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Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor John Whitnah Leedy (1897-1899)

Creator: Kansas. Governor (1897-1899 : Leedy)

Date: 1897 Jan. 11-1899 Jan. 9

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: RG 252: 1897-1899 (Leedy) (UID 309139)

Unit ID: 309139

Restrictions: None

Biographical sketch: Fourteenth governor of the State of Kansas (Populist); of LeRoy.

Abstract: Correspondence and other items received from the administration of John W. Leedy, governor of the State of Kansas from 11 January 1897, to 9 January 1899, includes general letters, subject files, official response letters from & letters concerning State agencies, and applications & endorsements for several positions; some proclamations are also included. Subject files include a variety of topics including crime & criminals and the military. Additional records of Governor Leedy are in separate series common to several governors, described in the Contents section of this record.

Space Required/Quantity: 1 ft. (3 boxes)

Title (Main title): Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor John Whitnah Leedy (1897-1899)

Titles (Other):

  • Kansas Governor John Whitnah Leedy correspondence files
  • Kansas Governor John Whitnah Leedy records
  • Correspondence files
  • Records
  • Records of the Office of the Governor of Kansas : John Whitnah Leedy administration (1897-1899)
  • John Whitnah Leedy administration, Jan. 11, 1897-Jan. 9, 1899

Part of: Records of the Kansas Governor's Office.

Language note: Text is in English.

Biography

Biog. Sketch (Full):

John Whitnah Leedy, fourteenth governor of the State of Kansas, was born on 4 March 1849 near Bellville, Ohio, to Samuel Keith Leedy, a simple, cultured farmer, and Margaret Whitnah Leedy. He received a modest education at common schools and married Sarah J. Boyd on 4 November 1875. They raised two daughters and one son. John’s religious preference was the Church of the Brethren but was a member of no church that anyone could discern.

John Leedy’s boyhood allowed him little education because of the early death of his father. He worked on a farm and part time at a general store to help support the family. In early 1864 and at age fourteen, he tried to enlist in the Union Army but was rejected due to his age. He then joined a Civil War troop and served till the end of the war; his mother protested vehemently; her disdain for wartime military service at such a young age was really too much to bear. After the War, John Leedy moved from Ohio to Pierceville, Indiana, where he was employed as a clerk. In 1868, he worked as a hired hand and a farmer near Carlinville, Illinois. It is there where he became a proficient farmer and skilled horseman. In 1880, he decided to move to Coffey County, Kansas, near the village of LeRoy where he built a successful, profitable purebred horse breeding farm. He lost it, however, during the depression of the 1890s.

Leedy grew up embracing Republican values until 1872 when he decided to become a Democrat, and he changed again in 1890 when he joined the new People’s (Populist) Party. John Leedy became a supporter of Populist reforms for the state of Kansas because he believed the Republican Party had swayed too far right. He felt Republicans failed to recognized the “people’s” turmoil in not having the prosperous opportunities they had just a few years earlier. Leedy was elected to the State Senate in 1892 based on his Populist reform ideology.

In 1896, the Democratic Party merged with the Populist Party thinking that a combined party would have a better chance of winning the gubernatorial bid in 1896. The two best suited state candidates for possible nomination for governor at the time were Senator John Leedy and Congressman William Harris, a native of Virginia. The delegates chose Leedy over Harris, probably because of Harris’s support for seceeding from the Union and his ties to the Confederate Army in the Civil War.

John Leedy ultimately won the election with 167,041 votes to Incumbent Governor E. N. Morrill’s 160,531 votes. Leedy’s gubernatorial victory also coincided with a Populist majority in both houses of the Kansas Legislature. For the first time in Kansas state history, the Kansas Supreme Court had a Populist majority membership. And the Populists, and Democrats, secured the Kansas electoral vote for Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan as president. Leedy was indeed an intelligent politician and even a better politician for knowing what political buttons to push to get a majority platform on virtually any Populist issue. But he lacked the reforming zest of Former Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling needed for catapulting the Populist Party long enough to sustain its liberal platform for the twentieth century.

