Voting in Marshall County - 1857
by William G. Cutler (1883)

Illegal elections and ballot-box stuffing of the present day can in no way be compared with the manner of conducting elections in the early days of Kansas, and in Marshall County in particular. The election to which we refer is the one that was to decide the fate of that relic of barbarism -- the Lecompton Constitution.


At this point on the overland trail a little colony of Southerners had congregated ostensibly for the purpose of building up a town, but in reality to work in the interest of the Pro-slavery party. Marshall operated his ferry here under a charter received from the Territorial Legislature, in which he was allowed to charge the gold-seekers, Mormons, adventurers, and all Western pilgrims that crossed the Blue at that point, the sum of $5 per wagon. The adoption of the provisions of the Lecompton Constitution, among other things, was to vest Gen. Marshall with the high honors of Governor, and it was natural to expect that the Pro-slavery men in this section would take charge of the election. Three or four log cabins were all that showed that a settlement existed, but it was the only place of note in Northern Kansas at that date.

In the upper rooms of one of these cabins the polls were opened, by setting a soap box on the head of a whisky barrel as the receptacle for ballots. In case the above-mentioned soap box was filled with ballots, another box was to be substituted. A narrow staircase led to a hole in the ceiling, through which the voter would thrust his hand, holding a ticket, and yell out his name, or the first name he happened to think of, and then would immediately descend, to make room for the next man, absorb a sufficient quantity of "tarantula juice," conjure up a new name, and await his opportunity to vote again. Among the twenty-five or thirty voters present, there was a notable personage known by the sobriquet of "Shanghai" -- probably so named from his personal appearance.

Long before half the day had passed, "Shanghai," who had become so thoroughly imbued with patriotism for his party, and whisky, that he could not keep a secret, sprang upon a whisky barrel and exclaimed that he had voted twenty-five times; was going to vote twenty-five times more, and would bet any man $100 that he had outvoted any one in the "outfit." Tradition states that the little band of Southern pilgrims stood by and listened with amazement. No one seemed willing to take up any challenge of the champion voter, and the matter was about to go by default, when it was accepted by one of the "pilgrims," the money put up, and a committee appointed to investigate. The result of the investigation showed that "Shanghai" was beaten, the challenged party having deposited nearly one hundred votes. It was shown that he had possession of a St. Louis business directory, and that he was voting in alphabetical order, and had only got half way through the "A" list.

The voting continued briskly throughout the day, and when the shades of evening closed in upon them, the little Spartan band had rolled up a rousing majority of nearly 1,000 votes for the Lecompton Constitution!

Many of these pages have used information from Wikipedia as their basis. Other information has been added by site owners as it is found and as time permits . We also invite users to submit info to be added to the site.
Copyright Genuine Kansas 2007