Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Spring/Summer 2004

(Vol. 27, No. 1-2)

Kansas History, Spring/Summer 2004

Special Issue: Kansas Territory and the Struggle for a "Free" Kansas

Craig Miner, "Historic Ground: The Ongoing Enterprise of Kansas Territorial History."

Read this article online

In his 1885 history, Kansas: The Prelude to the War for the Union, Leverett W. Spring wrote: "An exceptional, brilliant past demands a present and a future that shall not be out of harmony or fall into anti-climax. Kansas has a significant and memorable history; the territorial struggle converted a wilderness, which had little claim upon the interest of mankind, into historic ground." Professor Miner, the author of the recent Kansas: A History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000, starts here and then analyzes some key elements and characteristics of the territorial period that especially resonated then and later. He examines the nature of those resonations in the subsequent history and image of the state and places the special issue's contributions into their proper historiographical context. "To revisit the 'historic ground' of Kansas's territorial past in the twenty-first century," writes Miner, "is to discover what transformations may occur when resources of historical research and analysis of remarkable power and sophistication are applied to the seemingly well-worn topic. It is to find that however much has been written, there remains opportunity for deeply original contributions." The scholarly works in this issue of Kansas History make that sort of contribution.

Nicole Etcheson, "The Great Principle of Self-Government: Popular Sovereignty and Bleeding Kansas."

Read this article online

Historians dismiss popular sovereignty as a failure, and the descent of Kansas Territory into civil war would certainly seem to bear out that assessment. But if popular sovereignty was, as Stephen A. Douglas claimed, merely the "great principle of self-government" at work, why then did it fail? In this article, Professor Etcheson, University of Texas, El Paso, argues that popular sovereignty failed for two reasons not unique to Kansas but inherent in United States democratic practices. First, election practices in Kansas were no worse, and no better, than those in the rest of the United States and thus conducive to high levels of fraud. Secondly, United States democracy did not have a means to reconcile popular decision making with moral objections to what the people decided at the ballot box. That is, "rather than showing democracy's transparency, implementing popular sovereignty revealed the difficulty of reconciling majority rule with constitutional rights and morality."

Shelley Hickman Clark and James W. Clark, editors, "Lawrence in 1854: The Recollections of Joseph Savage."

Read this article online

Read the complete Savage Recollections online

First published as a series of columns in Lawrence's Western Home Journal in 1870, the recollections of Joseph Savage cover in some fascinating detail the first few months of settlement at Lawrence, Kansas Territory. Savage, a thirty-one-year-old Vermonter, was a member of the second party sent to Kansas by the New England Emigrant Aid Company in the autumn of 1854, but he was no "ultra Abolitionist." Indeed, although Savage got caught up in the wave of excitement over the rush of anti-slavery New Englanders to settle the new territory of Kansas and was a loyal free-state man, he was foremost "a man known for his moderation and respect for the views of others; perhaps these qualities provided him with a more conservative perspective on the passionate debate over the extension of slavery into the territories."

Rita G. Napier, "The Hidden History of Bleeding Kansas: Leavenworth and the Formation of the Free-State Movement."

Read this article online

Without the active support of Westerners who came to Kansas Territory without a commitment to the abolition of slavery, it seems unlikely that a large and successful free-state movement could have been formed. Some of these men accepted the possibility of living in a slave state, but most were vehemently against the presence of either slaves or free Negroes. In this paper, Professor Napier, Department of History, the University of Kansas, examines the process by which uncommitted men in the territory's largest city, Leavenworth, especially Mark Delahay and his Kansas Territorial Register, were drawn to and help define the free-state movement, because of the failure of popular sovereignty, the violence of the ultra proslavery men, the denial of civil rights, and the efforts of the proslavery party to "cleanse" the city of all men who did not support the proslavery side. The article also examines the way in which these Westerners pulled the Free State Party in a more moderate direction and argues "that we cannot fully understand the free-state movement without recognizing the major role of the large free-state contingent in Leavenworth."

Tony R. Mullis, "The Dispersal of the Topeka Legislature: A Look at Command and Control (C2) During Bleeding Kansas."

Read this article online

Early in July 1856, as the nation prepared to celebrate its eightieth anniversary, U.S. Army troops under the command of Colonel E. V. Sumner arrived in Topeka, Kansas Territory, for the purpose of preventing a meeting of the extra-legal free-state legislature, scheduled to convene on the Fourth. The political implications of this action, and the decision to use federal power to resolve the Kansas debate more generally, were immense, as Mullis demonstrates. Yet the Pierce administration's ability to control the situation and make quick and informed decisions was hindered by an antebellum command and control structure that had not yet begun "to integrate new technologies [i.e., the telegraph] with old communication processes."

Karl Gridley, editor, "'An Idea of Things in Kansas': John Brown's 1857 New England Speech."