Leedy, gregarious by nature, was a people’s governor so much that he felt the need to patronize the public by sitting in the outer office to greet visitors as they came and left the governor’s suite. In an effort to change business as usual in Kansas, the Leedy administration dealt vigorously with bank laws to accommodate small banks to fairly deal with rural issues as land foreclosures and personal bankruptcy that plagued the entire state. The new state agencies established under Leedy’s watch were the School Textbook Commission, a State printing plant, and a State grain commission. A major topic of contention under his leadership was the firing of some faculty at the State agricultural college, now Kansas State University, in Manhattan. That stirred Republican anger at what was perceived as mere Populist grandstanding. Leedy was also criticized for the continued enforcement of Prohibition and the metropolitan police law that majorities saw as outdated, redundant and incapable of enforcement.

Governor Leedy did however have a shining moment and was praised highly from the Republican press for his supporting action at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898. He ordered the recruitment of four regiments, and the first enlisted regiment was the Twentieth Kansas Infantry. The commanding officer, appointed by Leedy, was Frederick Funston, the son of the popular Republican congressman E. H. Funston.

Governor Leedy was renominated for governor in 1898 but lost to Republican William Eugene Stanley by about 15,000 votes. He left office on January 9, 1899, retiring briefly from politics. But before doing he called a special session of the outgoing Legislature on December 21, 1889, to enact new laws to better regulate railroads. Leedy called for a “Court of Visitation” that would replace the railroad commission entirely; the issue at hand was to incorporate fair and maximum shipping freight charges within the rail system of Kansas.

While governor, Leedy resided in Lawrence and commuted every morning by train to Topeka; he also maintained a room at the Dutton Hotel. The Hotel was frequented by Populist members because of its inexpensive rates. Upon retiring, Leedy continued the practice of law in both Lawrence and Joplin, Missouri. He also had ambition for mining work in Galena, Kansas, and established and became director of the Leedy Mining Company at Leavenworth, Kansas.

In 1900 Leedy traveled to Seattle, Washington, to organize a fraternal group called the Ancient Order of Pyramids. In 1901 he moved to Valdez, Alaska, where he explored the Canadian practice of law and served there as city attorney; he also became its mayor for two years. In 1904 to 1908 he was the city’s bankruptcy advocate for the Third Judicial District in territorial Alaska. Around 1908, he moved again to White Court, Alberta, Canada, and purchased a ranching community to settle on along with accepting Canadian citizenship that made him the only former Kansas governor to seek legal residence in Canada.

John Leedy also gained enough political resonance to be on a ticket to represent the Liberals, or United Farmers of Alberta, in the provincial parliament, but all to no avail, as he never won election to the seat. Leedy died penniless of natural causes on 24 March 1935 at Edmonton, Alberta. A year after his death the Kansas Legislature voted to appropriate $1,000 to pay his funeral expenses and mark the grave site with a bronze plaque on a granite shaft.

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The Wyandotte Constitution of 1859 established the office of the governor of the State of Kansas. Some of the more important duties, functions, and responsibilities of the governor are to see that the laws are faithfully executed, to require written explanations from other executive officers—at that time the lieutenant governor, secretary of State, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction—upon any subject relating to their respective duties, convene the Legislature by proclamation on extraordinary occasions, communicate in writing such information as the governor may possess in reference to the condition of the State at the commencement of every legislative session, recommend such measures as he/she may deem expedient, and commission officers of the State.

No formal qualifications for the governor have been legislated, aside from the provision that no member of Congress or officer of the State, or the United States, can serve. The governor is elected by a plurality, not necessarily a majority of votes cast. The governor takes office the second Monday in January following election. The governor is authorized to hire a private secretary, pardon attorney, and other staff as appropriations permit.

