Cutler's Early History
Of Lawrence, KS
by William G. Cutler (1883)

Early in July, 1854, Mr. Charles H. Branscomb, of Holyoke, Mass, and Mr. Charles Robinson visited Kansas as agents of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, to make an exploration of the country and select a suitable location for a settlement, preliminary to the starting of the first party of emigrants.


After examining various localities, the gentlemen selected the present site of the city of Lawrence, as well adapted to the purpose required, and on the 17th of the same month (July, 1854) the "Pioneer Party" of Eastern emigrants left Massachusetts for Kansas.

It was the original design to send forward at that time a large party who should arrive before the ratification of the Shawnee Treaty, when the lands would be thrown open for settlement, but on account of the prevalence of cholera in the valley of Missouri, this plan was abandoned and a small number of men were sent ahead to secure claims and make preparations for the larger company which was to follow a little later.

The pioneer party, consisting of twenty-nine men, left Massachusetts Tuesday, July 17, 1854, arrived at St. Louis on the night of the following Friday. They were met there by Charles Robinson, who directed them to the site of the chosen city, assisted them in procuring transportation, and himself returned East for the second party, while they moved on toward the promised land. On Tuesday, the 24th, they left at 4 P. M. on the steamer Polar Star, Capt Blossom, for Kansas. They arrived at Kansas City Friday evening and left the steamer Saturday morning July 28. The account of the journey of the party from thence to their destination is given in a letter written by B. R. Knapp, one of the party, and published in the Boston News The letter is dated August 9, 1854. Mr. Knapp says:

We prepared at once for starting; an ox team was purchased to transport the baggage and on Saturday evening at 10:00 o'clock we started on foot for our destination across the prairie. We traveled as much as possible during the night as the weather was very hot in the middle of the day, the mercury nearly 120 degrees or thereabouts. We saw occasionally a log house as we passed along, inhabited by farmers from whom we obtained milk, etc. On the evening of Sunday we encamped on the lands of the Shawnee Indians. This tribe of Indians are friendly and are in possession of some of the finest lands in the country.

On Monday morning we started early, made good progress during the day, and in the evening arrived at the Wakarusa River within ten miles of our place of destination; here we encamped and the nest day reached our new home. Here e established our camp, and pitched our twenty-five tents, which made a fine appearance, although a little soiled. On Wednesday, the second day of August, we went to work setting our claims to the lands, and preparing for a permanent settlement. The proper and legal manner of making land claims is as follows: After pacing off a half mile square, we drive down a stake at each of the four corners; on one of the stakes we write:"I claim 160 acres of the lands within the aforesaid bounds, from the date of the claim." This is then copied and taken to the register and recorded. I have taken a claim to 160 acres off prairie on the California road, and another claim to eighty acres of timber land-the latter a few miles distant from the former, at a place called Mount Hope. This is five miles from the point of our new city. A part of our company have made their claims and gone to St. Louis, and some have returned home to come back in the spring. It costs some $50.00 to build a log cabin and there is a good demand for carpenters and laboring men. I shall build a cabin for myself forthwith and have already commenced log cutting for my cabin. It is rather hard work for a green hand but I shall soon get used to it. Our company is all broken up and every man now works on his own hook. I am sorry to say that we have had some trouble about the establishment of our land claims-one of our party had his camp utensils, tent and all his fixings removed into the California road a day or two since, because he had squatted on the claim of Nancy Miller. Nancy and another Hoosier woman made quick work with the intruder's movables.

--- We killed a young rattlesnake a day or two since with five rattles

--- Last Saturday night we had a fine rain, the first of consequence for more than eight weeks. The thunder and lightening was tremendous, some of our tents were prostrated and the inmates exposed to the rain.

--- I send this by a team which leaves here the 10th for Kansas City, MO.

