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.