William Elsey Connelley.

Ingalls of Kansas; a character study online

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Author of " Ingalls Memorial Volume," "The Heckewelder Narrative,

"John Brown," "Wyandot Folk-Lore," "Doniphan's

Expedition," etc., etc.




Copyright, 1909,
By William Elsey Connelley





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A bolt of lightning is described as of small
amperage (scarcely any dimensions), but of ter-
rific voltage (force, power).

Intellectually the late Senator John James
Ingalls was a dynamo of limited amperage and
unlimited voltage.

He could not become a consuming fire, but he
could sometimes annihilate the object of his
wrath with a flash of his genius.


Topeka, Kansas,
August 30, 1909.


In my former volume on the late Senator
Ingalls I attempted little beyond the collection
and preservation of material. In character-
analysis such a work must of necessity be unsat-
isfactory. My object is to supply that deficiency.
Here I present brief studies of Senator Ingalls —

In his Home life —

In his attitude towards Religion —

In his achievements in Literature, Oratory,

They make up the sum of what he did in this
life. Knowledge of him in these relations will
reveal traits sufficient for the basis of an esti-
mate of his powers and his character.*

*The articles from which quotations are made are to be found en-
tire in my first volume — published by the Franklin Hudson Publishing
Company, Kansas City, Mo.


I. Kansas and the Coming of Ingalls.

II. Home Life —

a. Mrs. Ingalls.

III. Home Life —

a. His Children.

IV. Keligion.
V. Literature.

VI. Polities.
VII. Miscellany.


Those who were so many years acquainted with
the late Senator Ingalls supposed they knew him.
They met him to discuss political situations, saw
him before throngs and audiences, were charmed
with his perfect rhetoric and matchless sentences,
met him on trains and at hotels, wrote him let-
ters and received replies, but not a single one of
them knew him. They walked to and fro with
him, and, wandering up and down in the earth,
turned night into busy day that he might not be
cast from his brilliant course. And they wept
with him when he fell never to rise again. Even
then they did not know him.

It was the good fortune of many to sit in car
or lobby under the spell of his inimitable mono-
drama until, pointing to the east, he said,

"Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops".

Yet they knew him not.

Senator Ingalls came early to Kansas. Topeka
was then a frontier village of cottonwood cabins



lost in prairie grass and hazel brush. There was
not a mile of railroad between Missouri and the
Pacific Ocean, and long after his rise to emi-
nence the buffalo stalled trains on the old Kansas
Pacific. The domain of the wild denizens of the
Plains extended from the Wakarusa into those
endless wastes beyond the head waters of the
Republican and the Smoky Hill. The commerce
of the prairies still rolled over the Old Santa Fe
Trail in those ships of the desert fashioned after
the design of the famous Conestoga. He saw the
wilds subdued, — the solitude, filled with homes
and cities, the seat of an intelligent constituency
that met him with enthusiastic acclaim in the
zenith of his course, with not a citizen of them
all who knew him.

Some knew him better than others, of course,
and some of his friends of longest standing be-
lieved they knew him through and through. All
was not given, however, to the most devoted.
There were chambers of soul to which none were
admitted. But this was not by design. It might
be said that he was unconscious of it — that he
sometimes wondered why he was misunderstood.

The cause was mainly temperamental — con-



ventional only by incident. To some he gave
more than to others. To all he gave as much as
in him lay. To one some depth of soul became
visible. To another some flash of genius revealed
a different attribute.

Calvinism found a congenial soil in New Eng-
land. Its harsh and intolerant aspects were in-
tensified by the stern and bleak features of that
rock-bound land. The nature of every man is
deep-rooted in the soil of his nativity. The back-
ground of the life of Senator Ingalls was the
granite hills of New England perceived through
Puritanism of the severest sort. The mild cli-
mate, the generous soil, the broad expanse, the
immense rivers, and the gorgeous autumns of the
Great Plains softened the austerity and set aflame
the imagination of this scion of the Puritans.

Kansas attracted Ingalls. The very word en-
grossed the Nation's attention. It became the
talisman of the champions of human liberty and
that noble band of Americans who determined to
build a state where slavery should never set foot.
It poised as a nemesis above those who sought
to rivet perpetual shackles on a portion of man-
kind. What manner of land can it be?


