annuity money in their pockets stayed at Ike Brown's.  Also it served as the boarding house for the surveyors.

The winter of 1856-57 was cold enough for the river to freeze solidly.  In the spring when the ice melted, tons of catfish were released from the ice.  Ike Brown was quick to profit from the food thrown almost at his door.  His cook, Thomas Barker, served catfish to the boarders at almost every meal.  From that time on the place was known as "The Catfish Hotel."

TREATY OF 1855

TREATY OF 1855

A treaty is an agreement between two groups of people as to how certain matters are to be settled.  On January 31, 1855, the leaders of the Wyandot Nation and the United States government signed a treaty which gave every Wyandot forty acres of land.

The North and South Methodist churches were given two acres each.  Four acres were kept for the ferry landing.  The cemetery was reserved for the tribe, so that members and their descendants could be buried in it at any future time.

Some Wyandots did not wish to become citizens.  Children and others not capable of looking after their own affairs were provided for in the treaty.  Many Wyandots wished to sell as soon as the white people arrived.  Others desired to become part of a town or city.  Most of them were ready for a change.

BLEEDING KANSAS

The Wyandots had no idea that the coming of the white settlers would bring trouble.  When congress said that the people were to decide whether Kansas would be free or slave, men from Missouri crossed the state line and voted in the elections.  If the judges tried to stop them they were beaten and shoved aside.

Others wanted Kansas to be free.  One man in Lawrence, Dr. Charles Robinson, went back to his home in East to urge his friends to come to Kansas and vote against slavery.  They landed at Quindaro on the Missouri River and settled around Lawrence.  John Brown moved his family to Osawatomie so that they could fight against slavery.  The new territory that the Wyandots had wanted for years became known as "Bleeding Kansas."

Bleeding Kansas (1854-1861)

John Brown / William Quantrill

Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers

JAYHAWKS AND JAYHAWKING

Kansas natives call themselves Jayhawkers.  A motel and a hotel in Topeka have the name Jayhawk.  On the cars of students at the university you see little flocks of red and blue jayhawk stickers waddling across the rear window.  People from other states sometimes think the jayhawk is a real bird, but it is not.

No one can be sure how the name and the bird were invented.  The most common story is that when the wagon trains crossed Kansas on their way to the gold fields, the people entertained themselves by watching birds along the trail.  They laughed at the hawks that seemed to like to show off before them.  Small jays would jump on the hawks' backs and torment them until the big birds would give up and fly away.

Among the gold-seekers were men who reminded others of the show-off hawks.  Sometimes the smaller, unimportant members of the party would pick on the show-offs just out of mischief.  Then the self-important people would go off and stay by themselves as the hawks had done.

During the days before the Civil War a band of anti-slavery men roamed the countryside attaching pro-slavery people.  These men were said to be jayhawking.  After that, raiding groups throughout Kansas became known as jayhawkers.  Now the name is applied to all Kansans, and an imaginary bird has been invented to represent a jayhawk.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

The Underground Railroad was not a railroad nor was it a subway under the ground.  It was a name given to a plan carried out by men who wished to help slaves to escape.  Wyandot and Quindaro people were active members in it long before the Civil War. 

History of the Underground Railroad

Many slaves lived just across the river in Missouri.  If they could escape from their masters and reach Kansas, there were homes here to shelter them.  These places were known as stations on the railroad.  At night the slaves would be taken to another such station, until they were able to reach a spot where they would be safe from capture.

One man in Quindaro, a bachelor, helped many of these poor people to escape.  Only one of all the slaves he aided was ever captured.  His place became known as "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

The Underground Railroad officers here gave these working orders to their people:  "Silence, and no questions asked!"

An escaped slave was worth about a thousand dollars.  The owners offered a reward of $200 if he was returned.  There were men, just a few, who would steal a slave and return him to get the reward.  Anyone who sent a slave back to his owner was bitterly disposed by the other men.

The New Town

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuinn

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

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

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