Wells P. Bailey House, Lyndon, Kansas

In the summer of 1997, a grass fire burned away some of the siding on the old Bailey house which had stood east of Lyndon for 127 years.
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The Bailey House was built in 1870, by Wells P. Bailey. It originally set about 1-1/2 miles east of Lyndon on land that had once been the site of a Sac & Fox Indian village. After a grass fire accidently burned off some of its clapboard siding in 1997, it was discovered that the 127 year old house was actually made of logs. The Bailey House was soon acquired by the Historic Preservation Partnership of Lyndon, in 1997. Since money was not available to purchase the land, funds were raised to move the house to the Lyndon City Park. The Bailey House was placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2010, and has recently undergone significant restoration. The Bailey House is one of the oldest existing structures in Osage County and has ties to both the county’s Native American and pioneer heritage.

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Indian Removal Act        

After the Louisiana Purchase, the US Government planned to begin moving American Indians from the East to the new territory in the West. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 allowed the government to move tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River. Indian leaders were forced to sign treaties giving up their ancestral lands in exchange for the parcels in the West. This removal policy was refined into the “reservation system” with tribes being confirmed to specific area of land. The territory that became Kansas was considered prime space for these “emigrant” Indians who were forced to move west. Between 1825 and 1850, treaties were made with more than 25 tribes to “remove” them to the region that became Kansas.

Kansas reservation map
Kansas Reservation Map

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Sac & Fox

The Sac & Fox Indians were moved from their traditional tribal home near the western Great Lakes area to Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and then Kansas, arriving here in about 1846. The Sac & Fox were originally two tribes:  the Sauk (Thakiwaki or Sac) tribe and the Meskwaki (Fox) tribe. Because of their locality, the Sauk were called the “People of the Yellow Earth,” which distinguished them from the Foxes who were called the “Red Earth People.” The tribes were related and both spoke the Algonquin language. When the Fox tribe was nearly destroyed in a war with the French in the early 1700’s, the surviving Fox Indians fled to the Sauk villages for protection. Later, the two tribes merged into a single tribe forming the Sac & Fox Nation.

The Sac & Fox generally used two types of dwellings in their villages:  rectangular lodges with bark covering, or dome-shaped structures called wigwams or “wikiups.” Wikiups were small wooden frames about 8 to 10 feet tall which were covered with woven mats or sheets of bark.

Sac & Fox wikiup

Sac & Fox women wore wrap-around skirts, and fashioned their hair in a long braid or a bun gathered at the nape of their necks. The men frequently wore breechcloths and leggings, but later adopted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets. Often, men wore caps of fur or turbans, as well as necklaces made from bear claws. Sac & Fox warriors often wore their hair in the Mohawk-style or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads). Both men and women painted their faces with bright colors for special occasions.

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Sac & Fox in Kansas 1

Sac & Fox in Kansas

Sac & Fox in Kansas 2

To deal with Indian Removal, the United States Government created the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with agents assigned to reservations. At the time of their arrival in Kansas Territory, the Sac & Fox reservation included the southern two-thirds of what is now Osage County, and extended into both Franklin and Lyon counties. Originally, the agency was located at Greenwood, in Franklin County. When more settlers began coming to Osage County, there was great pressure to negotiate a new treaty which would cut down the size of the reservation. In 1859, the new treaty was signed, with the Indians giving up nearly two-thirds of their reservation, keeping only an area twenty by twelve miles—an area two miles west of where Lyndon now is and extending about a fourth of a mile into Franklin County. This became known as the “Diminished Reserve.” In addition, the agency was moved to Quenemo, in southeastern Osage County. 
(map of reserve)

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The Treaty of 1859

The treaty that diminished the reservation was not popular among the Sac & Fox chiefs. One chief, Shaw-paw-kah-kah, who was said to be a great orator, was quite outspoken about the treaty. At the council which met to sign the treaty in 1859, Shaw-paw-kah-kah gave a speech, which made his feelings known:

            “….I submit to the commissioners and the Great Father that this whole arrangement from the commencement to the end, is….to give into the hands of speculator our money and lands….We will have to give up the graves of our fathers and mothers…Of course, I will sign under protest, knowing in my heart that there is no good in it for the Indian….”


The Treaty of 1859 stipulated that the government would construct (at the expense of the Indians) a house for each tribal family. The Bureau of Indian Affairs contracted with a man name Robert S. Stevens for the erection of the houses. 

Historians write that of the 350 or so houses commissioned, only about 170 were built, and their construction was quite controversial. Many complaints were lodged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the poor construction techniques and the locations of the houses. The Indians believed that the houses had been built in “unhealthy places.” It is written that some refused to live in the houses and chose to stable their ponies in them, instead.

Government council with Sac & Fox in Washington D.C.
Government council with Sac & Fox in Washington D.C.

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Robert S. Stevens

Robert Stevens was born in Attica, New York, in 1824. He became involved in politics, gaining stature by campaigning for James Buchanan’s bid for the presidency. Stevens came to Kansas at the encouragement of then territorial governor, Wilson Shannon, so that the two could practice law together. 

Stevens migrated to Kansas in 1856, having been appointed special U.S. Indian Commissioner by President Buchanan. Stevens served as mayor of Lecompton in 1858 and was also staying at the Eldridge Hotel, in Lawrence, on the night of Quantrill’s Raid, in 1863.  Having earlier represented Quantrill in a legal matter, Steven’s life was spared. Robert Stevens acquired the government contract to build houses on the Sac & Fox Diminished Reserve, and later acted as the land broker when the Diminished Reserve was opened for white settlement and offered for sale.

