While the Kansas-Nebraska Bill
was pending in Congress it became apparent that there would be a struggle
pro-slavery and abolitionists for the Territory of Kansas as soon as
it was organized. Before the bill even became a law a number of aid societies
and cooperative associations were formed in the North, for the purpose of
populating Kansas with those who opposed to slavery. Some of these societies were incorporated
under the laws of different New England states, some were private
companies, and some were of local significance -- formed in a town or
county -- but all had the same objective.
Thayer, a member of
the Massachusetts House of Representatives,
evolved the plan of a society which should offer to anti-slavery
emigrants inducements sufficient to offset the hardships of frontier
life. His strategy was for an investment company to give advantages to
those whom it induced to go to
and at the same time defeat slavery.
1856 map shows slave states in gray, free states in red,
territories in green, and undecided Kansas
Thayer, presented to
Massachusetts House of Representatives in March, 1854, a petition for the incorporation of the "Massachusetts
Emigrant Aid Company," and on April 26, 1854, more than a month before the
passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, this company was chartered with a capital
The incorporators selected a committee consisting of
Eli thayer, Alexander H. Bullock and Edward Everett Hale, to recommend a system of
operation. The first charter proving unsatisfactory, the company reorganized
under a charter granted by the Connecticut legislature, and a third charter was
obtained in 1855, when the name was changed to the "New England Emigrant Aid
Company," with a capital of $1,000,000. The work done by this society, directly
and indirectly, was one of the greatest factors in making Kansas
Agitation of the question, advertisements in the papers and the literature
distributed, started many for
Kansas, who never knew of the country until this
Charles Robinson, S. C. Pomeroy and M. F. Conway were the
company's agents. They secured low rates of transportation to the territory, and
the first emigrants, 30 in number, led by Charles H. Branscomb, arrived at the
mouth of the
Kansas River on July 28, 1854. Two weeks later they were followed
by a second and larger party, and these men laid the foundations of
the first Free-State settlement in
"The Emigrant Aid Company of New York and Connecticut," was
organized on July 18, 1854, under a charter from the Connecticut legislature,
its objects being the same as those of the New England society, with which it
was ultimately consolidated, with John Carter Brown of Providence, R. I., as
president, and Eli Thayer as vice-president. The company was not a financial
success. Its original capital was depleted until in 1862, it amounted to only
$16,000, but the work of the society was done, for
Kansas had been admitted as a Free-State.
In 1901, the state legislature passed an act authorizing the regents of the
state university to build a gymnasium with the money appropriated by
Congress in payment of the claim assigned to the university by the New
England Emigrant Aid Company.
Several minor aid societies were formed in the north. The
"Union Emigrant Aid Society," was organized in Washington, D. C., in the spring
of 1854, "by such members of Congress and citizens generally, as were opposed to
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the opening of Kansas
and Nebraska to the institution of slavery."
John Goodrich of Massachusetts was president;
Francis P. Blair, vice-president; and its directors were from various northern
states. Agents were appointed in several states to call the attention of the
public to its work and organize auxiliary societies to promote immigration to
The "Kansas Aid Society," was formed just after the passage of
the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, with John Goodrich of Massachusetts as president, and
a Mr. Fenton of New York as vice-president. Some assistance was rendered to
emigrants, but its records can not be found, and it is supposed to have been
absorbed by the New England Emigrant Aid Company.
The "Worcester County Kansas League," was formed at Worcester,
Massachusetts on July 6, 1854, "for the encouragement and organization of emigration to
the new Territory of
of the league was to arrange parties of emigrants, so that they could travel
together and settle in the same locality. Their first train for
Kansas left Worcester on July 17, 1854, only eleven days
after the league was organized.
The "Kansas League," was organized by
Eli Thayer about 1856.
Its members promoted emigration, organized parties who wished to go to
and published a "History of Kansas, also Information Regarding, Rates, Laws,"
etc., which was widely circulated.
Some of the other organizations of this
character were the "Oberlin Kansas League," the "Kansas National Committee," and
after the sack of
Lawrence the "General National Kansas Aid Committee," the
"Boston Relief Committee," the "Kansas Aid Society of Wisconsin," and the
"Female Aid Society of Wisconsin," all of which were formed to send people and
Kansas, and in other ways aid in defeating the friends of slavery.
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.