edited by Martha Caldwell
February, 1944 (Vol. 13 No. 1), pages 16 to 35.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical
KANSAS was a part of the region west of the Mississippi river which in 1830
was set aside by the government for the Indians and solemnly guaranteed to
them forever.  All white persons except Indian agents, missionaries and
licensed traders were prohibited. Within a few years approximately the eastern
one-third of the present state was specifically set aside and occupied by
Indian tribes, But before the Indians were little more than well established
upon their new reservations, and notwithstanding the sacred promise that the
country should forever belong to them, politicians at Washington, incited by a
demand for more slave territory, started a movement to displace them. After
two years of agitation and debate the Kansas and Nebraska bill was passed by
congress and on May 30, 1854, was signed by Pres. Franklin Pierce. This act
provided for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska under
the doctrine of popular sovereignty.
In anticipation of the passage of the act treaties with various Indian
tribes were hurried through, extinguishing their titles to the land. During
the month of May previous to the passage of the bill Com. George W. Manypenny
negotiated treaties with the Otoes, Delawares, Shawnees, Iowas, Sacs, Foxes,
Kickapoos and the confederated tribes of Kaskaskias, Peorias, Piankeshaws and
Weas. On June 5, a treaty was made with the Miami tribe. By these treaties the
Indians relinquished the greater part of their reservations. The lands ceded
by the Iowas, the confederated tribes, and the Delawares, with the exception
of their "outlet," were to be sold at public auction for the benefit of the
tribes, and were not subject to the pre-emption law. 
It had been the policy of congress to forbid white settlement upon public
land until the Indian title had been extinguished and the land surveyed. As
early as 1785 an ordinance to that effect was passed. 
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 17
In 1807 congress enacted a law prohibiting any person from taking
possession of, settling in, marking off or surveying any such lands until
authorized by congress. The president was authorized to take measures even to
employing "such military force as he may judge necessary" to remove the
intruders.  The provisions of this act were extended as far as applicable
to the lands ceded by the Miami, Delaware, Iowa and Wea Indians in the
treaties of 1854. The treaty of the same year with the Shawnees provided that
no white person should be permitted to make a location or settle upon their
reservation until the lands had been surveyed and the Indians had made their
selections.  If the above agreements had been adhered to they would have
precluded any white settlement until the treaty stipulations had been complied
The pre-emption law of 1841 made squatting upon surveyed land legal, and
gave the settler a right to pre-empt his claim before the public sale.  The
benefits of this law were extended to the territories of Kansas and Nebraska
by an act of July 22, 1854, with modification to permit settlement upon
unsurveyed lands.  However, the phraseology of the law was confusing and it
was interpreted differently by different officials. 
The government had been rather unsuccessful in enforcing its laws to keep
settlers off the public domain and perhaps less successful in the opening of
Kansas than at any other time previously. The settlement of the territory was
stimulated not only by the ordinary westward movement but also by political
and sectional rivalry. The incorporation of the squatter sovereignty doctrine
into the act organizing the territory resulted in outside intervention and
both the Northern and Southern states urged their citizens to migrate to
Kansas. The organization of societies to promote this emigration greatly
intensified the feeling between the two regions.
The first rush of settlers, nevertheless, was said to resemble that
18 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
which had taken place in the opening of other territories. The emigrants
were interested in land rather than in the "political complexion or social
regime to be established." 
Emigrants began to arrive on the Kansas borderin March, 1854,  and on
April 21, a squatter meeting was held at Henry Thompson's  across the
Missouri river from St. Joseph, Mo., by men who had already staked out their
claims. This association met several times before the opening of the
territory. At its meeting on May 5, D. M. Johnston, a lawyer of St. Joseph,
Mo., was chosen register of claims.  Claim jumping, therefore, had also
commenced at this early date. 
By May 27 thousands were waiting to cross over. When the news reached the
border that the president had signed the bill opening the territory the
emigrants swarmed across. Within ten days two thousand claims had been made in
the region around Fort Leavenworth.  A newspaper correspondent wrote on
June 13: "The excitement in border life is unparal[l]eled. The rush to
California was nothing like it." He was confident that there were not less
than thirty thousand emigrants scattered along the line. 
In present Doniphan county all the land from ten to twenty miles back, with
but few exceptions, had been taken by June 26.16 And C. C. Andrews wrote on
June 27: "The immigration of settlers does not diminish. . . . I feel
convinced . . . that the territory will be populated with a rapidity
unparalleled in the rise of states."  The scene within the territory in
June was described by the editor of the Parkville (Mo.) Luminary:
Now is the time for Missourians to make claims. The country is swarming
with emigrants. Men on horseback, with cup and skillet, and ham, flour, and
coffee, tied on behind, and, with axe shouldered, are facing westward; while
gentlemen and ladies are driving furiously to and fro in carriages, printers
writing, lawyers speaking, doctors gallanting ladies, and selecting sites for
residences, companies with flags waving, staking out the vast prairies, trees
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 19
tents stretching, cabins going up, everything alive, and everybody wide
awake. Hurrah for Kansas ! "Westward the Star of Empire takes its way!" 
The majority of these emigrants came from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and
Indiana, Missouri sending the greatest number. Many home seekers who had had
to compete with slave labor in the latter state were in favor of making Kansas
a free state.  There were speculators who marked their claims and returned
across the border intending to watch and hold their new possessions. Legally
all were trespassers, for the land was unsurveyed and the time of Indian
occupancy under the treaties had not yet expired. The squatters, therefore,
could expect no protection from the general government in their imaginary
rights. Furthermore, from the signing of the Kansas and Nebraska bill to the
arrival of Gov. Andrew H. Reeder, a period of over four months, the territory
was without formal government. To meet these conditions and to protect
themselves from "land sharks"and "claim jumpers" the settlers formed claim
associations or squatter associations as they were known in Kansas.
