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out the Union side afforded the best opportunities for robbery, and
he was nominally a Union man, but really a plunderer of Missouri
property. 1 There are miles and miles of Missouri thoroughfare on
the border, on which Jennison and his men burned every house
and in many instances slaughtered the people. One old lady tells
us her experience: Her husband had been reported a rebel by

MRS. LELA BARNES is treasurer and head of the manuscript division of the Kansas State
Historical Society.

1. The statement is generally made in histories of the period and biographies of
Charles R. Jennison that he became active in the Free-State cause as soon as he arrived in
the territory in 1857. He was a supporter of John Brown.

(267)



268 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

some of Jennison's men. In passing his house Jennison called him
out, and, without much parleying, ordered his boys to string him
up on his own piazza. In spite of the woman's entreaties and cry-
ing, a rope was fastened to his neck, and, with the other end thrown
over a beam, he was jerked several feet into the air. As his neck
was not broken, he struggled violently for release, when Jennison
ordered two of his men to jump upon him and break his neck.
This was done, in the very face of his wife "and there" said she, "is
the very beam where they hung him." This is but one specimen
of the numerous cases of out-lawing perpetrated in those times.

Wyandotte is situated at the mouth and on the north side of Kaw
river. The county embraces the former reserve of the Wyandotts,
who have, till within a year or two, resided here, cultivating the
lands and mingling with the society of whites, and in many cases
intermarrying with them. The Wyandotts have produced some
fascinating squaws, who have in times past turned the heads of
prominent whites. Sally Driver, still a resident of Wyandotte, has
been among the most prominent belles the tribe ever boasted of.
Sally was finely educated in eastern seminaries, had the advantage
of the best society during her school days, and when she took her
sheepskin and came home she was the most charming woman in
the west. She was of medium stature, with black hair and eyes,
quick and graceful in motion, lively and entertaining in conversa-
tion, and as bright as a new dollar. The floor at her feet has been
wiped by the knees of prominent statesmen and lawyers. But Sally
is still single. We called on her. Her blooming beauty has de-
parted, and she looks a little more like a squaw than a belle. 2

Perhaps the reader would like to consult the county records and
learn the names of some of the real estate holders and heads of
families in Wyandotte county. We called upon the register, today,
who turned to his records of deeds and, among others, read the
following: Splitlog, Mudeater, Bigknife, Longhorn, Bluejacket,
Whiteday, Whitefeather, Johnnycake, Silverheels, Bearskin, Beaver,
Bigsinner, Bigtree, Bigarms, Blacksheep, Baldhead, Choplog, Coon,
Coonhawk, Cornstalk, Curlyhead, Fighter, Grayeyes, Halfjohn,
Caryhoo, Littlechief, Lumpy, Peacock, Pipe, Porcupine, Punch,
Sarahass, Spybuck, Summonduwat, Tallman, Wasp, Whitecrow,
Whitewing, Bigtown, Longhouse, Nofoot, Standingstone, &c.

2. Gen. George D. Bayard in a letter to his sister dated at Fort Leavenworth, Decem-
ber 18 1856, wrote: "There are some charming half breed ladies, who resort here from
the interior. What do you girls say about it? The great Wyandot Beauty is now here,
Miss D." Samuel J. Bayard, The Life of George Dashiell Bayard (New York, G. P. Put-
nam's Sons, 1874).



AN EDITOR LOOKS AT EARLY-DAY KANSAS 269

The above are all heads of families, and many of them have been
prominent citizens of Wyandotte, and tolerable farmers. The tribe
is now quartered in the Cherokee country, altho* many of the de-
scendants are here, amalgamated with the whites.

As a town, Wyandotte has not kept pace with her predictions.
She is situated in a splendid country, the Missouri river bluffs,
where the finest fruits can be raised, and other crops grow in
abundance. Before the war she was the rival of Kansas City,
just across the Kaw river and over the state line, in Missouri. She
was among the early Kansas towns to take on great expectations.
But after the war Kansas City took the growth, leaving Wyandotte
as a suburban village. She now contains about 2500 inhabitants,
2 banks, 2 newspapers, a fine graded school, several good churches,
blocks and residences, but her fate as a great city is sealed, and
she can expect thrift only as an incident in the growth of Kansas
City. City lots sell occasionally at good figures, and her expecta-
tions as a sideshow are of no small degree. She has spent a good
deal of money in cutting down streets, filling up ravines, and for
other improvements designed to make the city attractive as a place
of residence, a sort of Brooklyn to Kansas City, which is now the
ultimatum of her ambition.

