Friday, April 6, 2012

Early Kansas History

Early Kansas history impacted both the Miles and Van Huss families. William L. Webster, and his wife Julia arrived in Anderson County, Kansas near Garnett in 1857. William was great grandfather to May Miles, my wife's mother. Valentine Worley Van Huss and several of his sons arrived in Butler County, Kansas near Beaumont after the Civil War. Valentine was great grandfather to Robert Van Huss. Bob married Mary in 1954.

Kansas Territory

Kansas Territory was officially established in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The law repealed the Missouri Compromise which prohibited slavery in unorganized territories north of  the southern boundary of Missouri, excepting Missouri itself. It left the determination whether or not slavery would be allowed to expand into newly opened territories up to popular sovereignty. The result was that Pro-slavery settlers came to Kansas from neighboring Missouri, solely to influence territorial elections in favor of slavery. Free-State settlers, "Jayhawkers", were organized and moved from the East with express purpose of making Kansas a free state. William L. Webster, born in New York, but lately from California, was one of the Free-State settlers.

Image from Territorial Kansas online

Read more about Early Kansas History.

The Land Act of 1820

To foster emigration to the west, Congress passed the Land Act of 1820. For a down payment of $100 and at a reduced the price from $1.65 to $1.25 per acre, land located in Kansas territory, then part of the Missouri Territory (the Northwest Territories were also included), was opened to settlement.

Of course, opening up and organizing Kansas territory meant the displacement of the many Indian tribes who had lived in Kansas for millennia or who had been moved by the Federal Government to Kansas territory by treaty. Both the Shawnee Reserve and the Osage Reserve figured prominently in the histories of Anderson and Butler Kansas. At the time of early settlement in Anderson county, the Sac and Fox Indian Nation was located on a reservation in nearby Franklin and Osage counties. They were officially removed to Reserve, Kansas in 1869.

William L. Webster received such a grant from President Buchanan in 1860 on the NE 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 15, Township 20, Range 20. He was similarly assigned an additional grant to Private John Pigg, who had served in the War of 1812, on adjoining acreage. These records can be viewed in the county courthouse in Garnett, Kansas.

Many early settlers arrived and settled in Kansas without clear title. (The family of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which settled south of Independence on the Osage Reserve, was one of these.) Some purchased their titles from the Indians. In many cases, titles would only be cleared after years of legally wrangling.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was another way settlers acquired law in Kansas. It was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, and, under its provisions, settlers could claim 160 acres of public land.

Both William Webster and Valentine Worley Van Huss recived patents from the federal government. Webster's patent, filed in 1860 in the county courthouse in Garnett, was from President Buchanan.  One of Valentine Worley's sons received a similar grant of federal land at a later date. And, of course, many purchases were made directly form other grantors.

Read about early Kansas settlers in Kansapedia.


There are multiple records of land transfers by and to William L. Webster or his wife Julia. I would need another visit to the courthouse to try and make sense of it all.

Interestingly, in 1860, William transferred to his wife Juliette K. Webster 400 acres comprising 400 acres from sections 14 and 15 of Monroe Township (20). Juliette sold the property to Belinda Masterson the following year.

There are earlier transfers, 1858, and transfers as late as 1865, but nothing later. Nor can I reconcile yet the census statement of 4,000 acres and the actual land records.

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