These extra-legal organizations were not peculiar to Kansas territory. They
were a frontier institution dating back, probably, to the self-governing
communities of Wautauga, Cumberland and Transylvania,  and functioning
where conditions demanded on each frontier as it moved westward. Squatter
associations were no doubt formed in all parts of Kansas wherever settlements
were made, but unfortunately information on only a few is extant. Satisfactory
manuscript records of but one, the association at Whitehead, has as yet come
The constitutions adopted by these organizations were usually in the form
of a set of resolutions and differed only in minor details. The purpose as
stated was to protect the settler and to secure safety and fairness in the
location and preservation of claims. A few of the later ones included rules
regarding fencing against stock.  They laid down the rules and regulations
for making a valid claim, provided for a register for recording all claims
made and their transfer, and also provided a body to enforce the rules and
settle disputes. Some associations more strongly Proslavery than others
recognized the institution of slavery and refused protection to Abolitionists.
Few persons suffered from the latter clause, however, for the designa-
20 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
tion Abolitionist was almost as distasteful to the early Free-State
settlers as to the Proslavery adherents. These constitutions were freely
amended at subsequent meetings. Disputes were referred to a committee or court
established by the association or were settled in mass meeting. The members
bound themselves to abide by these decisions and each pledged himself to "do
his duty" in case of trouble.
The decisions were enforced in different ways.There were penalties ranging
from a warning to leave the country to the application of tar and feathers,
 and even to threats of death. Claim jumpers who refused to leave upon
notice were usually forcibly ejected. Orville C. Brown, of Osawatomie, gave
the following account:
Claim disputes were adjusted by the settlers, and all were obliged to yield
to their decision. In one case some western men forbid Mr. John Carr to erect
his cabin. Mr. Carr's claim was known to be original. The oposers came with
their shot guns, but seeing the structure being carried up by determined men
retired in peace. I allowed a man and family to occupy my house until he could
build a cabin. My family came, he refused to vacate. The squatters set, his
effects out upon the prairies and his wife refusing to go, was carried in her
rocking chair and added to the household things. 
When the time approached for the completion of the survey and the sale of
the land the associations were especially active. Settlers were urged to
register their claims and commit themselves to the squatter laws.  Where
the land was sold at public auction the squatter, surrounded by his fellows,
bid in his claim at the minimum price, and no one dared bid against him. 
Squatters on lands subject to the pre-emption laws were protected by the
association from having their claims entered by other persons.
II. THE SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF THE WHITEHEAD DISTRICT
The association which met at Whitehead  was a typical claim
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 21
association, and, as mentioned above, is the only one whose manuscript
records are at all complete. The minutes of its meetings, beginning July 22,
1854, and a registry of claims both appear in an old territorial record book
(1855-1860) of the county commissioners of Doniphan county. A draft of the
resolutions adopted at the first meeting on June 24, 1854, and the proceedings
of the vigilance committee were given to the Kansas State Historical Society
by Benjamin Harding, of Wathena, secretary of the committee. The minutes of
the first meeting also appeared in The Weekly Kansas Chief, of Troy, August
16, 1883. The manuscript from which they were copied was picked up in the
streets of Wathena before the Civil War. It seems certain from the editor's
description that it was the first leaf in the record book mentioned above.
The association of the Whitehead district was formed at a large gathering
of squatters at Whitehead on June 24, 1854. Col. W. Broadus Thompson  was
said to be the leading spirit in its organization. Maj. Daniel Vanderslice,
 Indian agent at the Great Nemaha agency, and his son, Thomas J., were
among the members. The jurisdiction of the organization, defined in the
minutes of the second meeting, embraced the Iowa, Sac and Fox and the northern
part of the Kickapoo reservations. The majority of the members were Proslavery
in sentiment, as a clause in the constitution refusing protection to
Abolitionists and welcoming slaveholders makes clear. Yet at least four of the
signers of the document became "red-hot Free-State champions,"  and took
an active part in the various Free-State conventions. However, politics seemed
to play little part in the association, and the contests arising were for the
possession of claims rather than in defense of any peculiar institution.
The speculators, or absentee claim-holders, were not numerous, apparently,
in this organization. A study of the census of 1857,
22 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
taken three years after the opening of the territory, revealed that 43.2%
of the forty-four signers of the constitution and 41.2% of the one hundred and
thirty-six who registered their claims were still living in the district.
Allowance must be made for the transfer of claims which was made possible by
registration in the claim association. These figures agree quite closely with
studies that have been made in the movement of population in Kansas.  The
last entry in the record book was the meeting of November 22, 1854. The book
was lent to the Kansas Historical Society by the commissioners of Doniphan
county for copying. The records here reproduced retain the spelling and
punctuation used in the originals.
MINUTES OF THE MEETINGS
At a large and enthusiastic meeting of the Settlers of Kansas Territory,
held on the 24th day of June, 1854,  at Whitehead, in accordance with
notice previously given, the following proceedings were had:
Col. A. M. Mitchel was called to the Chair, and James R. Whitehead
On motion of Col. W. Broadus Thompson, the Chairman explained the object of
the meeting, and appointed a committee to present resolutions for their
consideration. The committee consisted of Col. W. Broadus Thompson, Capt. John
H. Whitehead, Benjamin Wharton, and John R. Carter.
During the absence of the committee, the Chairman made an able address,
shewing the necessity of an immediate organization for mutual protection
against intruders, and for the promotion of the interest of the Territory. The
committee, through their chairman, Col. W. Broadus Thompson, then reported the
WHEREAS, We, citizens of Kansas Territory, intending to fix our homes upon
its fertile soil, have this day met at Whitehead, for the purpose of taking
measures to secure safety, certainty and fairness in the location and
preservation of claims.
Therefore, be it resolved:
1st. That we are in favor of bona fide SquatterSovereignty, and acknowledge
the right of any citizen of the United States to make a claim in Kansas
Territory, with the ultimate view of occupying it.