But Wyandotte's disappointment is not much compared with
that of some other places of "great expectations." Quindaro stood
on the Missouri river, two miles above here. Quindaro was, but
now she is not. Gov. Robinson thought to make it the point west
of St. Louis on the river. He interested a Massachusetts colony,
who emigrated, laid out the town, and began building. The main
avenue of the city ran from the levee back into the bluffs, which
were to be cut down to accommodate the grade. A street of blocks
were built, including several fine stores, a three-story hotel, &c.
A good mill with steam engine was erected and equipped on the
levee and the Governor spent some $40,000 in grading his avenue.
We visited the city in 1863 and found but one solitary family there.
A poor man and a crazy wife had strayed into the hall of the hotel,
and there occupied a bunch of rags. One store with granite front
and iron posts stood as good as new, and various other buildings
were in good preservation, but empty. Governor Robinson Ave-
nue was graded back into the bluff 75 rods, where it stopped,
leaving a perpendicular embankment 20 feet high. Small cotton-
woods had sprung up in the street, and the owls were making se-
lections of choice localities for places of abode. The colony had



270 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

tired of their enterprise and gone back home, leaving numerous
town lots and the city of great expectations to take care of them-
selves. The lots are there, today, and so is the governor's avenue,
but it is covered with a fine growth of cottonwoods. The buildings
have tumbled down, and the solitary family even has abandoned
the place. 3

Kansas can boast of other enterprises, where villages were
mapped and lots sold at good figures, out upon the prairie and
miles from any house. All over Kansas, wherever two roads inter-
sected, villages were laid out and lots sold to those suffering with
the town lot fever. The bubble burst prior to the rebellion, since
which time expectations and speculations have been based upon
more reasonable foundations. [C. M. C.]

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 25, 1873
DEAR READER:

Did you ever come within one of getting rich? Within the limits
of this city is a 40-acre lot of beautiful land. In 1863 this lot was
enclosed by a fence, and was a native forest of oak and walnut. In
the fall of that year we sported with a double-barrel shot gun, and,
on the same lot, took in many a fox squirrel. We were charmed
with the land, as it was high and overlooked the city, and in case
the city grew it was sure to be in demand for lots. An old gentle-
man named Judge Smart owned it, and being "right smart" in want
of money, desired to sell; $300 per acre was his price. A real estate
dealer employed us to purchase the land at $250 per acre. We
laboured at various times with the owner to secure the tract for $250,
but he was too smart to discount a dollar from the $300, and we were
not smart enough to persuade the dealer to authorize us to pay over
$250. This ended the negotiation. But one day we went over the
land with the judge, selected the five acres we liked best, and se-
cured a refusal of the same for ten days at $300 per acre. We went
to Leavenworth, and at once sent back word to a friend to take the
deed and pay the $1500 for the land. But the judge backed square
down. Today that land is in the best locality of city residences, and
is compactly built over. Without the buildings it is worth $60,000
to $70,000. But we are still as poor as a printer.

At the foot of the bluff, between Kansas City and Wyandotte, is
a plat of level ground containing 3000 or 4000 acres of land. In
1864 this was all wilderness and a resort for hunters. Today it is

3. For the story of Quindaro see Alan Farley, "Annals of Quindaro: ^ Kansas Ghost
Town," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 22 (Winter, 1956), pp. 305-320.



