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24. New York Daily Tribune, April 14, 1879. The quotation also appeared in the
Topeka Commonwealth, April 17, 1879.

25. Topeka Commonwealth, April 19, 1879.

26. Born in 1833 in Indiana, St. John left home at the age of 12 with a meager
education. Through his own efforts, however, he was later admitted to the bar in Illinois.
He entered Kansas politics in 1873, and by leading the woman's rights and antiliquor
movements in the state was elected governor in 1878 and again in 1880. For other
aspects of St. John's life see Edna Tutt Frederikson, "John Pierce St. John," Dictionary
of American Biography, v. 16 (1935), pp. 303, 304.

27. Topeka Commonwealth, April 20, 1879.


whites to preserve an endangered Union? Could the state refuse
succor to a race whose members had helped Northern soldiers
in their flight from Southern prisons? The idea was unthinkable!
As Kansas had met and conquered other emergencies, so she would
not rest until these Negroes were settled in the state. "Negroes
are not beggars/' the Commonwealth reported the governor as
saying. "He had fed at his house many tramps, but never a black
tramp." 28

These penetrating remarks were followed by those of the Rev.
James E. Gilbert, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal church,
who spoke briefly while the resolutions committee was complet-
ing its task. He stood on the same ground that St. John had oc-
cupied. "Would Kansas be true to herself?" If the Negroes were
told to stay at home and the exodus was discouraged, Kansas would
be false to herself. His referral to the state as the asylum of the
oppressed brought a hearty round of applause from an enthusiastic
audience. 29

The resolutions committee had likewise warmed to its work,
and submitted an important and well designed plan of action.
Since the state government could not provide aid in such an emer-
gency, 3e the report called upon the people of the state to shoulder
their "respective shares." It provided for a committee, with the
governor at its head, "to receive such contributions of money,
food, etc., as charitable citizens in all parts of the country shall
contribute for distribution by said committee." 31 Relief work was
put on an operating basis when those attending contributed $533
for immediate aid.

Early the following morning, April 21, Governor St. John ap-
pointed a 12-member executive committee and summoned them
to an 11:00 o'clock meeting in the office of N. C. McFarland, a

28. Ibid., April 22, 1879, and the Tppeka Daily Capital, April 21, 1879. The ref-
erence to "tramps" was timely, since their presence in Kansas at this time constituted a
serious social problem. St. John's speech was regarded by some as a direct invitation to
the Negroes to come to Kansas. Dr. F. M. Stringfield, the recently defeated Independent
candidate for the mayoralty of Topeka, and who had also donated his professional services
for the migrants, said: "Governor St. John, in his speech at the Opera House, threw the
doors of the State wide open, and said he wanted a million of them to come in."
Senate Report 693, pt. 3, p. 329. M. Bosworth, the first treasurer of the relief committee,
thought the governor "did perhaps go a little too far . . . and they might construe
from what he said that he was rather bidding for them." Ibid., p. 289.

29. Topeka Commonwealth, April 22, 1879, and the Topeka Daily Capital, April 21,

30. The Topeka Commonwealth of April 19, 1879, reasoned that the legislature would
not be in session for nearly two years. Even if it were in session and could provide aid,
the Commonwealth thought a "private organization" would be preferable.

31. Topeka Daily Capital, April 21, 1879. The resolutions also appeared in the
Topeka Commonwealth, April 22, 1879.


prominent Topeka attorney. 32 As further donations would be
needed by the committee, the governor appointed a group of
women to solicit throughout the city for money, clothing, and
other items, and ordered the corresponding secretary, J. C. Heb-
bard, journal clerk of the state house of representatives, to find a
place of deposit for contributions of bulky goods. The most
urgent business, however, was to provide relief for Wyandotte,
and after discussion, McFarland was chosen to proceed to that
city with some of the previous night's collection and furnish such
pecuniary aid as was possible. 33

When McFarland stepped off the train at Wyandotte that Mon-
day evening, April 21, he was walking into a city seething with
discontent. Following Mayor Stockton's proclamation of April
18, threatening with legal action those bringing migrants into
the town, Stockton had obtained a warrant for the arrest of the
captain of the steamer E. H. Durfee, which was due in the city
that very day. This action sent the Wyandotte relief group into
a long and earnest conference. Realizing that those within the
city were only "the vanguard of thousands to follow/' the com-
mittee agreed at first, apparently unanimously, "to stop the im-
migration at all hazards, and use radical measures for that pur-
pose." This must have been a temporary stand, however, for
"wiser measures" were reportedly adopted.