2d. That such claim, when made, should be held inviolate so long as a bona
fide intention of occupying it is apparent; and for the purpose of protecting
and defending such, we agree to act in concert, if necessary, to expel
3d. That any person of lawful age, or who may be the head of a family, who
shall mark out his claim of 160 acres so that it may be apparent how the same
lies, shall be deemed to have made a proper claim.
4th. That any person marking out his claim, shall be deemed to have
forfeited it unless he commences his cabin or pitches his tent within (30)
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 23
days thereafter, unless the same shall be on such land as prohibit it by
Military or Indian reservation.
5th. That all persons now holding claims shall have thirty days from this
day in which to make the improvement contemplated by the foregoing resolution.
6th. That no person shall be protected by the Squatter Association who
holds in his own right more than one claim.
7th. That any person building his cabin or tent within less than half a
mile of another, shall be deemed an intruder.
8th. That a citizen of the Territory be appointed Register of Claims, who
shall keep a book in which he shall note the name and description of all
Squatters and their claims, for which he shall be allowed the sum of fifty
cents for each claim, to be paid by the claimant.
9th. That a bona fide purchaser of a claim located and registered be
recognized as entitled to the same under the laws of this Association,
provided his intention be to occupy the same as a citizen of this Territory.
10th. That we will afford protection to no abolitionist as settler of
11th. That we recognize the institution of Slavery as already existing in
this Territory, and recommend to Slaveholders to introduce their property as
early as practicable.
12th. That a Vigilance Committee be appointed by the Chair, consisting of
(13) thirteen members of this Association, whose duty it shall be to decide
upon all disputes in relation to claims; and to ensure the execution of their
judgment in regard to rightful claimants, they shall have power to call
together the entire Squatter Association.
13th. That all persons who wish to become members of the Squatter
Association, shall subscribe to the foregoing preamble and resolutions.
The foregoing preamble and resolutions, presented and supported by Col. W.
Broadus Thompson in a forcible and eloquent speech, were unanimously adopted.
By unanimous consent, the Chair appointed as Register of Claims, James R.
Whitehead, and as Vigilance Committee, Capt. John H. Whitehead, Samuel P.
Blair,Henderson Smallwood, James B. Otool
[O'Toole?], Thomas W. Waterson, Cary B. Whitehead, Anderson Cox, John W.
Smith, Sen., Samuel Montgomery, Benjamin Harding, John W. Smith, Jr., John
[James J.?] Keaton, Joseph Siceliff. On motion it was resolved that the
Chairman appoint five delegates to the General Territorial Convention, to be
held at Salt Creek, on the 4th day of July, proximo.  Whereupon, Capt.
John H. Whitehead, Benjamin Wharton, Albert Heed [or Head?], Samuel P. Blair
and John R. Carter were appointed said delegation. It was further resolved
that the papers of St. Louis, Independence, Weston, St. Joseph and Savannah be
requested to publish these proceedings, for reference, and as notice to all
24 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
The meeting then adjourned, to meet again at this place, on this day four
Andrew J. Brans[t?]on,
William H. Butram,
J. B. Anderson,
James R. Whitehead,
John W. Smith,
James J. Keaton,
James B. O'Toole,
John H. Whitehead,
A. L. McChesney,
George W. King, M. D.,
David C. Montgomery,
Thomas H. Baker,
Sam. Perin Blair,
Joseph H. Siceliff,
I. G. Rogers,
Charles H. Rogers,
George W. Breckenridge,
Wm. G. Fee,
H. H. Frazer,
W. G. Cox,
James M. Teegarden,
J. M. Holt,
At a meeting of the members of the Squatter association of Kansas Territory
held at Whitehead on the 22nd of July, in accordance with a resolution passed
by an adjourned meeting of the 24th of June, the following proceedings were
Thomas W. Waterson was called to the chair, appointed Secretary of the
1. On motion of A. Lazalere the read and unanimously adopted.
2. On motion of Major D Vanderslice the 4th resolution of the previous
meeting was amended so as to read as follows
Resolved That any person marking out his claim shall be deemed to have
forfeited unless he commences his cabin or pitches his tent within (30) thirty
days thereafter, unless the same shall be on such lands as prohibit it by
military or Indian reservations. Provided That any Indian agent, officer, or
employee, of the Government of the United States who shall have marked out his
claim, and has been detered from commencing his cabin or otherwise improving
his claim, on the ground that it was a violation of the law, but have in all
respects complyed with the 3rd resolution then such claim shall be deemed
3. On motion of John H. Whitehead, it was resolved, that all persons having
marked claims in Kansas Territory, within the following boundary, (To wit)
Beginning at the mouth of Cadew Creek,  and running due west to the and
James R. Whitehead, proceedings of the previous meeting were
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 25
western boundary of the Kickapoo Lands, thence north along said boundary to
the Iowa & Sack lands, thence north along the western boundary of said lands
to the Nemahaw, thence down the Nemahaw and Missouri rivers to the place of
Beginning, shall be constituted members of, within the Limits, and under the
jurisdiction, of this Squatter association. 
4. On motion of James M. Te[e?]garden, it was resolved that there be but
one register of claims within the limits of this Squatter association.
5. On motion of Samuel Perin Blair, James R. Whitehead was appointed said
It was further resolved that all claims registered previous to this meeting
by a regular appointed register be considered valid, but such as are
registered after this date by any other than the register appointed by this
meeting be considered invalid.
6. On motion it was resolved that all claims made and properly
authenticated since the first day of January 1853 be considered valid. 
7. On motion the meeting adjourned to meet again at the same place on the
19th day of August next.
James R. Whitehead Secretary
Aug 19 Pursuant to previous appointment a meeting of the Squatter
Association of Kansas Territory was held at Whitehead on the 19th day of
august 1854 James B Otool[e?] being called to the chair made an appropriate
address explaining the object of the meeting whereupon the following
resolutions were unanimously adopted:
1st Resolved That from and after this date all disputes in relation to
claims shall be refered to a committee of three to be appointed by the
Vigilance Committee who shall be authorized to settle all disputes so refered.
