Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by local historian Jan Huston, courtesy of the Lyon County Historical Society.
Editor Jacob Stotler of the Emporia News saw the military spirit developing all over Kansas as well as elsewhere. Nearly every county had already formed companies of militia or volunteers, and he believed that if any border ruffians of Missouri or savages knew that the state was prepared to give a bloody reception, they would not trouble us. “Our safety depends upon being ready,” he wrote.
Cheek by jowl with war news, Stotler also continued to print news and advertisements for the area. He noted that orders were received from Washington to stop work on the houses being built for the Kaw and the Sac and Fox Indians by Mr. Stevens of Lecompton. The War Department was suspicious that the money was not being expended to the advantage of the Indians to whom it belonged and ordered an investigation.
From the Council Grove Press, Stotler learned that the Kaw Reservation would be diminished to a tract of land nine by fourteen miles near Council Grove, making 126 sections that would be divided into 40 acre tracts. This would make 2,016 tracts that would be divided among 850 men, women, and children. The Indian agent, Col. Dickey, proposed to locate groups on the west part of the reserve no nearer than two miles from Council Grove. Another location was east of two miles west of the mouth of Rock Creek, leaving any member of the tribe about 54 square miles.
The Council Grove newspaper agreed that this was a satisfactory arrangement and credited the agent for his work. After the allotment was made, other land belonging to the tribe would be disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior. It was recommended that people interested in Indian land abstain from any interference with the process. They could meet or petition the President or the Senate in due time.
In other news, Stotler observed that with the press of business in the Kansas legislature, it would be impossible to get a bill through organizing a new county out of the north part of Breckinridge County and the south part of Wabaunsee County. This was a time period when actual dimensions of counties were in a state of flux. It had been the dream of A.I. Baker and other influential men of the north part of the county that Americus would be the county seat. When negotiations in the state legislature eliminated Madison County and appended twelve additional miles to the south part of our county, Emporia was then more centrally located and became the county seat.
Baker of Agnes City, Charles Withington of 142 Mile Creek, and others then thought that perhaps a new county could be carved out of the north part of our county and the south of Wabaunsee County. Baker’s really big dream was that this new county could be well situated to become the capitol of Kansas with its location nearer the center of the new state than Topeka. But Stotler saw that this dream was not to be, gently putting it to rest in The Emporia News.
Newspapers must appeal to the interests of a varied audience. Whole sections of the front page were sometimes devoted to advice to farmers. In April of 1861, Stotler published articles entitled “Practical Views About Sheep Raising in Kansas” taken from the Lawrence Journal and “Why Our Farmers Should Plant Trees” from the Leavenworth Conservative and “The Garden Spot of the World” from the Leavenworth Herald. Since often the new settlers were inexperienced in farming, these articles lent valuable assistance.
The April 27, 1861 issue discussed the military spirit in Emporia. Two companies had already organized; the first, an infantry company called the Emporia Guards, elected W.F. Cloud as Captain over the 45 members. The second company, an artillery company called the Kansas Artillery, numbered 40 members under the direction of Captain A.J. Mitchell. A third company was to be cavalry, with 20 members already enrolled and ranks soon to be filled. Stotler proclaimed these companies composed of “good men and true.” They were intended to defend the home, whether that meant the western border against Indians or the eastern border against the rebels. Mr. Cloud, Captain of the infantry, was already in Topeka looking for a quantity of arms for his company, Stotler reported.
To our western frontier, rumors spread of hostile intent on the part of the Indians. Settlers were alarmed, and settlers in Colorado were equally interested in unifying to assist each other in “cleaning out the whole pack”, as Stotler reported it. He also admitted that these rumors may have had no basis in fact, and he didn’t anticipate any difficulty because, as he wrote, “The Indians know better.”
Stotler reprinted some news from the Americus Sentinel, only one copy of which exists today. The Sentinel told of a meeting held on the farm of Elijah Goddard on Rock Creek of all the squatters on Kaw trust lands to take steps toward getting the sale of these lands postponed. Apparently the meeting also produced political talk as men there had learned that the representative from this county, Mr. George H. Rees, was supporting General James Lane for Senator from Kansas. Some at the meeting wondered if Mr. Rees believed that the majority of his constituents were in favor of someone other than Gen. Lane. The Sentinel wrote, “Mr. Rees is an honorable and upright man, very popular at home, and will fill the position he now occupies with honor to himself and credit to his constituents.”