AN EDITOR LOOKS AT EARLY-DAY KANSAS 271

the point where all the railroads center, and is covered with depots,
packing houses, cattle yards, second class stores, &c. It is the liveli-
est piece of ground of its size west of St. Louis. Standing upon the
bluff and looking down upon the whole tract you have before you
a moving hive of industry. At every hour of the day and night,
trains without number are arriving and departing, shifting about,
making up, &c. From 20 to 40 engines are constantly in motion,
dragging after them trains of various sizes. It is here one gets an
idea of the amount of business transacted in Texas cattle. This is
a business which would alone build up a city of no small magnitude.
We failed to obtain figures of the amount transacted in a month or
year. But it employs, in its various branches, an army of men.
Every train from the south, southwest, and west delivers at the
yards cattle, which are passed through several hands, and either fall
into the barrel right here or are shipped ahead to St. Louis or
Chicago. A day's stay about the yards makes one feel that all Texas
is raising cattle which are poured into this point. The business is
simply enormous. The trade has been hard, this fall. Today
"bunches" as they call herds of cattle were selling from a cent and
a half to four cents a pound, live weight. Texas countenances are
quite low and many drovers, who are out $3000 or $4000 on their
drive, declare it to be their last season.

These Texas cattle are not what Vermont would call beef. They
come in as thin as shads. No Vermont feeder would think of offer-
ing them to the butcher without a season of good feeding. But in
good order they do not look inviting. They are built like racers, and
are a good match on the hoof for the best of ponies. In front they are
quite imposing, with horns spanning about six feet, bright mild
eyes, and heavy forequarters. But take a rear view and you are
looking at the sharp end of a wedge.

Kansas City people claim this to be the largest beef -packing point
in the world. They are probably over-sanguine, but we believe it
is conceded that, among their four packing houses, one of them,
Plankinton & Armour's, is the largest in existence. At this season
of the year this establishment butchers and packs 800 to 1200 beeves
a day. You will get an idea of this dispatch by considering that
1200 in ten hours are two beeves a minute, slaughtered, dressed,
packed, with the tallow and all waste tried and barreled. We spent
this afternoon in this house, witnessing the modus operandi. The
building covers several acres of land. Attached to outside above the
basement story, is a line of pens each large enough to hold two cattle.



272 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

In the yards below the droves are kept, and a half-dozen men are
constantly driving up the inclined plain leading to the slaughter-
pens cattle by twos. When these pens are filled, a man with a rifle
passes over them, dropping cold lead between their eyes. It keeps
this man with his rifle very busy all day to dispatch his 1200. These
pens are connected with the slaughter-house by heavy doors, which
are raised as the cattle are wanted. A chain is hitched to them, and
by steam they are drawn into position for the knives. There are
a half-dozen different sets of butchers. The first man passes along
the line, sticking; and then follows a set skinning and amputating
the heads; then comes the next set to skin and amputate the legs, and
split the hide down the belly; they are followed by "siders" who skin
down the sides of the animals, then come the "backers" who put in
the gambrels, order the hoist and skin down the backs. Men with
cleavers follow when the ox is partly split down, and he is ready
for two men with levers who slide him across the blood gutter to
the set who finish by splitting down and rinsing. Other sets are
engaged dragging away heads, insides, &c.

Every man has just so much to do with no possibility of shirking
his part or going slow. The help is so organized that each gang
drives the other, thus giving the proprietors the profit of a full day's
work from every hand. Every part of the animal is utilized, except
the offal and blood, which the proprietors informed us would be
saved next year. The inwards are dressed, and by an elevator,
carried, with other waste pieces, into the upper story, where they
are thrown into steam tanks and drawn out below in the shape of
tallow or other useful material. The process of cutting up and
packing is equally interesting to the spectator and is attended with
all possible dispatch. The pay of the men varies from $1.25 to $5
per day. The siders are considered the most skillful and get $5,
while the backers come in next with $4. The common hand gets $2
to $2.50, while helpers, or those who do the carrying away, &c., get
about $1.50. In the season of hog killing this house considers
nothing less than 3500 hogs a full day's work. Although this is the
largest packing house, there are three other large establishments
in the near vicinity which will serve to give the reader an idea of
the amount of this kind of business in Kansas City. And it is only
reasonable to suppose that it must largely increase during the next
few years.

Among the most important institutions organized in the city dur-



AN EDITOR LOOKS AT EARLY-DAY KANSAS 273

ing the past year are the street car companies, of which four are now
in existence, and run over thirteen miles of track. They are in their
infancy and run at a loss, but they have secured the franchise and
are confident in expectation of profitable days to come. This enter-
prise gives Kansas City a metropolitan appearance, and by its great
convenience to the citizen will have much to do with inviting an
increase of population.

