History of Topeka, Kansas (Part 3)
From: History of Shawnee County, Kansas
and Representative Citizens.
Edited by James L. King, Topeka, Kansas
Richmond & Arnold Publishers
Chicago 1905


Topeka was made county seat of Shawnee County by a vote of the people on October 4, 1858, her rivals in the election being Tecumseh, Auburn (Brownsville) and Burlingame. The electors of Tecumseh refrained from voting on the county seat proposition, although they voted on other questions at the same election. When it became known that the majority expression was in favor of Topeka, the citizens of Tecumseh contested the results, claiming that the election was illegal; and the probate judge, Edward Hoagland, to whom the poll books were returnable, refused to certify the vote until compelled to do so by a higher judicial authority. While the controversy was pending, a part of the county records were forcibly removed from Tecumseh to Topeka. On the 24th of January, 1859, the Legislature legalized this election, and declared Topeka to be the permanent county seat.


Under the constitution framed by the Wyandotte convention, July 29, 1859, Topeka was designated to be the capital of Kansas, and this action was ratified by a vote of the people, October 4, 1859. The events leading up to this action are so much a part of the general history of the State that it is not necessary to do more than epitomize them in this connection.

By act of Congress, May 30, 1854, the Territory of Kansas was thrown open to settlement, a Territorial government provided, and the seat of government located temporarily at Fort Leavenworth. Governor Andrew H. Reeder, the first of the Territorial Governors, established his headquarters there October 4, 1854. The executive office was removed, November 24th, to the Shawnee Methodist Episcopal Indian Mission, near the Missouri State line, about two and one alf miles southwest from Westport, and seven miles from Kansas City. On June 27, 1855, the Governor transferred the seat of government to Pawnee, on the north side of the Kansas River, at the eastern line of the Fort Riley Military Reservation.


A stone building was erected at Pawnee for capital purposes. The walls of the building are still sanding, and the spot has received its historical mark of preservation. The Legislature met in this building July 2, 1855, and changed the seat of government back to Shawnee Mission, the Governor returning there July 12th. On August 8th of the same year, the Shawnee Mission Legislature, by vote in joint session, located the capital at Lecompton. The United States government spent $50,000 in the construction of a capitol building at this point, and sessions of the Legislature were held at Lecompton in 1855, 1856 and 1857. The Legislature of 1857 adjourned to meet at Lawrence, where it assembled January 8, 1858, Lawrence thus becoming the temporary capital. An act was immediately passed removing the capital to Minneola, but it was vetoed by Governor Denver. Sessions of the Legislature were held alternately at Lecompton and Lawrence in 1858, 1859, 1860 and 1861.


The foregoing account relates in most part to the acts and attitude of the Pro Slavery party in Kansas, which had control of the official machinery. Of far greater importance to Topeka was the action during the same years of the Free State men, who were trying to wrest the control of the government from the other faction. The proceedings of the Free State men, in their meetings and conventions, are very clearly and concisely set forth in an article prepared by the late Franklin G. Adams, who was for many years secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society. In his paper Secretary Adams says:

"The Free State party in Kansas named Topeka as the capital of the State as early as in 1855. It became the capital under the Free State constitutional movement. That was the movement through which the Free State party in Kansas in 1855 framed a constitution, organized a State government, and applied to Congress for admission into the Union. This movement began by reason of the Shawnee Mission legislative usurpation and the oppressive legislation enacted. It was an effort of the body of the actual settlers of Kansas to free the territory from the thralldom of that usurpation. At a mass convention held in Lawrence August 14 and 15, 1855, among other proceedings, a resolution was passed declaring that the people of the Territory ought to select delegates to a convention to frame a constitution for the State of Kansas, with a view to an immediate admission into the American Union. This convention also indorsed a call which had been issued for holding a general delegate convention of the Territory at Big Springs on the 5th of September. Another convention, held at Lawrence on the 15th, appointed a delegate convention to be held at Topeka on the 19th of September, to take action towards the formation of a State constitution and government. The Big Springs convention, on the 5th of September, approved the constitutional convention movement, and adopted a resolution to respond to the call made for the Topeka convention on the 19th of September.


"The convention at Topeka, September 19th, adopted elaborate resolutions setting forth the reasons in favor of the constitutional movement. The convention appointed an executive committee, with instructions to issue an address to the people and to appoint an election to be held in the several districts of the Territory on the 9th of October, for the election of delegates to convene at Topeka on the 23rd of October to form a constitution for the State of Kansas. Thus was an executive committee, appointed by a spontaneous movement of the people and representing the dominant sentiment of the people, clothed with the power to organize the machinery of government in the prospective commonwealth. The force which inspired life and impelled and directed the movements for a State government lay in the executive committee. It continued to issue its proclamations through its chairman, James H. Lane, and to do in the most efficient manner the work of a provisional and semi revolutionary government through the darkest and most disordered and dangerous period of the Territorial existence.

