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The Exodusters on the Missouri

by Glen Schwendemann

Spring 1963 (Vol. 29, No. 1), pages 25 to 40
Transcribed and composed in HTML by Karen M. Huft;
HTML editing by Name withheld upon request; digitized with permission
of the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in superscript are links to footnotes for this text.

SATURDAY afternoon, April 19, 1879, had become a little too warm for the Negroes clustered around the depot in Wyandotte, and they were forced to find protection from the sun's rays. Some were seen under the railroad station itself, which was built on trestle-work, while others had sought refuge among the lumber piles near the Missouri river, a short distance from the tracks. All were awaiting the arrival of the train which was to carry them to Lawrence, where they expected to find homes and a welcome conclusion to a journey begun weeks before on the river banks of Louisiana and Mississippi.

These were some of the "Exodusters," or Negro migrants who had gained national attention by their unprecedented mass movement up the Mississippi river to Kansas. They and hundreds more throughout the river parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi had been pouring northward since early March in quest of a new life on the plains of Kansas.[1]

Walking or riding to the river, carrying what few possessions they had not sacrificed in the rush to leave, the migrants deserted the plantations in great numbers. Negroes, who previously had been ignorant of the very existence of the Sunflower state, soon began filling the towns and cities along the river. Even at places where the steamers made no regular stops, freedmen had gathered in large groups endeavoring to attract the attention of the passing vessels. [2]

The first boatload of migrants had arrived in St. Louis aboard the steamer Colorado on the evening of March 5. The newcomers, apparently expecting some kind of assistance on the last leg of their journey to Kansas, were greatly disappointed when no such help was forthcoming. [3] A reporter of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, who visited the levee the following morning, found 280 men, women, and children in "utter want." The women and children were sitting dejectedly around several fires, while the men were either loafing on the levee, or had gone into the city and elsewhere, probably in search of food and shelter. Nothing more than a few chunks of bread was discovered among the whole group. [4]

The plight of the newcomers had apparently aroused little more than curiosity among the white residents of St. Louis. The colored people of the city, however, had quickly begun to provide relief for their Southern brethren. Charleton H. Tandy, a Negro resident of St. Louis, was the first of his race to become concerned about the condition of the new arrivals. He found shelter for a part of the group, and many of the remainder sought a welcome among the Negro residents of St. Louis, where they were provided with food and shelter. [5]

Scarcely had the first boatload been settled in the city than the steamer Grand Tower docked on March 16 with a record of 500 to 600 on its decks. [6] This development, plus news from the South of thousands more awaiting transportation northward [7], compelled the colored people of St. Louis to put relief on a more permanent basis. Two Negro churches, St. Paul's chapel (A. M. E.) and the Eighth Street Baptist church were thrown open to the migrants. In addition, a mass meeting of colored people was held at St. Paul's chapel on March 17, at which meeting it was agreed to undertake the relief of the refugees from the South who were temporarily "stalled" in the city. A committee of 15 (latter expanded to 25) was appointed to provide ways and means to relieve the migrants. [8]

The problems confronting the committee were more than merely providing food and shelter, however. Unless the migrants were shipped from the city periodically, relief work would soon become impossible through sheer weight of numbers. This question was discussed at the first meeting of the committee of 15, and it was felt necessary to inaugurate the transporting of the Negroes on to their destination as soon as possible. Accordingly, a transportation committee was created with one Charles V. Prentice at its head, and arrangements were made with the Missouri River Packet Company to transport the first boatload westward on March 22. [9]

The movement of migrants from St. Louis to Kansas had already begun, however. On March 16 the steamer Fanny Lewis had departed for the "Promised Land" carrying 150-200 of the Grand Tower group capable of paying their own passage. [10] Such financial independence among the migrants proved an exception, however, and the remaining shipments to Kansas, beginning with the Joe Kinney on March 22, [11] were financed and supervised by the St. Louis relief group. These were destined for Wyandotte, which soon became the recipient of all migrants arriving in that state.

It was not chance that had given Wyandotte such a prominent role in the migration, for with the exception of Kansas City, Kan., no other town was as geographically well located to receive the Negroes. Kansas City, with a population of about 3,200, had been considered as the objective point for the migration until the authorities there had announced that they would "positively" refuse to allow the Negroes into the city. [12] Kansas City, Mo., with well over 55,000 inhabitants [13] and a prosperous business community, would have been a logical depository for the migrants had it been a Kansas town. In this respect it failed to meet a most important requirement.

