Leavenworth, Kansas was first settled as Fort Leavenworth in 1827 on the west side of the Missouri River by Colonel Henry H. Leavenworth. The purpose was to protect travelers from Indians on the Santa Fe and Oregon trail and to protect the flourishing fur trade. The town was organized and laid out in 1854. The following year Leavenworth became the first incorporated community in the Kansas Territory.
By 1857 it was a prosperous supply base for the settlements of the West. It has held many important purposes over its history, such as being the Headquarters of the Upper Missouri Indian Agency, and an operations base during the Mexican War. It was also important during the Civil War, so much so that the Confederate Sterling Price targeted it during a raid in 1864. It also had a federal military prison and later a Federal Penitentiary in 1895.
This area of the country was a place of great controversy during the Civil War. It was a Popular Sovereignty State which was a pre-Civil War doctrine asserting the right of the people living in a newly organized territory to decide by vote of their territorial legislature whether or not slavery would be permitted there. All the other states made this decision by allowing the existing government vote without citizen input. During the war, thousands of recruits were recruited and mustered out from Camp Lincoln at Fort Leavenworth. Between 1861 and 1865, the regular army formed the foundation on which volunteer forces were built. Railroads stretching towards the west came under increasing attack by the Plains Indians. Because the western posts were undermanned, Confederate prisoners were called upon to help fight the hostile Indians. Five of these regiments were outfitted at Fort Leavenworth.
This is the Leavenworth that my 2x Great Grandmother was born into. Elvira Register was born on March 31, 1861, to Mathew and Elisia (White) Register. She was the 5th of 12 children. Her parents, along with her 2 paternal uncles and their families moved from St. Joseph, Missouri to Kansas in 1855. They had established themselves as farmers and were very prosperous. At the beginning of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, Elvira’s father and uncles joined the Union Army and went back to Missouri to engage in the fighting. This left her mother alone at home with 5 children aged 8 (twins), 2, 1 and 1 month. I am sure having her sisters-in-law’s were a small comfort for Elisia.
After the war, the Register’s remained in Leavenworth until 1873 when Mathew moved his family to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Oklahoma to run a trading post. What an exciting life it must have been for a young girl to see and experience the growth of the Kansas territory. She could watch the hoards of pioneers stopping to buy supplies on their way west. It is said that Elvira had a great sense of humor and curiosity like no other her entire life. I believe it was developed during these early years of living in such a grand place.
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