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New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers



This microfilm edition contains all the official records and correspondence of the New England Emigrant Aid Company which are in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society. This finding aid contains the following sections:


The Kansas-Nebraska act became law on May 30, 1854. The opening of these areas to white settlement had long been a controversial subject in congress as the North and South fought to keep a balance of representation in Washington. As a compromise the doctrine of popular sovereignty was included in the act, which meant that residents of the territories should be allowed to choose for themselves whether slavery would be permitted when the time for statehood arrived.

There was little question that Nebraska would prohibit slavery for presumably she was too far north for the institution to survive. The South on the other hand assumed that Kansas was destined for slavery. However, the early activities of Northern abolitionists, who were determined not to let Kansas go by default, spurred both the North and South to send in every settler they could.

In the North one of the organizations created to encourage abolitionist settlement of Kansas was The Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company. Incorporated under the guidance of Eli Thayer of Worcester in April, 1854, the company was a venture designed both for benevolence and moneymaking. Its aims were:

1. To secure reduced transportation fares to the West for emigrants traveling in companies organized and directed by the company.
2. To provide temporary accommodations in the form of boarding or receiving houses while settlers located and built their own homes.
3. To build or buy steam saw and grist mills "and such other machines as shall be of constant service in a new settlement" to aid settlers in building homes and feeding families.
4. To establish a weekly newspaper in Kansas to act as the voice of the company and be an "index of the love of freedom and of good morals, which it is hoped may characterize the state now to be formed."

The company planned to make a profit on its investments by purchasing the land upon which its hotels and mills stood and, when settlement had increased and land values correspondingly elevated, selling to the eventual benefit of the stockholders.

Once the territory of Kansas was admitted as a free state the directors were to dispose of all the company's interests and declare a dividend to the stockholders. Then the company was to choose a new area of operation and commence the program again, until another free state had been admitted to the Union.

The backers of the company hoped to raise $5,000,000 and send 20,000 settlers into Kansas. The plan received wide publicity in the newspapers of Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, Thurlow Weed, and others. The company itself issued descriptive pamphlets and its advocates toured New England lecturing on the benefits to be derived.

The first party sent to Kansas left Massachusetts even before the company had been completely organized. This pioneer party arrived at the site of Lawrence on August 1, 1854. That summer and fall five other parties arrived in Kansas, bringing the total of aid company settlers to about 450. The following spring seven more groups brought about 800 persons.

In February, 1855, a new charter changing the name to the New England Emigrant Aid Company and making organizational improvements was secured. In March the company was reorganized and business began in earnest as mills were established in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, Osawatomie, Burlington, Wabaunsee, Atchison, Batcheller (now Milford) and Mapleton. In Kansas City the Gillis House was purchased and renamed the American Hotel. For years it served as the unofficial rendezvous of Free Staters in the area and was the jumping-off place for settlers bound for the Kansas plains. Hotels in Atchison, Osawatomie, Topeka and Manhattan received financial aid from the company and in Lawrence it built temporary straw-rent hotels while a three-story , stone building, called the Free-State Hotel, was under construction. Just as the hostelry was about to open, it was destroyed by a Pro-slave "posse" which raided Lawrence on May 21, 1856.

In addition to establishing Lawrence, the company aided in the founding of Topeka, Manhattan, Osawatomie, and other Free-State towns. The Lawrence Herald of Freedom was financed by a loan from the company and became a voice of the firm in Kansas. The German language Kansas Zeitung was published at Atchison through company aid. Schools and churches were built and practically given to local communities. Libraries and colleges were founded through efforts of individuals connected with the firm.

As the company's influence waned some of its agents remained to continue their active roles in Kansas territorial and early state history. Prominent among them were Charles Robinson, who became the state's first governor; Samuel C. Pomeroy, one of her two initial United States senators; and Martin F. Conway, her first representative in congress.

In spite of the company's initial spurt of activity there is some question as to its total contribution toward the settling of Kansas. After June, 1855, company emigrant parties became smaller and less frequent. Instead of the $5,000,000 it hoped to have the company actually accumulated only about $190,000. In terms of persons relocated in Kansas it has been estimated that the company was directly responsible for only about 2,000 of whom perhaps a third returned to the East.