The elimination of these two cities narrowed the choice to the settlements on the west side of the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. Although this area would one day become a part of a great industrial city, in 1879 there was little to indicate its future growth. Except for Wyandotte, located immediately west of the river junction, the region was in its infancy. North of Wyandotte a few miles, on the long trip up the Missouri river to Leavenworth and Atchison, was the former Free-State town of Quindaro, which had declined rapidly since the Civil War. Near Wyandotte on the south was the village of Armstrong with its nearly 718 inhabitants. Still farther southward, beyond the bend in the Kansas river, was Rosedale, whose population of around 962 afforded little rivalry to its bustling sister city at the confluence of the two rivers.

Wyandotte was, therefore, the bright spot in the whole area around the junction of the two rivers, and by 1879 it could boast a population of nearly 5,000.[14] The "click of the trowel and the sound of the hammer," heard throughout the town, testified to its prosperous condition. The town could point to frequent visits by Jay Gould, the well-known financier, who "pranced around over the macadam" as though wishing to invest in the "Metropolis of Kansas." It was even rumored he had threatened to make a "whistling station" of Kansas City, Mo., because of its opposition to him, and to locate a "big town" on the Kansas side of the state line. [15] Certainly, the prospects for Wyandotte never looked brighter than on the eve of the influx of the migrants from the South.

Yet in spite of the favorable condition of the city, it was not prepared to weather the deluge of destitute Negroes that began arriving. Following the landing of the Fanny Lewis, previously mentioned, came the Joe Kinney on March 31 with over 400 migrants, [16] and the E. H. Durfee on April 6 with 450 on its decks. [17] This mass of humanity, numbering close to 1,000, was sheltered in the Negro churches of Wyandotte and supported from whatever the citizens of the city could supply. [18]

The Wyandotte Herald of May 1, 1879, in describing the first arrivals in the city, recalled that they had been composed almost entirely of helpless children and aged and infirm people, many of whom were sick and some of whom had been paralytics for a series of years." V. J. Lane, editor of the Herald, in his testimony before the senate committee investigating the exodus, further described the newcomers as "the most God-forsaken set of people" he had ever seen. "They were entirely destitute," continued Lane, "and it looked like the almshouses of the Mississippi valley had been searched to get them together, and it became an act of humanity to do something for their relief." [19]

Initially, the migrants had been received by most of the residents of Wyandotte with a mixture of surprise and sympathy. As the numbers in the city increased, however, this attitude turned to one of fear and indignation -- fear because it was generally believed the Negroes baggage carried yellow fever germs; indignation because the burden of caring for so many indigent persons had soon become an intolerable imposition. This feeling led to a demand by a large segment of the population that the migrants in the city be transported away, and new arrivals be excluded. [20]

In the face of this mounting discontent, Mayor J. S. Stockton, who had been appointed chairman of the Wyandotte relief committee formed on April 8 to care for the migrants, [21] selected an executive committee of three to expedite the transporting of the newcomers from the city. [22] Such a course of action had become increasingly necessary. On April 13 the steamer Joe Kinney made its second appearance in the city with around 200 more Negroes. News had also arrived that over 300 migrants were leaving St. Louis on April 14 aboard the E. H. Durfee. [23] These developments hastened the committee to appeal to the "Generous of The United States" for their help in providing for the destitute freedmen. [24]

The response to the committee's appeal for help was heartening, especially in Kansas where several of Wyandotte's neighbors agreed to receive some of the newcomers. Among them was Lawrence, whose offer to take 100 of the migrant families was quickly accepted by the Wyandotte committee. [25] Throughout the morning the migrants had been transported in wagons from the African Methodist church, one of the places in which they had been quartered, to the Wyandotte depot where the arrival of the chartered "cars" was expected momentarily. Morning had slipped into afternoon, however, and still the Negroes waited patiently, bedding, frying pans, coffee pots, and other household gear forming the nucleus around which the families gathered. Their vigil was finally rewarded when the train, with "comfortable passenger coaches" adequate for the crowd, came into the station and was quickly loaded. After consigning the shipment to T. D. Fisher editor of the Lawrence Journal, members of the Wyandotte relief committee distributed loaves ofbread among the travelers, and, much to the joy and relief of the citizens of the city, the train pulled out of the station. [26]

The migrants had scarcely gotten underway, however, when word came from Mayor Isaac Newton Von Hoessen of Lawrence countermanding the earlier offer to receive the freedmen. No effort was apparently made by the Wyandotte committee to comply with the order. but as they began preparations for the next shipment of migrants to Leavenworth, they must have wondered how the newcomers would fare in a city which had so nearly rejected them.

