Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday, Kansas!

Kansas Day is coming soon–January 29. It commemorates the day that Kansas gained admission as a state on that date in 1861.

Here’s how it happened:

The Kansas bill, which would make Kansas a state had been in Congress for some time, and the House of Representatives had already passed it when it came to the floor of the Senate. Because the proposed constitution for this new state declared that Kansas would be a state without slavery, the Senators from the southern states would not approve it. Abraham Lincoln had recently been elected president, but he had not yet taken office. Everyone knew that Lincoln opposed slavery, and some southern states were threatening to secede (withdraw) from the United States. On January 21, 1861, the senators from Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi announced their states’ secession and left the Senate. When the vote on the Kansas Bill was called, it passed 36-16. A week later, the bill was again passed in the House of Representatives, and President Buchanan signed it on January 29, 1861.

If you’d like to sing a Happy Birthday song for Kansas, you might try this one. The words are from a poem written called “The Kansas Emigrants” by John Greenleaf Whittier. Early residents of Kansas sang it to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, the song traditionally sung at New Year’s celebrations. Here is the first stanza of Whittier’s poem, and the chorus that was usually sung with it.

We cross the prairie as of old

The pilgrims crossed the seas,

To make the West, as they the East,

The homestead of the free!

The homestead of the free, my boys,

The homestead of the free.

To make the West, as they the East,

The homestead of the free!

Happy Kansas Day!