Big Springs, Kansas
Located in the northwestern part of
Douglas County, in Lecompton Township,
Big Springs is the oldest settlement in Douglas County.
The area had long been well known as an excellent watering place along the
and when Kansas
Territory was opened for settlement, a
number of men immediately took up claims in the fall. Some of the first settlers
were William Harper, John Chamberlain,
and Ephraim Banning, as well as Mrs., Roberts, Wells, Eppuson, Lawson and W.A. Cardwell.
Soon, a settlement was formed and called Big Springs for the
large ever-flowing springs in the immediate vicinity.
On June 10, 1855, the first sermon was preached by
Reverend W. A. Cardwell, a United Brethren minister, in the log house of Ephraim
Banning. The United Brethrens would also build the first church in Big Springs
store was also opened in 1855 by Webb & Carter, soon followed by the Harper House and the Picken
Hotel which provided lodging for the many travelers along the Oregon Trail.
Big Springs was settled by abolitionist
supporters when the fledgling territory was in limbo as to whether it would
declare as a "Free-State" or a "pro-slavery" state. On September 5, 1855, the first
Free-State convention was held at Big Springs. Referred to as the Big Springs Convention, all of the leading
Free-State men were present,
among them Ex-Governor
Andrew H. Reeder, Governer
Charles L. Robinson, General
James H. Lane, George W. Smith, J. A. Wakefield, James S. Emery and many others. Sure
that great work was to be accomplished on that day, men came from all over the
territory in in wagons, in carriages, in vehicles of every description, on horseback
and on foot, and all in the most solemn and determined earnestness. And each one
after the manner of the patriots of the Revolution pledge his life, his property
and his sacred honor, if need be, to establish freedom in the State of Kansas.
The spirit of the convention was embodied in the following resolution, written
by Ex-Governor Andrew H. Reeder:
we will endure and submit to these laws (the bogus laws) no longer than the best
interests of the Territory required, as the least of two evils, and will resist
them to a bloody issue as soon as we ascertain that peaceful remedies shall
fail, and forcible resistance shall furnish any reasonable prospect of success;
and that in the meantime we recommend to our friends throughout the Territory
the organization and discipline of volunteer companies, and the procurement and
preparation of arms."
meeting and many more to follow would eventually result in the
Bleeding Kansas saga, as Free-Staters and pro-slavery advocates waged a bloody war for the next
In the meantime, Big Springs was continuing to grow
and a post office was established on January 7, 1856 with John Chamberlain as
the first postmaster. The first school was taught in the town hall in the same
Another Kansas "first" also occurred in Big
Springs in 1856 when area citizens rallied to confront alcohol, in what was one
of the first temperance meetings in the territory. The whole affair began when a
local physician named Dr. Carter brought in three barrels of whiskey and started
Just one night after
he opened his business, 30 residents sent Dr. Carter a formal notice protesting
the tavern. But when the doctor ignored their complaints, a mob of about 40
people stormed his saloon the next night, emptied the whiskey barrels and
stood atop the kegs giving prohibition speeches. Afterwards, the protesters
signed a temperance pledge. This was just the beginning of a crusade to prohibit
alcohol in Kansas, which would continue until Prohibition was enacted in 1881.
was one of the first settlements in the county, Big Springs did not grow quickly
as it did not have a railroad. By 1883, it had only two stores, the post office
a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, three churches and about 40 residents. On
September 30, 1903, the small settlement lost its post office.
the population was about the same -- around 40 people, and had three churches, a
blacksmith and wagon shop, and several dwellings. No mention of any stores was
made at this time.
these years without growing, Big Springs still exists as a semi-ghost town. The
unincorporated community gets its mail from nearby Lecompton and continues to
support a fire station. The small town has developed into somewhat of a bedroom
community between Topeka and
its residents, from outward
appearances, still looks to be about 40. Children attend school at the nearby
Shawnee Heights School District in Tecumseh.
The 1856 United Brethren Church continues to stand and today serves as an
active Methodist Church. Nearby, is an old red brick school and throughout the
area can be seen a number of native stone buildings, some restored to perfection
and others in various stages of deterioration.
Big Springs is located about 30 miles southeast of Topeka on U.S.
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
An old school sits quiet and abandoned in Big
Springs today, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.
This image available for photo prints & commercial
Big Springs Convention
Bleeding Kansas & the Missouri Border War
Native Stone buildings dot the Big Springs area,
Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.
This image available for photo prints & commercial
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