The residents of Lawrence, however, displayed no sign of contempt or regret as the trainload of Negroes arrived in the city on April 20. Nor was such a spirit in evidence four days later when the citizens of the city filled Frazer Hall to "overflowing" in an effort to provide aid for their new charges. The "undivided sentiment" of those present saw the exodus as the "legitimate result of the injustice" inflicted upon the fleeing migrants by the Southern whites. Not only did they protest the misuse of the ex-slaves, but they also pledged their continued demand that the Negroes receive full political rights in the South. [27]

The main accomplishment of the evening, however, was the appointment of a seven-man committee to provide aid for the migrant in the city. The group was also instructed to co-operate with other local aid societies to assure the creation of a system ofstate-wide relief administered by an "efficient and responsible State executive committee." [28] The citizens of Lawrence had apparently come to realize, as had other groups in the state, that the exodus was becoming too large for the resources of individual cities. This was also the attitude taken by the Topeka Commonwealth, which had been urging the formation of a state organization to cope with what it considered a critical problem. A call for a meeting of Topeka citizens at the Opera House on Sunday evening, April 20, [29] was heartily endorsed by the newspaper, which urged the attendance of every person having an interest in the welfare of the state. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Central Freedmen's Relief Committee with Gov. John P. St. John at its head. [30] The objectives of the group were fully revealed on April 24, when the executive committee appointed by the governor on April 21, [31] published an appeal "To The People of Kansas." The various cities throughout the state were asked to establish freedmen's aide societies to assist the central committee in placing the migrants in jobs and homes where they might become useful, self-sustaining citizens. [32]

The inauguration of centralized relief on a scale proposed by the executive committee in Topeka coincided exactly with the wishes of the Lawrence meeting. The resolutions of the latter group expressed the conviction that a state which had secured its own freedom through "suffering and blood" would be untrue to its history by refusing succor to the Negroes coming into the state. As the migrants were fleeing the South to the protection of "free institutions and equal laws" so should they be aided in their efforts to settle in the state. [33]

While the citizens of Lawrence were advocating the relief of thousands on a state-wide scale, the local committee found that the handful in their midst was enough to keep them occupied. The newcomers, with nothing material to contribute to their own cause, had to be provided with all the necessities of life, in addition to being helped to eventual self-support. The Negroes had already been quartered in an old school house, where, with the assistance of the colored citizens of Lawrence, they were soon provided with food, clothing, and medical attenion. [34]

A more important problem than relief was facing the authorities at Lawrence, however. It was manifest that the Negroes could not be supported indefinitely by the city, and the sooner they became self-sufficient the better it would be for all concerned. It was hoped that some of them could be placed on the surrounding farms, and the remainder either transported to neighboring towns that had not received migrants, or to one or more of the Negro colonies established throughout the state. Placing the migrants was only a part of the problem plaguing the committee, however.

Money with which to transport the newcomers from the city was wholly lacking, and it was not until Jay Gould had written offering transportation on the Kansas Pacific railroad that the problem was solved. [35]

With this assurance, the relief committee met in the office of the Lawrence Journal on May 2 to make plans for sending the Negroes to other localities in the state. One place the committee had in mind was Nicodemus colony, in Graham county, Kansas, a Negro settlement planted in 1877 mainly by colonists from Kentucky. [36] Sidney Clarke, a member of the Lawrence group, had conferred with the central committee in Topeka, and reported that that body was not yet ready to advise shipping the migrants to Nicodemus until a closer examination of the settlement could be made. [37]

The Lawrence committee turned to the alternative of settling the migrants in the surrounding area. The group had earlier issued an address "To the People of Douglas and the Adjoining Counties," explaining that a considerable number of families were still in Lawrence living on charity, and requesting the farmers to furnish employment for them. [38] The central committee in Topeka was also petitioned for $150, which was promptly sent, not only to help provide relief for the migrants in the city, but also to finance a survey of employment opportunities in the surrounding counties. [39]

The necessity of removing the Negroes had become more apparent when a delegation that investigated the migrants' condition reported much uneasiness and discontent among them. In addition, Dr. C. W. Lawrence explained that overcrowded conditions among the newcomers, and the approach of warm weather necessitated their removal to prevent an outbreak of disease. [40]

The committee's plan to disperse the migrants was not immediately accomplished, however. The Lawrence Tribune of May 8, voiced its opposition to the newcomers remaining in the "crowded conditions" any longer, reminding the authorities of the danger of disease spreading throughout the city. [41] This, however, was the last appeal that was necessary, and by May 14 the migrant camp was "mainly" broken up. [42] The committee had been successful in its efforts to place most of the Negroes on surrounding farms, while the remainder were shipped to Topeka where they were again transported to other localities by the central committee. [43]

Lawrence took great pride in the manner in which it had welcomed and cared for the migrants. [44] The city, however, was in a position to boast of its humanity, since being off the transportation routes followed by the migrants, it could accept or reject the Negroes as it chose. This was not the case with such Missouri river cities as Leavenworth and Atchison, where the whistle of every steamboat might prove to be the herald of an addition to the migrants already on hand.

