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Starvation in Kansas Territory

As the nation waited for Congress to admit Kansas to the Union, settlers in the territory struggled to survive a drought. The St. Joseph Gazette cautioned against settlers immigrating to the territory, as they would put a further burden on already scarce resources:

I do not think many will be able to settle in this part for the next twelve months, there being almost an entire failure in the crops throughout this section of country. Prospects are really dismal here for all kinds of produce. There will not be "hog and hominy" enough for the old inhabitants, much less for a large influx [of] emigration.

Thaddeus Hyatt was an abolitionist who also advocated for relief efforts for Kansas settlers. He served as head of the National Kansas Committee in 1856, and wrote several circulars intended to arouse the people of the East to the necessities of Kansas settlers.

His February 4, 1860, appeal “Starvation in Kansas” painted a bleak picture for Kansas settlers unless emergency aid was provided immediately:

Like a vortex, this frightful famine draws to its insatiate centre all conditions. Hour by hour it enlarges. With each recurring day the calamity spreads wider. They who had food yesterday, have none today. They who have food today, have none for tomorrow. Desolation covers the land, and sorrow fills the hearts of the people.

Shortly after writing the appeal, Hyatt was called to Washington, D.C., but not to argue his case for Kansas settlers. Hyatt had known John Brown and was called to testify to the Senate committee looking into events at Harpers Ferry a few months prior. Hyatt refused to testify and was imprisoned for three months, but continued to write articles for newspapers and advocate for relief for Kansas.

Entry: Starvation in Kansas Territory

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: June 2010

Date Modified: April 2013

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