George W. Deitzler

George Washington Deitzler was born in Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and had a common school education. [Elliot, Grasshopper Falls, 210] He was an early settler in Lawrence, employed as clerk of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. In April 1855, company agent Charles Robinson dispatched Deitzler to Boston and Worcester with a request for rifles for protection against pro-slavery forces. [Isely, Sharps Rifle Episode, 546] Deitzler brought 100 Sharps rifles back aboard the "Emma Harmon" from Kansas City, arriving in Lawrence on May 20, 1855. [Root, Kansas River Navigation, 331] Later that year, in Robinson's absence. he found himself in command during the "Wakarusa War" when Missourians camped outside Lawrence, threatening its destruction. [KSHC 10:470]

George W. Deitzler (1826-1884)

From a start as a "gun runner" in early Lawrence, Deitzler had a distinguished military and civilian career. []

In July 1855 Deitzler and his partner, John Henry Shimmons, started a sawmill to produce lumber for the growing town. It was one of three mills operating in that year and by autumn there were more than 100 buildings under way in Lawrence. By 1860 it was boasted that "for the first time in the history of Lawrence we have an abundance of good lumber, and at reasonable rates." [Malin, Housing Experiments, 110] Later that month, at the "Sand Bank" meeting, Deitzler opposed the plan to call the Big Springs convention because he thought it would divide the free-state movement. He wrote an article for the Kansas Tribune, called "one of the most caustic and penetrating published in that era of sharp controversy," calling the proposed Big Springs meeting "a conspiracy to entrap he unwary masses and lead them into the Democratic fold." His article resulted in "no hope of electing a sympathetic delegation from Lawrence. [Elliot, Big Springs Convention, 370]

Deitzler was appointed secretary of the "Committee of Safety" in January 1856, charged with writing the appeal for funds from the people of the United States to meet the expenses of Kansans incurred in defense against "foreign invasion" from Missouri. [KHC 13:152ff.] A delegate to the Topeka Convention, he was on the "Committee of Address" with authority to notify Kansans of the coming election of the Topeka Free- State Legislature. [KHC 13: 129] As President of a town meeting in Lawrence in May 1856, he wrote a letter to Federal Marshal I.B. Donelson, asking why the Territorial Militia was surrounding the town. He warned that the town population was armed and drilled and had a large body of men armed with Sharps rifles and pledged to resist. [KHC 4:395] For his activities in the free-state cause, Deitzler was charged with treason in May 1856, one of seven men arrested at Lawrence and taken to Lecompton under guard of Federal troops. Known as the "treason prisoners," they were kept in a prison camp for several months. [KHC 10:139]

In the Second Territorial Legislature elected in 1857, Deitzler was elected Speaker of the House. [KHC1:169] When the new Legislature "repealed" the Bogus Laws, Deitzler led a ceremony in Lawrence, "holding the unholy edicts aloft.cast the book into the flames [of the bonfire] with the Shakespearean quotation, 'out damned spot.'" [Mitchell, Historic Linn, 613] He was president of the Emporia Town Company in 1857 and deeded the land for the Normal School that became Emporia State University. [Kellogg, State Normal School, 91.] Deitzler was elected mayor of Lawrence in 1860 and was treasurer in 1861 of "Lawrence University of Kansas," an Episcopal institution that later transferred its property to the University of Kansas. [Snow, Beginnings of the University of Kansas, 71]

When Lincoln called for troops in 1861, Deitzler helped organize and was made colonel of the First Kansas Volunteers. He led the regiment at the Battle of Wilson's Creek against a much larger force. When promised reinforcements from St. Louis did not arrive, the First and Second Kansas Regiments announced themselves "ready to march against the Confederates, to victory or defeat." Colonels Deitzler and Mitchell were both wounded and almost all the other officers were killed. [McGonigle, First Kansas at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, 292ff.] Deitzler's wounds were severe and he never completely recovered from them. He remained in the service, however, and was promoted to Brigadier General. Resigning in 1863, he returned with a commission as Major General of the Kansas Militia in 1864, protecting the border against General Price's army with 20,000 men under his command. [Blackmar, History, 504]

Deitzler remained in Lawrence, purchasing the Eldridge Hotel in 1866, remodeling it, and reopening the hotel with a grand ball. [Caldwell, Eldridge House, 366] In 1872, Deitzler and his family moved to San Francisco. While on a business trip in 1884, he died after being thrown from a carriage in Tucson. [Elliot, Grasshopper Falls, 210]

Charles Clark