Game abounds in this locality. Prairie chickens, quail, rabbits,
gray and fox squirrels are pursued with greed by men and boys.
It is fashionable to own a double barrel shot gun, with necessary
accoutrements. Within city limits, even, this small game is common.
Any man who owns a ten-acre orchard can supply his table
occasionally with game.

Labouring men command about $1.50 a day, but this season,
money being scarce and help plenty, a day's work can be secured
for $1. Mechanics in the city get about the same pay they command
in the country towns of Vermont. Corn is worth 40 cents. Poor
people get their beef cheap enough. Good Texas sirloin steaks or
roasts at the packing houses being 5 cents a pound. Good flour is
worth $8 or $9. Dry goods, groceries, clothing, agricultural imple-
ments, and in fact, most store goods are higher than in the East.

The one thing needful in the city is manufacturing. The West
seems satisfied to produce the material and let the East take the
profits of manufacturing. Hides taken off here are sent East to be
tanned, made into boots, and returned with the cost to the con-
sumers increased by freight two ways. The same may be said with
two-thirds of the manufactured articles used in the West. There is
not a carriage factory in Kansas City. There are two or three repair
shops, which employ a half-dozen hands, make a few heavy wagons
to order, and perhaps a half-dozen buggies without much style.
The city gentleman does not think of patronizing them except for
repairs, because they are not standard for style or finish. What is
known as the Lyndon open buggy would sell here for about $200
to $225, and it would compare favorably with the best open buggies
we see here. Such an establishment as that of Trull and Mattocks,
or J. D. Miller of St. Johnsbury, set up here and run by the same
help, would coin money fast enough to surprise itself. The city
would give it a handsome patronage, and the outside world would
overrun it with orders, as soon as its existence became known.

[C. M. C.]



274 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 27, 1873.
DEAR READER:

We will not hesitate to put on record the prediction that Kansas
City is to be a second Chicago of the west, and that inside of twenty
years she will outstrip St. Louis. Of course that great city would
elevate her nasal organ at this presumption; but that is nothing new
for her. She paid Chicago the same compliment for years, but is
now obliged to acknowledge superiority in point of commercial
importance and population.

Kansas City was a small village in 1840, and remained so till
1853, when she began to secure business from Texas, Santa Fe, and
the south-western country generally. She grew rapidly for a few
years and at the outbreak of the rebellion numbered about 10,000
souls, and was really the most important point west of St. Louis.
But during the war she had the misfortune to be a border Missouri
town, and of course was an objective point for Kansas plunderers.
During the dark days of the rebellion she was repeatedly in the
possession of both parties, and never had much to choose as to the
treatment received. Her wealth was an object of plunder. Union
men would charge the citizens with being rebels, and make free
use of their property. Rebels would return the compliment on
their side. Between them both the business was ruined and turned
towards Leavenworth. In McGee's addition a whole line of brick
blocks were converted into stables and barracks. In the main streets
stores were empty, and real estate was for sale for a song, but no
buyers. Scores of citizens secured what of their property they
could, took their families and left town for a more peaceful lo-
cality. . . .

While the city was under the control of Kansas soldiers, as it was
during our stay, it was worse off than it would have been if left
alone. They brought with them the old bitterness of 1856, and were
only too glad to pay off old scores under color of the law. If some
reprobate soldier fell into a quarrel with a citizen or outside farmer,
he had only to report him to headquarters as disloyal, when he
would be sent for and lodged in the guard-house. He might be
heard from afterwards, and he might not. We remember one
night 13 persons were thus locked up, and but one of them, after-
wards found below the city in the river, was ever heard from
again. Scarcely a day passed without one or more assassinations
in the city. If a soldier was the guilty party he would get his
discharge by finding a few companions to swear that the victim



AN EDITOR LOOKS AT EARLY-DAY KANSAS 275

was a rebel or a sympathizer. It was no trouble to procure such
testimony from the murderer's own company. Not half the cases
of assassination attracted the attention of the authorities.