"The constitutional convention elected in pursuance of the call of the executive committee met at Topeka October 23, 1855, continued in session until November nth, and framed the celebrated Topeka constitution. The constitution was sent by messengers to Washington and for years continued to engage the attention of Congress and to agitate the country on the question of its ratification.

"Other constitutional conventions were held in the meantime at Lecompton and Leavenworth."


The location of the capital for the new State was an interesting subject in the proceedings of the Topeka constitutional convention, for there were many towns or projected towns at this period having capital aspirations, among them being Council City, Cottonwood, Bloomington, Topeka, Leavenworth, Lawrence, Lecompton, Blanton, Prairie City, Manhattan and Wabaunsee. On the third day of the sitting of the Topeka convention, Cyrus K. Holliday moved that among the standing committees there should be one on the location of the capital. On November 6th the convention voted on the temporary location, Topeka being chosen, the final ballot standing 20 for Topeka and 16 for Lawrence.

This action was not immediately effective, as the Topeka convention was not recognized by the existing government, but in the end it resulted in fixing Topeka as the capital of the State. At that time there were but a few buildings here. The building which was known as Constitution Hall was the most substantial. It was a stone building, erected by Loring Farnsworth on Nos. 425 and 427 Kansas avenue (under the new system of numbering), and the walls still remain as a part of the present building in the same place. The building was so far completed as to be occupied by the constitutional convention of October 23rd, and also by the Legislature in its session held under that constitution. The Adams statement continues:


"Under the Topeka constitution, five meetings of the Legislature were had in Constitution Hall. Under the constitution three elections were held for the election of State officers or members of the Legislature, or both. The constitution became the banner under which the Free State party rallied in its struggle to free the Territory from the clutches of the Pro Slavery despotism under which it was placed through the fraudulent election of March 30, 1855. The outrageous laws passed by the Shawnee Mission Legislature made outlaws of the members of the Free State government. The Topeka constitutional movement became the special object of the hatred of the Pro Slavery party. Their bogus laws contained provisions making it treason for the people thus to combine for the object of annulling them. Their packed grand juries indicted the Topeka State officers and members of the Legislature. Marshals and sheriffs, supported by squads of so called militia or by United States soldiers, hunted them down like wild beasts.

"The first Legislature under the constitution met March 4, 1856. It did little legislation. It memorialized Congress for the ratification of the Topeka constitution. It appointed committees to prepare a code of laws. It adjourned to meet again July 4th. When that memorable 4th of July came, and the members of the legislature gathered for their second meeting, through orders from Acting Governor Woodson, backed by authority from Washington, Gen. E. V. Sumner appeared with a force of United States troops and dispersed them. They met again, the third time, January 5, 1857. At this meeting a committee was appointed to prepare another memorial to Congress for admission into the Union. The second day of the session a large number of the members, including the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, were arrested by a United States marshal and taken under guard to Tecumseh. Then the body took a recess to June 9th. On that day the fourth meeting of the Topeka Legislature convened. A census law was passed, an election ordered in August, a State University was located at Lawrence, the State capital was again established at Topeka, and Congress was gain memorialized to admit Kansas into the Union under the Topeka constitution. January 5, 1858, the fifth and last meeting of the Topeka Free State Legislature was held. Little was done except the reading of Governor Charles Robinson's message, in which he advised the keeping up of the State organization.


"But by this time little hope remained of the admission of the State into the Union under the Topeka constitution. The population of the Territory had become so large and was so overwhelmingly Free State, that the Free State voters had already seized the lawmaking power by the election of the Territorial Legislature, and that body was at this time in session. The Topeka constitutional movement had performed its mission. For Topeka it had surely paved the way for the permanent capital of Kansas. Mention has been made of the Minneola capital and the Leavenworth constitution. The Leavenworth constitution served a purpose, that of a foil to the Lecompton constitution, steeped in fraud as that was. But there seemed no hope that Congress would ratify the Leavenworth constitution. The Territorial Legislature of 1859 therefore passed a law providing for a fourth constitutional convention. This became known as the Wyandotte convention, and it framed the present constitution of Kansas. This convention was held in Wyandotte, now Kansas City, Kansas, in July, 1859. The constitution was adopted by vote of the people, October 4th, but it was not until January 29, 1861, that the act of Congress ratifying it was approved by President Buchanan."