The group subsequently decided to allow the migrants to come
into the city, under protest, and send them on immediately. The
change of attitude was demonstrated by the unanimous support
of R. M. Tunnell's motion calling for the withdrawal of the mayor's
warrant for the arrest of the Durfee s captain. 34 The course of ac-
tion taken by the committee probably saved the city from much
public condemnation. To convince the community as a whole
that this was the wisest course was to prove more difficult!

Although the committee had agreed to allow the newcomers
to enter the city, those aboard the E. H. Durfee were not destined
to enjoy that privilege, at least not immediately. In the evening
following the meeting of the relief committee, Mayor Stockton
met the vessel upon its arrival in the city, and persuaded the cap-

32. The executive committee consisted of Governor St. John; M. H. Case, mayor

uuMMu* vj. iTi^j.-cu.iaiiu, m+9t ij. >-nxiaiiiitri; ituu j. \-i. iieuuaru. r or a SKeicn or me
life of N. C. McFarland, see James L. King, History of Shawnee County, Kansas, and
Representative Citizens (Chicago, 1905), pp. 324, 325.

33. Topeka Daily Capital, April 21, 1879, and Topeka Commonwealth, April 22, 1879.

34. Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, April 22, 1879, as quoted in the Topeka Common-
wealth, April 23, 1879.


tain to unload his passengers across the river on the Kansas City
side. 35 There they remained all night without food and shelter.
On the following day, April 22, McFarland used $17.50 of the
Opera House collection to buy 100 loaves of bread and 250 pounds
of bacon and had it sent over to them. 36

While McFarland was relieving a suffering humanity in Wyan-
dotte, an attempt was made to obtain assistance from congress.
On April 21 Rep. James A. Garfield of Ohio introduced House
Resolution 523, which provided for an appropriation of $5,000,
and authorized the Secretary of War to issue tents and rations,
to relieve the "temporary distress" of the freedmen. 37 Rep. D. C.
Haskell of Kansas telegraphed Governor St. John the day following
the introduction of Garfield's bill, expressing fear that passage
was improbable. The Garfield sponsorship was prompted by the
thought that since his state was not immediately affected by the
exodus chances of success would be greater. Even with this ad-
vantage, however, Haskell presumed the appropriations committee
would kill the bill by refusing to report it. 88

The senate became a part of the exodus drama when Mayor
Stockton appealed to Sen. John J. Ingalls of Kansas, reciting the
sufferings and privations of the migrants and the limited resources
of the city. On April 22 Ingalls read the letter to his colleagues,
remarking that the "great free communities 1 ' of the West could
absorb the unfortunate Negroes, but that certain cities should
not be called upon to bear the whole burden of what he apparently
felt was a national responsibility. In line with his feelings, there-
fore, he introduced Senate Bill 472, for the relief of the "destitute
colored persons now migrating from the Southern States." 39 He
reminded his fellow senators that they had given aid to relieve
suffering upon other occasions similar to the exodus, and urged
"immediate and efficient action on the subject." 40

35. Ibid. See, also, McFarland's account of his Wyandotte trip in the Topeka
Commonwealth, April 24, 1879. Although the verbal exchange was not reported, a
similar conversation between the mayor and Captain Vickers of the Joe Kinney has been
preserved. The captain reminded Stockton, in answer to the latter's warning not to
bring more migrants to Wyandotte, that steamboats were common carriers and bound to
transport paying passengers. Stockton then threatened the boat with quarantine, where-
upon the captain replied, that in the absence of an epidemic, he would ignore such a
proclamation. St. Louis Missouri Republican, April 21, 1879.

36. Topeka Commonwealth, April 24, 1879. A more detailed account of conditions
at Wyandotte appeared in the Topeka Daily Capital, April 22, 1879.

37. Congressional Record, 46th Cong., 1st Sess., 1879, v. 9, pt. 1, p. 620.

38. See a telegram and letter of April 22 and 28, 1879, from D. C. Haskell to Gov.
John P. St. John. "Governor's Correspondence," loc. cit.

