160 Years Ago

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 30, 1854. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise which had created an imaginary line across the former Louisiana Territory that established a boundary of free and slave regions. The Kansas-Nebraska Act made it possible for settlers of a territory to decide whether to have slavery or not have slavery within the borders of a new state. As a result of this act, conflicts between pro-slavery settlers and anti-slavery settlers contributed to a violent period of time called Bleeding Kansas in the Kansas Territory and its neighboring state of Missouri. This led to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

The following page of a letter is from the Historical Kansas Collection within the Special Collections. It was written by Henry Shaw to his cousin Thomas Shaw on November 22, 1857. Henry was a resident of Lawrence, Kansas and Thomas lived in Norwich, New York. Most of the letter gives details about living in Kansas because Henry was trying to get his cousin to come here to farm. There is mention on one of the pages about Lawrence and how it had burned once. It appears that Henry was a free stater.

“Lawrence is a nice town for one so young & so much to contend with being burned once & trouble the most of the time for here has been the centre of all their black damning deeds if I may be allowed the expression. But it is peaceable times here now & we or free state men carried the election without trouble & she is bound to be free or the soil of Kansas will drink the blood of thousands of free men for the majority will hardly submit to a minority so trivial as this Terr. presents. You can buy at the stores here all the comforts that you could in Norw. I belive there is four churches & over than twenty stores & filled to the roof (More at the top of the page)- Now you don’t put off writing & never answer this. My best regards to your wife and the best wishes of your cousin Henry B. Shaw.”


Historical Kansas Digital Collection

ImageA digital collection has been online for about 6 months with some materials within the Historical Kansas Collection; the rest of the materials are now online and the collection is complete. Dr. Tim Johnson, a collector of books, letters, stamps, and other items that pertain to Kansas history, donated some of his document collection to the Special Collections Room in 2011.

The collection, which contains letters, programs, and envelopes, has been scanned and digitized. The images are available for viewing online at the following URL: http://contentcat.fhsu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15732coll3

The Bowen Collection is among the items within the Historical Kansas Collection. There are letters and other items written during the Civil War, including an appointment of Thomas Bowen to Colonel which is signed by Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War. The following biographical information on Thomas Mead Bowen is from the Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress:

BOWEN, Thomas Mead, a Senator from Colorado; born near the present site of Burlington, Iowa, October 26, 1835; attended the public schools and the academy at Mount Pleasant, Iowa; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1853 and practiced; moved to Wayne County, Iowa, in 1856; member, Iowa house of representatives 1856; moved to Kansas in 1858; during the Civil War served in the Union Army 1861-1865, as captain, then as a colonel; brevetted brigadier general; located in Arkansas after the war; member and president of the constitutional convention of Arkansas 1866; justice of the supreme court of Arkansas 1867-1871; appointed Governor of Idaho Territory by President Ulysses Grant in 1871; resigned and returned to Arkansas; moved to Colorado in 1875 and resumed the practice of law; upon the organization of the State government was elected judge of the fourth judicial district 1876-1880; member, State house of representatives 1882; resigned, having been elected as a Republican to the United States Senate, and served from March 4, 1883, to March 3, 1889; chairman, Committee on Mining (Forty-eighth Congress), Committee on Enrolled Bills (Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Congresses); engaged in mining in Colorado, with residence in Pueblo, Colo., where he died December 30, 1906; interment in Roselawn Cemetery.  http://bioguide.congress.gov

There are letters that describe life in the middle to late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s. The letter writers often wrote about their crops and animals, their families, church-related items, and school. Be sure to check out the cancellation stamps on the envelopes, as some of those are towns that no longer exist.

Thank you to Dr. Tim Johnson for his donation of this wonderful collection, and we hope that you will enjoy browsing through it.