At the beginning of Leedy’s term, the governor had the power to appoint Militia officers; members of part-time boards of directors, trustees, or regents of the State Penitentiary (now Lansing Correctional Facility), schools of higher education, the State insane asylum (now Osawatomie State Hospital), and schools for deaf and blind students; a Board of Visitors for the State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University); the Bureau of Immigration; the Commission for Care of Destitute Orphans and Children of State Soldiers; the State librarian; the superintendent of insurance; and a number of minor commissions. He was also an ex officio member of the State Board of Canvassers, boards of directors of the Agricultural College and Normal School, the Bureau of Immigration, the Board of Treasury Examiners, the state accountant, an inspector general, four of the seven trustees of the Industrial and Educational Institute of Topeka, and other committees.

During Governor Leedy's term, the office of Commissioner of Elections was established for each first class city; commissioners were appointed by the governor. The forestry commissioner and Boes od Irrigation, Survey, and Experiment was replaced by a single commissioner of forestry and irrigation appointed by the governor. A School Textbook Commission, consisting of eight members appointed by the governor and the State superintendent of public instruction, was created in 1897. The 1898 Legislature provided for the creation and State recognition of a State Association of Miners.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

Items in the series Correspondence Received, 1897–1899 (#193423), are primarily letters received by Governor John Whitnah Leedy; however there may also be proclamations and some petitions, reports, copies of letters sent, and other types of documents. The letters are organized into three sub-series: (1) Subject Files, (2) State Departments, and (3) Applications and Endorsements. Some proclamations may have also been interfiled with other items received relating to the subjects of the proclamations.

Details about this series and its contents may be found in its record, http://www.kshs.org/archives/193423

Documents that may have been addressed to Governor Leedy but dated or pertaining to the time period after his term expired in 1899 may be filed with the records of his successor, Governor William Eugene Stanley.

Additional files that record the actions of the Leedy administration may be found in the series
Executive Proclamations, 1861-1987, 11 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193450 ; Letter Press Book, 1865-1905, 19 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193397 ; Death Sentence Warrants, 1872-1908, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193781 ; Record of Death Sentences, 1872-1906, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193782 ; Prisoners in Kansas State Penitentiary, [ca. 1875-ca. 1897], 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193784 ; Miscellaneous Volumes, 1885-[ca. 1929], 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193470 ; Requisitions from Other States, 1886-1932, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193814 ; KSP Reports of Prisoners Discharged, 1896-1923, 0.5 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/196610 ; Criminal Justice Records: KSP Reports of Prisoners Received , 1897-1923, 0.5 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/196609 ; Applicants
for Appointments Registers, 1899-1906, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193469 ; Restoration of Citizenship Requests, 1897-1908, 0.4 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193762 ; Jail and State Reformatory Pardons and Commutations, 1897-1925, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193801 ; Governor's Citizenship Pardons: Chronological Order, 1899-1919, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193707 ; Pardon and Parole Files: Womens' Industrial Farm, 1863-1919, 75 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193660 ; Applications for Requisitions: Series I & II, 1874-1953, 37 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/194090 ; Citizenship Pardons, 1876-1960, 8 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193802 ; Extraditions, 1877-1994, 163 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/191789 ; and Record of Pardons and Commutations, 1887-1911, 0.7 ft.; http://www.kshs.org/archives/193793 . These series contain records of a number of governors.

The Kansas Historical Society manuscripts collection contains a one folder "miscellaneous" collection of John Whitnah Leedy's papers. The collection includes a telegram expressing regret that he cannot attend the dedication of the Kansas building at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska, in June 1898 and a letter, 1929 December 20, describing his gubernatorial administration. There is also a separate accession, described at http://www.kshs.org/archives/47308 , containing a Certificate of Election of John W. Leedy as Governor, 1896 November 25; Certificate of Admission to the District Courts of Kansas of John W. Leedy, 1900 June 29; and Newspaper Clippings Regarding John W. Leedy. Additional documents by or about Leedy are in other manuscript collections; consult the manuscripts card catalog for specific locations. The Society's photograph collection contains photos of him.