Below are the names of those comprising the party, as given by Mr. Ferdinand Fuller, himself one of the company:

E. Davenport, lawyer, Massachusetts; N. Philbrick, mechanic, Massachusetts; Ezra Conant, mechanic, Massachusetts; Benjamin Miriam, mechanic, Massachusetts; B. R. Knapp, Edwin White, mechanic, Massachusetts; G. W. Hewes, Massachusetts; W. H. Hewes, merchant, Massachusetts; George Thatcher, sportsman, Massachusetts; John Mailey, mechanic, Massachusetts; I. W. Russell, mechanic, Massachusetts; A. Holman, mechanic, Massachusetts; J. D. Stevens, mechanic, Massachusetts; F. Fuller, architect, Massachusetts; J. F. Morgan, farmer, Massachusetts; A. H. Mallory, speculator, Massachusetts; S. C. Harrington, physician, Massachusetts; Samuel F. Tappan, reporter, Massachusetts; J. C. Archibald, builder, Massachusetts; J. M. Jones, farmer, Massachusetts; Edwin White, mechanic, Massachusetts; Augustus Hilpath, laborer, New York; D. R. Anthony, banker, New York; John Doy, physician, New York; Hugh Cameron, farmer, New York; A. Fowler, farmer, Vermont; Oscar Harlow, merchant, Vermont; G. W. Hutchinson, speculator, Vermont; George W. Goss, farmer, Vermont; Arthur Gunther, clerk, Wisconsin.

This list embraces four or five who joined the party en route for Kansas.

The party arrived at the site of the present city of Lawrence about noon on Tuesday, August 1 and ate their first meal on the ridge, or "backbone" of the high hill, upon which now stands the State University. A meeting was held the same day of which Mr. Ferdinand Fuller of Worcester, was President and Mr. Ed Davenport, of Boston, Secretary, at which after a full discussion as to the advantages and capabilities of the selected spot, it was voted to make a permanent location, and to proceed on the next day to make claims, with the understanding that the Emigrant Aid Company would make the site thus taken the base of its future operations and forward all men and means to carry out the enterprise.

Mr. Fuller had inscribed on his tent the name "Mount Oread" in memory of Mount Oread Seminary at Worcester, Mass., which was founded by Eli Thayer, the benefactor of the Emigrant Aid Society and the name was also very appropriately given to the spot upon which the party first encamped. It was a fearfully hot day; a severe drought had parched the earth and prairie fires had destroyed the grass and encroached on the line of forest trees bordering the river. The sun poured down with terrific fierceness and the hot wind swept over the prairies like a blast from a furnace. The strangers were thankful for the shelter of their tents and glad to defer any special survey of the land they had "come to inhabit" until the following morning.

After remaining encamped on the hill a day or two, they went onto the proposed town site and pitched their tents on the west side of what is now Massachusetts street near the river. At the expiration of five day, after claims had been secured, and matters arranged for future operations, about half the party departed some to the East to make preparations for returning with their families in the fall or following spring and some to spend the winter in St. Louis. John Mailey, J. C. Archibald, B. R. Knapp and J. D. Stevens took claims four miles out on the California road. But fifteen of the original party remained on the town site to greet the second party on their arrival.

The second party under the direction of Dr. Charles Robinson and Samuel C. Pomeroy, left Boston from the Boston & Worcester depot August 29, 1854. The company numbered sixty-seven, eight or ten being ladies, and about a dozen children. Among the emigrants were a party of three or four musicians from Hartford, Vt., who had their musical instruments with them.* Before starting the party assembled in the ladies room of the Lincoln street depot and sang Whittier's beautiful hymn, commencing:

"We cross the prairies as of old
The pilgrims crossed the sea
To make the West, as they the East
The homestead of the Free"

Also another hymn, written for the occasion, one stanza of which was:

"We'll seek the rolling prairies,
In regions yet unseen
Or stay our feet unweary
By Kansas flowing stream;
And there with hands unfettered
Our altars we will raise,
With voices high uplifted
We'll sing our Maker's praise."

The party received an accession of twenty-one on arriving at Worcester, and was presented by Hon. William C. Bloss at the depot with a beautifully bound Bible on the cover of which was inscribed: TO ESTABLISH CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN KANSAS.

They reached Albany, the same evening, where they were joined by a company of twenty-five from New York and were tendered a public reception from the citizens of Albany at the Delavan House. They arrived at St. Louis on Saturday, September 2, at 4 P. M. and took passage immediately on board the steamer New Lucy for Kansas City. They arrived at Kansas city September 6 at 8 o"clock in the morning and pitched their tents-twenty-five in number-just outside the town. The main body of this party afterward encamped near the Quaker Mission, some of them boarding at the Mission and remained there some days.

