Sunday, August 26, 2018

Can You Hear Me Now?

The first settler in the Lecompton area was William R. Simmons who took a squatter's claim and operated a ferry across the Kansas River in 1852. In the fall of 1854, Aristides Roderique and A.G. Boone arrived in the area and noted that the river bank and rolling hills would be a good place for a city. Noting the many bald eagles, Boone named the town 'Bald Eagle'. They returned to Missouri to organize a town company but, for whatever reason, were unsuccessful. When Samuel D. LeCompte was appointed federal judge of Kansas Territory, Bald Eagle was renamed LeCompton in his honor and in the spring of 1855, streets and blocks were laid out.

On August 8, 1855, the territorial legislature met at Shawnee Mission and designated Lecompton the territorial capital of Kansas Territory. Lecompton became a huge proslavery, business, and government center. $50,000 was appropriated for a capital building but construction was halted after the basement and first floor were built. For the first four years, Lecompton had everything going for it--it was the largest city in the area with a population of about 5,000, it was the county seat of Douglas County, it was the territorial capital and on track to become the state capital, and was nicknamed the "Wall Street of the West". In September 1857, all that started to change.

The Lecompton Constitutional Convention met on the second floor of Constitution Hall on Elmore Street and began drafting a constitution that would admit Kansas into the Union as a slave state. After 20 days, the Constitution was complete and ready to send to Congress. The people of Kansas did not even get to vote on this Constitution--they got a choice of "constitution with slavery" which would have enshrined and protected slavery in the new state or "constitution without slavery" which would have still allowed slavery but restricted the importation of new slaves to the area. "Constitution with slavery" won due to a boycott of the election by free-staters. Another vote was held on the Lecompton Constitution by the new free-state majority in January of 1858 that voted down the proslavery constitution more than 10,000 to 200. The president of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, John Calhoun, decided to send the Lecompton Constitution to President James Buchanan with the earlier votes indicating that Kansans loved the Lecompton Constitution. The decision between free and slave state was now in the hands of Congress.

The Lecompton Constitution easily passed the proslavery Senate but stirred debates in the anti-slavery House. Debates raged and even a fight when two Wisconsin Republicans ripped the hairpiece off a Mississippi Democrat and declared "I've scalped him!" The Constitution ultimately failed in the House and caused deep divisions in the Democratic Party. In 1860, Democrats ran two candidates for president--northerner Stephen Douglas and southerner John Breckinridge. Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency with 180 electoral votes and 39% of the popular vote. The Lecompton Constitution was rejected by Congress and Kansans or, as the Leavenworth Conservative newspaper put it, "killed, killed, killed."

With free-staters in charge, the territorial government, for the most part, moved to Topeka and Lecompton's clout began dwindling. Businesses began moving or closing, Lawrence became the Douglas county seat, by 1860, the population was only about 300, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state and Topeka was chosen the capital. But Lecompton has been able to survive. It's population is growing, it was recently named a Best Little Town in Kansas. It also features two museums that proudly focus on its heritage. Lecompton is currently a quaint town of about 700 people about three miles northwest of Lawrence.

Constitution Hall, built in 1856 by Sheriff Samuel Jones. On the second floor,
the Lecompton Constitutional Convention met.
The Territorial Capital Museum, built on the foundation of the territorial capital in 1882,
this building was used for Lane University until 1902, Lecompton High School until 1926 and
is now the Territorial Capital Museum.
Lecompton High School, built in 1926 and consolidated with Perry in 1970, the school
is now being used as a community center for Lecompton citizens.
The Kansas Democratic Headquarters along the Kansas River. Built around 1854-5, this
may have been the first permanent structure in the area.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the relocation of the 1892 city jail in 2012.
For more information on Lecompton, you can check out their Facebook Page or their website. They also have a nice, interactive walking tour map.

I'm getting kind of bothered by the fact that Brutus seems to assume that Veeblefester is his friend. I know that you can be friends with your boss but it's clear that Veeblefester doesn't like Brutus and wants nothing to do with him. Why did Veeblefester even answer the phone? Maybe Veeblefester likes Brutus more than he lets on.

You know who we haven't seen in a while? Wastrel Gravesite. If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-Fi.

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