39. Congressional Record, 46th Cong., 1st Sess., 1879, v. 9, pt. 1, p. 661. See Mayor
Stockton's letter of April 19, to Ingalls and Sen. Preston B. Plumb of Emporia, quoted
on p. 661. In a letter to J. C. Hebbard, Ingalls revealed that his bill called for rations
and clothing. Topeka Daily Capital, May 8, 1879.

40. Topeka Commonwealth, April 29, 1879.


Meanwhile, discontent had reached a head in Wyandotte. On
Wednesday evening, April 23, a mass meeting was held in the city
hall with the intention of taking strong action. After organizing
with Probate Judge R. E. Cable in the chair, the resolutions com-
mittee returned the recommendation that "having done all in our
power to prevent the emigration, and having been utterly disre-
garded, we resist the landing of any more of the refugees on our
shores, peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must." 41

It was further recommended that a committee of "public safety"
be formed, "to act in any manner they may see fit, and we hereby
pledge our support to them, in any measure that they promul-
gate/' 42 With this radical proposal, the two factions present
prepared for a showdown. The "peace party" was able to carry
a motion to strike out the words "peaceably if we can, forcibly if
we must," and to substitute, "by all lawful means in our power."
The opposition, which controlled the meeting, would allow no
further weakening of their resolution. Following the defeat of
a motion to postpone final vote on the resolves, the crowd ap-
proved them by "a large majority." The advocates of moderation
were conclusively defeated when V. J. Lane's move to reconsider
the vote was decided by the chairman to be "lost." 43

State Senator W. J. Buchan of Wyandotte felt the opposition
to the migrants in the city stemmed from two factors: the fear
of yellow fever, the germs of which were thought to be carried
in the Negroes' baggage, and the increased expense of caring for
so many helpless persons. 44 V. J. Lane was particularly concerned
about the "safety" committee. "I opposed those resolutions," tes-
tified Lane, "and said that this was a free country, and these
people had a right to come. Of course it was unfortunate for us
to have such a large indigent population set down on us; but we
could not prevent them by force from coming." 45

Discontent in Wyandotte had reached its climax, however, and
only the sober second thoughts had saved the city from disgrace
at the hands of the radicals. Even then, the reputation of the

41. Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, April 24, 1879, as quoted in the Topeka Common-
wealth, April 25, 1879.

42. Ibid. See, also, Wyandotte Herald, April 24, 1879. Twenty-five persons were
appointed to form a "committee of safety."

43. Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, April 24, 1879, as quoted in the Topeka Common-
wealth, April 25, 1879.

44. See the testimony of W. J. Buchan in Senate Report 693, pt. 3, p. 474.

45. See the testimony of V. J. Lane in ibid., p. 327. "The mayor was called upon to
appoint a police force of fifty to go down to the wharves and prevent them from landing
from the boats," testified Lane. "I told him not to do it, and if he did he would see
more bloodshed there than he had ever seen anywhere in his life."


city, and finally the state as a whole, became suspect because of
the very mention of sending an armed force to the river front. 46
Much distrust of Kansas relief was dispelled, however, by the
resolute and energetic measures taken by the executive committee
in Topeka.

That body was no longer solely concerned with the explosive
situation in Wyandotte, but was now endeavoring to extend its
organization state wide. On the morning of April 24, the com-
mittee met in the office of N. C. McFarland, to draft an address
"To the People of Kansas." The various communities throughout
the state were invited to organize freedmen's aid societies through
which contributions of relief materials could be distributed to the
Negroes. The central committee in Topeka could also be advised
by these auxiliary organizations concerning the number of migrants
that could "be provided with employment or homes in their re-
spective localities/' 47

An effective organization would be useless, however, without
money, food, and other relief materials. With this in mind, no
doubt, Governor St. John wrote Maj. Gen. John Pope, command-
ing the Department of Missouri, Fort Leavenworth, requesting the
use of spare facilities at the fort, or at least tents and rations for
the migrants. The governor realized, of course, that the installation,
located on the Missouri river, would make an ideal place for the
reception of the Negroes as they arrived on the river boats. Maj.
E. R. Platt, assistant adjutant general, writing for General Pope,
who was absent in New York, answered the governor's request
by stating that no surplus facilities were available for the freed-
men and that he had no power to allow tents or rations to be
used for such a purpose. 48 It should have been plain to St. John,
especially after a similar request made to the Secretary of War
by Mayor Shelley of Kansas City was so clearly denied, that
no help could be expected from that source.