On Saturday, the 9th, the first ladies and children - an advance party - reached "Wakarusa". On the 11th, Messrs. Robinson & Pomeroy, with other members of the party, arrived, and the following day a meeting was held to agree upon the terms of a union between the two parties. a committee was appointed who drafted a plan which was unanimously agreed to and was in substance as follows:
"The old party to throw up all claims into the common association and receive compensation for their time and improvements." Then after reserving a city plot two and one half miles on the river, and one and one half miles from the river south, to proceed on the arrival of the second party to survey farm lots in number equal to the number of claimants in both parties - the choice in these lots to be sold to the highest bidder - sufficient time being given for payment to enable all to bid, whether rich or poor; besides the farm lots, each person to receive an equal share in the city property. The money from the sale of farm lots to be invested as a city fund.

After making these arrangements, Mr. Pomeroy returned to Kansas City, which, for a time, he made headquarters as financial agent of the company. Dr. Robinson remained at "Wakarusa" as it was then called, and made himself useful in every way - advising, assisting, working and doing everything and anything to help the emigrants along in their new and strange way of life. The main party of emigrants arrived from the Friends' Mission September 15.

The whole party numbered 114. the names, as given to F. G. Adams, Secretary of State Historical Society were: James F. Ayer, Joseph W. Ackley, S. F. Atwood, L. H. Boscom, Ed. Bond, Mrs. Bond, F. A. Bailey, William Bruce, Mrs. Bruce, H. N. Bent, Owen T. Bassett, Mrs. S. Basett, H. L. Crane, Joseph Cracklin, Jared Carter, Mrs. Carter, Willard Colburn, Ed. Dennett, James S. Emory, George F. Earle, Milton Grout, Mrs. Grout, Leo Gates, Mrs. Gates, George Gilbert, Joel Grover, Azro Hazen, H. A. Hancock, O. A. Hanscom, W. A. Hood, Franklin Haskell, Lewis Howell, W. H. Hookey, R. J. Hooted, C. Hobert, S. N. Hartwell, Alfonso Jones, Mrs. Jones, Mary K. Jones, H. W. Fick, Wilder Knight, Mrs. Knight, Ed. Knight, Sally Knight, W. Ritcherman, D. B. Trask, E. D. Ladd, John A. Ladd, L. P. Lincoln, Lewis T. Litchfield, Mrs. Litchfield, Lewis L. Litchfield, Otis. H. Lamb, Samuel Merrill, J. S. Mott, John Mack, J. N. Mace, Mrs. Mace, J. H. Muzzy, Caleb S. Pratt, L. J. Pratt, S. C. Pomeroy, A. J. Payne, Charles Robinson, T. F. Reynolds, E. E. Ropes, J. Sawyer, C. W. Smith, Joseph Savage, Forrest Savage, Jacob Strout, Mrs. Strout, M. H. Spittle, A. D. Searle, F. A. Tolles, J. B. Taft, Owen Taylor, Mrs. Taylor, John Waiter, S. J. Willis, Mrs. Willis, Sol Willis, E. W. Winslow, Silas Wayne, Mrs. Wayne, Ira W. Younglove.

On the 18th of September, the Lawrence association was formed and a constitution adopted. It provided for the usual form of city government; the determining and registry of claims upon the public lands in the absence of laws of the United States; the conditions upon which persons could become members, etc. On the following day the officers of the association were elected as follows; President, Charles Robinson, Fitchburg, Mass.; Vice- President, Ferdinand Fuller, Worcester, Mass.; Secretary, C. S. Pratt, Boston, Mass.; Treasurer, L. Gates, Worcester; Register of Deeds and Claims, and Clerk of Court, E. D. Ladd, Milwaukee, Wis.; Surveyor, A. D. Searle, Brookfield, Mass.; Marshal, Joel Grover, Richmond, New York; Arbitrators, Messrs. John Mailey of Linn; Owen Taylor of Boston; John Bruce, of Worcester. Councilmen, Messrs. J. Emery, J. F. Morgan, Franklin Haskell, S. C. Harrington, A. H. Mallory, Samuel Tappan, L. P. Lincoln, S. J. Willis, N. T. Johnson, Joseph Cracklin.