Kansas was admitted to the Union in January, 1861, and the following year the stockholders of the New England Emigrant Aid Company ordered that all its properties in Kansas and Missouri be sold. When this was eventually accomplished the company realized a total of $16,150, which was just about enough to pay outstanding debts.

In spite of its financial failure the principal stockholders seemed well pleased with the results of its operations. Under its influence several important towns were founded, schools were established, churches were built and the cause of freedom served. Indeed, there is some evidence that investors purchased stock knowing full well they would never see their money again. Amos A. Lawrence, a principal stockholder and treasurer of the company, had advised his associates not to invest any more than they felt they could afford to lose.

After 1861 the company transferred its activities to other areas. In 1864 and 1865 it promoted the migration of working women to Oregon and from 1866 to 1868 it was active in locating Northerners in Florida. By 1870, however, the company had fallen idle and never again was active in emigrant aid. No more meetings of the stockholders were held until 1897 when an extension of the charter was requested and granted. That year the company presented its single asset, a claim against the United States government for loss of the Free-State Hotel at Lawrence in 1856, to the University of Kansas and for all practical purposes ceased to exist. The extended charter expired on February 19, 1907, and the company was no more.

Scope and Content

The papers of the New England Emigrant Company, consisting of 13 document boxes of correspondence and miscellaneous records, five letter books and 22 volumes of records, have been in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society since the 1870's and 1880's. The bulk of the collection was transferred directly from the company through J. M. Forbes, president, in 1878; by the trustees of the company in 1879 and by Sarah E. Lawrence, widow of Amos A. Lawrence, in 1888. Small portions of the collection continued to be donated well into the 20th century. The last large group, 33 letters dealing with the company's final years, was given by James T. Wyer in 1932.

The papers have been microfilmed in the same order as the originals are arranged. In general, similar items are grouped together with correspondence constituting the first and major portion of the collection. Unbound correspondence is arranged chronologically, except for the body of New England clergy letters, which is filed alphabetically by writer. The clergy letters and papers relating to Southern emigration comprise their own series and are filed apart from the general correspondence.

Undated material follows at the end of the appropriate month, year or series, and has been arranged alphabetically wherever possible. Dates supplied by the editors have been placed in brackets in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the applicable material. Question marks denote some dissatisfaction with the reliability of supplied dates. Names penciled in the upper left-hand corner of the first page of some letters were supplied by Society staff members many years ago and were not removed or bracketed for this publication.

In only one instance has original material not been filmed. Telegrams still on uncut roll tape were impossible to microfilm satisfactorily without destroying the integrity of the originals. Therefore, typed copies of these telegrams, carefully made and checked for accuracy, have been filmed instead. Since all these telegrams were undated they appear at the end of the general correspondence.

Numbered but otherwise blank pages in bound volumes have not been filmed.

Microfilm targets have been kept to a minimum and are used only when necessary to indicate enclosures, retakes, etc. Targets containing editorial information have not been included. Title targets on small sheets of white paper introduce each new series and are easily noticed during rapid winding of the film. Title targets and roll content headings, except for information enclosed by parentheses, are identical and may be used against each other for rapid location of desired items on the film.

Contents List

Search the online index to correspondence, 1854-1909

The Microfilm

MS 619

Index to correspondence and correspondence, 1854 through 1858.

MS 620

Index to correspondence and correspondence, 1859 through 1909, plus undated material.

Emigrant Aid Company letter press book, September 29, 1854, through May 13, 1856.

MS 621

Emigrant Aid Company letter press books (two volumes), June 4, 1856, through August 28, 1858. (Later letter press books are missing.)

MS 622

"Letters of New England Clergymen," Kanas Historical Collections, v. 1-2, pp. 193-202.

Letters from clergymen, 1855. (Written in response to a circular of the Emigrant Aid Company asking ministers to donate funds and become life members of the company.)

Letter book of Amos A. Lawrence, June 10, 1854, through August 10, 1861. (This indexed volume contains typed copies of Lawrence letters relating to Kansas and aid company matters. Prepared under the guidance of Mrs. Sarah E. Lawrence.)

