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Willing to Die for Freedom - Part 8

Territorial Timeline

Marais de Cynes massacreHere's a timeline of significant events during Kansas' territorial period, 1854-1861.


May 30

President Franklin Pierce signs the Kansas-Nebraska bill, creating Kansas Territory.

July 28

The first antislavery settlers of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company (later known as the New England Emigrant Aid Company) arrive in Kansas Territory.


March 30

An election is held to select the territorial legislature. About 1,000 armed proslavery Missourians enter Kansas. They cast fraudulent votes and prevent free-state settlers from voting.


Sons of abolitionist John Brown begin arriving in Kansas. Their infamous father joins them later.

October 23--November 11

Free-state delegates draft the Topeka Constitution prohibiting slavery in the territory. It is rejected by Congress in 1856.


May 21

Sheriff Samuel Jones and a proslavery posse attack Lawrence.

May 22

Senator Charles Sumner from Massachusetts is severely beaten after he delivers a speech, "The Crime Against Kansas."

May 24

The Pottawatomie Massacre occurs when free-state forces led by John Brown brutally murder five proslavery settlers.

June 2

John Brown and proslavery forces clash in the Battle of Black Jack.

August 7

James Lane and nearly 600 emigrants arrive in Kansas after traveling the Lane Trail through Iowa and Nebraska, avoiding proslavery forces along the Kansas-Missouri border.

August 30

The Battle of Osawatomie ignites when 400 Missourians attack the town, driving out freestaters led by John Brown.

September 13

The Battle of Hickory Point occurs.

September 16

Free-stater David Buffum is murdered by proslavery supporter Charles Hays.


March 6

The U.S. Supreme Court hands down the Dred Scott decision, stating that "Negroes are not citizens of the United States."


February 2

The Lecompton Constitution is presented to Congress, which rejects it after much debate.

April 3

The Leavenworth Constitution is completed. It dies in committee in Congress.

May 19

The Marais des Cygnes Massacre results in the deaths of five free-state settlers.

May 29

U.S. troops arrive in Fort Scott to stop the violence between proslavery forces and James Montgomery's free-state jayhawkers.

June 11

Abraham Lincoln tells delegates at the National Republican Convention, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

December 20

John Brown goes into Missouri to liberate a group of slaves.


January 3

John Brown writes his famous "Parallels" defending his behavior in Kansas.

January 31

Proslavery forces try to capture John Brown and escaping slaves in the Battle of the Spurs.

October 4

Voters ratify the Wyandotte Constitution, under which Kansas eventually becomes a state.

October 16

John Brown attacks the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He is captured and the hanged for treason on December 2.

December 1

Abraham Lincoln arrives in Kansas Territory to campaign for the 1860 presidential election .


November 6

Abraham Lincoln wins the presidential election.

December 24

South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union.


January 29

President James Buchanan signs the bill allowing Kansas to enter the Union as a free state.

April 12

The Civil War officially begins when proslavery troops fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina.


Willing to Die for Freedom is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kansas Territory.

  1. Flashpoint - Kansas was the flashpoint for the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
  2. Politics - Many Americans believed Kansas would determine the future of slavery.
  3. Violence - The territory quickly became known as Bleeding Kansas.
  4. Opportunity - People came here to buy cheap land and influence national politics.
  5. Survival - Making a home in Kansas often was difficult.
  6. Freedom - The name "Kansas" meant freedom to many African Americans.
  7. Timeline - Outline of important events in Kansas history, with links to learn more.
  8. Constitutions - Kansas had four constitutions, more than any other territory.
  9. Voting game - Test your knowledge about who could vote legally in Kansas Territory.

Contact us at KSHS.KansasMuseum@ks.gov