The eastern Great Plains area which became the state of Kansas was originally the home of nomadic Native American tribes who hunted the vast herds of bison. The region first appears in western history in the 16th century at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when Spanish conquistadors explored what is now known as Kansas. It was later explored by French fur trappers who traded with the Native Americans. Most of Kansas became permanently part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
After a brief period as part of Missouri Territory, Kansas returned to unorganized status in 1821. In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail was opened across Kansas as country's transportation route to the Southwest, connecting Missouri with well-established Santa Fe, New Mexico. Because of the growing trade, the United States Army set up posts throughout the area. On May 8, 1827, Cantonment Leavenworth, or Fort Leavenworth, was built to protect travelers.
Beginning in the 1820s, the area that would become Kansas was set aside as Indian territory by the U.S. government, and was closed to settlement by whites. The government resettled to Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma) those Native American tribes based in eastern Kansas, principally the Kansa and Osage, opening land to move eastern tribes into the area. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 expedited the process.
One of the enjoyable parts of my research for my latest book, Kizzie’s Kisses, was learning more about a tribe known as the Kaw, or Kansa. They originally inhabited the land in which much of my story was set. My half-Kaw character, Charlie Gray Cloud, is part of this tribe.
Despite the extensive plans that were made to settle Native Americans in Kansas, by 1850 white Americans were illegally squatting on their land and clamoring for the entire area to be opened for settlement. In anticipation of events that were soon to come, several U.S. Army forts, including Fort Riley, were soon established deep in Indian Territory to guard travelers on the various Western trails.
Along with the Santa Fe Trail with which I am familiar, the Smoky Hill Trail also cut along the length of Kansas—right through the town of Salina. It is along this trail that my heroine in Kizzie’s Kisses, Kizzie Atwell, meets Leander Jones, a guard on an oxen-pulled freight train bound for Pike’s Peak and Denver.
Although the Cheyennes and Arapahoes tribes were still negotiating with the United States for land in western Kansas (the current state of Colorado), momentum was already building to settle the land. The two tribes signed a treaty on September 17, 1851.
Congress began the process of creating Kansas Territory in 1852. That year, petitions were presented at the first session of the Thirty-second Congress for a territorial organization of the region lying west of Missouri and Iowa. No action was at that time taken. During the next session, on December 13, 1852, a Representative from Missouri submitted to the House a bill organizing the territory lying west of Iowa and Missouri, and extending west to the Rocky Mountains. However, Southern Senators stalled the progression of the bill in the Senate, while the implications of the bill on slavery and debated legalities of the Missouri Compromise, which outlawed slavery north of the 36°60′ parallel within the Louisiana Purchase lands, thereby committing the largest remaining portion of the territory to free-soil. South of the parallel no slavery restrictions were imposed. However, heated debate over the bill and other competing proposals would continue for a year, before eventually resulting in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which became law on May 30, 1854, establishing the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory.
Meanwhile, by the summer of 1853, it was clear that eastern Kansas would soon be opened to American settlers. The Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs negotiated new treaties that would assign new reservations with annual federal subsidies for the Indians. Nearly all the tribes in the eastern part of the Territory ceded the greater part of their lands prior to the passage of the Kansas territorial act in 1854, and were eventually moved south to the future state of Oklahoma.
In the three months immediately preceding the passage of the bill, treaties were quietly made at Washington with any tribes, whereby the greater part of eastern Kansas, lying within one or two hundred miles of the Missouri border, was suddenly opened to white settlement.
When the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854 was passed, the borders of Kansas Territory were set from the Missouri border to the summit of the Rocky Mountain range (now in central Colorado); the southern boundary was the 37th parallel north, the northern was the 40th parallel north. North of the 40th parallel was Nebraska Territory. When Congress set the southern border of the Kansas Territory as the 37th parallel, it was thought that the Osage southern border was also the 37th parallel. The Cherokees immediately complained, saying that it was not the true boundary and that the border of Kansas should be moved north to accommodate the actual border of the Cherokee land. This became known as the Cherokee Strip controversy.
The most controversial provision in the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the stipulation that settlers in Kansas Territory would vote on whether to allow slavery within its borders. This provision repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery in any new states created north of latitude 36°30'. (The Mason-Dickson Line) Predictably, violence resulted between the Northerners and Southerners who rushed to settle there in order to control the vote.
Within a few days after the passage of the Act, hundreds of pro-slavery Missourians crossed into the adjacent territory, selected an area of land, and then united with other Missourians in a meeting or meetings, intending to establish a pro-slavery preemption upon the entire region. To counter this action, the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company (and other smaller organizations) quickly arranged to send anti-slavery settlers (known as "Free-Staters") into Kansas in 1854 and 1855. Several Free-State men also came to Kansas Territory from Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and other Midwestern states.
From 1855 to 1858, Kansas Territory experienced extensive violence and some open battles. This period, known as "Bleeding Kansas" or "the Border Wars," directly presaged the American Civil War.
The violently feuding pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions tried to defeat the opposition by pushing through their own version of a state constitution, that would either endorse or condemn slavery:
- Topeka Constitution (to establish Kansas as a free state),
- Lecompton Constitution (slavery would be allowed in Kansas)
- Leavenworth Constitution (outlawed slavery, granted certain rights to women). Congress had the final say. The Senate blocked the Topeka Constitution; the House blocked the Lecompton Constitution.
- The fourth, the Wyandotte Constitution, outlawed slavery but was far less progressive than the Leavenworth Constitution.
By the time the Wyandotte Constitution was framed in 1859, it was clear that the pro-slavery forces had lost in their bid to control Kansas. With this dawning realization and the departure of John Brown from the state, “Bleeding Kansas” violence virtually ceased by 1859. Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state under this constitution on January 29, 1861.
In the middle of all this, in 1856, a colony led by Preston B. Plumb established the first American settlement near the site at a location on the Saline River. This was on the very frontier of Kansas at the time.
Settlers led by journalist and lawyer William A. Phillips founded Salina in 1858. During the following two years, the territorial legislature chartered the town company, organized the surrounding area as Saline County, and named Salina the county seat. The westernmost town on the Smoky Hill Trail, Salina established itself as a trading post for westbound immigrants, prospectors bound for Pikes Peak, and area American Indian tribes. To the east, settlers, claimed farms and raised wheat and cattle on land they intended to purchase from the government relying on the provisions of the 1841 Preemption Act. The town's growth halted with the outbreak of the American Civil War when much of the male population left to join the U.S. Army.
That was the world into which the family of Kizzie Atwell, my heroine in Kizzie’s Kisses moved in 1859. Kizzie’s Kisses is the first full novel in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series after the prequel. She is the oldest granddaughter of Grandma Mary, the maker of the wedding quilts given to each of her grandchildren.
The book is available on Kindle for purchase or free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription. You may obtain this book by CLICKING HERE.
You will want to read all the books in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series. To find then all in one place, please visit and follow the series page on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.