While the steamboats were later to play a part in the migration in Leavenworth, the city's initial contact with the Freedmen came when a trainload was shipped from Wyandotte on April 23, arriving in Leavenworth the following morning. During the forenoon the residents of the city were en visiting the tracks to view this latest of spectacles. Upon arrival of the ten carloads of migrants, numbering about 300, had been switched off near "Ryan's pork house,' but in the afternoon they were returned to the depot where the group was unloaded. [45]

The Leavenworth Appeal was not optimistic concerning the city's latest acquisition. "We are compelled to say they are a sorry lot, and are evidently the rag-tag-and-bobtail of the pilgrims." Besides their obvious hunger and "seedy" appearance, the newspaper especially noticed the lack of "good field hands" among the number, the majority being old men, women, and children. [46] But the Wyandotte Herald, probably intending to be more humorous than informative, observed that the Appeal was mistaken in its appraisal of the new corners. "We shipped them ourself," continued the Herald, and picked a good lot." [47]

Regardless of the newcomers worth, relief was set in motion that evening by a meeting in Laing's Hall. A collection of $22 was taken with pledges received for a like sum. A previous meeting had produced $12, making a total of $56 in all, which the Topeka Daily Capital thought was "pretty good, for Leavenworth," a city with a population of 16,546 by 1880! [48] Unfortunately, the small but humane efforts of the citizens of Leavenworth were mostly undone by the subsequent action of the city authorities.

On April 28, four days following the migrants' arrival, Mayor W. M. Fortescue called a special session of the city council to decide upon a course of action in dealing with the migration. The board of health was instructed to determine whether "contagious diseases or the germs of yellow fever" were being carried in the Negroes' baggage. If an investigation produced such evidence, the newcomers were to be removed to the quarantine limits, five miles from the city, and further groups of the refugees, "or other persons so afflicted," were to be prevented from entering the city. [49] A supplementary resolution, perhaps the most unfriendly official action taken by any city affected by the exodus, ran as follows:

Resolved, That the Mayor be, and is hereby instructed to call upon the Captain of any boat bringing colored refugees to this city, and make arrangements to transport said refugees to other points, and we hereby appropriate any sum of money necessary for said purpose. [50]

At the moment this measure occasioned little response from Leavenworth's neighbors, but a few more days were to produce a sharp reaction.

The Wyandotte Herald, in the meantime, thought the idea of Leavenworth, head and ears in debt, and that for months has been attempting to repudiate its honest obligations, appropriating money to carry the colored refugees to some other point is preposterous. Better set them to work and try to build up the failing fortunes of the city. [51]

The determination of the Leavenworth city council to quarantine the town against the entrance of more migrants was not original with that group. A number of cities either had such laws or had toyed with the idea of passing ordinances of that nature. In the end, however, finding such statutes impractical or unenforceable, they turned to relieving the Negroes and transporting them away in a more dignified manner. The practice of bribing steamboat captains to carry the migrants away, however, was a Leavenworth innovation, soon to be tested by the approach of the steamer Joe Kinney, laboring up the Missouri river with 275 migrants destined for Leavenworth.

The Kinney had left St. Louis on April 20 carrying the migrants in the hold of a barge it was towing. In spite of mechanical trouble the vessel reached Wyandotte on May 1, where the Negroes were provided with enough food for the trip to Leavenworth. [52] On the morning of May 2, therefore, the steamer docked at Leavenworth and was preparing to discharge its cargo when Mayor Fortescue went aboard. The ensuing conversation was not recorded, but ample evidence left no doubt that the mayor gave the captain $250 with the understanding that the load would be taken on up the river, and as no other suitable depository then existed, obviously to Atchison. [53]

News of the arrival of the Kinney in Leavenworth and its subsequent departure with the migrants still in tow had preceded the vessel to Atchison. [54] The captain, therefore, probably feeling the urgency of a quick retreat from the city, landed "below Ketcham's mill," without sounding his whistle, ran the migrants ashore and was on his way in around 15 minutes. [55] The operation was performed with such dispatch that Mayor John C. Tomlinson scarcely had time to go aboard to make his unsuccessful remonstrance. According to the Atchison Globe, a critic of the migration, the captain was "driven away from Wyandotte by force, and bribed by the Leavenworth people to come to Atchison," and his only objective was to be released from his cargo as soon as possible. [56]

As the citizens of the city gathered to view these much-publicized Southerners, the newcomers, mainly from Warren county, Mississippi, were sitting on the river bank "blinking at the sun" and awaiting the next move. A reporter for the Atchison Daily Champion was reminded of the recent war on seeing the

old and young, big and little, huddled together on the river bank with their queer collection of household gear. All were plantation negroes, the women with their handkerchiefs tied around their heads, and the men clad in a general assortment of rags. [57]

