Tag Archives: James Lane

John Brown and the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad Map  James Lane Trail Coming Out of Western Missouri, into Northeast Kansas Territory, and Back East to Iowa

State of Kansas-Nemaha CountyNemaha County, Kansas.  Area with Underground Railroad traffic

In Washington, the James Buchanan Administration validated the election results and the territorial legislature was preparing to draft what would be known as the pro-slavery, Lecompton Constitution.

In 1855, Brown moved to Kansas near Osawatomie, leaving behind numerous lawsuits and business entanglements in Ohio. In Kansas, from 1855-1859, John Brown came to help with the slavery issue. He became a white American abolitionist who believed an armed uprising was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He would murder for the cause. Brown was known as a “folk hero” in the North and a “terrorist” in the South (Was he like the terrorists we hear about today?  In his own way?) He thought he was chosen to fight this “holy war”. His radical ideas about racial equality set him apart from other abolitionists.

John Brown Mural Mural of John Brown in Kansas Capital Building-Topeka, KS

The Lane Trail was used by John Brown and others to transport slaves north to freedom.

Slaves were chattels (personal property), and those aiding in their escape could be prosecuted for receiving and concealing stolen property. In Netawaka, John Brown and the slaves spent the night. When no move was made to arrest them, Brown loaded the slaves into wagons and headed north.

 

James Lane Trail and the Underground Railroad

As Background Material I have included the following:

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson wanted to purchase the Louisiana port of New Orleans from France.  This was an important seaport for the farmers of America.  Napoleon needed money to fight war with Britain and agreed to the sale.  The area included 828,000,000 square miles at the price of 15 Million Dollars. The Louisiana Purchase was arranged between the United States and the Government of France, 1803.  Slavery was a legalized institution, and many of the residents held slaves.  Slave holding was a major issue in America.

The creation of trails for moving people across the frontier became a reality after the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803.   The Lane Trail (James Lane) was one with controversy.

Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

Immigrants were going west on the Oregon and California Trails for new land to settle. The Territories of Kansas and Nebraska were being met by many. In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, during Franklin Pierce’s presidency.  The Territories of Kansas and Nebraska should have the right and privilege of making laws suitable to them, covering the issue of slavery.

James Lane (1814-1866), was a lawyer; US Senator, a Union General and a devotee of the American Civil War.  Being involved in the abolitionist movement and agent of the (New England) Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, he moved to Kansas (1855) during the Bleeding Kansas period.  It was important for them to help people move to Kansas to aid in abolishing slavery and more importantly able to vote against the slave issue.  He was called the leader of the “Jayhawkers”, known as the Kansas Brigade, a leading Free Soil militant group.

The Lane Trail not only moved slaves from southern captivity to eventual northern freedom in Canada, but was used by Union soldiers. Free-state settlers used the Trail to avoid intimidation tactics by those in pro-slavery Missouri.  The Under-ground Railroad, the Lane Trail, became the trail to move slaves.

The Trail began in Topeka leading north to Holton.  The Lane “Chimneys” or rock cairns (landmark stacks of rocks) guided the travelers.  From Holton going north to Netawaka and moved towards Powhattan. All of the wagon trains advanced with caution. Escaped slaves were sheltered in Old Powhattan until it was safe to move north. The trail went further north through Pleasant Spring (Granada) and Capioma to Lexington, south of Sabetha.

Lane had built a small fort of hewn logs at Lexington.  (This fort and trail isn’t too far from where the George Williams homestead existed.  This is probably how James Lane knew George and Alice Gray Williams.)

From Lexington, the trail went to Sabetha and Albany. (More will be written about these towns later). From Albany, the group would join nearby Pony Creek and venture on to Plymouth.

Fort Plymouth located on Pony Creek near present day Sycamore Springs was a well-known fortification. Lane and his men had built the Fort along the Lane Trail. (More about this in a later post)

The Trail moved on north across the Nemaha River into Nebraska to the towns of Salem and Falls City and then moved across the Missouri River east to Iowa City, Iowa. There was movement in both directions.