Provided however that any person feeling themselves aggrieved have the right
of appeal to the Committee of Vigilance previously appointed which shall hold
its meetings on the first Monday in each month at Whitehead
2nd Resolved That said Committee of three shall receive fifty cents as
compensation for their services in deciding each claim to be paid by the
person against whom judgment is rendered
3rd Resolved That the secretary of the Committee be allowed twenty five
cents each for issuing notices and that the Marshall be allowed fifty cents
each for serving such notices and 10 cts pr mile for travelling any distance
over four miles
4th Resolved that each party having a dispute to be settled by the
Committee shall deposit with said Committee five dollars to cover the cost
arising under the foregoing resolutions said cost to be paid out of the money
so deposited by the person against whom judgment is rendered and the ballance
to be refunded to the proper owners
5th Resolved That any person failing to deposit the amount required by the
foregoing resolution with the Committee after he shall have been duly cited to
trial judgment shall be rendered against him by default.
6th Resolved That every person having a claim which is not recorded shall
26 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
be required to record the same within thirty days from this date and if
there is no house upon the same to erect one or a flag staff or put 4 posts in
the ground and lay a foundation of 4 logs thereon or plough at least one acre
of ground somewhere on said claim or erect some other evidence of his claim on
the same which in the judgement of the Vigilance Committee of this association
is a sufficient notice to those who may wish to make claims that these claims
On motion the meeting then adjourned to meet again at the same place on the
16th day of September 1854
James R Whitehead Sec
September 15th 1854,
On this day the association met according to adjournment. On motion of J.
H. Whitehead Maj W. P. Richardson was called to the chair.
On motion of D. Vanderslice the secretary read a communication from T. J.
Vanderslice, addressed to the Squatter Association in regard to the
conflicting claims of said Vanderslice and Judge A. Lewis. Whereupon Maj. D.
Vanderslice introduced various witnesses whose testimony was reduced to
wri[t]ing by a member of the association & filed with the records of the
secretary, going to show the nature of the claims of T. J. Vanderslice, & D.
Vanderslice, as well as the fact that Judge Lewis' claim conflicted with the
same-and also going to show that said Lewis refused posatively to submit to
and abide by any decision which this association might render in the premises.
Whereupon, Upon motion of A. Larzelere, Resolved That it is the deliberate
opinion of this association that D. & T. J. Vanderslice are the rightful
owners of the claim occupied by Judge Lewis, and we will sustain them in
holding the same.
Resolved, That a copy of the above resolution officially signed by the
chairman of this association be furnished to Judge Lewis.
On motion of J. R. Whitehead the association adjourned until its next
J. R. Whitehead Sec
October 15th Pursuant to previous appointment the association met on this
day whereupon the following proceedings were had
On motion of John H. Whitehead-Thomas Wildbahn was called to the chair and
Silas Woodson appointed Secretary.
Capt J. H. Whitehead in a few brief remarks explained the object of the
meeting whereupon on motion of S Woodson the chair apointed a committee of (5)
five to draft resolution's expressive of the sense of the meeting
The committee consisted of the following gentlemen Silas Woodson D. B.
Welden John H. Whitehead
The committee after a few minutes absence reported the following preamble
and resolutions which were unanimously adopted
Whereas it appears from the records of this association that George Jameson
on the day of 1854 took possession of a claim owned by W. K. Richardson near
Was. Se. Na's38 in Kansas Territory within the jurisdiction of this
association, and that on the  day of [August] 1854 said Jameson at the
instance of said Richardson, was duly notified to appear
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 27
before the vigilance committee of this association for the purpose of
contesting the validity of his claim if he had any, and whereas-he failed to
appear before said committee and judgment was in consequence thereof rendered
against him by default, and the marshal of this association was required to
notify said Jameson of said judgment and to require him to leave said claim
before the 5th inst. and whereas-he refuses to leave said claim and is still
thereon in defiance of the Judgement of the Vigilance Committee and the notice
to leave, Therefore resolved by this association that the members of the
association this day present, being determined to enforce their rules &
Judgements will forthwith proceed to the claim in controversy, and require
said Jamison to leave the same and surrender the possession to said
Richardson, and if upon such request he refuses to leave said claim we will
remove him therefrom peacefully if we can & forcibly if we must, and put said
richardson in possession of said claim.
The committee farther state that the records of this association show that
Hamilton J. Johnson on the [261 day of [August] 1854 recovered a judgement
before the Vigilance committee of this association against M'ashan for a claim
of 160 acres in Kansas Territory lying within the jurisdiction of this
association and whereas it appears from satisfactory evidence before the
committee that after the rendition of the Judgement aforesaid Meashan
abandoned said claim and has put Jameson in possession of the same as his
agent or otherwise, & that said Jameson is now residing on the same and
refuses to deliver the same to said Johnson according to the Judgement of said
Vigilance Committee, We therefore recommend the same proceedings to be adopted
against said Jameson, as is provided in the foregoing resolutions, for the
purpose of putting W. '. K. Richardson in possession of his claim
November 22nd 1854 At a special meeting of the Squatter Association held at
the house of Milton Bryan this day the following proceedings were had James B.
Otool[e?] was unanimously appointed chairman and J. R. Whitehead requested to
act as secretary.