Letter book of Edward Everett Hale, February 25, 1857, through March 17, 1865. (This small volume contains letters concerning emigration to Kansas, Oregon, and Florida.)

Emigration of women to Oregon, 1864-1865. (A small collection of papers concerned with the emigration of working women sent to Oregon under auspices of the Emigrant Aid Company. SEE, ALSO, the letter book of E. E. Hale.)

Southern emigration correspondence, 1866, through January, 1867. (The material on this and the following roll is concerned with the Emigrant Aid Company's efforts to settle Northerners in Florida after the Civil War.)

MS 623

Southern emigration correspondence, February, 1867, through 1869.

Southern emigration, miscellaneous reports, records, etc.

Pocket book containing the "Florida Union Account."

Pocket book containing a list of subscribers to the Florida Union.

Pocket book containing the account of E. M. Cheney.

Pocket book containing "cash accounts."

Pocket book containing an unidentified list of "subscribers."

Pocket address book.

MS 624

Manuscript of Edward Everett Hale's Kanzas and Nebraska.

Miscellaneous Edward Everett Hale manuscripts including "New England in the Colonization of Kansas," and fragments of unidentified articles.

"Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company," a history by Eli Thayer.

Unidentified history of the New England Emigrant Aid Company.

Plan of the New England Emigrant Aid Company by Samuel C. Pomeroy.

"Doings of the Company," a statement by Eli Thayer, June 26, 1856.

Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, act of incorporation, 1854.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, act of incorporation, 1855.

Request of the Emigrant Aid Company for permission to issue preferred stock.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, an act authorizing issuance of preferred stock, 1867.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, an act extending the company's charter, 1897.

Statement on plan of operation of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company.

Lists of lots owned by the Emigrant Aid Company in various Kansas towns.

Lists of persons accompanying company parties to Kansas in 1854 and 1855.

Pocket book containing names of persons in 3d, 4th, 6th, 8th (2d of 1855), 9th (3d of 1855), and 11th (5th of 1855) parties of emigrants to Kansas.

Three volumes containing names not otherwise identified.

Pocket book containing list of officers of the National Kansas Committee of Massachusetts, arranged by county.

Minutes of directors' meetings, July 28-September, 1855.

Minutes of executive committee meetings, September 29 - December 15, 1855; February 14, 1857.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, miscellaneous papers.

MS 625

Records of annual meetings of stockholders, March 5, 1855, to February 17, 1897. (One volume.)

Records of meetings of the board of trustees, July 24, 1854, to April 20, 1868. (Five volumes.)

MS 626

Kansas Protection Fund, certificates of indebtedness to individuals, 1856. ("For services rendered in the formation of a State Government and protection of the Citizens of Kansas....")

New England Emigrant Aid Company, certificates of stock in the company, 1855-1857, 1867.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, shareholders' proxies.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, schedule of Kansas property owned, May 26, 1857.

Statement of financial condition of the aid company, 1855.

Treasurer's reports, 1867.

Miscellaneous financial statements.

Miscellaneous accounts, checks, notes, receipts, etc., 1854-1868.

List of subscriptions to stock of the Massachusetts and New England Emigrant Aid Companies, May, 1854- June 1855; May, 1867.

Stock subscriptions, New England Emigrant Aid Company, 1854, 1855,1867.

Alphabetical list of stock subscriptions. Three volumes. An account of A. A. Lawrence with the company may be found at the beginning of volume three.

Stock certificate book, 1867.

Copies of quitclaim deeds, November 11, 1857-June 25, 1859.

Copies of quitclaim deeds, November 11, 1857-March 26, 1862. (The period of November 11, 1857, to June 25, 1859, is a duplication of the previous volume.)

New England Emigrant Aid Company account book, July 1, 1856-November 30, 1857. (This volume also contains an unidentified list of names by state.)

New England Emigrant Aid Company accounting journal (bound), March 2, 1857-April 9, 1862.

New England Emigrant Aid Company accounting journal (loose), May 29, 1857-December 13, 1860.