Pioneers stopped and settled near the posts. All of the posts along the Lane Trail eventually became towns. You can see how the Lane Trail became controversial and yet pivotal to the progression of the United States as a nation.

 

Anti-Slavery or Pro-Slavery, Danger Up Ahead!

In the 1850s white settlers were starting to travel to the West or settling in Kansas. They would often stop at the mineral springs for their water (word must have been passed on for many to know about the springs).The surrounding area has some added historical significance too and will be in a later post and also in my book.

Near the mineral springs, James Lane laid out the town of Plymouth giving the springs area its name of Plymouth Springs. (Not too much is known about this but by 1858 only one house remained.

James LaneJames Lane  

James Lane and his army established a fort nearby and was visible until 1883. (I plan to do more research about the fort and the town of Plymouth.  This will be included in the book I am writing.)

The family of George Williams (later the husband of Alice Gray) was also involved with the struggles of the New State of Kansas. The new State was being established and disagreements arose as to whether Kansas should be a Free State or a Slave State.

Can you imagine the vastness of the decisions that had to be made to govern the state?

George’s father, Eli Williams, was an elected member of the State legislature and had made plans to go to a meeting in Lecompton. Lecompton was chosen as the First Territorial Capital for Kansas.

Eli was a prominent figure in the early struggles of the new Kansas territory.  They had good horses saddled, with saddle bags and canteens for water.  A sack was thrown across the back of the saddles, which contained flour and bacon, and a frying pan, gun and hatchet.  They were ready to meet the danger that might lie ahead.

The famous James Lane had sent word to Eli Williams that he was not to come, as they could be killed during an outbreak of the anti-slavery and pro-slavery issues that were being discussed. The Williams family lived near Oneida which is about 15 miles from Plymouth Springs (or Sycamore Springs as we now know it).

James Lane and Eli Williams were to meet at another designated place. Back home, George and his sister, Fanny, stood guard that night at their cabin door with axe and knife handy, ready to sell their lives in defense of what might happen.

Taken From Nemaha County History

Coming soon: The James Lane Trail and the Underground Railroad

Kansas Frontier Justice

The early immigrants to all western territories found life hard and rough, and often violent.  After the creation of the state of Kansas in 1854, rival governments arose, pro-slavery or anti-slavery; and sectional rivalries, conflict with Missouri escalated, it is no wonder a civil war wouldn’t erupt.

Among the immigrant shared experiences were Indian wars resulting from white encroachments on lands that were part of Indian reserves; lawlessness and the eccentricities of frontier justice; political battles over the location of territorial capitals (Lecompton-pro-slavery or Topeka-free state); corruption at the government land offices; bitter conflicts over land claims and the planting of town sites; as well as transportation lines, and banking facilities. (America in 1857-Kenneth M. Stampp)

In Massachusetts, after a story of a runaway slave incident in Boston, the New England Emigrant Aid Company was  recruiting abolitionists to move to Kansas and the new territories.  Among the first agents chosen were Dr. Charles Robinson, who became the first Governor of Kansas; and James Lane, from Indiana, who was an ambitious leader with a military background. In 1855 the two men were influential in framing the Topeka free-state constitution and its governing forces.

Kansas became a Free State. (Much more history that I could include but will save that for my book.)  I love to see what motivates people to do what they do, namely Charles Robinson and James Lane.

There is also Amos A. Lawrence, philanthropist, from Boston who gave financially to the abolitionist cause and to making Kansas a free state; and who the city of Lawrence, KS was named after.  He also helped in the funding of a college at the University of KansasRock Chalk Jayhawks (my emphasis) information taken from an article in Aug 2013-L JWorld)

So I am wondering how James Lane made it 90 miles north to the Sycamore Springs area.  Also John Brown is included in this mix too. And what about what was happening with the North American Indians.  More next time…