The Wyandotte constitutional convention provided that Topeka should be the temporary capital, and that the Legislature should submit the question of the permanent location to a vote of the people. In the Wyandotte convention two votes were had upon the temporary location. There were many candidates, and the first vote resulted as follows: For Mound City, 2 votes; Mapleton, 1; Minneola, 2; Topeka, 15; Olathe, 2; Lawrence, 6; Burlington, 1; Stanton, 1; Atchison, 5; Manhattan, 2; Le Roy, 1; Emporia, 2; Burlingame, 1; Louisville, 1; Kickapoo, 1; Troy, 1; Humboldt, 1; Palermo, I; Paola, 1; Big Springs, 1; Pike's Peak, 1; Superior, 1.

The second ballot resulted in favor of Topeka, the delegates voting as follows:

For Topeka: J. M. Arthur, F. Brown, J. T. Barton, W. P. Dutton, R. C. Foster, John W. Forman, John P. Greer, William R. Griffith, Samuel Hippie, E. M. Hubbard, S. D. Houston, J. Lamb, G. H. Lillie, E. Moore, W. C. McDowell, A. D. McCune, C. B. McClelland, W. McCullough, H. D. Preston, P. S. Parks, R. J. Porter, John Ritchie, E. G. Ross, J. A. Signor,
John P. Slough, Samuel A. Stinson, J. Stairwalt, J. Wright and B. Wrigley-29.

For Lawrence: J. G. Blunt, J. C. Burnett, John T. Burris, J. Blood, N. C. Blood, A. Crocker, William Hutchinson, James Hanway, S. E. Hoffman, Edward Stokes, B. F. Simpson, S. O. Thatcher, P. H. Townsend and R. L. Williams-14.

For Atchison: Robert Graham, John J. Ingalls, Samuel A. Kingman, J. A. Middleton, L. R. Palmer and T. S. Wright-6.

The location under this action being only temporary, the Legislature of 1861 authorized a vote of the people on the subject, and at the general election in November of that year the capital was definitely located at Topeka by the following vote: Topeka, 7,996; Lawrence, 5,291; all others, 1,184.


The first State Legislature under the Wyandotte constitution met in Topeka March 26, 1861, the city at that time having about 800 inhabitants. Governor Robinson rented rooms for the executive offices in the Ritchie Block, which was afterwards destroyed by fire. The location was at the southeast corner of Sixth and Kansas avenues, where Rowley & Snow's drug store now is. The first State Senate met in the third story of this building for three years. The first House of Representatives met in the Gale Block, now known as Crawford's Opera House, and here the joint convention was held which elected James H. Lane and Samuel C. Pomeroy to the United States Senate. Later in the session the House adjourned, on account of a leak in the roof, to the Congregational Church, on the corner of Seventh and Harrison streets. In 1862 the House again met in the Gale Block, and the session of 1863 was held in the Methodist Episcopal Church on Quincy street, where Odd Fellows' Hall is now located. The Legislature of 1864 met in Constitution Hall, which was enlarged for the purpose and leased to the State for a period of five years, until the east wing of the permanent State Capitol was ready for occupancy, in 1869.


The square of 20 acres of ground upon which the State Capitol stands was donated for that use by the Topeka association, the reservation being first made in 1855. The site, which is equivalent to four city blocks, was accepted by the Legislature in 1862, and in 1866 a law was passed to proceed with the erection of a State House in accordance with plans prepared by E. Townsend Mix. An appropriation of $5o,000 was voted, the money to be raised by the sale of 10 sections of land which the State had received from the Federal government. On October 17, 1866, the corner stone of the Capitol was laid by the Grand Lodge, A. F. & A. M., assisted by Topeka Lodge, No. 17. In the construction of the first, or east, wing of the building, the contractors used a brown sandstone from a quarry near Vinewood Park, but this was found to be defective and the wing was completed with Junction City stone. This also proved to be unsatisfactory, and the other parts of the structure were built of a more durable stone from Cottonwood Falls.


Rooms in the new Capitol were first occupied by State officers December 25, 1869, and the first legislative session in the building was in 1870. The west wing was built in 188o, and work commenced on the central portion in 1883. It was not until March 24, 1903, that the finished structure was turned over to the State. The dimensions of the building are as follows: Extreme diameter or breadth of the building, including the porches, north and south, 399 feet; east and west, 386 feet; square of the dome at the base, 80 by 80 feet; height of dome to balcony at lantern, 258 feet; height of dome to extreme top, 304 feet. The total cost of the finished Capitol was $3,200,588.92, of which $481,000 was for the east wing, including the remodeling; $314,237 for the west wing; $1,289,611.30 for the central portion, including dome; and $416,876.19 for decoration and furnishings. Most of the money was expended under the supervision of a State House Commission, which had charge of the letting of contracts. The following architects have been employed at different times on the work: E. Townsend Mix, John G. Haskell, L. M. Wood, E. T. Carr, Kenneth McDonald, Van Brunt & Sutton, J. C. Holland, E. J. Putnam, Seymour Davis, W. C. Hills, T. H. Lescher and John F. Stanton.

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