Category: The Sunflower State

Foxtail Barley
The Sunflower State

Foxtail Barley

Foxtail BarleyFoxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) receives its common name from its unique bushy inflorescence, or flower, which is similar in shape to the tail of a fox. This flower averages about two to five inches long and is soft and greenish or purplish. Its fluffy appearance comes from the awns, which can measure up to three inches long. Each yellowish-brown seed typically has four to eight awns, and it is also armed with tiny barbs along the edges. Read More

Territorial Kansas Online
The Sunflower State

Territorial Kansas Online

Territorial Kansas OnlineLooking for an extensive depository of digitized primary source material related to the turbulent territorial days of Kansas? Try Territorial Kansas Online, a project developed by the Kansas State Historical Society and the University of Kansas.

Territorial Kansas Online displays a wide range of artifacts dating from 1854 to 1861, including:

  • Letters.
  • Speeches.
  • Articles.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Photographs.
  • Legislative acts.
  • Meeting minutes.
  • Sheet music.

There are several ways to browse the content of the site:

There is also a helpful timeline of major events in Kansas territorial history along with links to relevant materials.

Please note that this impressive collection of documents represents a wide range of perspectives, some of them unthinkable or offensive to the modern reader. However, studying primary source materials is essential for an accurate understanding of history and of the events that unfolded in Bleeding Kansas. Territorial Kansas Online is an excellent, easy-to-use way to experience these primary sources.

George M. Beebe
The Sunflower State

George M. Beebe

George M. BeebeGeorge M. Beebe was born on October 28, 1836, in New York. Like many politicians, he first chose to pursue the legal profession, being admitted to the bar in 1857. He began practicing in Monticello, New York, but later that year moved to Peoria, Illinois, where he briefly worked as the editor of the Central Illinois Democrat.

In 1858, Beebe moved to Troy, Kansas, and once again practiced law. That same year, he became a member of the Territorial Council, the upper house of the territorial legislature.

Beebe was appointed to the post of territorial secretary in 1859 to replace Secretary Hugh Sleight Walsh, who was resigning after exposing Governor Samuel Medary’s claim bond fraud. However, Beebe’s confirmation lingered in the U.S. Senate through the influence of Mississippi senators Jefferson Davis and A.G. Brown, evidently owing to some question of party loyalty. Secretary Walsh may have had a hand in the delay.

In any case, Beebe wrote to Senator Davis, pledging his loyalty to the Democratic Party and proclaiming himself a defender of slavery. Beebe was eventually confirmed as Kansas territorial secretary, and it was in this capacity that he had the duty of serving as acting governor.

 

Time in Office

Beebe acted as governor from September 11 to November 26, 1860. The main event of note during this period was a November visit to Fort Scott to visit Free State guerilla leader James Montgomery. Beebe informed Montgomery that he had heard strange rumors of the latter’s actions and had decided to investigate for himself. Beebe was speedily convinced, however, that border warfare was not imminent and decided to take Montgomery’s advice not to send out federal troops, the militant abolitionist having hinted that such a move would be considered an insult. When Governor Samuel Medary returned, however, he promptly requested the assistance of federal troops anyway.

But when Governor Medary realized that statehood was just around the corner, he resigned on December 17 that same year, leaving Beebe to serve as the final executive of Kansas Territory. There was little to do at that point but wait. As one of its final acts, the territorial legislature wrote a bill in early 1861 to repudiate Medary’s fraudulent bonds. Acting Governor Beebe vetoed this bill, but it was subsequently passed over his veto.

Kansas officially became a state on January 29, 1861. The new government was inaugurated on February 9 with Charles Robinson as the first state governor. His territorial duties at an end, Beebe moved to Missouri and later Nevada before finally returning to his native state of New York.

 

Legacy

  • Served as the last acting governor of Kansas Territory.

 

In His Own Words

  • Delayed confirmation process: “I want the wish of the party here to be recognized. They ask Walsh’s removal. The dem members of the legislature & the Gov will resign if he be not removed, so for my own appointment I care nothing. Let some one else be appointed, but if I ever come before the senate for confirmation for another office (& I expect to) I hope you will be good enough to examine into the case before upsetting ‘my kettle of fish.’ This office holding is a humbug.”