The secretary then in a brief manner announced to the meeting that the
regular chairman of the Vigilance Committee Capt. Jno. H. Whitehead was then
lying very sick with fever so much so as to render him unable to attend to any
of the duties of his office and that the said J. H. Whitehead had requested
him the said J. R. Whitehead to announce the same to this meeting and tender
it his resignation of said office-which was accepted
Whereupon James B. O'Tool[e?] was appointed chairman of the Vigilance
Committee vs John H. Whitehead resigned
On motion of Benjamin Harding the following resolution was adopted Resolved
that the Vigilance Committee shall not take Cognizance of any complaint made
by any person who is not a resident of this Territory unless he shall render
satisfactory evidence by oath or otherwise that he intends to become such
within six months from this date
The meeting then adjourned to meet at Whitehead on the 15th day of December
proximo December 15th 1854
28 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THE LAND CLAIMS
One hundred and thirty six claims were recorded in the association between
July 1 and December 2, 1854. The time of making the claims varied, the
earliest date being that of James R. Whitehead, who claimed the land "by right
of actual settlement thereon and peacable possession of the same from the 1st
day of November 1851 to the present time." The land had not yet been surveyed
and the claims were identified by giving the names of adjoining claimants, by
listing bordering roads or streams, and in a few cases by giving descriptions
of land in Missouri opposite.
The following are representative of the record of land claims:
James R. Whitehead's claim is bounded as follows on the north by John
Montgomery on the East by the Missouri river on the South by John H. Whitehead
and on the west by James Oconnel and Mary Burnets claims. This claim is
composed of two fractional Quarter Sections supposed to contain 160 acres and
lies on the west bank of the Missouri river opposite the following described
Lands in Missouri (To wit) The south west quarter of section (34) thirty four
Township (58) fifty eight Range (36) Thirty Six and of the north half of
Section (3) three of Township (57) fifty seven of Range (36) Thirty Six.
J. R. Whitehead claims the above described parcel of Land by right of
actual settlement thereon and peacable possession of the same from the 1st day
of November 1851 to the present time.
Witnesses (Samuel Montgomery
(James R. Whitehead Recorder of claims
John H. Whitehead
Thomas L. Lease records his claim as follows bounded on the Mo River on the
east by Tobias S. Lease on the south by a claim marked VIE on a black oak tree
and on the west by a vacant claim. This claim is situated near the head of the
prarie bottom on the Mo river above banks'es ferry This claim includes a
valley which is part timber and part prarie with a small branch running
through it which usually sinks before reaching the river and was made on the
2nd day of June 1854
Witness Tobias S. Lease
James R. Whitehead Recorder
Thomas W. Waterson's claim is bounded as follows on the north by a vacant
quarter on the east by a vacant quarter on the south by a vacant quarter and
on the west by James Waterson This claim has a small grove on it with a tree
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 29
by known by the name of the Loan Oak and was made by Thomas W. Waterson on
the 13th day of June 1854
Witness: James Waterson
James R. Whitehead Recorder
Thomas J. Vanderslice made a claim on a quarter section of land on the 15th
day of March 1854 which claim is situated on the east side of wolf river where
the Indian tole bridge was, on the road leading from St Joseph Mo to the Great
Nemahaw Agency embracing said road which runs near its northern boundary and
is bounded as follows on the north by a vacant claim on the east by a vacant
claim on the south by W. T. B. Vanderslice and on the west by D. Vanderslice
Witnesses (H. C. Clifford Saml McClasky)
James R. Whitehead Recorder
John B. Roy
D. Vanderslice has a claim on wolf river embracing the road from St Joseph
to Great Nemehaw Agency which is para[l]el or nearly so to its northern
boundary supposed to be 150 yds within said boundary and is bounded on the
north by a vacant prarie claim on the east by Thomas J. Vanderslice on the
south by the claim of James J. Vanderslice and on the west by a vacant claim
D. Vanderslice made this claim on the 26th day of May 1853 in the presence of
Major Wm P. Richardson and reiterated the same in the presence of Mr McMeeken
George W. Manypenny and others in the following September (This claim lies on
the west side of Wolf River)
James R. Whitehead Recorder
Charles Estes records his claim as having the following boundaries on the
north by Paten W. Estes Jr on the east by a fraction & Mo River on the south
by Mr. Acord's fraction on the west by Peter Monroe this claim is all timber
and was made by Charles Estes on the day of 1854 Witnesses Paten W. Estes Jr
George Estes James R. Whitehead Recorder The above claim was transferred to E.
F. Wells by C Estes on the 17th day of Oct 1854 for the sum of $25.00
J. R. Whitehead
Paten W. Estes Sen records his claim as bounded as follows on the north by
the Missouri river on the east by a vacant claim on the south by a vacant
fractional Quarter and on the west by Paten W. Estes Jr this claim is mostly
Timber and was made by P. W. Estes Sen on the day of 1854
30 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Witnesses (Charles Estes
James R. Whitehead Recorder
The above claim was awarded to Francis Bosaier by the Vigilence Committee
on the 19th day of August 1854 by his establishing to their satisfaction
priority of settlement
J. R. Whitehead Recorder
William K. Richardson records his claim as being situated on Peters creek
and embracing said creek and is bounded as follows on the north by Anderson
Cox on the east by J. W Crane on the south by Sidney Tennent and on the west
by claimant unknown This claim is all Timber and was made by Mr Richardson on
the 19th day of April 1854
Witness Anderson Cox
J. R. Whitehead Recorder
(Registered in Johnson's office on the 19th day of May)
Johnston D. Carson's claim of 160 acres in Kansas Territory on the cotton
wood prarie commencing on the S W corner of H. H. Woodson's claim and running
south 160 poles to said Carson's .S W corner thence east 160 poles to said
Carsons S E corner thence north 160 poles to said Carsons N E corner thence
west to place of beginning This claim was made on the 27th day of July 1854 by
putting 4 post in the ground and laying 4 logs thereon within said boundary
Witnesses: Wm Carson, Silas Woodson
James R. Whitehead Recorder
Mary Dysart's claim of 160 acres made in Kansas Territory on the 28th day
of July 1854 by setting 4 post in the ground and laying 4 logs on them for a
foundation said claim lies on the cotton wood prarie and the foundation is
made near the top of the ridge about 3/4 of a mile S east of the cotton wood
spring said foundation is near the south line of said claim and the said claim
is to extend 80 rods east &. 80 rods west of the foundation
Witness Silas Woodson
James R. Whitehead Recorder
PROCEEDINGS OF THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE
The association provided that disputes were to be settled by a vigilance
committee composed of thirteen members appointed by the chairman. Possibly
distances and difficulty of travel made it hard to secure a quorum, for at its
meeting of August 19, 1854, the association ruled that all disputes in
relation to claims should be referred to a committee of three chosen by the
vigilance committee. Any
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 31
person feeling aggrieved at a decision, however, had the right of appeal to
the whole committee, which was to meet on the first Monday of each month.