Read this article online

No one left a bigger mark on Kansas Territory than did "Old" John Brown. In this annotated copy of Brown's speech entitled "An Idea of Things in Kansas," written out on long, horizontal sheets and delivered in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 6, 1857, Brown reflects on the tumultuous events of 1856. It is the same speech he gave in Concord, Massachusetts, on March 12, with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the audience. Brown received mixed reviews as a speaker during his eastern trip, but the speech itself apparently failed as an effective fund raising tool. "His efforts on behalf of Kansas proved disappointing," writes Gridley. "But Brown received some welcome assurance regarding the welfare of his wife, Mary, and his two young daughters, living nearly destitute in North Elba, New York."

Pearl Ponce, "Pledges and Principles: Buchanan, Walker, and Kansas in 1857."

Read this article online

The year 1857, expertly detailed here by Professor Pearl Ponce, California State University, San Bernardino, surely was a "seminal period" in the history of Kansas and antebellum America. Confidently, the new president—James Buchanan—and his newly appointed territorial governor—Robert J. Walker—inaugurated an administration that believed it could answer the "Kansas Question" in short order and restore order in the troubled and volatile territory. Within the year, however, the controversial Lecompton Constitution caused an irreparable rift within the Buchanan administration and threatened to break apart the Democratic Party. "Despite a confident start, Walker had lasted a mere six months in Kansas," writes Professor Ponce. "His resignation was forced by Buchanan's insistence that the Democratic Party support the Lecompton Constitution, regardless of whether this constitution commanded support within the territory."

Brian Dirck, "By the Hand of God: James Montgomery and Redemptive Violence."

Read this article online

Although the names James Montgomery is not as familiar to most of us today as the name of John Brown, or even, perhaps, James H. Lane, in his day Montgomery was in many respects their equal. Here, Brian Dirck, Department of History and Political Science, Anderson University, offers an overview of the life and career of James Montgomery, leader of some of the more violent elements of the Kansas abolitionist movement during the 1850s and through the Civil War. In particular it will analyze the relationship between Montgomery's religious views and his embrace of violence as a means to effect social change.

Rusty Monhollon and Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, "From Brown to Brown: A Century of Struggle for Equality in Kansas."

Read this article online

Kansas's free state mythology has cast a long shadow over the struggle for racial equality in the Sunflower State. For people of color, Kansas has not always lived up to the ideals of freedom and opportunity promised by John Brown and other abolitionists in the intense heat of Bleeding Kansas. As a result, in the mid- twentieth century black Kansans forced the state to confront the shallowness of its free state legacy, culminating in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. This essay explores the links between the struggles for racial equality that took place in 1850s and 1950s Kansas and follows the path towards racial progress that black and white Kansans have forged for over one hundred years.

Book Reviews

Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era
by Nicole Etcheson
xiv + 370 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by John M. Sacher, assistant professor of history, Emporia State University.

Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politic
by Michael D. Pierson
xiii + 250 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by LeeAnn Whites, professor of history, University of Missouri.

Manhood Lost: Fallen Drunkards and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States
by Elaine Frantz Parsons
xi + 241 pages, notes, essay on sources, index.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003, cloth, $42.95.
Reviewed by Fran Grace, associate professor of religious studies, University of Redlands, Redlands, California.

Sacred Debts: State Civil War Claims and American Federalism, 1861-1880
by Kyle S. Sinisi
xvi + 208 pages, appendixes, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Fordham University Press, 2003, cloth $50.00.
Reviewed by Roger D. Cunningham, retired army officer, Fairfax County, Virginia.

One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark
by Colin G. Calloway
xvii + 631 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Ethan A. Schmidt, doctoral student and assistant instructor of history, University of Kansas.

Soldier, Surgeon, Scholar: The Memoirs of William Henry Corbusier, 1844-1930
edited by Robert Wooster
xx + 234 pages, photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003, cloth $29.95

Fanny Dunbar Corbusier: Recollections of Her Army Life, 1869-1908
edited by Patricia Y. Stallard
xix + 348 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003, cloth $29.95. Reviewed by Michael L. Tate, professor of history, University of Nebraska, Omaha.

Morality and the Mail in Nineteenth Century America
by Wayne E. Fuller
xiii + 264 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003, paper $39.95.
Reviewed by Stephen E. Lahey, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The Price of Progress: Public Services, Taxation, and the American Corporate State, 1877-1929
by R. Rudy Higgens-Evenson
x + 168 pages, appendix, notes, essay on methods and sources, index.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Michael J. Brodhead, historian, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alexandria, Virginia.

The Indian Frontier, 1763-1846
by R. Douglas Hurt
xvii + 300 pages, maps, illustrations, chronology, notes, bibliography, index.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002, paper $21.95.
Reviewed by Raymond Wilson, professor of history, Fort Hays State University, Hays.

Kansas Historical Society and the University of Kansas
Reviewed by Joyce Thierer, Ride into History and lecturer in history, Emporia State University.


On the River with Lewis and Clark.
By Verne Huser.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. xiv + 205 pages, paper $17.95.)