In 1869, he assured his place in Kansas history by supervising the construction of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT or “Katy”) Railroad. The MKT was the first railroad to reach Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and then Texas. In the process, Stevens founded both Parsons, Kansas and Dennison, Texas. Returning to New York in the 1880’s, Stevens died in 1893.

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White Settlement       

As early as 1865, a white settler named Samuel Black lived along Salt Creek on the Diminished Reserve, 1-1/2 miles east of present Lyndon. Mr. Black was given permission to live on the reservation due to his services rendered as a Deputy U.S. Marshall for the Indian Agency. Another house on the same claim belonged to a woman name Fanny Goodell, whose father was an interpreter for the Sac & Fox tribe. These two houses became the nucleus around which the first white settlers of the Lyndon area gathered. 

Fanny Goodell
Fanny Goodell

Samuel Black soon found that he needed someone to help him with his farming and took on a man named Samuel Holyoke, as his tenant. When the Holyoke family moved to the Diminished Reserve in 1867, there were Indian houses all along Salt Creek. The Holyoke family moved into one of the abandoned houses. In Charles Green’s book, The Annals of Lyndon, Holyoke stated that his house had been “built for one of the Fox Chiefs….a large and commodious house, built of native lumber, near an excellent spring of water, and near which, some years before, had been an Indian town of 4 or 5 hundred Indians, in their bark wigwams……We moved here on December 3, 1867, and it has been our home ever since, the same old Indian house, only fixed over and added to.”

Holyoke Family
Holyoke family
Holyoke house
Holyoke house

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Kansas Nebraska Act

The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. It opened these lands for settlement, and allowed settlers to determine for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within its borders.  Both pro-slavery and “free-soilers” flooded into Kansas Territory, determined to help sway the vote for or against slavery. The Republican Party was created at that time in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and aimed at stopping the expansion of slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act essentially nullified the earlier Missouri Compromise of 1850, and pointed the nation toward civil war. Violence during that period earned the Territory the nickname of “Bleeding Kansas.” Difficult times finally lead to Kansas being admitted to the union as a free state on January 29, 1861.

The Kansas Nebraska Act opened the Kansas Territory to white settlement before the federal government had negotiated treaties to remove tribes that lived on the reservations. Bolstered by promises that assured that that Indian allotments would eventually fall into the hands of white settlers, pioneers squatted on tribal lands. The federal government did little to protect the property rights of the tribes. Squatters routinely occupied land through “preemption,” which allowed them to occupy land before the government offered it for sale. It was through the “right of preemption” that settlers began to occupy the Sac & Fox Diminished Reserve before a treaty was ratified in 1868 which would eventually remove the tribe to Indian Territory (Oklahoma.)

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Wells P. Bailey

Wells and Julia Bailey
Wells and Julia Bailey

Wells P. Bailey was born in Soden, New York in 18--. He made his living as a millwright.)  Bailey and his family moved to Kansas in 1866, arriving in what is now Osage County in 1870. He preempted a 160-acre claim located 1-1/2 miles east of Lyndon. A Fox village had occupied the land purchased by Bailey, prior to the Indian removal.  Bailey’s deed implies that he purchased his land for $240, along with “$54 in full of appraised value of Indian improvements on said land.” Wells Bailey formally purchased the land in 1874 and sold the west 80 acres to Samuel Holyoke who had been living there in one of the government-built Indian houses since 1867.

Wells Bailey land deed
Wells Bailey land deed showing purchase of Indian improvements

A manuscript was found at the Kansas Historic Society in 2003, which contained an interview with Wells Bailey in 1902, by C.R. Green—noted historian and author. In it, Bailey claims to have built his hewn log house in 1870, while he and his family stayed at the home of a neighbor. At some point, the house was sided over with clapboard, and “lath and plastered” inside. Wells Bailey lived in this house until his death in 1900. It remained in the Bailey family until 19--.

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Bailey Log House Re-discovered

In the summer of 1997, a grass fire burned away some of the siding on the old Bailey house which had stood east of Lyndon for 127 years. 

Beiley house on original site
Bailey house on original site
Bailey House, detail of burned section
Detail of burned section of clapboard

Upon discovery that the house was made of logs, the Historic Preservation Partnership of Lyndon (HPPL) was formed to acquire and preserve this unique piece of Osage County history. As the land upon which the house set was for sale, the owners graciously donated the house to HPPL, with the stipulation that it had to be moved offsite.  HPPL raised funds and had the house moved to the Lyndon City Park in the fall of 1997.

The Historic Preservation Partnership of Lyndon immediately began researching the history of the log house. Early research soon led to the belief that the Bailey House may have originally been one of the houses built by the United States Government for the Sac & Fox Indians

After the discovery of the Green manuscript, years later, questions still remained about the origin of the house. During the restoration of the Bailey House in 2012, preservation professionals found architectural clues which indicate that Wells Bailey may have actually constructed his log home from materials salvaged from the abandoned Indian houses that were located on his land. 

Although moved from its original location, the Bailey House stands today – a symbol of the transition of two cultures and an important reminder of both the Native American and pioneer heritage of Osage County

The Wells P. Bailey House, Lyndon, Kansas
Bailey House, moved to Lyndon. Photo taken in 2013.

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The Bailey House is linked to both the Native American and white pioneer heritage of Osage County, Kansas. 

The Wells P. Bailey House symbolizes a transition of two cultures. It stands today as a reminder of both our Native American and pioneer heritage. For more information contact us at wpbaileyhouse@gmail.com