The Sale of the Delaware Trust Lands
by William G. Cutler (1883)

Following is the proclamation of President Pierce:


The Territory of Kansas.



By the President of the United States.
In pursuance of law, I, FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States of America, do hereby declare and make known that a public sale will be held at Fort Leavenworth, in the Territory of Kansas, commencing on Monday, the 20th of October next, for the disposal of such lands and town lots held by the United States for the benefit of the Delaware tribe of Indians, as are situated within the undermentioned townships, comprising the Eastern portion of the lands ceded by the said Delaware Indians in trust as aforesaid, to-wit:

South of the base line, and East of the sixth principal meridian.
Townships seven, eight, nine, and ten, of range nineteen.
Townships seven, eight, nine, and ten, of range twenty.
Townships seven, eight, nine, and ten, of range twenty-one.
Townships nine and ten, of range twenty-three.

Also the surveyed blocks in the town of Jacksonville, so-called, from No. 1 to 121, inclusive, situated in Townships Nos. 9 and 10, south of Range 19 East, above mentioned, according to the plat of said Jacksonville, on file in the office of the Surveyor General of the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, to which reference is made.

Also the surveyed blocks in the town of Delaware, so-called, from No. 1 to No. 91, inclusive, situated within Township No. 9 South, of Range No. 23 East, above mentioned, according to the plat of said town of Delaware, on file in the office of said Surveyor General, and to which reference is made.

Also the surveyed blocks in the town of Hardville, so-called, from No. 1 to No. 94, inclusive situated within Townships Nos. 8 and 9 South, of Range 19, above mentioned, according to the plat of said town, on file in the office of said Surveyor General to which reference is made.

Also the surveyed blocks in the town of so-called, from No. 1 to No. 16, inclusive, situated in Township No. 8 South, of Range No. 22 East, as above mentioned, according to the plat of said town of on file in the office of the said Surveyor General, and to which reference is made.

And also the lots in the several blocks as surveyed and laid out in Leavenworth City, so-called, situated in Township No. 8 South, of Range 22 East, above mentioned, according to the plat of said Leavenworth City, on file in the office of said Surveyor General of said Territories, and to which reference is hereby made.

Said above mentioned lands, town lots, and blocks, having been classified and valued by Commissioners duly appointed for that purpose, according to law, the valuation so placed will be the minimum at which the same will be offered for sale.

The terms of the sale, will be CASH, and upon payment being made, receipts in duplicate will be made thereof, one of which will be delivered to the purchaser.

Patents will subsequently be granted for lands so purchased, in accordance with the laws in force regulating the issue thereof.

The offering of the above lands and town lots and blocks, will be commenced on the day appointed, and will proceed in the order in which they are advertised, with all convenient dispatch, until the whole shall have been offered and the sales just closed.

All purchases not paid for on the day of sale, will be offered on the following day, at the risk of the defaulting purchaser.

Given under my hand, at the city of Washington, this 14th day of August, A. D. 1856.

By the President. FRANKLIN PIERCE.



The above proclaimed sale was postponed to Monday, November 17, 1856, at which time it commenced.

No event of such interest or importance to the actual settler had ever before transpired. The political feuds and personal differences among them were forgotten in the overshadowing issue of how to secure titles to their occupied lands at the forthcoming sales.

There were common dangers outside, threatening the home of every Delaware squatter, whether Pro-slaver, Free-state or Abolition in faith, and among the squatters themselves, the securing of their homes, at the valuation put upon them by the Government, without interference from outside speculative bidders, became the paramount and all-absorbing question. The danger was, that speculators would overbid them, which was increased by the fact that there were two antagonistic classes of non-residents desirous of securing the lands, outside of the speculative profit that was sure to accrue from the known intrinsic value of the lands themselves. There were Pro-slavery speculators and Anti-slavery speculators, as well as speculators pure and simple.

Governor Robinson, a staunch Free-soiler, and an agent of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, wrote to his friends in Boston, as follows:

LAWRENCE, Kan., September 25, 1856
The Delaware lands come into market on the 20th of new month (now postponed to November 17) and there will be an effort to prevent Free-state men from purchasing. There should be Northern capital here on that day to invest. These lands are along the Missouri River, including Leavenworth City, and are among the most valuable in Kansas. It will operate very much against us if they all fall into the hands of Pro-slavery men. Cannot some of the capitalists of Boston and New York have some agent on the ground to buy them? No better land investment can be made in the country. The time is now approaching when capital can serve free Kansas essentially and with the certainty of giving the capitalist a good per cent. for his investment. As good titles can be had for it as to the best land in the country; and land whose value will be increased ten-fold in a short time.

Commenting on the above, the Herald, November 1, voiced the local sentiment thus:

An effort is being made by certain Northern men to introduce politics into the sales of the Delaware lands. Robinson, and others, have already written letters to the East, stating that it is the purpose of the Pro-slavery men to buy out all the claims of the Free-state settlers. They make this false issue as an excuse to urge Northern capitalists to be here at the sale and invest their money in these lands; that by so doing they can make a profitable investment, and advance the cause of freedom, by getting possession of this whole tract, consisting of over 200,000 acres of land.