Papers and photographs from John Whitnah Leedy's residence in Valdez, Alaska, are in the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections (Juneau), MS 238; http://library.alaska.gov/hist/hist_docs/finding_aids/MS238.doc

Contents:

Records specific to this administration: Ser. 193423. Correspondence files; http://www.kshs.org/archives/193423

Records that include this administration: Executive proclamations, 1861-1987, 11 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193450 -- Letter press book, 1865-1905, 19 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193397 -- Death sentence warrants, 1872-1908, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193781 -- Record of death sentences, 1872-1906, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193782 -- Prisoners in Kansas State Penitentiary, [ca. 1875-ca. 1897], 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193784 – Misc. vol., 1885-[ca. 1929], 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193470 -- Requisitions from other states, 1886-1932, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193814 -- KSP reports of prisoners discharged, 1896-1923, 0.5 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/196610 -- Criminal justice records : KSP reports of prisoners received , 1897-1923, 0.5 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/196609 -- Applicants for appointments registers, 1899-1906, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193469 -- Restoration of citizenship requests, 1897-1908, 0.4 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193762 -- Jail and State Reformatory pardons and commutations, 1897-1925, 0.2 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193801 -- Governor's citizenship pardons : chronological order, 1899-1919, 1 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193707 -- Pardon and parole files : Womens' Industrial Farm, 1863-1919, 75 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193660 -- Applications for requisitions : Series I & II 1874-1953, 37 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/194090 -- Citizenship pardons, 1876-1960, 8 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193802 -- Extraditions, 1877-1994, 163 ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/191789 -- Record of pardons and commutations, 1887-1911, 0.7 ft.; http://www.kshs.org/archives/193793 .

Specific Contents Identified:

Headings or descriptors assigned to subsections of the material, for example labels on a particular box or group of boxes.

  • Correspondence files, 1897-1899 (Ser. 193423)

Related Records or Collections

Related materials:


Bibliography

Finding Aid Bibliography:

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918; Open Library website; https://archive.org/details/standardhistoryo00conn (viewed 23 July 2014).

Drury, James W. The Government of Kansas. 3d ed. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, ©1980. Available in the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) Reference Room: call no. K 350.7 D845 1980.

Harder, Marvin A. The Governor of Kansas: An Analysis of Decision-Making Opportunities, Constraints, and Resources. Topeka, Kans.: Capitol Complex Center, University of Kansas, 1981, ©1982. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. SP 378 Z C172 pam.v.1 no. 1.

Socolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, ©1990. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. K BB So13.

Index Terms

Subjects

    Kansas
    Kansas. Governor (1897-1899 : Leedy)
    Public records -- Kansas
    Kansas
    Kansas -- Military policy
    Kansas -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment
    Kansas -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950
    Leedy, John Whitnah, 1849-1935 -- Political activity
    Governors -- Kansas -- Archives
    Governors -- Kansas -- Records and correspondence
    Criminal justice, Administration of -- Kansas
    Finance, Public -- Kansas
    Military service, Voluntary -- Kansas
    Patronage, Political -- Kansas
    Public officers -- Kansas
    Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors


Agency Classification:

    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Main Office.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Specific Administrations. Leedy, John Administration.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Main Office. Pardon and Extradition Attorney.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions: None

Use and reproduction:

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Most documents created by governmental entities, including the State of Kansas, are considered in the public domain, although copyright to documents found in public records that were written by individuals or organizations and sent to government agencies may be owned by the writers or their heirs.

Add'l physical form: Selected items: Also available on Kansas Memory, electronic resource. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, c2007-14; http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4894-4796-4948&

Cite as:

Note: [document, folder, subseries, or series description], Leedy administration (1897 - 1899), Records of the Kansas Governor’s Office, Record Group 252, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Bibliography: Kansas, Governor’s Office, Leedy administration (1897 – 1899), Record Group 252, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Action note: Inventory written by David F. Manning, volunteer, 2008.

Accumulation/Freq. Of Use: No additional records are expected.

Holder of originals: State archives, Kansas Historical Society (Topeka)