LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Historic People of Kansas - "M" - Page 2

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Samuel Medary (1801-1864) - The last regularly appointed territorial governor of Kansas, was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1801.  He was educated at the Norristown Academy, and at the age of 16 was a contributor to the Norristown Herald. The encouragement he received from the editor of that paper doubtless influenced him to select journalism for a profession. He learned the printer's trade and in 1825 went to Batavia, Ohio, where three years later he started the Ohio Sun, in the interest of General Andrew Jackson's candidacy for presidency. In 1834 he was elected as a Democrat to the lower house of the Ohio Legislature, and at the expiration of his term was chosen to represent his district in the state senate. He then purchased the newspaper known as the Western Hemisphere, at Columbus, and changed the name to the Ohio Statesman, which he continued to edit until 1857. His newspaper became a power in Ohio politics, and even wielded a national influence with the Democratic Party. When the Oregon boundary became a subject of dispute, Medary is credited with being the author of the slogan: "Fifty-four Forty or Fight." In 1844 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Baltimore, where he produced a letter from General Jackson requesting him, in case of discord, to present the name of James K. Polk for the presidency. This was done, and Polk was nominated. In 1856 Medary was temporary chairman of the National Convention that nominated James Buchanan and did all in his power to secure the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas. In March, 1857, he was appointed governor of the Territory of Minnesota. When it was admitted as a state in May, 1858, he was made postmaster at Columbus, Ohio, and held that position until appointed governor of Kansas the following November. He resigned the governorship in December, 1860, returned to Columbus and established the Crisis, which he continued to publish until his death on November 7, 1864. Governor Medary was endearingly called the "Old wheel-horse of Democracy," and in 1869 the party in Ohio erected a monument at Columbus "In commemoration of his public services, private virtues, distinguished ability, and devotion to principle."

 

Jotham Meeker (1804-1855) - A missionary, he was born at Xenia, Ohio on November 8, 1804. His boyhood was spent on a farm, after which he learned the printer's trade. He then joined Reverend Isaac McCoy in mission work among the Indians, beginning his career as a missionary among the Potawatomie at Carey, Michigan in 1825. Two years later he was sent to the Ottawa Mission at Thomas, Michigan, and while there he devised a system of applying the English alphabet to the phonetic spelling of the Indian words, which greatly simplified the work of the mission teacher. In 1833, at the suggestion of Mr. McCoy, he came to Kansas with an old-fashioned hand printing press -- the first ever brought to Kansas -- for the purpose of printing books in the Indian language. The first one of these was known as the "Delaware First Book." Copies of several of the books thus printed by Meeker are now in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society. He died at the Ottawa Mission in Kansas, in January, 1855.

 

Josiah Miller (1828-1870) - A Free-State advocate who started one of the first Kansas newspapers, Miller was born in the Chester District of South Carolina on November 12, 1828. He was educated at  Indiana University, where he graduated in 1851, after which he also graduated from the law school at Poughkeepsie, New York. In August, 1854 he came to Kansas to support the Free-State cause. As his father had been waylaid and mobbed because of his anti-slavery views, it was but natural that Josiah should be an ardent opponent of slavery, and on January 5, 1855, he began the publication of the Kansas Free State at Lawrence. A pro-slavery jury found an indictment against him for maintaining a nuisance in the publication of this paper, and on May 21, 1856, his printing office was destroyed by the territorial authorities. In that year he made speeches in several states for John C. Fremont, the Republican candidate for president, and in 1857 was elected Probate Judge of Douglas County. In 1861 he was a member of the first state senate, but resigned his seat to become postmaster at Lawrence.  In 1863 he was appointed a paymaster in the army, with the rank of major, and in 1866 was elected a member of the Lawrence on July 7, 1870, after having a leg amputated. The inscription on the monument erected to his memory in Oak Hill Cemetery credits him with being the author of the motto, "Ad astra per aspera," on the Kansas seal of state.

 

 

 

Robert B. MitchellRobert B. Mitchell (1823-1882) - Soldier and Free-State advocate, Mitchell was born in Richland County, Ohio on April 4, 1823. He was educated at Washington College in Pennsylvania, after which he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced at Mansfield, Ohio from 1844 to 1846. He then entered the army as a first lieutenant in an Ohio regiment and served through the Mexican War, resuming his law practice in 1847. In 1856 he moved to Kansas, where he became an active participant in political affairs as a Free-State advocate, and in 1857 was elected to the Kansas Territorial Legislature. From 1858 to 1861 he held the office of Territorial Treasurer. When the Civil War broke out he again entered the army, this time as a colonel of the Second Kansas, and was severely wounded at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Subsequently, he raised a regiment of cavalry and was commissioned Brigadier-General of Volunteers. At the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862, he commanded a division of the Third Army Corps, and at Chickamauga he was in command of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Cumberland. At the close of the war he was appointed governor of New Mexico and held that office until 1867, when he moved to Washington, D. C., where his death occurred on January 26, 1882.

James MontgomeryJames Montgomery (1814-1871) - Pioneer, Free-State advocate, and soldier, Montgomery was born in Ashtabula County, Ohio on December 22, 1814. He received an academic education and in 1837 went to Kentucky, where he was for a time engaged in teaching school. While there, he joined the Christian Church and became a minister of that denomination, but later in life espoused the doctrines of the Adventists. In 1852 he moved to Pike County, Missouri with his family, and a year later he went to Jackson County, in order to be ready to enter Kansas as soon as the territory was organized and the lands opened to settlement. Some of his friends, among whom was Dr. Thornton, knowing him to be opposed to slavery, persuaded him to go to Bates County, Missouri, by telling him that he could obtain as good land there as he could in Kansas. He accepted their advice, but quickly became dissatisfied in Bates County and returned to his original resolution to settle in Kansas. Accordingly, he purchased a claim from a pro-slavery settler about five miles from the present town of Mound City late in the year 1854. It was not long until he was recognized as a leader by the Free-State men of what would become Linn County. In 1857 he organized and commanded the "Self-Protective Company," which had been formed to defend the rights of the anti-slavery settlers, and backed by this organization, Montgomery ordered some of the most ardent pro-slavery citizens to leave the territory. After their departure, he settled down to improve his claim, but later in the year some of the Free-State men of Bourbon County, who had been expelled by George W. Clarke in 1856, returned to take possession of their homes along the Little Osage River. They met with opposition, and called upon Montgomery for assistance. In December he took the field with his company and created so much disturbance that Governor James Denver found it necessary to order a detachment of soldiers to that part of the state to preserve order. In 1859 he was a candidate for representative in the Kansas Territorial Legislature, but was defeated by W. R. Wagstaff. On July 24, 1861, he was mustered into the Union Army as colonel of the Third Kansas Infantry, but was transferred to the command of the Second South Carolina Colored Regiment, with which he made a raid into Georgia. This regiment, with Colonel Montgomery in command, distinguished itself at the Battle of Olustee, Florida on February 20, 1864. After the war he returned to his home in Linn County, Kansas, where he died on December 6, 1871. During the border troubles preceding the Civil War, some of his men would frequently indulge in plundering their enemies, but Montgomery never was a party to such proceedings. One writer said: "He died poor, although he had abundant opportunity to steal himself rich in the name of liberty."

 

 

 

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