In the sales of the Delaware lands, the settlers know no other party than the Squatters' Party. Every man who has a bona fide claim will be respected alike by all the settlers. This is the feeling pervading the masses. We caution Delaware settlers now against listening to any of the shallow devices set afloat to introduce politics into the sale of these lands. The Squatter Party is the only party we know in this matter. It is the strong party, and if they only keep united, as they now are, they will have no difficulty. There is no danger of speculators bidding over the actual settlers.

On the opening of the sale, Monday, November 17, the city was crowded with strangers who had come from a distance to buy, but, under the united and firm front displayed by the settlers, no efforts were made to bid off any lands already occupied, and the sale went on from day to day without disturbance, the speculators taking their share of unoccupied lands when offered. Dr. Eddy superintended the sale; Major G. W. Purkins and Captain S. Scruggs serving as auctioneers.

The sales commenced with Township seven, in the western portion of the lands. The sales of the first day were confined to the fractional quarters. About five sections were sold. There were not many settlers on these lands, and the consequence was that lively competition took place between the speculators. The sales averaged this day from the valuation price, $1.50 per acre, to $2.15 per acre. The second day's sales opened with cheering prospects for the squatters, specific instructions having been received from the Government to the effect that 'all settlers should have their claims at the valuation price; that those who had not the money should have time, and their land be passed over to a future sale. That all men who had been driven from their claims, and could establish the fact by themselves or their friends, such lands should be passed over to a future sale.'

These instructions gave great relief and satisfaction to the many poor squatters, who hitherto had depended only on their united muscle to overawe speculative bidders. About fifteen sections were sold the second day. The reports of the first two days' sales note Jeff. Buford, of Alabama, and W. H. Russell, as large purchasers of unoccupied farm lands. The sales went on uninterruptedly till December 9, the township and farm lands being sold first, in the order of the proclamation. On that date, notice was read that new instructions had been received from Washington, in regard to conducting the sale, when the City of Leavenworth (the last in order) should be reached, whereby, in addition to the extravagant valuation put upon the lots instead of blocks, as in the other towns, the agent was instructed to open to competitive bidders all the vacant lots, leaving the town company and the throng of speculators who had bought largely of city lots during the progress of the sale, to shift for themselves as best they could.

These new instructions were sprung upon them while the sale was in progress, and if carried out, would work not only injustice to the town company and the many residents dependent on it for a final title, but make absolute chaos of all the speculative purchases, as every vacant lot was to be again put up in open market and sold to the highest bidder. It is doubtful if a madder set of American citizens were ever convened that those of Leavenworth at that time. As Leavenworth was last on the list, the sale continued until Saturday, December 14, at which time all the lands had been sold, except three or four disputed quarter sections, and all the towns, except Leavenworth, and a suburban town plat described as Lattaville.

The Leavenworthites, and others interested in city property, by combined entreaty, protest, threats, etc., succeeded at this time in effecting an adjournment of the sale for three weeks, and dispatched Dr. Eddy, the Commissioner of the sale, and Mr. W. H. Russell, a large property owner of the city, to Washington, to lay the grievances of the people before the Government, and obtain redress. They were assisted in their negotiations by the co-operative efforts of Gov. Geary, who, under date of December 15, 1856, wrote to President Pierce as follows:

In response to a letter from the Mayor, and accompanying a petition of leading citizens of Leavenworth City, I came here for the purpose of aiding with my counsel and presence, in averting a threatened disturbance. I find the public mind greatly excited in consequences of some recent instructions from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, entirely changing the policy which has thus far governed the land sales, with results so entirely satisfactory to all interests.

Solicitude for the peace of the Territory brought me to this city on the 17th of November, at the beginning of the sales. Many purchasers were here from every part of the country, invited by your proclamation, and great apprehensions of difficulty between them and the squatters were entertained. The lands had been previously appraised at from one dollar and twenty-five cents to twelve dollars per acre. In accordance with his instructions, the commissioner announced that the actual bona fide settler would be permitted to take his land at its appraised value, and that only vacant quarter sections would be open for competition. This announcement met with universal favor. The speculators themselves, the only parties really aggrieved, having come here hundreds of miles at heavy expense, on the invitation of the Government, not only acquiesced in the decision, but actually lauded its justice; while the Indians, on the other hand, were satisfied with the price they were getting for lands only made valuable by the industry, skill and capital of the pioneers who had braved everything to improve them.

Such of the speculators as desired farms, made satisfactory arrangements with the settlers; while others, on the faith of the policy established, and acquiesced in by the Indian agent, made large investments in the lots of the city.

In pursuance of the policy and understanding adopted at the opening of the sales, all the Delaware lands advertised for sale, including the environs of the city, and South Leavenworth, with the exception of the city itself, have been sold. The large sum of nearly four hundred and forty thousand dollars has been realized, which, together with the proceeds of the sale of this city, will make over four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to be distributed among about nine hundred Indians, who have yet a magnificent reserve, more than quadrupled in value by the sale and settlement of the trust lands.