 

Complete Series

Kansas GovernorsKansas Governors

 

Samuel Medary
The Sunflower State

Samuel Medary

Samuel MedaryFrom an early age, Samuel Medary, native of Pennsylvania, was a influential Democrat, his foremost weapon being his formidable pen. He was born in 1801; 16 years later he was already contributing prose and poetry to the Norristown Herald. After a series of moves and some time spent as a rural schoolteacher, Medary established his own paper in Batavia, Ohio, in 1828—the Ohio Sun, dedicated to the cause of Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign.

Medary further bolstered his reputation as a Jacksonian Democrat with one term each in the Ohio House and in the Senate of that same state. But Medary could not keep away from the newspaper business for very long. On completing his time in the Ohio Senate, he purchased the Columbus Western Hemisphere, changed its name to the Ohio Statesman, and continued using his pen to shape the thought of the Democratic Party.

In addition to editing his newspaper, Medary played an important part as a delegate from Ohio to the National Democratic Conventions at Baltimore in 1844. Westward Expansion, slavery, and economic issues were hot topics that divided the party that year. Andrew Jackson’s support was considered a valuable asset to any candidate, so the former president entrusted a letter declaring his personal choice to Medary for safekeeping, to be presented only in the case of absolute gridlock. Gridlock ensued, so Medary displayed the letter and rallied the Jacksonian Democrats behind James K. Polk. Polk went on to become president, although, contrary to popular myth, he did not campaign with shouts of “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!” This “campaign promise” of a United States that extended to 54° 40′ north was actually a demand made by the Democratic Party and its associated newspapers. In fact, the slogan may have been coined by Medary himself.

At the Cincinnati National Democratic Conventions in 1856, Medary again came to the forefront, this time as a supporter of Stephen A. Douglas. Although James Buchanan won the nomination and became president, the new president won Medary’s respect for his support of the Lecompton Constitution. Medary must have gained favor from Buchanan, as well, because when a territorial governor was needed for Minnesota in April 1857, Medary was the president’s choice. Granted, the position was a rather awkward one, because Minnesota Territory had already set up a state government while Congress delayed on admitting it to the Union. Minnesotans debated whether Governor Medary could legally sign anything the “state” government passed. Medary mostly stayed out of the territory and allowed the secretary, Charles L. Chase, to handle affairs until Minnesota was finally admitted to the Union in May 1858.

After a brief spell as postmaster of Columbus, Ohio, Medary was selected to become a territorial governor again—this time in Kansas.

 

Time in Office

Samuel Medary arrived in Kansas Territory on December 18, 1858. One of the most important events of his time in office came almost two months later. On February 9, 1859, Medary signed a law requiring the citizens vote on whether or not to organize yet another constitutional convention. This vote was held on March 28 and demonstrated the eagerness of Kansas residents to put the matter to rest once and for all. Delegates were duly elected, the convention was held, and the result was the Wyandotte Constitution. This document was approved by a vote of the people on October 4, 1859, with 10,421 voting for it and 5,530 against it.

The next step on the path to statehood was to elect state officials so that a government could be set up quickly and smoothly once Kansas was admitted to the Union. The elections were held on December 6, 1859, the result being a landslide for the antislavery Republican Party across the future state. In the gubernatorial race, Medary ran against Republican Charles Robinson, who had illegally served as governor of the Free State government during the Bleeding Kansas era. Robinson won 7,908 to 5,395, earning the right to become the first governor of the state of Kansas, as soon as Kansas became a state.

Shortly after the elections, Medary found himself caught up in scandal. Provisions had previously been made by the territorial government to examine claims made by people who suffered damage during the period of guerilla warfare. Territorial officials expected that Congress would pay the claims, as the territory did not have the legal authority to issue bonds to pay them. However, in January 1860, it came to light that the territorial treasurer had issued bonds for the claims with the governor’s approval, and that these bonds were being used to establish a bank in Lawrence. The illegal bonds had been sold fraudulently in New York.