As the afternoon wore on, it suddenly dawned on the residents of the city that their visitors, even though uninvited, must be cared for, and a relief movement was immediately begun. The African Methodist Episcopal and the Ebenezar Baptist churches were opened to provide shelter, with priority given to women, children, and the sick. [58] A wagon was hauled throughout the city collecting staples, and the citizens responded generously. The relief efforts were continued after dark, and at a "late hour" some of the colored men were still sitting on the river bank warming themselves at several fires. The emergency, however, had passed and the city relaxed momentarily to ponder the next move. [59]

The following morning, May 3, found the citizens of Atchison at work completing the labors of the previous night. All the Negroes were fed, and after covering the basement floor of the Methodist church with bedding, the sick were made comfortable. The long trip from the South, involving some 20 days of exposure and inadequate food had taken its toll. There were about six cases of pneumonia, 27 afflicted with bronchitis, five suffering with measles and many with chills. Several cases were critical. [60]

In the afternoon, the Atchison city council held an emergency meeting, and "in conformity with the state law," passed an ordinance designed to prevent the landing of paupers, or persons likely to become charges on the city. Violators were to be punished by a fine of not more than $100, or imprisonment for three months, or both. The river banks were to be patrolled to assure that Atchison received no more migrants. [61]

With the safety of the city apparently secured, the attention of Atchison turned to Leavenworth, the instigator of the recent deluge. Insult was added to injury when Mayor Fortescue of Leavenworth telegraphed Mayor John C. Tomlinson asking if Atchison could care for more migrants, for his city had an ample supply and two boatloads were expected there momentarily. [62] The answer was emphatic and to the point:

No. We have all the city can provide for. I hereby respectfully notify you and the city of Leavenworth that the city of Atchison will hold you and your city responsible for the paupers you caused to be sent here yesterday. [63]

The Atchison Champion, never slow to come to the defense of the city, took up the pen against Leavenworth. After referring to the humor of the Leavenworth mayor as about "the consistency of Missouri bottom gumbo," it proceeded to give that city what it considered sound advice:

As these refugees are all farm hands, the proper place for them to stop is evidently Leavenworth. They might be profitably employed cultivating patches of garden truck in the streets of that city. The ground is useless for any other purpose. And at least five thousand of them could find shelter in the vacant houses of that deserted village. [64]

Even the boatload sent to Atchison, continued the Champion, "would have given the town a business look it has not known for years." [65]

The latter conclusion was evidenced by the fact that the migrants were finding themselves useful in Atchison. Some were seen unloading railroad ties at the tracks, others were cutting wood, and the women generally found household work. The remainder, however, "quite a large number." according to the Champion, were seen at the churches loafing, "an operation which they conducted with singular fidelity and success." [66]

Meanwhile, the authorities of the city continued to have the river banks patrolled to prevent another landing such as that of the previous Friday afternoon, but nothing rewarded their vigil. The city was, however, greatly disturbed by a report that a vessel with 400 migrants on board was approaching the city. This, much to the relief of all, turned out to be a "cruel joke." [67] With steps taken to prevent the entrance of more Negroes, the council began making plans for the removal of those in the city. The Central Branch of the Union Pacific, as well as the Atchison and Nebraska railroads both offered to transport the newcomers for one cent per mile, which the city council quickly accepted. [68]

While efforts were being made in Atchison to clear the city of its newly acquired charges, the Leavenworth Times renewed the contention between the two cities by accusing Atchison of "being the only town in the State to cry and whine" over the migrants she had received. [69] The Champion responded in a similar vein, laying the whole blame for the unpleasantness between the two cities on the "impudent, foolish telegram" sent by the mayor of Leavenworth. He had done a "mean thing" to divert the migrants from a city with plenty of empty houses to a city with none. [70] The Times, however, felt that the chief complaint was that the Negroes had been sent from Leavenworth, "as though they had not been sent to Leavenworth from Wyandotte, and to Wyandotte from St. Louis." [71]

The Democratic newspapers across the river in Missouri were delighted with the feud between Atchison and Leavenworth. The St. Joseph (Mo.) Gazette, however, was inclined to agree with the latter city concerning the nature of Kansas relief. Noting that the "philanthropic" people of Leavenworth "shoved" the migrants up the river to Atchison, the Gazette thought it in line for the latter city to pay their fares to Elwood. Perhaps Elwood could then send them on to Nebraska. "Philanthropy," sarcastically added the Gazette, "is of the telescopic order, alas! too frequently." [72]

The St. Joseph Herald, on the other hand, was amazed at the attitude of Leavenworth and Atchison. It was common knowledge, said the Herald, that both of the cities were "strong on colored people, although a little stronger on days when the Negroes were voting. And since elections ran close in both towns, the migrants should have been welcomed with open arms by the Republicans. "You see," continued the Herald,

