Kansas Territory

territory of the United States between 1854 and 1861

The Territory of Kansas was a territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until January 29, 1861.[1] This was when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Kansas.

Kansas Territory including the present day state of Kansas and parts of Colorado

The territory extended from the Missouri border west to the summit of the Rocky Mountains. North-south it ran from the 37th parallel north to the 40th parallel north. Much of the eastern region of what is now the State of Colorado was part of Kansas Territory. The western region of the former Kansas Territory, the Territory of Colorado, was created on February 28, 1861.[2]

Kansas–Nebraska Act

Site No. JF00-072: Nebraska–Kansas state line at intersection of Nebraska counties Thayer and Jefferson and Kansas counties Washington and Republic.

Kansas Territory was established by the Kansas–Nebraska Act.[1] The Kansas–Nebraska Act became a law on May 30, 1854, establishing the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory.[1] The Act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which marked a line of latitude to be the separation of free and slave states.[3] The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed the settlers of Kansas Territory to determine by popular sovereignty whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state. The Act contained thirty-seven sections.[3] The provisions relating to Kansas Territory formed the last eighteen sections. Some of the more notable sections were:

Section 19
Defines the boundaries of the Territory, gives it the name of Kansas, and states that "when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission."[3] It further provides for its future division into two or more Territories, and the attaching of any portion thereof to any other State or Territory; and for the holding inviolable the rights of all Indian tribes until such time as they shall be extinguished (replaced) by treaty.[3]
Section 28
Declares the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 to be in full force in the Territory.[3]
Section 31
Locates the seat of government of the Territory, temporarily at Fort Leavenworth, and authorizes the use for public purposes of the governmentbuildings.[3]
Section 37
Declares all treaties, laws and other engagements made by the United States Government, with the Indian tribes inhabiting the Territory, to remain inviolate, notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of this act.[3]

Eastern emigration

1855 first edition of Colton's map of Nebraska and Kansas Territories

Pro-slavery settlers


Within a few days after the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act, hundreds of Missourians (also called Border Ruffians) crossed into Kansas territory. Many selected a section of land and voted in a meeting or meetings. This was intending to appear there was a pro-slavery majority in this region. In fact, each side became a majority back and forth.

As early as June 10, 1854, the Missourians held a meeting at Salt Creek Valley, a trading post 3 miles (5 km) west from Fort Leavenworth, at which a "Squatter's Claim Association" was organized. In newspaper articles they said they were in favor of making Kansas a slave state "if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even sacrifice their lives in accomplishing so desirable an end."[4] In another paper they warned: "The abolitionists will probably not be interrupted if they settle north of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, but south of that line, and within Kansas Territory they need not set foot. It is decreed by the people who live adjacent that their institutions are to be established, and candor compels us to advise accordingly."[4]



During the long debate before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, planning had already started for emigrants from the free states to settle in the territory. The largest organization created for this purpose was the New England Emigrant Aid Company, organized by Eli Thayer. Emigration from the free states, including New England, Iowa, Ohio, and other Midwestern states, flowed into the territory beginning in 1854. These emigrants were known as Free-Staters. Because Missourians had claimed much of the land closest to the border, the Free-Staters were forced to establish settlements further into Kansas Territory. Among these were Lawrence, Topeka, and Manhattan.



Abolitionists, like Free-Staters, did not want Kansas to become a slave state. They wanted to get rid of slavery permanently in the United States. Abolitionists also believed “all men are created equal.”[5] Unlike Free-Staters, they wanted equal rights for blacks. The official Free-State line supported the idea of excluding all Black people from the state of Kansas. While they didn't have slaves themselves most were prejudiced against black people believing the popular idea they were inferior.[6] Most of the settlers seemed to want free soil for white people only.[6] Eventually they compromised with Free-Staters to prevent slavery in Kansas.

