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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Johnston's Jottings: This area became focal point in slavery debate

  • Leavenworth was settled in a very unsettling time. History books have branded the eight years between the opening of the Kansas Territory in 1854 and Kansas statehood in 1861 as “Bleeding Kansas.”


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  • Leavenworth was settled in a very unsettling time. History books have branded the eight years between the opening of the Kansas Territory in 1854 and Kansas statehood in 1861 as “Bleeding Kansas.”
    Blood was shed on sides, north and south, anti- and pro- slavery.
    In a twist of fate – in 1837, a discharged Dragoon soldier, James E. Moore, went across the Missouri River and established the town of Weston. Moore saw the need for the soldiers attached to Fort Leavenworth to have the opportunity for supplies and “entertainment.” Over the river they went!
    Later in 1854 men from Weston, Mo., came over the river to settle Leavenworth. They wanted Kansas to come into the union as a slave state. These same men settled Atchison as well. At times in some towns in Kansas there were more men voting than there were residents.
    One historian wrote: Kansas was settled by crusaders, either from the North or the South: men and women who were willing to give their lives and their property in support of or in opposition to human slavery.
     
    There were no pennyweights, no shrinking violets within or without the newspaper profession in those days. For all its prosperity, though, Leavenworth could not evade the violence and chaos of Kansas’ slavery dispute. On May 30, 1854, Congress approved the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which granted the people of those two territories “Popular sovereignty,” or the right to decide by ballot whether to enter the Union as free or slave states. As a result, pro-slavery supporters, largely from the Northeast, flooded Kansas. Immediately, they clashed, turning the territory into what would be known as “Bleeding Kansas”.
     
    One of the first casualties of the skirmish was Isaac Cody, father of William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill), in what is now Salt Creek Valley.
    In a previous column I discussed whether or not there was a tunnel under the Missouri River, used as part of the Underground Railroad.  One man challenged my theory, saying that the Home Coal Mine went under the river. That is also probably not true. The shaft of that mine went over 700 feet down, vertically. There is no record that I have found as of now as to where the mine went horizontally.
     
    In the book – “Early History of Leavenworth City and County” by H. Miles Moore, the coal mines were all started after the beginning of the Civil War or after the war was over. This book also makes note of the “old ferry landing,” near the mine which was behind what is now Geiger Cement Company on 2nd Avenue.
     
    Another informative bit of information is that Abraham Lincoln, visited Leavenworth and other parts of Kansas Territory in 1859. Kansas became a state in 1861. The coal mines were established about that time or later. Therefore, the coal mines were not part of the underground railroad. Because helping slaves escape was illegal, there were few records kept.
    Page 2 of 2 - Persons who have knowledge of “secret rooms” in homes still in existence are urged to notify me. Please send information to me at the Leavenworth Times, marked to my attention.
     
    Annie Johnston is a Leavenworth resident and wife of the late J.H. Johnston III, former Times publisher.
     

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