The original records of the vigilance committee, as previously mentioned,
were given to the Historical Society by Benjamin Harding of Wathena, who
served as secretary of the committee. They are written on loose sheets of
paper and apparently are not complete. The minutes of the meetings, which do
not go beyond August 19, 1854, are as follows:
At a meeting of the committee of vigilance appointed at a previous meeting
of the squatter association held at James R. Whitehead's in accordance to
previous notice on the 15th day of July 1854, the following proceedings were
had The meeting was called to order by the Chairman, Capt. John H. Whitehead
and the roll called by James R Whitehead when the following members answered
to their names
Capt J H Whitehead, chairman, H Smallwood,
James B O'Toole, John W Smith Sen.Sam'l Montgomery Beni Harding, John W Smith
Jr & James J Keaton
-Absent- Sam'l P Blair Thomas W Waterson Carey B Whitehead, Anderson Cox &
On motion, Benj Harding was appointed secretary and James R Whitehead
Marshal Resolved that all complaints be made in writing to the chairman of the
vigilance committee and that the person complained of be notified to appear at
the next meeting of the committee to answer such complaint, also that said
notice be issued in writing by the secretary and served by the marshal, at
least three days previous to the time appointed for said meeting 
32 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Resolved. That the Secretary and marshal be allowed the usual fee for
issuing and serving such notice Henderson Smallwood
complained of Daniel O'Toole having made a claim within a half mile of his
Ordered that said O'Toole be notified to appear at said meeting to answer
Henry Thompson complained of E. Blackston building a house within a half
mile of his own
Ordered. That said Blackston be notified to appear at next meeting of the
committee to answer said complaint
Disputed claim, Muir vs. Branston. Referred to committee and decided in
Muir's favor-Branston submitted like a philosopher
On motion. The meeting adjourned until the 22nd instant
John H Whitehead
At an adjourned meeting of the committee of vigilance held at James R
Whiteheads on the 22nd day of July 1854 the following members answered to
Capt J H Whitehead, H Smallwood, J. B O'Toole
John W Smith Sen. Sam'l Montgomery B Harding S. P. Blair, T. W. Waterson, A
Cox & J. Siceliff
Absent J W Smith Jun. J. J. Keaton and Carey B Whitehead
Case of Smallwood vs O'Toole, continued for
want of witness
Case of Thompson vs Blackston discharged on the understanding that
Blackston shall, on condition that Thompsons quarter includes his house or
improvement when the government survey is made, relinquish all land of which
he may be possessed, belonging to said quarter, but reserving the privilege of
removing his improvements provided said Thompson refuses to make a reasonable
compensation for the same
Adjourned to meet again in two weeks (Aug 5th) at twelve o'clock at
At an adjourned meeting of the Squatter association vigilance committee
held at Wa-the-na's on the 5th day of August 1854 a quorum being present the
following proceedings were had
The case of McChesney against Trent & Muir was called, but continued at the
instance of the plaintiff for want of evidence.
Smallwood vs O'Toole.- Plaintiff unable to
sustain his case- Dismissed Duncan vs O'Rourk- Continued
Adjourned to meet at Thomas W Watersons on Saturday the 12th inst at eleven
o'clock A- M.
Sec. Vig. Com.
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 33
August 19th 1854- Vigilance committee met
Thomas W Waterson was appointed chairman pro tem.
The case of McChesney against Trent was continued for want of evidence
Duncan vs O Rourke- Continued
Francis vs Estes decided in Francis's favor McChesney vs Muir, Judgment
rendered against Muir
In accordance with a resolution passed by the mass meeting on the same day
John H Whitehead- John W Smith Sen and Thomas W Waterson were appointed a
committee to settle disputes
Sec Vig Com
Trials in claim disputes followed court procedure. In some cases the
vigilance committee, when appealed to, reversed the decision of the committee
of three. An example of such a decision appears below:
Whitehead Kansas Territory
Sept 4th 1854
A. L McChesney
To the Marshall of the Squatter association for the district of Whitehead
You are hereby Commanded to notify F Trent that at a meeting of the Vigilance
Committee held at Whitehead on the 25th day of August 1854 a verdict by
default was rendered against said Trent and in favour of A L McChesney in
relation to the rightful ownership of a Certain Claim lying and being in the
Walnut Grove and bounded as follows on the north by Joseph Rakenger & Philip
Shirer on the east by N Duncan on the south by A J Hawkins and on the west by
Vacant Land 40 You are therefore Commanded to notify Said Trent to remove from
and off of said Quarter Section of Land and leave the Same in peaceable
possession of the above named A L McChesney within ten days from the serving
of this notice
John H Whitehead
Chairman of Vigilent Comittee
At an adjourned meeting held at watersons on Sat 12th July [August] 1854 a
quorum was not present and no business was transacted except settling a
dispute between Hawkins & Acord which was decided in Hawkins favor Adjourned
to meet at Whiteheads on Sat Aug 19th 1854
34 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
[On reverse side] A L McChesney VS
Frederick Trent Notice to remove Served by reading the Same to Defendant
Sept 4th 1854
James R Whitehead Marshall
Whitehead Sept 4th 1854
To the Chairman of the Vigilance Committee of thirteen for the district of
Kickapoo in Kansas Territory
having been informed that there has been a verdict by default ren- dered
against me by the Committee of three of this association in the Case in which
A L McChesney was plaintiff and I was defendant and believing that I have the
best right to the property in dispute and that it will appear so to the
Satisfaction of your honorable body upon a full investigation of the case and
knowing that I have the right to appeal from the decission of Said Committee
of three to that of your honorable body I take this method of doing so and
hereby request that you will have Said McChesney notified of the fact and that
he be and appear before your Committee to defend Said Suit on the 16th day of
A. L. McChesney Appeal
Whitehead Kansas Territory
Sept 11th 1854
To the Marshall of the Squatter association for the district of Kickapoo
By authority vested in me by the Vigilance Committee of the Squatter
association for the district of Kickapoo you are hereby commanded to notify A
L McChesney to be and appear before Said Committee at Whitehead in Kansas
Territory on the 16th day of Sept 1854 at 1 o'clock to answer the Complaint of
Frederick Trent in regard to the equity of a verdict rendered by the Com. of
three against Said trent and in favour of A L McChesney on the 26th day of
Sec. Vig. Com.