Republicanism in the abstract, in the clouds, in speeches and delightful editorial articles, is not precisely the same as a nigger at your door who wants a dinner and a bed. Now Atchison is the most hospitable little village in the world. And she is pretty Republican. But here are these niggers, so to speak. [73]

In spite of the ridicule from the Democratic side of the Missouri river, Atchison was proceeding with plans to divest itself of the migrants. One Giles E. Scoville of the city was sent out to arrange for transporting the migrants to towns on the Central Branch. [74] On May 8 groups were sent to Muscotah, Whiting, Netawaka, and as far as Scandia. There were also shipments made on the Atchison and Nebraska railroad consisting of 13 migrants destined for Brenner and Hiawatha. By May 10 it was reported that only 17 families remained in Atchison. [75] These were later sent to Topeka where they were cared for by the state relief committee, which, by this time, has assumed the responsibility for all migrants arriving in Kansas.

Only a few days earlier, on May 5, the central committee, through the insistence of the Wyandotte relief group, had made arrangements to meet all new arrivals in Kansas City, Mo., and to forward them by rail to Topeka. [76] This news was joyously received in Wyandotte, which had borne the brunt of the migration since its beginning. Relief of that city was only one of the several benefits derived from the action of the central committee.

It marked the end of a haphazard and often ineffective system of relief administered by the various cities. The danger of a clash between the races, such as almost occurred in Wyandotte, was likewise considerably lessened. Centralized aid was also responsible for ending needless duplication of relief efforts, and made possible a more economical and orderly way of handling the Negroes. More important, perhaps, was the dignity and responsibility given to the relief movement by the leadership of Gov. John P. St. John. His presence helped insure adequate relief supplies, since philanthropists and humanitarians in New England and throughout the East, feeling confident their contributions were in safe hands, gave generously to an organization so ably led.

Finally, the additional responsibility undertaken by the central committee forced that body to expand its relief facilities. This was especially significant, for after a lull in the exodus during the summer of 1879, the migration was renewed on a scale that would have overwhelmed the resources of individual cities. Around 5,000 Negroes who entered Kansas between April and June of 1879, had been settled within the state, but only with great difficulty. [77] The expansion of relief work would prove absolutely necessary when the stream of migrants from the lower Mississippi river area was swelled by thousands of freedmen from Texas, who began pouring into the state in the winter of 1879. By rail, wagon, and often on foot, the Negroes from the Lone Star state moved across the Indian Territory to find homes in southeastern Kansas. Their journey was especially difficult, and the end of the trek often clothed in disappointment, but still they came, refusing all entreaties to return to their Southern homes. The firm determination of the migrants to sojourn in the "Land of Promise," to which they fondly believed the Lord was leading them, was a phenomenon difficult to explain. Perhaps it was best revealed by a group of "Exodusters" arriving in St. Louis, who spurned an offer to return to the South by simply declaring: "We'se goin' to Kansas, and we won't go back dar." [78]


Glen Schwendemann, native of Oklahoma and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, is teaching in the Torrance, Calif., public schools.

