Within a few days after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, hundreds of Missourians crossed into the adjacent territory, selected a section of land, and then united with fellow-adventurers in a meeting or meetings, intending to establish a pro-slavery preemption upon all this region.
As early as June 10, 1854, the Missourians held a meeting at Salt Creek Valley, a trading post three miles west from Fort Leavenworth, at which a "Squatter's Claim Association" was organized. They said they were in favor of making Kansas a slave state if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there. According to these emigrants, abolitionists would do well not to stop in Kansas Territory, but keep on up the Missouri River until they reach Nebraska Territory, which was anticipated to be a free state. Before the first arrival of Free-State emigrants from the northern and eastern States, nearly every desirable location along the Missouri River had been claimed by men from western Missouri, by virtue of the preemption laws.
During the long debate that preceded the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it had become the settled opinion at the North that the only remaining means whereby the territory might yet be rescued from the grasp of the slave power, was in its immediate occupancy and settlement by anti-slavery emigrants from the free states in sufficient numbers to establish free institutions within its borders. The desire to facilitate the colonization of the Territory took practical shape while the bill was still under debate in the United States Congress. The largest organization created for this purpose was the New England Emigrant Aid Company, organized by Eli Thayer.
Emigration from the free states, including New England, Iowa, Ohio, and other Midwestern states, flowed into the territory beginning in 1854. These emigrants were known as Free-Staters. Because Missourians had claimed much of the land closest to the border, the Free-Staters were forced to establish settlements further into Kansas Territory, as at Lawrence (the first established), Topeka, and Manhattan.
To protect themselves against the encroachments of non-residents, the "Actual Settlers' Association of Kansas Territory" was formed. This association held a meeting on August 12, 1854, the object being the adoption of some regulations that should afford protection to the Free-State settlers, under laws not unlike those adopted by the pro-slavery squatters in the border region east.
First Territorial Appointments
The first territorial appointments, looking to the inauguration of a local government, under the provisions of the organic law, were made in June and July, 1854. The officers appointed by President Pierce, whose appointments were confirmed by the United States Senate, and who entered upon the duties of their officer. The first governor was Andrew Horatio Reeder (of Easton, Pennsylvania) was appointed June 29, 1854. (Later, a letter of dismissal of July 28, 1858 removed Governor Reeder from office. His removal was officially announced July 31, and on August 16 Governor Reeder notified the Legislature of his removal.)
Election of Territorial Legislature
On March 30, 1855 "Border Ruffians" from Missouri invaded Kansas during the territory's first legislative election and forced the election of a pro-slavery Territorial Legislature. The general facts concerning the Missouri invasion of the ballot boxes at the election were known throughout Kansas from the day after the election. The Pro-slavery residents, with their allies over the Missouri border, considered it a fair victory, fairly won. The Missourians had gone over to the various precincts in Kansas in overwhelming numbers, and elected a Pro-slavery Legislature. Antislavery candidates prevailed in only one election district, in the future Riley County, where Manhattan had just been situated.
The first session of the legislature was actually held in Pawnee, Kansas (near modern-day Ft. Riley) at the request of Governor Reeder. The two-story stone legislature building still stands to this day as the first Territorial Capitol of Kansas. The building remained as the seat for the legislature for only five days, from July 2-6, 1855, as the proslavery forces voted to move east to be nearer to Missouri, with the next session to be held at the Shawnee Methodist Mission.
James H. Lane became involved in the Free-State movement in Kansas in 1855. He was often called the leader of "Jayhawkers" movement in Kansas. The first Free-state convention was held in Lawrence on the evening of June 8, 1855, in response to a call signed "Sundry Citizens," "for the purpose of considering matters of general interest to the Territory." Whereas they stated, certain persons from the neighboring State of Missouri have, from time to time, made irruptions into this territory, and have fraud and force driven from and overpowered our people at the ballot-box, and have forced upon us a Legislature which does not represent the opinions of the legal voters of this Territory. Many of its members not being even residents of this Territory, but having their homes in the State of Missouri.
These people used violence toward the persons and property of the inhabitants of the territory. The convention resolved in favor of making Kansas a free Territory, and as a consequence, a free State; the convention looked upon the conduct of a portion of the people of Missouri in the late Kansas election as a gross outrage on the elective franchise and rights of freemen and a violation of the principles of popular sovereignty. The convention members did not feel bound to obey any law of illegitimate legislature enacted and opposed the establishment of slavery. The convention reserved the right to invoke the aid of the General Government against the lawless course of the slavery propaganda with reference to the Territory.
There was held in the public hall in Lawrence a "Ratification Convention." It was a general ratification of all that had been done and showed most conclusively that thereafter there was a united force in Kansas pledged to freedom which no opposing powers could intimidate nor inward dissensions divide.