Medary’s relationship with the Republican territorial legislature, already strained by the bond scandal, did not improve when on February 20, 1860, he vetoed an act prohibiting slavery in Kansas Territory. This bill had caused great turmoil in the legislature and was only passed with a struggle. Medary observed that the move appeared to be “more political than practical,” but vetoed it primarily because he felt that the territorial legislature did not possess the sovereignty to ban the institution of slavery. By contrast, Medary observed, the Wyandotte Constitution was an act of the people (the true source of sovereignty) and therefore could legitimately ban slavery in the future state of Kansas.

But clearly the Republican Party was on the ascendancy in Kansas. By the time Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Medary was convinced that the best thing for him to do was to resign. He left office on December 17, 1860, and returned to Ohio, where he established a newspaper called The Crisis. His highly critical views of President Lincoln, the Republican Party, and the fighting of the Civil War led to the destruction of his newspaper office by an angry mob in 1863. The following year, Medary was arrested for conspiracy against the government. He died before he could stand trial.

 

Legacy

  • Served as the last appointed territorial governor of Kansas.
  • Called the convention that drafted the Wyandotte Constitution, still in effect today.
  • Defeated in the first gubernatorial election in Kansas.
  • Perpetrator of the only bond scandal in territorial Kansas history.

 

In His Own Words

  • Bleeding Kansas: “Every thing seems to near a more hopeful and quiet appearance, all over the Territory, and with a year of prosperous emigration and full crops of the present settlers, Kansas by the opening of next Spring will scarcely be known from its appearance to its old acquaintance.”
  • 1859 election results: “…I have not a solitary doubt left about our having a democratic majority in Kansas. Yet we have to submit to the eternal disgrace of having it go forth as a Black Old John Brown state. It is our own faults in part—and we deserve it, but I do not feel comfortable under the additional disgrace of running behind the balance of the ticket, by being cut by pure unadulterated Democrats, as must have been the case.”
  • Veto of territorial abolition act: “Sovereignty does not reside in Legislatures; it resides in the people; and their sovereign acts must precede legislative bodies. And here, I presume, is the rock on which you have split. If sovereignty resided in Legislatures, then, indeed, no one would dare to dispute your sovereign acts. But in this great essential you are deficient, and hence the embarrassment under which you labor in completing your round of ‘all legislation.’ You can pass laws regulating the condition of master and slave, or you can repeal such laws, or refuse to pass them, but you lack the sovereignty necessary to create a slave, or wrest him from his owner. That is an exercise of power which clear, undisputed sovereignty alone can exercise; and it must be done by the sovereign himself, in convention assembled.”

 

Complete Series

Kansas GovernorsKansas Governors

 

Hugh Sleight Walsh
The Sunflower State

Hugh Sleight Walsh

Hugh Sleight WalshHugh Sleight Walsh was born on November 10, 1810, in New Windsor, New York. He spent his entire childhood and much of his early adulthood in New York, but also lived for a time in Alabama before coming to Kansas Territory in 1857.

In Kansas, Walsh worked as a private secretary, first to Frederick P. Stanton and later to James W. Denver, with whom he appears to have cultivated a close political relationship. On May 12, 1858, Walsh became the territorial secretary, replacing Denver, who had vacated the position to become territorial governor.

As territorial secretary, Walsh had the job of serving as acting governor when necessary. This occurred four times total.

 

Time in Office

Walsh’s first stint as acting governor lasted from July 3 to July 30 in 1858 during the temporary absence of Governor Denver. Little of note occurred during this time.

He next became acting governor on October 10, 1858, upon the resignation of Governor Denver. Walsh remained in close contact with Denver, however. He confided to the outgoing governor that he entertained some hopes of securing an appointment to the office himself, although he was also amenable to the idea of having a Kentucky man as the next territorial governor. When word came that Samuel Medary was the president’s selection, Walsh was disappointed, but admitted to Denver that he respected the future governor’s tact. Meanwhile, Walsh occupied the rest of his time as acting governor petitioning for federal money to offer as a reward for the capture of John Brown and dispatching Missouri guerilla fighters to stamp out an opposing abolitionist band under James Montgomery known as the Jayhawkers.