First Territorial Appointments


The first territorial appointments were made in June and July 1854. The officers appointed by President Franklin Pierce. They were confirmed by the United States Senate. The first governor was Democrat Andrew Horatio Reeder.[7] Reeder was completely in sympathy with the pro-slavery southerners.[7] He took the oath of office in Washington, DC on July 7, 1854.[7] He arrived in Kansas on October 7, the same year.[7] Reeder became one of the most active land speculators in the territory. In 1855, this conflict of interest finally got him fired as governor by President Pierce.[7]

Election of Territorial Legislature


On March 30, 1855 "Border Ruffians" from Missouri entered Kansas during the territory's first legislative election and voted in a pro-slavery Territorial Legislature. This was called the "Bogus Legislature" because of the widespread claims of election fraud.[8] Antislavery candidates prevailed in one election district, the future Riley County.

The first session of the legislature was held in Pawnee, Kansas (within the boundary of modern-day Fort Riley) at the request of Governor Reeder.[8] He chose it for several reasons, not the least of which was he was an investor in the city.[8] The two-story stone building still stands and is open to the public as the first Territorial Capitol of Kansas. The building remained as the seat of the legislature for five days from July 2–6, 1855, then moved nearer Missouri to the Shawnee Methodist Mission.[9]

The last legislative act of the Territorial Legislature was the approval of the charter for the College of the Sisters of Bethany. This was February 2, 1861—four days after James Buchanan signed the act of Congress that officially brought Kansas into the Union.[10]

James H. Lane joined the Free-State movement in 1855 and became president the Topeka Constitutional Convention from October 23 to November 11, 1855. He was later a leader of "Jayhawkers". The first Free-state mass-meeting was in Lawrence on the evening of June 8, 1855. Missourians were charged with voter fraud, ballot-box stuffing, and the "Bogus Legislature" which does not represent the legal voters of this Territory.

It was claimed that some Missourians had used violence toward the persons and property of the inhabitants of the Kansas Territory. It was agreed that Kansas should be a free State. Also that Missourians in the late Kansas election were a gross outrage on the elective franchise and rights of freemen. They were also charged with violating popular sovereignty. Those attending did not feel bound to obey any laws made by the illegitimate legislature.

Bleeding Kansas


The violent period following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is called Bleeding Kansas. Pro-slavery Missourians rushed in to claim land and push for the state to become a slave state. Free-Staters and abolitionists poured into Kansas from New England, Ohio, Iowa, and other midwestern states.[11] In a short time they outnumbered the pro-slavery faction. However, when elections were held in Kansas Territory, bands of armed Ruffians seized polling places. They prevented Free-State men from voting, and they cast illegal votes[a].[13] There was violence on both sides. Border Ruffians also engaged in general violence against Free-State settlements. They burned farms and sometimes murdered Free-State men. Ruffians twice attacked Lawrence, Kansas, the Free-State capital. On 1 December 1855, a small army of mainly Border Ruffians laid siege to Lawrence, but were driven off. (This was the nearly bloodless climax to the "Wakarusa War".) On 21 May 1856, an even larger force of Border Ruffians and pro-slavery Kansans captured Lawrence, which they sacked.[13] In retaliation, John Brown and 7 followers committed the Pottawatomie massacre. In this incident, Brown and his followers dragged five unarmedmen and boys from their houses and murdered with swords, guns and knives.[13] This only increased the violence leading to the Battle of Osawatomie where the abolitionists of Osawatomie were attacked and the town burned.[14]

  1. Since they were Missourians they could not legally vote in Kansas.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The Kansas-Nebraska Act". The History Place. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  2. Susan Schulten, 'The Civil War and the Origins of the Colorado Territory', The Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 2013), p. 43
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "The Kansas-Nebraska Act". Civil War Trust. Retrieved 15 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Territorial History, Part 2". The Kansas Collection. University of Kansas. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  5. "Abolitionist Movement". HistoryNet.com. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Bleeding Kansas". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "Andrew Horatio Reeder". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Bogus Legislature". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  9. First Territorial Capitol - Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society First Territorial Capitol, Kansas State Historical Society
  10. Giles, Frye Williams (1886). Thirty Years in Topeka: A Historical Sketch. G. W. Crane & Company. p. 184.
  11. "Fighting Against Slavery in Kansas Territory" (PDF). Read Kansas!. Kansas State Historical Society. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  12. Tony O’ Bryan. "Border Ruffians". Civil War on the Western Border. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Bleeding Kansas: Mid 1850s - Precursor to the Civil War". www.u-s-history.com. 2002–2005. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  14. "Battle of Osawatomie". The Kansas Collection. Retrieved 22 June 2016.