Accounting journal of C. H. Branscomb (agent of the aid company in Kansas), May 1, 1856-March 29, 1858.

MS 627

New England Emigrant Aid Company cash book, March 2, 1857-August 1, 1860.

Cash book (of C. H. Branscomb and M. F. Conway?), January 12, 1859-November 25, 1860.

New England Emigrant Aid Company ledger, March 2, 1857-April 16, 1862.

Ledger of C. H. Branscomb and M. F. Conway, agents, May 1, 1856-April, 1861.

New England Emigrant Aid Company stock ledger (two volumes), March 6, 1855-June 1, 1861.

Accounts with individuals, 1855-1870.
+ Barker, Noah
+ Branscomb, C. H.
+ Conway, Martin F.
+ Houston, Samuel D.
+ Jenkins, Gaius
+ Lawrence, Amos A.
+ Marshall, J.F. B.
+ Pomeroy, Samuel C.
+ Robinson, Charles
+ Slater, B.
+ Thayer, Eli
+ Webb, Thomas H.
+ Whitney and Low
+ Winslow, Edward

Trial balances, January 1, 1857-April 1, 1861.





Pocket books of subscriptions (12 volumes). (These may possibly be lists kept by or for the use of local agents of the company.)

Edward Everett Hale, pocket notebook.

Tax receipts for Lawrence property of the company.

Free-State Hotel claims.

Case of Sharkey and Ransom vs. S. C. Pomery (for payment of debt), 1856.

Accounts of railroad tickets, 1855-1858.

Miscellaneous financial papers.

Related Records and Collections

Secondary works

Louise Barry, "The Emigrant Aid Company Parties of 1854," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 12, pp. 115-155.

Louise Barry, "The New England Emigrant Aid Company Parties of 1855," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 121, pp. 227-268.

William H. Carruth, "The New England Aid Company as an Investment Society," Kansas Historical Collections, v. 6, pp. 90-96.

Russell K. Hickman, "Speculative Activities of the Emigrant Aid Company," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 4, pp. 235-267.

Samuel A. Johnson, "The Genesis of the New England Emigrant Aid Company," New England Quarterly, v. 3, pp. 95-122.

Samuel A. Johnson, "The Emigrant Aid Company in Kansas," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 1, pp. 429-441.

Samuel A. Johnson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, The New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas Crusade (Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1954). {See, also, Dr. Johnson's excellent bibliography on pages 332-341.}

Edgar Langsdorf, "S. C. Pomeroy and the New England Aid Company, 1854-1858," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 7, pp. 227-245, 379-398.

Webb scrapbooks, 17 volumes of newspaper clippings on the activities of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, 1854-1860, collected by Thomas H. Webb, secretary of the company. Also available on microfilm.

New England Emigrant Aid Company collected pamphlets. Miscellaneous printed material, circulars, pamphlets, etc. relating to the company.

Related manuscript collections

James B. Abbott collection, 1854-1896.
William Barnes collection, 186-1858.
Cyrus K. Holliday collection, 1854-1896. The Huntington Library also has a small C. K. Holliday collection.
Thaddeus Hyatt collection, 1843-1898. Also available on microfilm.
Amos A. Lawrence papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
Amos A. Lawrence correspondence, Lawrence College Library, Appleton, Wisconsin.
Samuel C. Pomeroy collection, 1855-1886.
Charles Robinson collection, 1848-1911. Also available on microfilm.
Eli Thayer collection, 1885-1891.

This guide and the microfilm it describes were made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, Washington, D.C.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions on Use

These papers of the New England Emigrant Aid Company are the property of the Kansas State Historical Society. Brief quotations are authorized without resrictions but publication of any major portion of the maerial on this fil mus be approved in writing by an officer of the Society. Literary rights are not owned by the Society and cannot be conveyed. It is suggested the following citation be made to this microfilm publication: "New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers," (microfilm edition), manuscript division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. Availability of the Microfilm The microfilm of the New England Aid Company papers may be used in the Research Room of the Kansas State Historical Society, borrowed through interlibrary loan or purchased.