Abelard Guthrie

Abelard Guthrie (1814-1873)

Adopted member of the Wyandotte Tribe and founder of the town of Quindaro.
[Journals of William Walker]

Abelard Guthrie was born in Montgomery County, Ohio and was adopted into the Wyandotte tribe when he married Quindaro Nancy Brown, a member of the tribe. Early in his career, he worked as clerk for the Agent for the Ohio Indians and took part in the negotiation of the treaty ceding Wyandotte lands in Ohio to the government. President Tyler appointed Guthrie Register of the Land Office at Upper Sandusky in 1842, but his appointment was rejected by the Senate in 1843 for political reasons. The Wyandottes had already moved to Kansas and Guthrie followed them in 1844. [Connelly, William Walker, 101ff.]

Pressure built to open the territory for settlement. In October 1852 Guthrie was named as delegate to Congress from the Territory at a Wyandotte Council House meeting. He went to Washington, but was refused recognition. Again in July 1853, Guthrie was named delegate in a convention at the Council House creating a provisional territorial government. Later that year, Thomas Johnson was also named as delegate at a meeting at the Kickapoo village. Both men went to Washington, Guthrie as a Benton supporter and Johnson as an Atchison supporter. [Morgan, Wyandotte County, Ch.13] A third nominee, Hadley Johnston, representing Iowans with claims in Nebraska also went to Washington. The issue was whether a future railroad line across the Great Plains would cross the Missouri at Council Bluffs or at Wyandotte as advocated by Senator Benton and Missouri interests. [Connelly, First Provisional Government, 105]

Guthrie was an early free-state advocate and was a delegate to the Big Springs meeting. He spoke at free-state rallies and was an election judge in the October 1855 free-state election. [Kansas Historical Collections C13:133, 141] With Charles Robinson, Guthrie was a founder of a free- state town on the Missouri River, "Quindaro," named for his wife on land purchased from her tribesmen. The New England Emigrant Aid Company desired a safe port on the river for free-state emigrants, away from pro- slavery interference. A spot for the town was picked six miles above the mouth of the Kansas River. The town site was laid out in December 1856 and the settlement grew quickly. By August 1857 there were 600 residents and 100 buildings. A four story hotel with 45 rooms was one of several operating and a number of churches were under construction. [Farley, Annals,305ff.]

At its peak, Quindaro boasted a population of 1,000 with doctors, lawyers, mechanics and a newspaper. The city council met weekly to deal with the problems of the boom town. [Veale, Coming In and Going Out, 5] In 1858 the Legislature granted a charter to Charles Robinson and others to operated a ferry across the river from Quindaro and two years later Guthrie and others received a renewal of the charter. [Root, Missouri River,12]

But the Panic of 1857 brought development to a halt. Guthrie, who had become a wealthy man, was suddenly unable to pay his bills. He spent his days trying to avoid his creditors [Bremer, Species of Madness,166] The Kansas Land Trust, a Boston company formed in 1856 to invest in Kansas land had bought extensively around Quindaro and promised its local agent, Charles Robinson, a share of its profits. In 1857 the Land Trust sold a large amount of land to Robinson, who gave his note, co-signed by Guthrie. By 1860 Robinson had paid nothing, leaving Guthrie in a "very tight situation." The trust was also in trouble without receipts from Robinson and unable to sell land to others after the Panic of 1857. The holdings were divided as a settlement. [Hickman, Speculative Activities, 251]

After the demise of the town, Guthrie continued to live nearby, "at odds with the Wyandotte tribe and with those who he thought had cheated him when Quindaro collapsed." He died in Washington, D. C. in 1873, still trying to recover his lost fortune. [Bremer, Species of Madness,167]

Charles Clark