River guide and naturalist Verne Huser adds to the plethora of new, bicentennial Lewis and Clarke literature with what one journalist and author calls "a trove of background knowledge, reference points, and insight, from a veteran riverman." Huser covers many diverse topics as he strives "to show how the rivers figured in every aspect of the journey from food gathering and fire building to meeting native people and employing basic transportation" and to catalog the Corps of Discovery's accomplishments. Although he gives little or no attention to the short Kansas leg of the 1804-1806 journey, Huser offers a unique perspective that historian James P. Rhonda says is "built on years of first-hand experience and careful historical research."

"A Vast and Open Plain": The Writings of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in North Dakota, 1804-1806.
Edited by Clay S. Jenkinson.
(Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 2003. xxi + 594 pages, cloth $49.95; paper $34.95.)

For those interested in a meticulous exanimation of the Corps of Discovery's lengthy stay in what became the state of North Dakota (the winter of 1804-1805, as well as much of August 1806), "A Vast and Open Plain" will be a welcome and exciting supplement to Gary E. Moulton's monumental multi-volume The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Clay S. Jenkinson, Lewis and Clark scholar-in-residence at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon, offers new incite through his introduction and careful annotations and greater understanding of the members of the expedition and the native peoples they encountered; historian James P. Rhonda's foreword is also valuable in this regard.

P.O.E. in Kansas: Our Centennial Heritage, Kansas State Chapter 1903-2003.
Edited and compiled by Centennial Book Committee.
(Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Press for the Kansas State Chapter of P.O.E., 2003. xvi + 435 pages, cloth $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping.)

P.O.E., a women's international philanthropic and educational organization, was founded at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1869, and although Kansas did not have the requisite membership to organize statewide until 1903, P.O.E. came to Kansas in 1876 with the creation of the first local chapter. Featuring a nice introductory essay by Wichita State English professor Diane Dufva Quantic, short chapter histories from across the state, and information on various state projects, this attractive volume should prove to be a useful reference on an important organization.

Rivers of Change: Trailing the Waterways of Lewis & Clark.
By Tom Mullen.
(Malibu, Calif.: Roundwood Press, 2004. x + 348 pages, cloth $25.95).

With eight maps, more than thirty black and white photographs, and a lively narrative that incorporates many contemporary residents' quotations, Tom Mullen, a writer and former water resources consultant, "tells the story of a journey taken along three rivers in the western United States-the Missouri, Yellowstone and Columbia." This "fast paced travelogue" focuses on environmental change and lessons to be learned from the Corps of Discovery and the region's modern inhabitants. In his justifiably short Kansas portion of the story, Mullen draws on the expertise of Atchison's Benedictine College biologist Dan Bowen and "Wolf River Bob" at White Cloud.

Prairie Railroad Town: The Rock Island Railroad Shops at Horton, Kansas, 1887-1946.
By I. E. Quastler.
(David City, Neb.: South Platte Press, 2003. 144 pages, paper $29.95.)

"Horton, Kansas," writes one of the country's leading railroad historians, I. E. Quastler, "was a classic American railroad town," and through the well-crafted narrative and numerous beautifully reproduced historic photographs that follow, Prairie Railroad Town gives Horton's railroad history its due. Drawing on numerous photograph collections, including those of the Kansas Historical Society and the Kansas Collection at the University of Kansas, Professor Quastler offers the reader a look at numerous great locomotives, but he also illustrates the railroad's impact on people with photographs depicting shop and yard work as well as the road's central role in the town's first anniversary celebration. Historians, buffs, and lovers of historic photos will enjoy and no doubt covet this useful and attractive publication, which contains a short bibliography of primary and secondary sources used but has no source notes.

The Border Tier Road: Reflection of an Industry.
By Robert Collins.
(David City, Neb.: South Platte Press, 2003. 48 pages, paper $4.95.)

Subtitled "a brief history of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad line from Kansas City, MO to Baxter Springs, KS and beyond," The Border Tier Road tells the story of an eastern Kansas line originally built and operated as the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf, formerly the Kansas & Neosho Valley, from the time of the Civil War to the present. The booklet's author, a railroad historian who lives in Andover, Kansas, begins in 1864, covers the road's controversial construction period, and ends with chapters on the "rebirth" and speculation on the "future" of the Border Tier Road that has for so long linked the towns of Kansas City, Paola, Fort Scott, Girard, and Baxter Springs.

Governors' Mansions of the Midwest.
By Ann Liberman.
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004. 172 pages, paper $34.95.)

With beautiful full-color exterior and interior photographs by Alise O'Brien, Governors' Mansions of the Midwest document's the history of twelve official state residences from Ohio to Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. In each case the author offers the vital statistics (construction date and cost, size in square feet, etc.), followed by a lucid historical essay and five or six contemporary photographs; in addition, this coffee table type book contains a useful bibliography of sources used. The section on Cedar Crest, the Kansas governor's mansion, includes a brief description of the renovation that took place during the Graves administration.,et,acs