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Emigrant Aid Societies

When the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, it provided for popular sovereignty which meant the residents of each territory would vote to determine if the newly created state would allow or prohibit slavery within its boundaries.  It was assumed that Nebraska would not allow slavery and the Kansas would to keep the balance of slave versus free states equal.

Abolitionists in the northeastern states became determined to keep Kansas from becoming a slave state.  They organized emigrant aid companies to encourage antislavery supporters to move to Kansas. 

The most influential emigrant aid groups was the New England Emigrant Aid Company (originally incorporated as the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company in Worcester, MA in April, 1854 until the name was changed in February, 1855). This organization received both financial and moral support from prominent New England abolitionists.  Company supporters lectured through out New England in an effort to raise funds and recruit settlers.

The company proposed to negotiate reduced transportation rate for the parties of settlers they organized, to provide temporary housing once emigrants got to Kansas, to build saw and grist mills, and to establish a weekly newspaper to serve as a voice for the company.

The company placed ads in newspapers hoping to attract potential settlers to Kansas Territory. Settlers traveled in groups at a reduced rate.

The first party from Massachusetts arrived in Kansas on August 1, 1854, and stopped at the area that would become the city of Lawrence.  By the next spring, thirteen parties of approximately 1250 people had come to Kansas with the support of the company.  The company also help with the founding of Topeka, Manhattan, and Osawatomie.  It helped build mills in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, Osawatomie, Burlington, Wabaunsee, Atchison, Batcheller (now Milford), and Mapleton.  The Lawrence Herald of Freedom served as the newspaper for the company because it was financed with a loan from the New England Emigrant Aid Company.

Other smaller emigrant aid companies organized to assist antislavery supporters to settle in Kansas. 



Portions from The Kansas Journey.

Entry: Emigrant Aid Societies

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2011

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.