1. For a discussion of the causes of the migration as well as the Negroes' departure from the South, see Glen Schwendemann, "Negro Exodus to Kansas: First Phase, March- July, 1879" (unpublished master's thesis, Department of History, University of Oklahoma, 1957), pp. 1-39.
2. Ibid., pp. 36-39, 152, 153. See, also, the St. Louis Missouri Republican, April 27, 1879; the Atchison Daily Champion, May 6, 1879, and an unidentified and undated newspaper clipping in "Horatio N. Rust Scrapbook; Relating to the Negro Exodus From the South to Kansas, 1880," Kansas Historical Society library, p. 48.
3. A St. Louis Globe-Democrat reporter, who interviewed the migrants arriving on the steamer Colorado, wrote of their "firm and abiding faith that they would be furnished free transportation to Kansas, where the Government would not only provide each individual darky with a good farm free of charge, but also with the necessary mules and farming implements at the same price. Their mistaken belief, it was said, had been imparted to them through the medium of printed circulars." -- St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 13, 1879. See, also, ibid., March 12, 1879, for a further discussion of this subject.
4. Ibid.. March 13, 1879.
5. Ibid., March 16, 1879. See, also, the St. Louis Missouri Republican, March 19, 1879, and Charleton H. Tandy's testimony in "Report and Testimony of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States," Senate Report, No. 693 (Serial 1899), 46th Cong, 2d Sess., 1880, pt. 3, p 37.
6. St. Louis Globe-Democrat and Missouri Republican, March 17, 1879.
7. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 16, 17, 1879, and St. Louis Missouri Republican, March 19, 1879.
8. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 18, 1879.
9. St. Louis Missouri Republican, March 19, 20, 1879.
10. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 17, 1879, estimated that 150 took Fanny Lewis and 250 departed by rail. The latter group were probably those who arrived in Topeka on March 19, the firstof the "Exodusters'' to enter the state. The Topeka Commonwealth and the North Topeka Times, March 21, 1879, both estimated the group at 200 persons. See, also, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 23, 1879 (Supplement), for a report of this group of migrants.
11. For descriptions of the departure of the steamer Joe Kinney, see the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 23, 1879 (Supplement), and the St. Louis Missouri Republican of the same date.
12. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 16, 1979.
13. Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, v. 1, p. 242.
14. See an unofficial census published in the Wyandotte Herald, April 17, 1879, which set the population at 4,612. The decennial census of 1880 gave the population as 6,149, an increase over the unofficial census of 1879 of 1,537, an increase explained in part by the migrants who remained in the city, living in shacks along the river. Tenth Census, 1880, v. 1, p. 449.
15. Wyandotte Herald, March 27, May 22, 1879. See, also, the Topeka Daily Capital, April 22, 1879, quoting from the Wyandotte Gazette of an unknown date.
16. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 23, 1879, set the number at 450; the Wyandotte Herald, April 3, 1879, estimated the group to be 400, while the Kansas Pilot, Kansas City, April 5, 1879. Reported 350. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, however, arrived at its figure from the number of tickets bought in St. Louis.
17. Wyandotte Herald, April 10, 1879.
18. For a general account of the migration in Wyandotte, see Glen Schwendemann "Wyandotte and the First 'Exodusters' of 1879," The Kansas Historical Quarterly (Autumn 1960), v. 26, pp. 233-249.
19. Senate Report, No. 693, pt. 3, p. 326.
20. Schwendemann, "Wyandotte and the First 'Exodusters,'" loc. cit., p. 242, See, also, the Topeka Commonwealth, April 23, 1879.
21. Wyandotte Herald, April 10, 1879.
22. Senate Report, No. 693, Pt. 3, PP. 326, 327. See the testimony of V. J. Lane, editor of the Wyandotte Herald, who, with George H. Miller, head of the state asylum for the blind, and C. V. Bishop, made up the committee.
23. Wyandotte Herald, April 17, 1879, and the Atchison Daily Champion, April 16, 1879.
24. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 17, 1879, and the Topeka Commonwealth, April 18, 1879.
25. Other towns in the state offering to receive the Negroes as of April 24, were Leavenworth, Tonganoxie, Manhattan, and Ottawa. Atchison had requested 200 of the migrants but apparently withdrew the request later. Wyandotte Herald, April 17, 24, and May 1, 1879.
26. See N. C. McFarland's description of the migrants in Wyandotte in the Topeka Commonwealth, April 24, 1879. A more complete account, probably by McFarland also, appears in the Topeka Daily Capital, April 22, 1879.
27. Atchison Daily Champion and the Topeka Daily Capital, April 25, 1879.
28. Atchison Daily Champion, April 25, 1879.
29. Topeka Commonwealth, April 19, 20, 1879.
30. Topeka Daily Capital, April 21, 1879, and the Topeka Commonwealth, April 22, 1879.
31. Topeka Daily Capital, April 21, 1879.
32. See the text of the address in the Topeka Commonwealth, April 25, 1879; the Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879, and the Coffeyville Journal, May 3, 1879.
33. Atchison Daily Champion, April 25, 1879.
34. Lawrence Journal, April 24, 1879, as quoted in the Topeka Daily Capital, April 25, 1879.
35. See the text of a telegram from Jay Gould to Judge John P. Usher of Lawrence in the Lawrence Standard, of an unknown date, as quoted in the Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879.
36. A short sketch of the founding of Nicodemus colony may he seen in the Topeka Journal, January 7, 1922. See, also, the Nicodemus Western Cyclone, April 21, 1887.