Despite Walsh’s suspicions of the new governor, his relationship with Medary started off cordially enough. But when Walsh became acting governor again on August 1, 1859, a small matter arose that was to have a negative impact on his future career. Provisions had previously been made to examine the claims of those who had suffered property damage due to border conflict with the understanding that the United States Congress would pay the claims. Kansas Territory was prohibited by law from issuing bonds for the purpose. So when Territorial Treasurer Robert B. Mitchell came to the acting governor with a request to approve a bond issue, Walsh was duly suspicious. The treasurer hastened to assure him that the bonds were to cover territorial expenses, not to pay off private claims. Walsh refused, however, stating that he would not approve them without examining the matter thoroughly and that he did not have the time to do so just then. Medary returned on September 15 and subsequently approved and sold the bonds himself.

The bonds came to Secretary Walsh’s attention again during his fourth period as acting governor, which began on April 15, 1860. Based on the bonds and on an 1858 charter authorizing the establishment of banks in Lawrence, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte (now part of Kansas City, Kansas), a bank was established in Lawrence. Acting Governor Walsh protested on the grounds that the charter had expired, but the bank officials politely advised him not to interfere. That May, Walsh challenged Treasurer Mitchell for his reasoning on the subject and merely received a formal letter asking on what authority Walsh was questioning the treasurer. Walsh retorted that the territorial treasurer was required to submit his records for inspection at the request of the governor. But all his repeated demands for further information could only elicit the following reply from Mitchell:

…I have been, since the reception of your note of yesterday, wholly incapable to find the time to make a satisfactory reply to your inquiries, but will endeavor to do so at the earliest possible time convenient.

The treasurer subsequently left town.

According to Walsh, Governor Medary had already been treating him rather coldly, starting from January 1860 when the secretary had made a report to the territorial legislature on the fraudulent bonds. Subsequent events did not improve the relationship any. The governor eventually asked to have Walsh removed from office, claiming “incompatibility of temper” as a pretext. Walsh resigned that June and took up a much more congenial life of farming near Grantville in Jefferson County, Kansas.

 

Legacy

  • Suppressed James Montgomery’s guerilla warfare efforts to some extent.
  • Exposed Governor Medary’s claim bond fraud.

 

In His Own Words

  • Gubernatorial ambitions: “If Mr. Medary should not accept I hope that the appointment may be held in abeyance until after the session and if I succeed well and the President chooses to honor me with the appointment I will esteem it a high honor—but it is almost as difficult to get a good secretary as a good Governor and I would rather be without one than not have a good one—I can find good clerks & make them do what perhaps I could not find a secretary willing to do….”
  • Beginning of the claim bond scandal: “In May or June, 1859, I was applied to by Mr. Mitchell, the Treasurer of the Territory, to approve, as Acting Governor, certain Territorial Bonds. I refused on the grounds that I did not believe any Bonds issued for Claims, under the Act to provide for the adjustment and payment of Claims, were valid. The Treasurer informed me that the Bonds were not for claims but Territorial expenses, and belonged to David Weir. I informed him that I would not sign any Territorial Bonds whatever without tracing them back to their original indebtedness, through all the parties’ hands through which they might have passed. As I was superintending the public printing at the time, I had not then leisure to do it.”
  • Relationship with Governor Medary: “Before the time of issuing the Bonds we were on friendly terms, and so continued for sometime afterwards. The Bonds were issued in the summer of 1859; we continued friendly up to January, 1860. I then for the first time, discovered that Gov. Medary was unfriendly to me, and I presumed his hostility arose out of a report which I made as Secretary, to 21 members of the Legislature who called upon me for information in regard to these claim Bonds. At least up to that time we were on speaking terms.”

 

Complete Series

Kansas GovernorsKansas Governors