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Kansas Territorial History: Governor Andrew Reeder

Driving around Shawnee, you may find yourself near the corner of 60th and Neiman. If you look East around that corner, you might see a two-story house with pyramidal roof about halfway down the block. This humble building once served as the Territorial Governor’s Mansion for one of the most controversial leaders in Kansas’s early years. I am writing of the first Territorial Governor, Andrew Horatio Reeder.

Territorial Governor’s Mansion (courthouselover on flickr)

When the Territory of Kansas was created by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the bill gave the duty of appointing the Territorial Governor to President Franklin Pierce. A Democrat from New Hampshire and staunch anti-abolitionist, his choice of Governor was Andrew Reeder. A fellow northern Democrat and supporter of state sovereignty, Reeder was the safe pick for a president trying to keep the country together against a growing tension by keeping a balance of slave and free states.

Governor Andrew Reader (Kansas Memory)

Arriving in Kansas Territory in October 1854, Reeder’s first test as Governor came the following spring with the election of a Territorial Legislature. As results came in from the March 30 election, it was clear that some of the districts had been the target of ballot box stuffing by pro-slavery Missourians. Angered by the infringement on the sovereignty of his territory, Reeder chose to throw out the results from those districts and have their citizens re-vote on May 22, 1855. Although he faced some backlash over the decision, the worst was yet to come.

Territorial Seal of Kansas designed by Governor Reeder (Kansas Memory)

Fearing further pressure from Missouri, Reeder established the territorial capital in Pawnee, a town 100 miles west of the border. This also earned him criticism, as Reeder owned a great deal of land in Pawnee, and the move was seen by some as a blatant maneuver to line his own pockets through land speculation. This debate over the real reason for moving the capital is unsettled, but in either case Pawnee’s status as the capital was short lived.

Advertisement of 1855 sale of lots in Pawnee (Kansas Memory)

When legislators arrived on July 2, 1855, there was immediate conflict between those elected in May and those from March, the latter showing up claiming to be the rightfully elected representatives despite the evidence of voter fraud. The pro-slavery slate of legislators forced off the free-staters, and their first act was a vote to move the capital to Shawnee Mission. Reeder attempted a veto but was overridden and after only 5 days as the territorial capital, Pawnee was abandoned by the legislature.

Pawnee Capital Building (Kansas Memory)

Reconvening on July 17, the legislature and the governor found themselves again at odds. Reeder had lost all patience for what history now calls the “Bogus Legislature.” When word traveled back to President Pierce that his appointed Governor for the territory was actively opposing the legislature, he removed Reeder from office. Having made a number of enemies in the territory and the neighboring Missouri, Reeder spent a year in hiding with free-state allies in Lawrence. In 1856, the former governor fled back to his home in Pennsylvania disguised as a woodcutter.

Portrait of Governor Reeder in disguise (Kansas Memory)

Reeder’s time in Kansas seems to have changed his political leanings. On his return to Pennsylvania, he became an active member of the new Republican party, reaching notoriety as a nominee for the vice-president in the 1860 presidential election. Reeder passed away on July 5, 1864 in Easton, Pennsylvania.

-Charles Hower, Johnson County Library

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Local History Index of Johnson County

The Local History Index of Johnson County is about to reach a major milestone.

What is the Local History Index of Johnson County?  Well, let’s take a look!

Before computers, researchers needed a quick way to get at local information.  A common solution was to clip local newspaper articles and store them in a vertical file.

file folders

Since the founding of the Johnson County Library in the 1950s, newspaper articles have been clipped for reference and kept at branches in vertical files.  In recent years, these clippings have slowly found their way to the Central Resource Library’s Regional Reference Collection.

Regional Reference cabinets

In October 2011, newspaper clipping was ceased and Regional Reference volunteers began the process of indexing these newspaper articles into a simple, easy-to-use digital format.  This format is built on research regarding information seeking behaviors.  The “short explanation” is that most researchers come to a project with pre-conceived ideas of what they are looking for.  In numerous studies, names, dates and locations have shown to be among the most common pre-conceived search subjects.

Our records follow a simple pattern:  Title, Author, Type, Sources, Date, Locations of Subject, Subject Headings, Subject Names, Local Keywords, and Keyword Names.    Names are recorded as both a Keyword and a Subject to ensure researcher success.  The subjects are culled from a in-house developed subject list.  This mirrors efforts at the Missouri Digitial Heritage project:

An example record:

Title Color and drama in the passing interurban
Author Manon, Calvin
Type Newspaper
Source Kansas City Times
Date 1961-08-31
Location Kansas City, KS
Bonner Springs, KS
Kansas City, MO
Lawrence, KS
Topeka, KS
Leavenworth, KS
Olathe, KS
Zarah Township, KS
Overland Park, KS
Clay County, MO
Liberty, MO
Parkville, MO
Platte City, MO
North Kansas City, MO
Independence, MO
Subject Railroads
Subject – Local Names   Taylor, W.R.
Davis, Fred
Sparling, Ivan
Keywords Kansas City Kaw Valley Railroad
Trolley Car Line
Kansas City Public Service Company
Country Club Trolley Line
Interstate Commerce Commission
Kansas Highway Department
Kansas Highway 32
Lone Star Cement Plant
Kansas City & Independence Interurban Line
Kansas City, Clay County & St. Joseph Interurban Line
Kansas City, Leavenworth & Western Interurban Line
Missouri & Kansas Interurban Line
Strang Line
Kansas City, Lawrence & Topeka Interurban Line
Hocker’s Grove Amusement Park
Merriam Lane
Kansas Highway 10
Kansas City, Kaw Valley & Western Interurban Line
Union Pacific Railroad
The Interurban
Savannah Interurban
St. Joe Line
Springs Line
Missouri Pacific Freight Train
Keyword Names W.R. Taylor
Fred Davis
Ivan Sparling

This data was collected (and continues to be collected) in Excel files by Regional Reference Volunteers.  Thanks to funding from both the Johnson County Library and the Johnson County Museum, was expanded in 2012 to unlimited capacity, allowing us to convert this data into ContentDM and share the Local History Index of Johnson County on    If you are unfamiliar with the Index, it can be located at:  and appears as such:

screen shot of Local History Index landing page

After two years of indexing work, the Johnson County Local History Index is about to reach 20,000 records.  We anticipate reaching this milestone by the end of October.  During the past two years, we have indexed the entire Johnson County Library Archives Promotional Holdings along with all clippings from the 1950s and 1960s.  There are many articles from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and all articles published in local newspapers since September 2011 appear in the index.  In addition, articles pertaining to Johnson County included in Kansas City Spaces, Kansas City Homes and Gardens and Kansas City Magazine have also made it into the current index.

We owe a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the project over the past two years.  Without their assistance and without the wonderful Regional Reference Volunteers, climbing this mountain would never have been possible.

If you have any questions about the Local History Index of Johnson County or Regional Reference, please feel free to contact the Johnson County Library.

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