37. The Kansas Freedmen's Relief Association of Topeka established a colony in Wabaunsee county, about 50 miles west of Topeka, and furnish the colonists with everything necessary to begin farming. Although some assistance was given to other Negro colonies in the state, the central committee generally ignored these settlements as depositories for the newcomers. It was widely believed that the plantation Negro could not maintain himself on the frontier. The Negroes who colonized Kansas were usually from Kentucky and Tennessee and were more industrious and self-reliant.
38. Topeka Commonwealth, May 1, 1879.
39. Ibid., May 3, 4, 1879.
40. Topeka Daily Capital, May 3, 10, 1879.
41. Ibid., May 10. 1879.
42. Ibid., May 14, 1879. The New York Daily Tribune, May 20, 1879, noted that the migrants' camp was "nearly deserted," and "the spot which the exiles made historic may soon be consecrated as a place of mourning sacred to the use of those prophets of the unnumbered ills that were to befall the country in consequence of the arrival of these hordes of paupers."
43. By May 24, the last of the migrants had been shipped to Topeka. Topeka Daily Capital, May 28, 1879. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat of May 21, carried an article datelined, "Lawrence, Kansas, May 18, 1879," in which is was reported that "600 colored refugees," an exaggerated figure, had been absorbed into the surrounding countryside and were working on farms.
44. Ibid., May 21, 1879.
45. The Leavenworth Appeal of an unknown date, as quoted in the Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879, waxed poetic when it wrote: "The Africans came down like the wolf on the fold, and they had nary cent in silver and gold." C. C. Baker of the Topeka Commonwealth, who visited the city at this time, reported that the migrants were the "chief topic" of conversation, and were crowded into empty buildings all over the city. Topeka Commonwealth, April 29, 1879.
46. Leavenworth Appeal, as quoted in the Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879.
47. Ibid. V. J. Lane, editor of the Herald, was a member of the committee which selected the Leavenworth group.
48. Tenth Topeka Daily Capital, April 25, 1879.
49. Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879, and the Atchison Daily Champion, April 30, 1879.
50. The italics are mine. Wyandotte Herald, May 1, 1879.
51. Ibid. During the Civil War, the terminal for the Western trade shifted from Kansas City, Mo., to Leavenworth because of the military protection afforded by the latter city. By 1880, however, this trade was again finding its way to Kansas City, occasioning a loss of population in Leavenworth amounting to 1,327 between 1870 and 1880. Tenth Census, 1880, v. 1, p. 178.
52. St. Louis Missouri Republican, April 21, 1579, and the Wyandotte Herald, May 8, 1879.
53. Wyandotte Herald, May 8, 1879. See, also, the Topeka Daily Capital, May 5, 1879, which set the bribe at $200.
54. Atchison Daily Champion, May 3, 1879.
55. Ibid. See, also, the Atchison Globe, May 3, 1879.
56. Atchison Globe, May 3, 1879.
57. Atchison Daily Champion, May 3, 1879. "Had the King of the Cannibal Island, with his staff and a brass band suddenly arrived," reported the Champion, "a crowd would not have gathered more quickly. The newly landed were immediately surrounded by a crowd of curious questioners of both colors."
58. The Rev. William M. Twine (colored), pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist church, testified that he even vacated his church office for a while to make room for the migrants. Twine, however, opposed the exodus because he felt Kansas had no use for so much unskilled labor. Senate Report, No. 693, Pt. 3, p. 319.
59. Atchison Daily Champion, May 3, 1879.
60. Ibid., May 4, 1879. The colored citizens of Atchison, who took the lead in relieving their Southern brethren, organized a relief committee on May 5. See ibid., May 6, 1879, for a report of the Negro meeting.
61. Atchison Patriot, May 6, 1879, as quoted in the St. Louis Missouri Republican, May 8, 1879.
62. Atchison Globe, May 3, 1379.
63. Ibid.
64. Atchison Daily Champion, May 4, 1879.
65. Ibid. The Wyandotte Herald of May 8, 1879, noting the difficulty between Atchison and Leavenworth, remarked quite appropriately, that the "Leavenworth and Atchison papers gave a large amount of wholesome advice to Wyandotte while we had over 1,000 of them [the migrants] here, some of which they ought to apply to their own cities now that they know how it is themselves."
66. Atchison Daily Champion, May 6, 1879.
67. Ibid. The news was brought by the captain of the steamer Yellowstone.
68. Atchison Daily Champion. May 6, 1879.
69. Ibid., May 7, 1879.
70. Ibid. The St. Joseph (Mo.) Herald, as quoted by the Atchison Globe of May 7, 1879, noted that Atchison's philanthropy was bounded by her city limits," and that her excuse of inadequate housing as a reason for not wanting the migrants was "Very thin. Not Christian. Not Republican." Atchison's excuse was not without some foundation however. Between 1870 and 1880 the city's population grew from 7,054 to 15,105, Tenth Census, 1880. v. 1, p. 17.
71. Atchison Daily Champion, May 7, 1879. The Atchison Globe of May 6, 1879, although a critic of the migration, reminded the city of Leavenworth, that while Atchison was "willing to do [her] part toward providing these miserable devils homes, and keep them from starving, we will not allow Leavenworth to ship her proportion to us, and then boast of it as a cunning trick."
72. Ibid., May 3, 1879.
73. Ibid., May 7, 1879.
74. Atchison Daily Champion, May 9, 1879, as quoted in the Topeka Daily Capital, May 10, 1879.
75. Topeka Daily Capital, May 12, 1879.
76. Schwendemann, "Wyandotte and the First 'Exodusters,'" loc. cit., p. 245.
77. For a discussion of the numbers involved in the first phase of the exodus (March-July) see Schwendemann, "Negro Exodus to Kansas" (M. A. thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1957), pp. 160, 161.
78. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 17. 1879.