A noble expanse of endless undulations rising
and falling like the mighty swells of the rolling
ocean. Here, the far-off rim of the world where
the purple mist, like an amethyst crown, presses
gently down upon the brow of the lovely land-
scape. There, where the sun falls like a golden

"From out the rich autumnal west
There creeps a misty, pearly rest,

As through an atmosphere of dreams,

A rich September sunset streams;
Thy purple sheen,
Through prairies green
From out the burning west is seen".

Valleys adown which wind the silvery streams,
marked by the dark-green foliage of trees, lying
like broad ribbons flung carelessly athwart a
tinted carpet aflame with wild flowers. Herds of
lowing cattle on a thousand hills. Troops of
horses for the armies of all the nations of the
earth. Fields of alfalfa dew-gemmed and glit-
tering in the morning sun. Golden harvests so
ample that a world may have bread. Walls of
corn — unending walls of corn. Cities where
commerce moves with busy feet, and iron ways
along which pour the products of a prosperous



and happy people. The gentle rise of rolling hills
where come the generations of children to school.
And overhead and above all, away up and up,
the broad reaches of iridescent skies. There
come, too, the lazy days when

"The cottonwoods that fringe

The streamlets take the tinge;
Through opal haze the sumach bush is burning;

The lazy zephyrs lisp,

Through cornfields dry and crisp,
Their fond regrets for days no more returning".

That is Kansas.

Roving bands of Indians. Wigwam villages
where women screamed to the chorus of wolfish
dogs. Herds of buffalo that surged up to the
Rocky Mountains like the waves of the restless
sea. Prairie-dog towns marking the lonely emi-
nence. Clouds of sand-hill cranes drifting gro-
tesquely overhead. The prairie chicken rising
nervously with whirring wings from the brown
grass. The sluggish fish in the soil-stained
streams. The earth and all that live thereon
where the winds were fierce and the heavens
brass. Brown tangled grasses of never-tilled
lands. Shallow streams wandering aimlessly until
they frayed out and disappeared in thirsty sands.



Gnarled shrubs twisted awry by never-ceasing
winds. Ranks of swaying eottonwoods with
bending willows at their feet. Sunrise and sun-
set, but no seed-time and never a harvest. Burn-
ing siroccos, consuming drouth, biting blizzard
decade after decade, age after age, and no change.

That was Kansas.

There beyond the Mississippi it lay, its western
confines indefinitely set by the imperceptible rise
which reaches up to the snowy ranges of rock-
ribbed mountains. The vast basins of great trib-
utaries of the Missouri lay to the north; and the
branches of the lower Mississippi stretched away
to the south. Inaccessible from the west and be-
yond reach of the east, it was set aside for the
use of the Indian by those who awaited a time
opportune for the effort to plant there the in-
stitution of slavery. And thus it spread its fer-
tile and primitive limits outside the pale of civil-
ization while history was recording pages of

It had no large rivers, no high mountains, no
lakes, no dense forests, no fertile meadows, ap-
parently no natural wealth. Kansas was a wild
desert where General Pike believed future gen-



erations might perhaps raise goats. But it was

a desert with the possibilities of redemption.


"Came the restless Coronado
To the open Kansas plain,
With his Knights from sunny Spain".

And like the other Spaniards of his day, he could

"Die for glory or for gold —
But not make a desert quicken".

The Spaniard could plant a flag but not an em-
pire in North America. And so he passed.

Then came the volatile and ever restless
Frenchman. To find the West he traversed Can-
ada. Far and wide journeyed the stern old Jesu-
its. They explored the dark and gloomy forest
and followed tiny streams until they became "the
mother of floods, the father of waters". "Wander-
ing through the melancholy woods in which were
the villages of the Hurons, they crossed the
mighty rivers to the land of the Dakotahs and
the Osages. But they never took root in Kansas.
And, so, they passed.

The Mississippi remained the western bound-
ary of our country until

"The blue-eyed Saxon race
Came and bade the desert waken".