The lawlessness of those times drove everything out of the city,
and gave it to Leavenworth, a Kansas city, and it really looked as
if Kansas City could never again revive. People of Leavenworth
were jubilant at the prospect of monopolizing metropolitan im-
portance west of St. Louis, and scouted the idea that Kansas City
could ever again be a rival. This idea was so prevalent that even
Kansas City merchants sold their property for what they could and
moved away. But when the war closed, business began to resume
its wonted localities. Instead of passing Kansas City, Southern
Kansas, Texas, and a part of New Mexico returned to the old point,
and Leavenworth began to smile out of the other corner of her
mouth. Railroads, projected and chartered prior to the war, began
to be built, and by 1870 seven long lines from seven remote quarters
of the country were completed, and centered on the bottom lands
below Kansas City bluffs. This gave an impetus of growth which
no rivalry could check. Capitalists moved in, large stores and
manufacturing enterprises were erected, and in seven years after the
war the city grew from 6,000 to 35,00010,000 larger than any
other city west of St. Louis. This growth has not been unhealthy,
but is a natural result of circumstances demanding the existence
of a large city at this point. Few cities in the Union are more
favored by railroads, and none drains a larger or more fertile coun-
try, yet principally to be developed.

During the past eight years Kansas has led off in emigration.
People have flocked into the state from everywhere, bringing small
means but good health, muscle, and a disposition to earn an honest
living. Along the lines of all the railroads, lands have been taken
up, farms started, and villages built. These are all tributary to
Kansas City. But while the development of Kansas has scarcely
begun, enough has already been done to sustain a prosperous city
of 50,000 inhabitants at this point. Millions upon millions of acres
are yet to be improved and to empty their products into this city
for exchange. We do not see how there can be but one prediction
in relation to the future of Kansas City, and that is a prediction of
marvellous growth, and a first rank among the cities of the Union.
As she is today the geographical center of the country, she may
reasonably expect, not a half a century hence, to be the center of
population.



276 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

Why is it that many of the most important cities of the world
have been located on sites requiring so much expense to prepare
for building? Chicago was located in a swamp, and it was found
necessary to raise the grade of the streets several times, until 10
feet of earth has been deposited on the original bed all over the
city. Two-thirds of Boston has been built up out of the sea. But
Kansas City is located in the Missouri bluffs, a country as much
up and down as an old-fashioned saw mill. No builder finds his
lot in a condition to build on, but has either to cut down or fill up.
The city, however, has established the grade of streets, and owners
of lots find the expense of cutting or filling, to suit the grade, im-
perative. In many places streets are cut through hard soil and
stone from 10 to 50 feet high. In 1863 we saw three-story buildings
standing against perpendicular embankments higher than the build-
ings themselves. Such instances are still to be seen, but the enter-
prise of the citizens has cut and filled until the general surface of
the city is quite comely. The expenses of this earth moving, when
this city shall have reached a population of a 100,000, will be enor-
mous. But the city authorities do not shrink from it and the im-
proved conveniences and the general attraction of the city justifies
the outlay.

In one thing the city is fortunate. These bluffs are full of the
best stone for building purposes, easily worked and handsome. It
also serves a good purpose for McAdamizing or paving the streets,
building stone walks for streets and residences. The dirt in the
bluffs is a sort of clay, a very hard compact substance, which, in
perpendicular cuts 50 feet high, retains its form against time and the
weather as securely as a stone wall. On many of these city lots, high
above the street, we see numerous brick yards, where the owners
are gradually working down to grade, and, at the same time, selling
their surplus dirt in the shape of bricks for building. A surplus of
clay is not so bad as it might be in a city where the demand for
building material is unlimited.

We are informed by the superintendent of schools that seven
years ago there was not a public school house in the city, and up
to that time, since the war, no appropriation for schooling had been
made. There were several private enterprises but nothing free to
the general public. But the intelligence of the city comprehended
the fact that the growth of no community could be healthy and
permanent unless based upon education and good morals. A school
board was formed and the work of establishing schools begun.



AN EDITOR LOOKS AT EARLY-DAY KANSAS 277

Today the city boasts of twelve large graded school houses, lo-



Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 31 of 59)