15th Septr. 1854.
Appellant Appeal to Vigilance Committee of the
Whitehead, Kansas Association
A. L. McChesney Appellee
This day the parties appeared before the Committee in proper person and
after hearing all the evidence, the Committee are of the opinion that the
appellant is entitled to the possession of the claim in dispute the appellee
having in the opinion of the committee forfeited his claim in consequence of
SQUATTER ASSOCIATION OF DONIPHAN COUNTY 35
making an improvement on another and different claim after appellant
settled upon and commenced improving the claim in dispute, thereby recognising
the acts of appellant as being legal. It is therefore adjud[g]ed & ordered by
the committee that the appellant recover & judgment is hereby awarded in his
favor for the claim of 160 acres upon which appellant is living in the walnut
grove in Kansas Territory and the Marshal of this association is required to
see that this judg'et is enforced. It is further ordered & adjudged that
appellant recover of appellee his costs expended in this behalf to be taxed by
the Secretary of this association.
John H Whitehead
Chairman of Committee
The last date in the records is December 2, 1854, for the registration of a
claim. After the territorial government was established, and the land was
surveyed and pre-empted, the squatter associations gradually disappeared.
1. Laws of the United States of America, From the 4th of March, 1827, to
the 3d of March, 1833 . . . (Washington, 1835), v. VIII, pp. 342, 343.
2. Revision of Indian Treaties; A Compilation of All the Treaties Between
the United States and the Indian Tribes . . . (Washington, 1873), pp. 341,
404, 426, 427, 512; The Kansas Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, January 13, 1855.
3. Journals of the Continental Congress . . . (Washington, 1933), v.
XXVIII, pp. 460-462.
4. Laws of the United States of America, From the 4th of March, 1789, to
the 4th of March, 1815 . . . (1816), v. IV, p. 118.
5. Revision of Indian Treaties, p. 797, Art. 5.
6. The Homestead Guide, Describing the Great Homestead Region in Kansas and
Nebraska . . . (Waterville, F. G. Adams, 1873), pp. 91-93.
7. The Statutes at Large and Treaties of the United States of America
(Boston, 1854), p. 808.
8. Chief Justice Samuel D. Lecompte when asked by a settler to issue an
injunction against a trespasser, answered on December 20, 1854, that he did
not have the authority, that while the act extending the pre-emption law to
Kansas had a proviso in relation to unsurveyed lands, yet it "requires notice,
&c., amounting to conditions precedent to the investment of any right."-The
Evening News, St. Louis, Mo., February 2, 1855, "Webb Scrapbooks," v. II, pp.
222, 223. (The scrapbooks of Thomas H. Webb are in the Library of the Kansas
State Historical Society.)
Eight days later Gov. A. H. Reeder gave as his opinion that a man had the
right to make a pre-emption on unsurveyed lands in Kansas, and if he complied
with all the requirements he could not be prevented from obtaining his
9. Harlow, Ralph Volney, The Growth of the United States (New York, Henry
Holt & Co., 1932), p. 445.
10. St. Joseph (Mo.) Gazette, March 29, 1854.
11. Henry Thompson operated a Missouri river ferry at St. Joseph, Mo. In
1853 he built a house on the west side of the river and moved his family
there.-"Illustrated Doniphan County," supplement to The Weekly Kansas Chief,
Troy, 1916, p. 226.
12. St. Joseph Gazette, May 3, 10, 1854. 13. Ibid., May 3.
14. Baltimore (Md.) Sun, June 28, 1854, in "Webb Scrapbooks," v. I, p. 43.
15. Chapman, D. M., in the Boston Evening Transcript, July 6, 1854. Ibid.,
16. Letter dated June 26, 1854, in The Missouri Republican, St.
Louis.-Ibid., p. 46.
17. Andrews, C. C., to John A. Halderman, June 27, 1854.-Halderman
Collection, MSS. division, Kansas State Historical Society.
18. Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat, Little Rock, July 7, 1854.
19. Connelley, William E., A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans
(Chicago, Lewis Publishing Company, 1918), v. I, p. 337.
20. Benjamin F. Shambaugh, "Frontier Land Clubs or Claim Associations,"
Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1900, v. I, p. 69.
21. The Kanzas News, Emporia, July 4, 1857.
22. William Phillips, a young lawyer of Leavenworth, suffered this penalty
at the hands of the Leavenworth squatters' association when be refused to
leave the territory.-Andreas, A. T., and Cutler, W. G., History of the State
of Kansas (Chicago, 1883), p. 425.
23. Brown, O. C., "Pioneer Life in Kansas," in O. C. Brown Papers, MSS.
division, Kansas State Historical Society.