The city of Leavenworth has been appraised by lots, making it average thirty dollars per acre. The people here are desirous that it may be sold to the original town company by the lot, at the appraised value, which would be a much more stringent rule than that which has been applied to the rural claims. This city, containing a population of over two thousand, consists of three hundred and twenty acres, or two claims, which, by the original settlers, were thrown into a town company and divided into shares.

It seems clear to me that every principle of justice requires that the same rule should be applied to the claims upon which this city has been founded, as that which has been applied to other portions of the trust lands, with the additional reason in favor of the city, that, on the faith of the policy previously announced by the Government, large investments have been made here, and it would be a violation of the public faith not to secure them.

What has induced the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to send the new and special instructions for this city alone, I am at a loss to conceive; but I am clear on the point, that, if carried into effect, they will destroy the peace of the community, and, for years impair the prosperity of this young metropolis of Kansas.

A meeting of the gentlemen officially connected with the subject has been held. I strongly advised that this city should be sold to the town company, by lots or blocks, at their appraised value, in accordance with the rule that has governed the previous sales, thus giving entire satisfaction to the Indians, the original settlers and recent purchasers, in order that the exciting question might at once be settled, and the minds of the people relieved from a heavy load of anxiety. But in this matter I have been overruled, and it was deemed advisable to send Mr. Commissioner Eddy and colonel Russell to Washington to lay the whole matter before the Government, in order to procure more satisfactory instructions.

This subject is difficult to comprehend by any person not on the spot, and not conversant with it in all its bearings. I have given much thought and examination to the question, and have come to the deliberate conclusion that the peace of the Territory (which I regard as of greater importance to the country than the entire value of the lands) cannot easily be maintained unless some policy be adopted which will be satisfactory to the people, the original settlers, and the recent purchasers.

After much delay, and most persistent work on the part of the committee sent to Washington, and other friends of the city, the malignant and hidden influences were so far assuaged as to result in the final sale of the site to the town company, at what seemed an exorbitant valuation. The terms, though deemed unjust and extortionate, were, however, gladly accepted by the town proprietors, and the final settlement of the vexed question was hailed with satisfaction by the hundreds who had already invested largely in the lands in question. The final purchase was consummated February 11, 1857. The Herald, of February 21, 1857, says:

All the town site, except some few blocks on the margin, were sold on the 11th inst., and the remainder on the 12th. The sale went of (sic) without any excitement, and the Leavenworth Association bought in the different lots, causing the deeds to be given in the names of the present proprietors. This obviated the necessity of the association again transferring the lots to purchasers, and now all have titles to their lots and improvements.

The general feeling of those interested is reflected in the following extracts from an article pertaining to the subject, by H. Miles Moore, Esq., in 1873. It quite fittingly closes the history of the land title trouble, since it gives one of the early proprietors, and a much aggrieved party, the cold but well intended comfort of having the closing argument. Mr. Moore discoursed thus:

Our memorial (before alluded to) prayed that the treaty be so modified as to extend the pre-emption law of 1841 over the Delaware trust lands. Although we did not accomplish our wish at that time, we did, by a combined effort afterwards, and by interesting the Territorial officers, and perhaps some parties at Leavenworth, in after years, in opposition to Indian Commissioner Manypenny and some friends, who wished and came very near having the sale made at St. Louis and Washington, as they very plausibly said, to avoid combinations of squatters on the lands, who wanted to rob the Indians. At the time of the sale of the lands, many of the squatters had permanent, lasting and valuable improvements upon the lands, having occupied and farmed them for over two years. The town site was not sold for over a year after the outside lands were sold, as I shall hereafter show, and then at an outrageous valuation, considering the fact that the town company, by their money and energy, had given the lands their increased value over ordinary wild lands. Of course, had the lands and town site, or either of them, been sold at St. Louis, Washington, or any other point other than where they were sold, or in this vicinity, the settlers and the town company would have lost their all. Does any body believe that Manypenny and his satellites would have robbed the Indians? Of course not. Men of that stamp have not been engaged in that laudable, praiseworthy and Christian enterprise for the past twenty-five years, even in holy Kansas and elsewhere, vide Brothers Harlan, Pomeroy, etc., etc. No, but they would not hesitate to rob the poor settler, who had penetrated these then Indian wilds with his family, and, by his industry, energy, and enterprise, had built him a little cabin, and was industriously making him and his family a home in the wilderness, and by whose untiring efforts has sprung into existence, as if by magic, a full panoplied and mighty commonwealth. We were glad, willing and anxious to pay Mr. Indian all his land was worth when we took it, and although it was, as I said before appraised outrageously high afterward, the settlers and town company paid the price without a murmur, only demanding as a right, that they get it at the appraised value, which they did, I am happy to chronicle, in most if not in all cases. For the 320 acres which comprise (1873) the now city proper, the town company paid over $24,000 to Mr. Lo.


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