The farm claims, or the choice of them were sold for the aggregate sum of $5,040, fifty-six claims being sold. The highest bid, by J. A. Ladd, was $327. Lots were reserved for a college, schools, State buildings, etc. By a subsequent arrangement, the city was divided into ordinary city lots - every alternate lot to be drawn by members of the association and of the balance half to be drawn alternately by Emigrant Aid Society and half gratuitously distributed to such persons as would agree to build on the lots within a year. This arrangement was made in October, and after other companies had arrived.

The survey of the city was commenced September 25 by A. D. Searle. On the 3rd of October, an amendment to the constitution, embracing the principles of the Maine Law, was proposed to the association, at its meeting on that date, and passed almost unanimously at the next meeting. The immediate occasion of this clause was a drunken Indian brawl in the vicinity of the town. The town which had been called Wakarusa, New Boston and Yankee Town, was regularly christened on the 6th, the name Lawrence City being given, as stated at the meeting," first to honor Amos A, Lawrence of Boston, both as an individual and officer of the company, and second, because the name sounded well and had no bad odor attached to it in any part of the Union."

On the arrival of the advance members of the second party, a "boarding house" was established "on the hill" by Mrs. Levi Gates and Mrs. William Bruce, who, with Mrs. Lewis Litchfield, were for a short time the only ladies in the Yankee town.

A book was published late in 1854, of which Rev. Charles B. Boynton and T. B. Mason were the authors, thus describes Lawrence and this first boarding house:

"few tents were pitched on the high ground overlooking the Kansas and Wakarusa Valleys, others were scattered over the level bottoms below, but not a dwelling besides was to be seen. It was a city of tents alone. We were cordially received by the intelligent and active agent, Dr. Robinson, from whom we learned, with much satisfaction, the plans and expectations of the company. *** We had a comfortable night's rest in Dr. Robinson's tent and in the morning were introduced to the only "boarding-house on the hill." Two very intelligent ladies from Massachusetts had united their forces and interests and had taken"boarders". In the open air, on some logs of wood, two rough boards were laid across for a table, and on wash tubs, kegs and blocks, the and their boarders were seated around it. This was the first boarding house in the new city of Lawrence. All were cheerful, hopeful and full of energy and the scene reminded me of Plymouth Rock."

The first "hotel" located on the bottom lands, and facetiously called the "Astor House" was opened on the 25th of September by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis T. Litchfield. it was constructed of poles, or staves, the roof attached with prairie grass and the sides and ends covered with cotton cloth. It was fifty feet long, twenty-five feet wide and about fifteen feet high in the center. Price of board, "for members" $2.50 per week. The "Astor House" stood on the bank of the river, not far from where the jail is now located.

Another hotel similar to this was constructed in preparation for the third party which was to leave Boston on the 26th of September. This was called the "St. Nicholas". During this month (September) the financial agent of the company purchased the "Union Hotel" in Kansas City, for the sum of $10,000 and placed it under the proprietorship of Mr. Morgan, of Massachusetts, to serve as a place of reception for the fast-coming emigrants, on their arrival at Kansas.

On the 1st day of October occurred the first religious service, and also the first death and burial in the new colony. The following extract from a private letter, afterward published in the Puritan Recorder, Boston, gives a detailed account of these events. The letter is dated October 5, 1854. the writer says:

Last Sabbath, was my first Prairie Sabbath; it was the first Sabbath our parties had assembled for the "hearing of the Word" The Rev, Mr. Lum, sent us by way of the American Home Missionary Society, preached very acceptably. The place of worship was in our large receiving and boarding houses; we have two nearly adjoining each other, each of them about 20 X 48 feet, covered and thatched with prairie grass, very warm and very good. We had a large and attentive audience. The Rev, Mr. Boynton, of Cincinnati, sent us two boxes of books and pamphlets, which I distributed at the interval to a very eager crowd. All our people as well as others, miss their home papers and books, and are anxious to get anything to read. Those sent us were invaluable.