24. Brown, O. C., to Charles Foster, November 28, 1855, in Charles Foster
25. Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, November 29, 1856. One resolution adopted
by the citizens of Chase county read: "Fourth, that the citizens of Chase
county attend the sales en masse, and forbid any person bidding on any lands
that may be declared occupied by the township secretaries, and any person
bidding in defiance of such warning shall then and there forfeit his
life."-Emporia News, August 11, 1860.
26. Whitehead began as a trading post established in 1852 by J. R.
Whitehead, an Indian trader. A correspondent to the Missouri Republican wrote
of it in June, 1854: This city is as yet, of course, a prospective one. There
are only several houses built, but they are well constructed and permanent.
The site is about five miles from St. Joseph, at the termination of the ridge
which bounds the plains on the East, and is adapted to the improvements and
the construction of a large city. . Thousands have already come in, and
thousands are still coming.-Letter dated June 26, 1854, in Missouri
Republican, St. Louis, Webb Scrapbooks," v. I, p. 46.
The town was platted in the spring of 1855. Later its name was changed to
Bellemont. It is now extinct.-"Illustrated Doniphan County," loc. cit., p.
27. "It is written on a large sheet of heavy, bluish flat paper, such as is
used in public record books, is 12% by 18 inches in size, with top and
marginal ruling, like flatcap, the blue lines for writing on being almost
faded out. The pages are numbered 1 and 2, in printed figures, and it was
doubtless the first leaf out of some Missouri record book."-The Weekly Kansas
Chief, Troy, August 16, 1883.
28. W. Broadus Thompson was an attorney from St. Joseph, Mo. He was said to
have been prominent in early Doniphan county politics. In 1857, he and his
brother, M. Jeff Thompson, were associated with Cyrus K. Holliday, of Topeka,
and others in the promotion of the St. Joseph and Topeka railroad.-Ibid.; see,
also, letters from the Thompsons in the "F. L. Crane Scrapbook," MSS.
division, Kansas State Historical Society.
29. Maj. Daniel Vanderslice, a native of Pennsylvania, was agent at the
Great Nemaha agency from 1853 to 1861. He had previously lived in Kentucky
where he edited a newspaper. At the expiration of his term as Indian agent, he
decided to spend the remainder of his life in Doniphan county and settled on
his farm near Highland. He was a leader in the political and industrial
affairs of the county until his death in February, 1889. Three generations of
the Vanderslice family have been prominent in Doniphan county
history.-"Illustrated Doniphan County," loc. cit., pp. 369-373.
30. The Weekly Kansas Chief, Troy, August 16, 1883. The names of John
Fee,Benjamin Harding, A. Larzelere and Henderson
Smallwood appear in the Free-State county and state conventions.-The
Kansas Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, September 1, 8, 1855.
31. See Malin, James C., "The Turnover of Farm Population in Kansas," in
The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. IV, pp. 339-372.
32. Taken from The Weekly Kansas Chief, Troy, August 15, ]883. This is the
only copy containing the signatures. It agrees in text with the rough original
draft and also with the copy in House Report No. 200 (Ser. No. 869), 34 Cong.,
1 Sess., p. 956.
33. An excerpt from the Platte Argus in The Democratic Platform, Liberty,
Mo., of June 22, 1854, reads: "We are authorized to state that the citizens of
Kansas territory, will celebrate the approaching Anniversary of American
Independence at Salt Creek Valley near the trading post of Mr. Kivaly [Riveley?].
Ample preparations will be made, and a public Dinner will be furnished. The
citizens of Missouri, generally, are invited to be present. Charles Grover,
Esq., has been requested-and has consented-to deliver the Address.
34. This is the first of the entries copied from the county commissioners'
35. This creek was possibly present Peter creek. It was named for Peter
Cadue, a Frenchman, who came to this region about 1840, and became an
interpreter for the Kickapoo Indians. -Gray, P. L., Gray's Doniphan County
History (Bendena, 1905), p. 25.
36. The area embraced parts of Doniphan and Brown counties, and probably a
part of eastern Nemaha county.
37. A number of the claims registered in the Whitehead association had been
previously registered in the office of D. M. Johnston in St. Joseph, Mo.
Johnston was register of claims in an earlier association. See p. 18.
39. The following are illustrative notices:
Whitehead July 15th 1854
Capt J H Whitehead
Sir as you are Chairman of the Vigilance Committe organized and appointed
by the Squatter association at Whitehead on the 24th June 1854 I address this
note to you informing you that Mr E Blackston has in violation of the laws
passed by that association intruded upon my claim and I have to request that
you give him notice to answer this complaint before your Committee on the 22nd
day of July inst at Whiteheads place in Kansas Territory
[On reverse side]
H Thompsons Complaint
Spring Hill Farm Kansas Ter
July 17th 1854
Mr E Blackston
You are hereby notified in accordance to a resolution passed by the
committee of vigilance, appointed by the Squatter association at a meeting
held at James R Whiteheads on the 24th ult. to be and appear, at James R
Whiteheads, at the next meeting of said committee to be held on the 22nd inst.
to answer the complaint of Henry Thompson as intruder on his claim
Sec. Vig. Com.
[On reverse side]
July 18th 1854
Served this notice by reading the same to the defendant
Jas. R Wbitehead
38. Wa-the-nah, Kickapoo chief, for whom the town of Wathena was named.
40. The claim in dispute was originally made jointly by Roland Shannon and
A. L. McChesney. On April 10, 1854, Shannon relinquished his right to
McChesney. The relinquishment read
"Know all men By these Presents that I Roland Shannon have this day
Delivered unto A. L. McChesney My Right Title & interest in a certain Claim
that I had in Connexion with the said McChesney in the Territory of Kansas
Being Located in what is call[e]d the walnut Grove this Claim was Made by Me &
McChesney in June 1853 & on this day I have Relinquished all My Right to said
McChesney Given under My hand this the 10th day of April 1854
P: S. Roberts Roland Shannon