But before this hour of destiny struck the nine-
teenth century was in swaddling clothes. From
a compact habitat along the Atlantic these Saxons
had battled with the Frenchman on the north, the
Spaniard on the south, and with savages up to
and beyond the Alleghenies. They had rebelled
against the mother-country and won for them-
selves and their children liberty and self-control.
One of the historic business-ventures of this en-
terprising people was the purchase of Louisiana.
Along with many other things came Kansas.
After preliminary processes it was defined — had
bounds set for it. Then the two ideas of our
national progress came with followers to contend
for supremacy, which, once attained in Kansas,
was to carry with it mastery of the Nation. With
those who came to build the temple of liberty
came Ingalls.

Those who break the wilderness are always
the stalwart and the brave — the courageous —
men with faith, foresight, fortitude. The men
and women who came to settle and redeem Kan-
sas were themselves descendants of pioneers —
"Strong builders of empire".

On the 4th day of October, 1858, John J. Ingalls



arrived at Sumner on the steamboat "Duncan S.
Carter". He came, it seems, in search of this
city, which had been "depicted in a chromatic
triumph of lithographed mendacity", and at the
instance of "the loquacious embellishments of a
lively adventurer who has been laying out town-
sites and staking off corner lots for some years
past in tophet".

Sumner was the Free-State rival of pro-slavery
Atchison. Albert D. Richardson, later the author
of Beyond the Mississippi, was a resident of
the town when Ingalls arrived. The town was
a few miles below the pro-slavery metropolis, and
it extended to and beyond a bluff so steep and
high that the main street was said to be "ver-

This town was founded by John P. Wheeler, a
surveyor described as "a red-headed, blue-eyed,
consumptive, slim, freckled enthusiast from Mass-
achusetts". He also founded the town of Hia-
watha. He named his river town not for Charles
Sumner, as one would be likely to believe, but
for George Sumner (brother), who was one of
the proprietors of the place. "Wheeler was an
abolitionist, and his town was conceived in the



same spirit that gave the Territory old Quindaro.
"When the Civil War began the pro-slavery
people generally left Kansas or changed political
faith. Atchison had the better location, and the
people of Sumner gradually went there to live.
In June, 1860, a tornado blew down most of the
houses left in Sumner, and from this catastrophe
its extinction is dated. Jonathan G. Lang (the
original of "Shang" in "Catfish Aristocracy")
continued to live there on a tract of land which
belonged to Ingalls, and was, in jest, called "the
mayor of Sumner". Ingalls followed the other
inhabitants of the defunct city of "Great Expec-
tations" to Atchison.






Of domestic felicity an undue portion fell to
Ingalls. In combat with men and the struggle
to maintain himself in the world he was bold,
diffident, imperious. In his home he was not so,
although there his bearing was that of dignity.

His ideal of home was a place of "sweet de-
lights" whence man "goes forth, invigorated for
the struggle of life". Man can not make a home.
He can contribute something towards it. "With
due deference to modern movements to bring
women into public life — into political life — it
must be said that a wise providence fixed bounds
and limitations beyond which she can not prop-
erly go. And this was the judgment of Ingalls.
The platform, the forum, the fierce competition
of market and mart, the rough grapple at the
polls — these are for men.

Only woman can make a home. That is her
domain. There she is supreme. There is the



place of "sweet delights" where man renews his
strength, conceives his ideals, resolves upon pat-
riotism, gains aggressive vigor for the battles of
life. All social and political progress must ema-
nate from the good home. Such can woman (not
every woman) create and maintain.

Ingalls assumed the bonds of matrimony with
deliberation. He was nearly thirty-two. The
effervescent enthusiasm of youth and immature
manhood had burned itself away. The day
wherein he might have flung himself at the feet
of a giggling damsel in imploring posture had
happily passed, and his proposal of marriage was
by formal, self-respecting, but sincere and candid
written instrument. The recipient of this remark-
able hymeneal overture was Miss Anna Louisa
Chesebrough, like himself, a resident of Atchison,
and of New England ancestry. She was immedi-
ately descended from a line of New York
merchants and importers. The wedding was 27
September, 1865.


