What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word? Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, Toto? The band who sings Dust in the Wind? Flat, treeless, sunflowers, tornadoes?
Well, I can tell you that Eastern Kansas is far from flat and treeless. As for the rest, yes, we can make claims to all the above.
I had intended on writing a blog on Fort Scott, Ks only, but as I started writing I realized that there is too much back story to cover, which tells me I need to start where the story starts, at the beginning. So, here we go: Kansas-the beginning of her settlement.
At one time, Kansas was part of the land promised by the American government to Native Americans. In fact, Fort Scott, built in the south eastern corner of Kansas, was established in 1842 to help enforce the permanent frontier. It was one of several forts built along a line from Minnesota to Louisiana to help keep white settlers from settling west of the frontier line and to keep the peace between settlers and the Indians.
This permanent frontier obviously didn’t last very long, because in 1853, just nine short years later, soldiers abandoned the fort, and the government sold the buildings to private citizens. As you can imagine, this presented a problem for the tribes living in the area, and you might be thinking that all was right as rain for the whites settling in the area, but not so much.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created the Kansas and Nebraska territories, which forced a repeal of an earlier act called the Missouri Compromise, an act that prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36*33′ north, except Missouri.
The Missouri Compromise allowed Maine to become a free state and gave the U.S. Senate equality between the free states and the slave states.
Since the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed the settlers in Kansas and Nebraska to decided through ‘Popular Sovereignty’ whether they would be free or slave states, the balance in the U.S. Senate threatened to tip. And that was a bad thing for either side, especially if the opposite faction gained more power.
“Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States” (1856) from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division
You’re probably wondering why they didn’t just make Kansas a slave state and Nebraska a free state. Well, Kansas was north of that parallel line stated in the Missouri Compromise and the representatives amongst the free states weren’t willing to open the northern territories to slavery. And as you can imagine, representatives of the slave states could see that by keeping to the Missouri Compromise would eventually cause them to lose their equality. I can see a rosy-cheeked, white-haired law maker tossing his hands in the air and shouting, “let the settlers decide.”
Oh boy! Little did they know the mess Popular Sovereignty would make.
Join me next Tuesday. You won’t want to miss Bleeding Kansas.
*Reynold’s Political Map of the United States image is in public domain because the copyright has expired.
*Missouri Compromise Line This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Missouri_Compromise_Line.svg
This post has been adapted from a post at Christian Fiction Historical Society originally published June 2, 2013