Meanwhile, Latest Telegraphic News reported much chaos as troops assembled quickly in light of the declaration of war. The 7th New York regiment left for Washington by railroad, taking their howitzers and each man equipped with a brace of revolvers in addition to his musket. Excitement at recruiting stations was unprecedented. The 1st New York regiment was complete with 1,000 men expected to muster into U.S. service. The Confederate States of America attempted to purchase a new steamer, Merodita, but there was not enough money in the seceded states to do it. It was reported that Jefferson Davis at the head of the Confederate army was within twenty-four hours’ march of Washington.
Lieutenant Jones, formerly in command at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, when told that a force of 2,500 Confederates had been ordered to take possession of the armory, under instructions from the War Department destroyed all munitions of war, armory, arsenal, and all the buildings, withdrawing under cover at night, almost in the face of the rebels. He lost three men, and 15,000 stand of arms were destroyed before the command made a forced march of thirty miles to Hagerstown, Maryland. Jones and his men were exhausted.
In Baltimore, some Philadelphians stayed in their railroad car unarmed while they were assaulted with stones and other missiles. Some were wounded. The train was taken by rebels. A number of the Philadelphians escaped the city, and as they did not yet have uniforms, they were not recognized. The presidents of the railroads announced that they would transport no more troops that way.
Governor Andrews of Massachusetts sent the Mayor of Baltimore a the following dispatch: “I pray you cause the bodies of our Massachusetts soldiers dead in battle to be immediately laid out, preserved in ice, and tenderly sent forward by express to me. All expense will be paid by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Boston was in great upheaval over the attack upon her soldiers at Baltimore.
In another piece of local interest, the Emporia News presented with no small degree of pride and satisfaction, that a new town had been surveyed for the county. Allen, the new town, was located on One-Hundred-and-Forty-Two Creek at the crossing of the Santa Fe Trail. It was laid out with wide streets and large lots by C.H. Withington, Esq. who offered inducements to settlers who would build there. Stotler, as well as probably all citizens of the county, agreed that the location of this town was very important and long overdue.
Situated on the great commercial highway of Kansas, the Santa Fe Trail, midway between Burlingame and Council Grove, the proposed town was surrounded by some of the very best grazing land of the state with an abundance of timber, coal, stone, and clay, and the purest of water. Stotler even proclaimed that 1861 was an auspicious time to lay out this town; it was not started in speculative times, but in a time following a great drought and with money pressures from the Civil War. He saw this as evidence that Allen was a live town, and live and enterprising men were connected with it.
It is easily seen, from scanning only four issues of the 1861 Emporia News, that the city and the county were involved and aware of the clashes that would face the country. A Civil War, more than any other, tears at the fabric of the nation, creating the brother-against-brother conflict that sometimes never heals. Yet, this new state was bursting with confidence, anticipating its place in the Nation, looking toward a bright future.
Never believe that the Civil War was fought only at Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Atlanta, and Appomattox. Remember Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence in 1863 where a Lyon County boy killed more Lawrence residents than any other raider from Missouri. Follow the walking trail through town that shows the addresses in Lawrence where over 150 citizens were slaughtered. Spend some time in the Lawrence cemetery which was designed for folks to linger and remember, perhaps share a lunch under the large shade trees.
Remember the battle at Baxter Springs, and the battles at Mine Creek and Marais des Cygnes in Lynn County. Visit these Kansas battlegrounds. Visit where the Battle of Wilson Creek was fought in southwestern Missouri. Go to see the battlegrounds of the Battle of Pea Ridge or Prairie Grove in Arkansas to see where early Emporian volunteers fought.
We must always remember that in April and May of 1861, no one expected the Civil War to last more than a few months. All Northerners thought that the South would be defeated early and would reenter the Union willingly. All Southerners thought that if they could just outlast the North, the war would stop. No one ever expected that the American Civil War would drag on for four years with over 620,000 dying of injuries and disease. Compare that to the 2,300 dead since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan. War is a tragic thing, but a Civil War creates incalculable consequences for years to come.