LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Historic People of Kansas - "P" - Page 2

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John Pettit (1807-1877) - Pettit, who succeeded Samuel D. Lecompte as chief justice of the Territory of Kansas in 1859, was born at Sacketts Harbor, New York on June 24, 1807. He received a liberal education, studied law, and soon after his admission to the bar, moved to Lafayette, Indiana, where he began practice. He served two terms in the lower house of the Indiana Legislature; was a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1850; was presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1852, and upon the death of James Whitcomb, was appointed United States Senator to fill the vacancy, taking his seat on January 18, 1853. While in the senate he supported the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and in a speech said that Jefferson's declaration that all men are born free "is nothing more to me than a self-evident lie." His conduct as senator was such that Thomas H. Benton wrote to the Lafayette American: "Your senator is a great liar and a dirty dog, falsifying public history for a criminal purpose." His appointment as Chief Justice of Kansas Territory was confirmed in March, 1857 and he served in that office until the state was admitted into the Union. He died at his home in Indiana on June 17, 1877.

 

William Addison PhillipsWilliam Addison Phillips (1824-1893) - Journalist, historian and member of Congress, Phillips was born at Paisley, Scotland on January 14, 1824. He received his early education in the public schools of his native city and graduated at the academy, where he made considerable progress in Latin and mathematics. Gifted with a good memory and great powers of acquisition, he was a "self-made man," as all successful men must be, whatever their scholastic training. In 1839, at the age of 15, he came to America with his parents, who settled on a farm in Randolph county, Illinois. Here, he grew to manhood sharing the hardships and privations incident to frontier life. About the time he reached manhood he became associated with B. J. F. Hannah as editor of the Chester Herald. From 1852 to 1855 he was engaged in newspaper work, at the same time studying law, and was admitted to the bar. While practicing law and editing his paper he also acted as correspondent for the New York Tribune.

In 1855 he came to Kansas and was officially appointed by Horace Greeley a member of the editorial staff of the Tribune. Phillips traveled over a large part of the territory to find out for himself the existing political situation, and his impassioned letters to the Tribune did much to create a sentiment in the north and east in favor of the anti-slavery movement in Kansas. A thorough anti-slavery man, his sympathies were entirely with the Free-State side. In the spring of 1856 he wrote and published his Conquest of Kansas, a campaign document to be used during the presidential canvass. From the day of its publication, Phillips became a man of mark and his name became identified with the great struggle against slavery. That same year, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Salina Road, which became  well known to travelers of the time, when there were no railroads west of the Missouri River.

 In 1856, when Congress sent a committee to investigate the troubles in Kansas, Phillips was able to furnish the names of important witnesses and materially assisted in the investigation. On account of his efforts in this direction, and because he was the correspondent of the greatest Free-State  newspaper in the country, he became very unpopular with the "Law and Order League," a name used by the border ruffians, and he was compelled to seek safety several times between Leavenworth and the fort to escape from them, spending a number of nights in the brush. Phillips remained active in the free-state movement, and in the spring of 1858 Phillips, along with four associates, founded the town of Salina, Kansas.

 

Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in the army and was commissioned major of the First Indian regiment. Within a short time he was promoted to the colonelcy of the famous Cherokee regiment and for a time commanded the Indian brigade. Under General Schofield he commanded a division in the field, including Indians, cavalry, a battery and regiments from different states, and for nearly three years he may be said to have had command of a separate army, varying from 3,500 to 8,000 men. He took part in most of the battles of the southwest; was wounded three times and had four horses killed under him in battle. When the war closed he returned to Kansas and for years he acted as attorney of the Cherokee Indians, and ably assisted at conserving their interests before the interior department at Washington. In 1872 he was elected to Congress as a Republican and was re-elected for the three succeeding terms. While in Congress he was a prominent member of the committee on public lands. This led him to a deep study of land systems and land tenure in all ages. As a result of this study he published a book, "Labor, Land and Law," which is regarded as an authority upon the subject. He died on Thanksgiving day, November 30, 1893, at the home of W. P. Ross at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

 

 

 

Preston B. PlumbPreston B. Plumb (1837-1891) - Lawyer and United States Senator, Plumb was born in Delaware County, Ohio, October 12, 1837. He received a public school education and attended an Episcopal institution in Union County for a time. While there, he learned the art of printing and worked on papers in Springfield and Xenia. He aided in establishing the Xenia News, in which he was financially interested. There, he imbibed his first political opinions, which were born of the Kansas contest. Not satisfied by merely hearing of the abuses heaped upon the struggling people of the territory, he came to Kansas to see for himself, and returned to Ohio in two months a changed man. He had become a devoted and radical anti-slavery convert. He moved from Ohio to the Kansas Territory and in 1857 started a newspaper at Emporia called the Kanzas News. He immediately allied himself with the Free-State party and soon became a recognized leader in its councils. He was elected to the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention in 1859 from Breckenridge (now Lyon) County. Having in the meantime studied law, he was admitted to the bar in 1861. The same year, he acted as reporter for the State Supreme Court, but soon resigned. The following year he was elected to the State House of Representatives and became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 1862, he entered the service of the Union Army as second lieutenant in the Eleventh Kansas Infantry and served successively as captain, major and lieutenant-colonel of that regiment. He took an active part in the running fight during William Quantrill's retreat from Lawrence and all other engagements of the regiment, which saw much hard service and was held for duty on the plains as protection against the Indians, being one of the last to be mustered out of the service. Plumb returned home after the war and engaged in the law practice which he had dropped when he had enlisted. He soon became prominent in his profession and in politics; was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1867; and was re-elected in 1868, when he served as speaker of that body. He was forced to give up the law because of failing health and became president of the Emporia National Bank in 1873. Four years later, he was elected as United States Senator to succeed James M. Harvey, and took his seat on March 4, 1877. One of his first official acts was to secure an order allowing actual settlers to enter the Osage ceded lands, covered by railroad contracts. Plumb was twice re-elected to the senate, and at his death had held nearly two years of his third term, having served nearly fourteen years continuously in the senate. His last election was practically without opposition. Plumb died on December 20. 1891 at Washington, D.C.

 

 

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