With prospects for federal aid for the migrants becoming in-
creasingly hopeless, dependence upon local benevolence was as-

46. The Topeka Commonwealth, May 2, 1879, reported the Chicago Journal as saying
that a "current" report mentioned Negroes being turned back by river bank patrols.
" 'Bleeding Kansas' is not a good place for the exhibition of such a bull-dozing spirit,"
commented the Journal. One M. Howard of Washington, D. C., wrote to Governor St.
John telling of a card being published in the "daily papers" of that city, in which it was
reported that "a sort of volunteer militia" was patrolling the banks of the Missouri river
"with loaded guns." Topeka Commonwealth, May 4, 1879.

47. For the text of the address see the Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879, the Coffey-
ville Journal, May 3, 1879, and the Topeka Commonwealth, April 25, 1879.

48. Telegram and letter, Major E. R. Platt, assistant adjutant general of the Department
of Missouri, Fort Leavenworth, to Gov. John P. St. John, April 25, 1879. "Governor's
Correspondence," loc. cit.


suming greater importance, and, with few exceptions, the various
municipalities were taking their shares of the burden of caring
for the migrants. One of the exceptions, of course, was Wyan-
dotte, which, after narrowly averting a serious clash between the
races, was launching a redoubled effort to turn the stream of mi-
gration in other directions.

On April 25, Mayor Stockton met with the Colored Refugee Re-
lief Board of St. Louis and received assurance that the group would
contact the executive committee in Topeka and send the migrants
to places designated by the Kansas authorities. 49 On the following
day, April 26, V. J. Lane and George H. Miller conferred with
the executive committee in Topeka. They asked that "sufficient
measures" be taken by the central committee to assure their city
relief from the continuing arrivals of Negroes from St. Louis. They
received assurance that measures would be taken to give them
the desired relief. 50

The Wyandotte visitors were likewise gratified when the com-
mittee turned its attention to the drafting of a long overdue and
much-needed address to the Southern Negroes, explaining the true
conditions in Kansas. This action was occasioned by the general
belief that the migration had been initiated by circulars giving
exaggerated accounts of opportunities in Kansas. Many of these
promised free land, implements and animals, and government sub-
sistence for one year to all who arrived in the state. 51 The com-
mittee's plan to counteract the influence of the 'lying circulars"
was hailed by the Topeka Daily Capital as a step toward prevent-
ing the Negroes from being deceived. 52 The Atchison Daily
Champion, which had been calling for such action for some time,
felt that if the freedmen came to Kansas fully informed of con-
ditions awaiting them, their chances of becoming successful resi-
dents of the state would be greatly improved. 53

Both newspapers were to be disappointed, for at a meeting on
the evening of April 26, the majority of the committee decided to

49. Stockton was accompanied by State Senator W. J. Buchan and William Al-
bright, deputy county treasurer of Wyandotte county. Topeka Daily Capital, May 6,
1879. See, also, an article, possibly from the Chicago Tribune, April 26, 1879, in the
"Horatio N. Rust Scrapbook; Relating to the Negro Exodus From the South to Kansas,
1880," p. 45. Kansas State Historical Society library.

50. Topeka Daily Capital, April 26, 1879, and the Topeka Commonwealth, April

2 / , loYv).

51. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 12, 1879.

52. Topeka Daily Capital, April 26, 1879.

53. Atchison Daily Champion, April 29, 1879.


suspend action "for the present/' while the matter was given
further consideration. 54 The temporary suspension soon became
an indefinite postponement, the members feeling that such an
address would be "garbled by the Southern press" and the de-
sired object of the effort would be defeated. 55

Meanwhile, apparently not content with the answer he received
from Fort Leavenworth concerning his request for quarters and
rations for the migrants, Governor St. John telegraphed Rep. D. C.
Haskell of Kansas asking him to contact the Secretary of War
for permission to use the facilities of the fort. In his reply of April
28, Haskell explained that the secretary was "more than willing
personally" to comply with the request, but to do so "would be
like exposing himself to a drove of wolves," since the Southern
congressmen were "wild over this exodus & they hope & pray
(apparently) that enough of the poor creatures will come to want
[in Kansas], to deter the rest from leaving." 56 There was no hope
of aid from congress, and Haskell felt it had been a mistake to
introduce bills into that body for relief of the Negroes. Besides
there being no chance of passage, he feared such proposed legisla-
tion would only tend to diminish private contributions. 57