To understand the home-life of Ingalls some-
thing must be known of the temperamental ten-



dencies of himself and wife. She was stirring,
aggressive, persistent, ambitious. She was san-
guine, mentally strong, slow to abandon a pur-
pose, tactful, diplomatic. He was conscious of
his ability, but was the most indolent of men.
He was well-nigh devoid of ambition, the little
he had aspiring to nothing beyond a sufficient
maintenance, — the object of all his early political
activity in Kansas. He was impractical, but not
visionary, and all his early efforts, successful or
not, were followed by periods of inactivity, tor-
por, apathy. "While the lessee of a newspaper
in Atchison one of his diversions was the study
of the specimen-books issued by type-foundries.
These he would pore over by the hour, seemingly
wholly engrossed with their jingling paragraphs.
It was the ambition of Mrs. Ingalls that her
husband should become noted as an orator. To
this one purpose she bent every circumstance.
By the Republican convention at Lawrence soon
after his marriage, Ingalls was offered a nomina-
tion for Representative in Congress. He refused
the place at the instance of his wife. She did not
believe the House held adequate opportunity for
the development of his latent powers. When to



others there appeared little possibility that he
could ever attain the place in a state having the
fierce and warring factions existing in Kansas,
Mrs. Ingalls set her heart on the Senatorship for
her husband and refused to consider anything
else. That he attained that exalted place was
due to her judgment and discretion, by which he
was ever guided and controlled. He reposed per-
fect faith in her ability and rarely acted outside
of her direction. She did not so much care for
the reputation he might make as a statesman,
which accounts for the absence of great effort in
that direction. Her ideal was that he become
the foremost orator of the Nation.


So much has been said in order to show the
complete acquiescence of Ingalls to the ascend-
ency voluntarily accorded his wife. For, as his
career was political, subserviency there carried
to all inferior matters. It had nothing of the
nature of the compelling mastery of a superior
mind, but was founded in unlimited confidence,
complete devotion to his wife. She contributed
nothing to his intellect. The funeral of Senator



Sumner moved him to a sense of his loneliness in
her absence, and he wrote :

How full of mournful tragedies, of incomplete-
ness, of fragmentary ambitions and successes this
existence is ! And yet how sweet and dear it is
made by love. That alone never fails to satisfy
and fill the soul. Wealth satiates, and ambition
ceases to allure : we weary of eating and drink-
ing, of going up and down the earth, of looking
at its mountains and seas, at the sky that arches
it, of the moon and stars that shine upon it, but
never of the soul that we love and that loves us,
of the face that watches for us and grows brighter
when we come. . . . You seem so precious
and delightful to me, that I can hardly restrain
my impatience to be with you and feel at rest.

In sending her some violets from the mass of
flowers sent to the Senate Chamber for the serv-
ices in honor of Senator Sumner held there, he
wrote :

I woke at half past two this morning after bad
dreams, feverish and restless, and longing for you
and for Baby Constance, who has grown so ten-
derly in my heart. Much of our united lives
came back to me, incidents forgotten, songs you
sung to Ruth in winter midnights in the little
back room up-stairs so long ago ; looks, caresses ;
painful, sad regrets for the injuries inflicted upon



your love by my indifference and coldness and
unkindness ; wonder that your love had not ebbed
away from me and left me stranded in misery
forever; hopes that we might not either be left
long upon this desolate earth to mourn the other's
loss. Oh, my darling! my heart cries out for
you and will not be comforted. You must never
forsake me, here or hereafter. If you go before
me to the undiscovered country, guard me, and
wait for me. If I precede you, search for me till
you find me, with entreaties and importunities
that will permit no denial, but will rescue me,
though ages intervene, from the profoundest

Ingalls wrote his wife full descriptions of his
journeys, detailing the most minute and unim-
portant incidents. It gave him pleasure to be
intrusted with shopping commissions, his dis-
criminating taste enabling him to execute them
to her satisfaction. An example of these traits
is shown in the following letter:

