Phillip Schuyler

Schuyler Museum, Burlingame

The Burlingame Historical Preservation Society museum is on the first floor of the former Schuyler Grade School, built in 1902.
[Keith W. Stokes,]

Phillip Church Schuyler (1805-1872) was born in Stillwater-on-the-Hudson, into an historically prominent New York family. [Cruise, Union Pacific, 542] He was one of the earliest settlers in Osage County, emigrating to Kansas with his family in Spring 1855 and purchasing a claim that is now a large part of the town of Burlingame. Samuel R. Caniff came with Schuyler and purchased an adjoining claim that also became part of the town. The two New Yorkers were with a group of settlers sent out by the American Settlement Company with the ambitious goal of founding a large settlement named Council City. [Cutler, History, Osage County, Part 2] The Settlement Company was formed by the Liberal League and Emigration Aid Society. Although $30,000 in shares were sold in New York, very little money was spent on emigration or reached Kansas. The name of Schuyler and Cuniff's town was changed to Burlingame in 1857 when the name "Council City" had become too closely associated with the New York fraud. [Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Osage County]

Schuyler was an important figure in Free-State circles from the outset. Isaac Goodnow remembered him at the August 14, 1855 "Reconciliation" meeting in Lawrence where Schuyler "presided with distinguished ability, and gave universal satisfaction." When young Charles Foster was critical of Jim Lane's colorful background, everyone expected a reply from Lane. When Lane did not speak, "Judge Schulyer, cried out with a strong voice which ought to have been heard a block away 'Where is the redoubtable Colonel?' Still no `Colonel' appeared! It was not long, however, before he offered a set of apt, pointed resolutions, which every member of the convention could not help voting for." [Goodnow, Personal Reminiscences, 251] As an outspoken free-state man, Schuyler was threatened in Lawrence by several pro-slavery men: "One of them told him they would kill him if he did not obey the pro- slavery laws; another said he would be regarded as a traitor to his country and the constitution; a third said: `We will kill you and light your souls in hell with the flames of your dwellings.' Schuyler protested that this was very uncivil language, and in response he was denounced as a liar, a scoundrel, and a traitor." [Martin, First Two Years in Kansas]

Schuyler was a delegate to the Big Springs meeting and to the Topeka Convention in 1855. He had been Vice-President of the Free-State group calling for the convention [Goodin, Topeka Movement, 128] and at the convention he was nominated for the United States Senate, losing to Lane [Goodin, Topeka Movement, 206.] Schuyler was chosen for the Executive Committee of the Free-State Party, acting until officers were elected in January 1856 under the new Topeka Constitution. By popular vote, he was then elected Secretary of State, [Blackmar, History, Shannon's Administration] defeating another prominent free-state man, Cyrus K. Holliday. [Barnes, Letters of Holliday,276] When United States Army Colonel Sumner announced his orders for the dispersal of Legislature on July 4, 1856, Schuyler rose to challenge him: "Colonel Sumner, are we to understand that the Legislature is dispersed at the point of the bayonet?" Sumner replied: "I shall use the whole force under my command to carry out my orders." [Goodin, Topeka Movement, 235]

At the Topeka Convention, Schuyler joined Robinson and Wakefield as part of the "radical" group, favoring immediate statehood under a free-state constitution and opposing a "conservative" or "National Democratic" faction led by Lane, Delahay and Parrott. [Stephenson, Political Career, 53] By July 1856, however one free-state man considered him to be "conservative." Henry Williams wrote:

"Judge Schulyer's popularity is hurt in Kansas on account of his timidity in times of danger or rather his conservatism or prudence, men that in the earlier days of Kansas were considered rash and imprudent are now the most popular, The stirring times that we have had in the past few weeks has shown who are the men to be relied upon in every emergency and they will be remembered I think." [Smith, Letters, 169]

Later, the "conservative" Schuyler was willing to participate in an election under the Lecompton "pro-slavery" constitution, in hopes of changing the constitution later. A free-state convention in Lawrence decided not to participate and Schuyler joined a "bolting" group holding a mass meeting the next day. The meeting nominated him for Secretary of State. The free- state ticket won by a narrow margin, but never took office. [Crawford, Candle-Box, 197] Still a "conservative," he joined the "Frontier Guard," about 120 Kansas men who volunteered to guard the White House when it was considered to be in danger in 1861. He served as a very elderly private in the Guard. [Kansas Historical Collections 10:419]

From his arrival in Kansas until the time of his death, Schuyler was an active promoter of Burlingame and its industries. With his partner Caniff, he bought a sawmill in 1855 and logs poured in to the mill. One resident later remembered that "sometimes there would be two and three hundred logs in the yard at one time, furnishing all us boys a fine place to play hide-and-go- seek." [Dension, Early Days in Osage County, 377] In 1859 he was elected Probate Judge of the county. [Kansas Historical Collections 5:452] In 1859 he ran for the Burlingame City Council as a Democrat but was defeated by the Republican candidate. [Stewart, Diary, 366] During the 1860's, he promoted railroad development and brought lines to his home town. [Cruise, Union Pacific, 542] Shortly before his death in 1871, he was still active, sinking a coal shaft near the railroad depot in Burlingame. He encountered water problems, but had no doubt he would reach a coal seam. [TopekaDaily Commonwealth, November 7, 1871]

Charles Clark