This correspondence extinguished the last flickering hope of
receiving federal assistance. It likewise left Wyandotte in her un-
enviable position of being the main recipient of migrants in Kan-
sas. In spite of assurances from the relief groups in St. Louis
and Topeka, it was not until C. W. Prentice, chairman of the St.
Louis transportation committee, arrived in Topeka to confer with
the relief authorities there, that any help for Wyandotte was pos-
sible. At a meeting of May 3, it was agreed that the St. Louis
group could send the migrants to Kansas City, Kan., by water,
and a member of the Topeka committee would superintend their
transportation from Kansas City to Topeka by rail. This would
certainly answer the demand of Wyandotte that the flow be di-
verted from that city, and in this manner the sudden invasion of
a host of destitute persons upon an unprepared community would
be avoided. J. C. Hebbard, committee secretary, was dispatched

54. Topeka Daily Capital, April 28, 1879.

55. Ibid., April 30, 1879.

56. Letter, D. C. Haskell to Gov. John P. St. John, April 28, 1879. In a telegram
of the same date to the governor, Haskell warned that if the secretary of war granted
supplies from Fort Leavenworth, "impeachment proceedings would be commenced at
once. Southern feeling is intense." "Governor's Correspondence," loc. cit.

57. Letter, D. C. Haskell to Gov. John P. St. John, April 28, 1879. Ibid.


to Kansas City to meet the first group arriving on the E. H. Durfee
on May 5. 58

With Wyandotte now freed from the burden of caring for the
migrants, Topeka emerged as the center of the relief movement
a development of great significance. As already noted, the various
cities of the state were now relieved of the costly and often distaste-
ful necessity of providing food, shelter, and transportation for the
migrants. In addition, this development provided for the creation
of centralized relief necessary to care for the greater numbers
soon to descend upon the state. Further, relief was now in the
hands of men whose names commanded respect, and donations
sufficient to meet the needs of the impending deluge were thereby

The members of the central committee also recognized the im-
portance of their new role. At a meeting on May 2 the incorpora-
tion of the committee under state law was discussed, the mem-
bers feeling that "a proper organization might do much toward
assisting the immigrants to establish small colonies in different
parts of the state." 59 On May 5, the matter was given additional
consideration, 60 but it was not until the following day, May 6, that
the committee decided definitely that the move was necessary to
give "stability and responsibility" to relief efforts in the state. 61
On May 8 the committee was incorporated as the Kansas Freed-
men's Relief Association with St. John as president. 62

One of the sorest problems confronting the new organization
was still the matter of maintaining cordial public relations. This
became increasingly difficult, especially in North Topeka where
the migrants arrived on the Kansas Pacific railroad, and where they
remained. There were protests concerning the manner in which
the newcomers* necessities were managed. Many of them were
suffering from a variety of diseases. In one group of around 70
persons, such ailments as measles, pneumonia, pleurisy, consump-

58. See an account of the meeting in a report by Prentice to the Colored Refugee
Relief Board of St. Louis in the "Benjamin Singleton Scrapbook," Kansas State Historical
Society library. While the Topeka Daily Capital carried no report of the meeting, the
Topeka Commonwealth, May 3, 1879, related the substance of the agreement. Hebbard
arrived in Kansas City on May 5. See the Wyandotte Herald, May 8, 1879. Arrange-
ments of a "favorable nature" were reportedly made with P. B. Groat, general passenger
agent for the Kansas Pacific railroad, for the transportation of the migrants to Topeka.
See the Topeka Commonwealth, May 1, 1879. This was prior to the Prentice visit, and
whether the arrangements were made by Wyandotte or Topeka is not known.

59. Topeka Daily Capital, May 3, 1879.

60. Ibid., May 5, 1879.

61. Atchison Daily Champion, May 7, 1879.

62. Frank W. Blackmar, Kansas, a Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events,
Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, etc. (Chicago, 1912),
v. 1, pp. 685, 686. See, also, the Topeka Daily Capital, May 10, 1879.


tion, and the bloody flux were reported. Nearly all were suffering
from "a sort of dietetic diarrhea." 63

Until the first few days of May, the Negroes had had to shift
for themselves. Most of them had finally settled along the Kansas
river in tents, dugouts, and other temporary shelter. On April 29,

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