Gov. Harvey met me at the depot, wanting to
see me on some matters of business, and osten-
sibly bound to visit some friends in "Trenton,
Mo.", but on my suggestion that he had better
go to "Washington, he said he would deliberate
till we reached Kansas City, where he informed
me he had concluded to go. I have no doubt he



intended to go all the time, and that he started
out with that purpose, but thought he would
conceal it from me and make it appear like an
extemporaneous hasty movement made on my
suggestion. I did not attempt to undeceive him.
Nothing keeps a man so well satisfied with him-
self as the belief that all his little games suc-
ceed without being detected by anyone. He went
down on the "North Missouri", while we con-
tinued on the Missouri Pacific, reaching St. Louis
without adventure Thursday morning. Tough
was with me, and after breakfast at the "Plant-
ers" we crossed the river in the early sunrise
and were soon rolling over the prairies of Illinois
at the rate of twenty-five miles per hour. The
day was cold and cloudy with occasional showers.
The season is fully as backward through the
whole country as in Kansas. Many fields were
unploughed, and in others the grain was yellow,
sparse and starved, as though it had passed a
troublesome winter. The trees had hardly bud-
ded, and the forest looked as gloomy and black
as in January. Thursday night at nine we were
in Cincinnati. The train did not move till 11 :10,
and we walked up to the new "Grand Hotel",
and looked through its marble corridors. A sud-
den shower drove me to the depot, and as soon
as the sleeper was on the track, I went to bed
and slept well till we reached Parkersburg the



next morning. The breakfast there was abundant,
but cold, nothing being eatable but the stewed
oysters, of which I ate two dishes. The morning
was cold and raw, and the porter gave me some
pillows and a red blanket under which I slept till
we reached Grafton, where we changed into a
"parlor car" with revolving arm-chairs and plate-
glass windows which afforded us a fine view of
the romantic scenery through which we ascended
and descended till night dropped her curtain
upon the landscape at Harper's Ferry.

Mrs. Fairchild of Leavenworth was on the train,
to meet her husband at Philadelphia, and through
her I made acquaintance with quite a party of
ladies and gentlemen whose peculiarities were
more or less entertaining. Notable among them
was a lady from Derby, Connecticut, whose af-
fectations, airs and gestures, were as good as a
play. She evidently desired to produce upon me
the impression that she was learned in all arts
and familiar with the great of all lands. Every
lady of her acquaintance was superb, and every
gentleman was elegant and courteous beyond de-
scription. She took a seat back of me while I
was reading and made several attempts to open
conversation by casual remarks about the scenery,
to which I responded in monosyllables, but at
hist, having finished the "Popular Science Month-
ly" and got enough of Tennyson, I submitted to



the inevitable by a series of questions that en-
abled her to tell me what she was burning to
disclose in regard to her wealth, associations,
grand acquaintances, &c, to each revelation of
which I accorded an undisguised tribute of re-
spect. As we neared our journey's end I told
her how much gratified I was by the fortunate
accident of our acquaintance, how much I had
profited by her ideas and what an honor I es-
teemed it to know her, whereupon she brought
her husband round and introduced him, and he
gave me a cordial invitation to visit Derby where
his horses and carriages were at my disposal and
his house should be my inn. I don't think I shall
visit Derby this month.

"We rode to Willard's in a street car, and I told
the clerk if he could give me a well-lighted, sun-
ny, commodious apartment for a few days I would
stay with him, but otherwise I would go else-
where. He looked at the register, rattled round
the key-rack, consulted three or four volumes
and pulled his mustache as though it was a fear-
ful problem to solve, and finally gave me a pri-
vate parlor, and bed-room with bath, on the east
front, second floor. There are probably fifty
guests at the house, with accommodations for five
hundred, so you see how necessary it was to be
deliberate and profound in his cogitations. I ad-
mire hotel clerks. If I had time, I would write



an essay on the subject, but the Indian problem,
the Louisiana questions, and the coming Presiden-
tial campaign require attention first.

Yesterday (Saturday) was pleasant and ver-
nal. The city does not yet wear its summer
garb. Spring is backward. The leaves are about
half out. The grounds have not yet been cleaned
much, and the general aspect is wintry. I was
at the Departments all day; fixed up some post-
office matters : got several land-sales postponed :
had several appointments made 0. K. There is a
great row about the Indian contract for supplies
this year, and some Kansas men think they have
been badly treated, and I must help them if pos-
sible. The Commissioner is going to New York
to see whether it can be arranged and I shall wait

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