Though the Sabbath was delightful as my first Prairie Sabbath, still there was one cloud that settled dark upon us; we had to open our first prairie grave The call now was for one of our own party, a near neighbor of mine, Moses Pomeroy, a fine young man, an only son, leaving parents and two sisters to grieve (when they learn it) for his loss. I have just finished long and very minute letters to each of them. Mr. Pomeroy left the party at Illinois and spent the Sabbath with some friends. He joined Dr. R. and myself upon the following Tuesday at St. Louis and came up river with us. he said to me that all his Illinois friends were sick of a fever, and after he was taken sick, he sent for me to come and see him, for "he had got an Illinois fever" I went to see him on Thursday evening September 28, found Dr. R. and Dr. H. in attendance. I saw he was very sick and at his request I sat by him all night and ministered to his wants. Friday I was very busy at our settlement; at evening he sent for me again. (He was boarding with Mr. Wood, whose name is to a letter in the first number of the Herald Freedom In company with Mr. Searle of our place, I stayed with him also Friday night. In the morning we were all fearful he would die. I was absent during the day; at evening Dr. R. and myself went again to see him; we both sat with him until 3 o'clock on Sabbath morning, when he quietly breathed his last. He had his reason, and was very grateful for all our kindness to him. Mr. and Mrs. Wood did everything in their power for him. He had fallen among the kindest of friends, but they could not save him.

Sabbath evening at 4 o'clock, his funeral was attended in our New England way service, very solemn and impressive, at our grass church. All our large family followed in solemn procession to the grave, and as the sun was setting in a golden west, and all nature sinking to repose, we gently laid him down to the long sleep of the tomb.

There is something very pathetic in this simple story of the early death of this young man - this only son, far from the waiting father and mother and sisters. He found kind friends during his brief life in Kansas, and in the wagon that carried his remains to the prairie grave, tenderly shielding them from jar or injury rode a young maiden of seventeen, Sarah Lyon, now Mrs. Mack and then the only unmarried lady in Lawrence.

On this first Sunday in October, the first Bible class was also formed, and for many weeks the citizens of Lawrence were called to the house of worship by the ringing of a large dinner bell. On Sabbath evening, October 15, a meeting was held at "Oread Hall" (a large tent for religious services), for the purpose of forming the First Congregational Church in Kansas Territory Deacon Dickson, of Massachusetts, was Moderator, and O. A. Hanscom (of Dr. Kirk's Church, Boston) Clerk. After the object of the meeting had been fully explained by Rev. S. Y. Lum, and the matter fully discussed, it was voted that Rev. S. Y. Lum, S. C. Pomeroy, Deacon Dickson, A. D. Ladd and M. H. Spittle be a Committee to draft the articles of faith and a covenant as a basis for the formation of a church. The meeting then adjourned to Wednesday evening when they again assembled, heard the report of the Committee read, and cordially accepted it - then signed the articles drafted and formed a church to be know as the "Plymouth Church of Lawrence City." A religious society or parish was also formed the same evening - Dr. Charles Robinson, S. C. Pomeroy and Mr. S. J. Willis, trustees.

Mr. Lum was an active and earnest young minister, who had been settled as pastor of a church in Middletown, N. Y. His health failing, he went to California and traveled though the State, working awhile in the mines. His health being restored, he came to Kansas as the pioneer missionary of the American Home Missionary Society. He brought with him his wife and two children. His expenses were, for the first year, paid by one church alone - the old South Church in Worcester. besides Mr. Lum, there was another minister in Lawrence at this time - Rev. W. C. Hall, sent out by the Baptist Association.

The Emigrant Aid Company purchased a steam saw mill in Rochester, N. Y., as early as the 1st of September, and shipped it immediately for Lawrence. Owing to various causes it was delayed in transit. After waiting until out of patience for its arrival, another steam mill was purchased in Kansas City and at great labor and expense, the entire works, frame and everything moved a distance of forty miles to the city. After getting the mill on the ground there was no brick for chimneys and arches, and they had to built of stone, cemented with lime made from the stone in the neighborhood. When the mill was fairly in operation - which was about the first of December - the Missourians offered the Association $2,000 for it, which offer was refused and the mill ran night and day sawing out lumber for the buildings of the city, a contract having been made with the Delaware Indians for lumber. In January, 1855, the mill was leased to S. & F. Kimball, with a proviso that it should be run a certain portion of the time in cutting lumber for the new hotel in process of construction.

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