History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Organizations & Associations in Kansas History

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Anti Horse Thief Association

Blue Lodges

Emigrant Aid Societies

Freedman's Relief Association

Law and Order League

Self Defensive Association



Blue Lodges - Soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, a secret organization was formed in the South to assist in promoting the interests of the slave power. The society was known by different names, such as the "Friends Society," the "Social Band," "Dark Lantern Society," and the "Sons of the South," but, by whatever name it might be known the object was always the same. Each member took a solemn oath, after which he was given the signs, handshakes, and passwords of the order. Severe penalties were provided for any violation of the oath, or for divulging the secrets of the organization, and in a few instances these penalties were executed upon offending members. The order was a branch of or auxiliary to the famous Knights of the Golden Circle, the common object being the same -- the extension of slavery. The order of the Golden Circle was composed of slave owners, and was designed to effect the acquisition of Cuba, Northern Mexico and Central America, and the establishment of slavery in the territories. The 'Social Band' was made up of pro-slavery men, with and without slaves, and was meant to be a valuable active force in the extension of slavery into Kansas and Nebraska primarily.


Phillips' Conquest of Kansas said: "The Blue Lodge embraced great numbers of the citizens of Missouri, and was extended into other slave states and into the Kansas Territory. Its plan of operating was to organize and send men to vote at the elections in the territory, to collect money to pay their expenses, and, if necessary, to protect them in voting. It also proposed to induce proslavery men to emigrate into the territory, to aid and sustain them while there, and to elect none to office but those friendly to their views."


George Park, editor of the Parkville, Missouri Luminary, whose newspaper office was destroyed by a mob, presumably composed of members of the Blue Lodge, in a letter to the St. Louis Democrat in May, 1855, said: " Stringfellow and Atchison have organized a secret association, the members of which are sworn to turn out and fight when called upon to do so, and which is to be governed by the following rules: All belonging to it are to share in the damages accruing to any member when prescribed, even at the price of disunion. All are to act secretly to destroy the business and character of Northern men; and all dissenting from their doctrines are to be expelled from the territory."


From these extracts the aims and objects of the society may be learned, as well as the methods to be employed in attaining them. Among the leaders were brothers, Benjamin and John Stringfellow, David R. Atchison, and Alexander McDonald, afterward a Republican United States senator from Arkansas during the reconstruction period. All the leaders of the organization were desperate men, willing to accept any hazard, and it was under the auspices of this society that a number of the forays into Kansas were planned and executed. But the Free-State sentiment was too strong for even an oath-bound society to combat, and the Blue Lodge succumbed to the inevitable.




Heading to KansasFreedmen's Relief Association -- This association resulted from the large negro immigration to Kansas in the year 1879. It was incorporated on May 8, 1879, with the following directors: John P. St. John, Albert H. Horton, P. I. Bonebrake, John Francis, Bradford Miller, N. C. McFarland, A. B. Jetmore, J. C. Hebbard, Lyman U. Humphrey, Willard Davis, A. B. Lemmon, James Smith, T. W. Henderson, C. G. Foster and John M. Brown. On June 26, 1879, the association issued an appeal "to friends of the colored people," in which it was stated that the organization was controlled by two motives, the first of which was humanity, and the second was "to maintain the honored traditions of our state, which had its conception and birth in a struggle for freedom and equal rights for the colored man." The appeal also announced that efforts were being made to establish a colony in Wabaunsee county, about 50 miles west of Topeka, where a tract of land belonging to the state university could be bought for $2.65 an acre.


Law and Order League, aka: Army of Law and Order (1855-1856) - From the name of this organization, one would naturally suppose that it was formed for the purpose of promoting peace, prosperity and good government among the people of Kansas. But such was not the case. It was an armed force, the strength of which has been variously estimated at from 500 to 1,100 men, organized by David R. Atchison and John H. Stringfellow, whose policy was banishment or extermination of all Free-State men in the territory. The "army" was divided into two regiments, with Atchison as Commander-in-Chief. The headquarters of the organization were at Little Santa Fe on the Missouri border, some 15 miles south of Westport. Among the outrages committed by this force was that of robbing the Quaker Mission, because the Quakers were known to assist fugitive slaves. The cattle and horses belonging to the mission were driven off, articles of value were appropriated, and for a time, the mission was broken up. In the latter part of August, 1856, the "army" was preparing for an attack upon the city of Lawrence, when the timely arrival of Governor Geary put a stop to the proceedings. The Army of Law and Order was a part of the militia disbanded by Governor Geary, and it was never reorganized.


Self Defensive Association (1854.-??) The great number of Free-State settlers that came into Kansas Territory in 1854 began to alarm the friends of slavery, who saw that it would be practically impossible to legally compete with the heavy tide of emigration from the east. The people of northwest Missouri had been led to believe that the prospects of slavery in Kansas were good, but this idea was overthrown by the coming of such great numbers of what the Missourians called "northern cattle." The advocates of slavery were disappointed but not discouraged, and attempted to terrify the new settlers by threats and persecutions. The pro-slavery publications represented the Emigrant Aid Societies as gathering the paupers of the great cities in the east and hiring them to come to Kansas to disturb the institutions of Missouri. As a result of the sentiment thus aroused, meetings were held in some of the towns in western Missouri. This agitation led to the formation on June 15, 1854 of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association. The constitution of this organization contained a preamble and nine articles, the substance of which was that all freed slaves must be expelled from the country; no traffic was to be allowed between whites and slaves; no slaves were to be allowed to hire themselves out; the association was to try to punish all abolitionists; and the members pledged themselves to bring any guilty to immediate punishment. Nearly 1,000 persons signed this constitution. In reality the association was an immense lynch court, consisting of six judges and 1,000 detectives, as each member acted in that capacity. There was absolutely no appeal from the decision of a judge and any two members.


At the first meeting of the association the following resolutions were passed: "That we, the members of the Platte County Self Defensive Association, do solemnly pledge ourselves to go at the call of our brethren, who are across the river in Kansas, and drive out from their midst the abolition traitors." Thomas A. Minard, formerly a sheriff in Iowa, a man of good character and wealth, had come to Kansas and was building a home. He was known to have declared his intention to vote for Kansas to become a Free-State. Members of the association arrested him, he was tried before the lynch court, condemned as an abolitionist, ordered to leave the country within 24 hours or receive 50 lashes on his bare back, and was driven from his home with a sick family, into the unsettled wilderness. An old white haired man was seized upon the testimony of a black man, condemned as an abolitionist and given 48 hours in which to leave the country or receive 50 lashes on his bare back. The association did not stop with trying abolitionists, but tried to force the inhabitants to trade only with those who favored slavery and to force the merchants to purchase only in slave holding communities. It is believed that members of this association were among the pro-slavery men who attempted to intimidate and drive the Free-State settlers from Lawrence, which proved unsuccessful. The work of the association became so intolerant that these actions proved its undoing, for the citizens of Weston, Missouri called a public meeting at which resolutions were adopted in which they declared that the residents were competent to decide who should be expelled from the community and that mob law could be tolerated no longer. In the resolutions the citizens disclaimed the action of the association. Thus ended the power and history of the Self-Defensive Association.



Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.

About the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these pages is not verbatim, as additions, updates, and editing have occurred.


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