Fort Titus (1855-1856) – During the fight to decide whether Kansas would be a Free-State or a pro-slavery state, the capitol moved several times. In the spring of 1855, the official capital of Kansas Territory was in Lecompton, Kansas and was governed by pro-slavery advocates. However, there were numerous settlers in the area who had expressly moved to Kansas Territory in order to ensure that it would become a Free-State, many of whom lived in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, the unofficial Free-State capitol. The tensions between these two factions erupted in what is known as the Kansas-Missouri Border War. One of the main pro-slavery advocates was a man named Colonel Henry T. Titus, who built a fortified log house about two miles south of Lecompton, which soon became a rendezvous place for pro-slavery men.
After Free-State men had destroyed another slavery stronghold referred to as Fort Saunders on August 15, 1856, the Jayhawkers turned their attention to Fort Titus the following day. At dawn, some 400 Free-Staters, divided into two parties, surrounded Fort Titus and a cannon was pointed directly at the fortified cabin. In the battle that ensued, the Free-State men killed one man and wounded six others, including Colonel Titus.
When the pro-slavery advocates finally surrendered, the Jayhawkers captured some 400 muskets, a large number of knives and pistols, 13 horses, several wagons, supplies and provisions, $10,000 in gold and bank drafts, and 34 prisoners. However, the Jayhawkers also suffered in the battle, with six men wounded and one killed. The victors then burned Fort Titus to the ground and the prisoners were taken to Lawrence where they were “exchanged” on August 18th under a treaty made between Governor Wilson Shannon and the Free-State leaders. Today, the Titus cabin has been rebuilt by the Lecompton Historical Society and sits about 100 yards southeast of the Territorial Capitol Museum.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2018.