Forrest & Lydia
Savage Estate


Lawrence Founder and
member of the first
musical band in Kansas

Forrest Savage

With the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the US Congress decided that residents of these two newly opened territories should vote on whether to enter the union as a slave state or free state. Nebraska was definitely going to be a free state, so the pressure was on to recruit emigrants to Kansas by both the north (abolitionists) and by the south (pro-slavery). Western Missouri, just across the river from Kansas, was a strong pro-slavery region, so many assumed Kansas would be inundated by Missouri settlers, making it a slave state. In response, wealthy abolitionists from New England began supporting groups from the north who were willing to emigrate to Kansas. The resulting chaos and violence earned Kansas Territory the name "Bleeding Kansas."

In 1854, Forrest and his brother Joseph, acting on their anti-slavery beliefs, left Boston with a group called the Emigrant Aid Society to help found what was to be the first city in Kansas Territory. The group chose to name it "Lawrence" after one of the benefactors. It immediately became the Kansas stronghold for abolitionists, attracting moderates like Forrest and Joseph as well as radicals like John Brown, all fervently decrying the injustice of slavery and vowing that Kansas would enter the union as a free state. Forrest was already married to Lydia Greely Worth Savage and the father of a 4-year-old son, so after he got settled in Kansas Territory, he brought his family to be with him.(I'm sorry I don't know more about Lydia, but such were the times.) Joseph also returned for his wife and family, but didn't have such good luck. Life on the frontier was extremely hard and Joseph's son died on the way, then his wife and three of his four children died soon after arriving in Lawrence.

Forrest, Joseph and their two cousins were the earliest known musicians in Kansas Territory, including entertaining the other pioneers as they traveled from Boston. All four had been members of the Hartford, Vermont city band, so they brought their brass instruments and music with them to Kansas. The band they started has evolved over the last 150-some years into the Lawrence City Band. The cousins didn't think much of Kansas and left soon after, but Forrest and Joseph lived in Lawrence for the rest of their lives.

Forrest and Lydia eventually raised five children in Lawrence, all of whom lived into old age. This house was built in 1888 when the youngest was 21 and (presumably) on his own, so Forrest and Lydia probably lived here alone. After having lived in cabins and small houses with five children, they must have thought of this as their mansion. They lived here more than 25 years as she died in 1914 (age 84) and he soon afterward in 1915 (age 89). Both are buried in Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Calico in the parlor

This house is an Italianate design, as are many of the classic houses from that period. As with others, it was probably mail-ordered from somewhere in the east with all the parts, then shipped to Kansas to be assembled.

In addition to be a musician, Forrest's brother Joseph was a writer (and farmer, scholar, and geologist, including an expedition to western Kansas to retrieve dinosaur fossils) so his record of the founding of Lawrence is fascinating reading. For Joseph's account, including the sometimes violent tensions between slave & free settlers, see his "Recollections of 1854" first published in 1870 and reprginted online HERE by the Kansas State Historical Society. For an excellent account of Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, including a reference to how Joseph narrowly escaped being murdered, see Thomas Goodrich's book Bloody Dawn.

Excerpts from "The First Kansas Band" by Edward Bumgardner, 1936

Surprise at the Station

In the early records of the Kansas Academy of Science the name of Joseph Savage occurs frequently. He was the pioneer explorer in the fertile field of Kansas paleontology. As a boy he lived at Hartford, Vt., where he was a member of the village brass band. On Sunday, August 26, 1854, he suddenly decided to emigrate to Kansas. One party of New Englanders had already availed themselves of the reduced rates secured by the Emigrant Aid company, and had reached the site of Lawrence. Another party was to leave Boston on the 29th of that month.

Mr. Savage made his way to Boston, arriving there on Tuesday. When he went to the station the next day to join the party bound for Kansas he was surprised to find his brother, Forrest Savage, and two cousins named Hazen, who were also members of the Hartford band. At the last moment, they too, had decided to go to Kansas. They were carrying in their hands their four musical instruments-"one a flat copper key of e bugle, one brass post horn in b flat, one b flat cornet, and one b flat baritone.

Forrest Savage

There was considerable excitement at the station. A large crowd was on hand to bid the emigrants farewell. The American poet John Greenleaf Whittier had written a poem especially for the occasion. This had been printed on cards and distributed among the people in the crowd. Someone discovered that the meter of the poem corresponded to (the Robert Burns song) "Auld Lang Syne." The four Vermont boys took up that tune wtih their horns, and as the train pulled out the voices of the Kansas emigrants and of the people remaining at the depot, led by the four instruments, were united in singing:

We cross the prairies as of old
The Pilgrims crossed the sea,
To make the West as they the East
The homestead of the free.

Joseph Savage
Journey through slave Missouri to Kansas
The route of that second party of New Englanders bound for Lawrence was a little different from what it would be today. They went from Boston to Buffalo by rail, from there to Detroit on a lake steamboat, from Detroit to Chicago by rail, to the Mississippi river over the Chicago and Alton Railroad which had just been completed, down the river to St. Louis on a Mississippi steamer, and up the Missouri River by boat to Westport Landing.

At different points along the way through the North, people assembled to see the "abolitionists," and were entertained by the playing and singing of the Kansas hymn. The song had become immensely popular as soon as it was published. No sooner had the party boarded the boat at St. Louis, however, than profane threats against the Yankees warned them that the song of freedom must be taboo on the long journey up the Missouri River; but when the little band relieved the monotony by such selections as "Annie Laurie" and "Oft in the Stilly Night" there was no interruption.

At Kansas City wagons and equipment were bought and the emigrants started on the last lap of their journey to Lawrence. Walking beside their loaded wagons, the four Vermont boys led the procession across the Kansas line playing patriotic airs. As they passed Shawnee mission they took up again the song that was not welcome in Missouri. After arriving at Lawrence they became the nucleus of the first musical organization in Kansas. Often that fall the settlers would assemble on pleasant evenings to listen to national airs played by the little band and to sing hymns and Sunday school songs to its accompaniment.

Lawrence, 1854-1855
The following are excerpts from "Recollections of 1854" by Joseph Savage, a history of the earliest days of Lawrence, first published in the Lawrence newspaper Western Home Journal in 1870 and reprinted online HERE by the Kansas State Historical Society.

Our cabin that fall was the “head center” of music in Lawrence, and every pleasant evening we had concerts within and large audiences without. Our songs consisted mostly of Sabbath school songs and sacred hymns; frequently the crowd on the outside joined in, and often, at this day, do I hear men speak in grateful remembrance of our cheerful music in the rough cabin of 1854.

More excerpts from The First Kansas Band" by Edward Bumgardner

The First Fourth of July Celebration in Kansas

Gradually new members were added to the band. 0. Wilmarth soon came out from Rhode Island with a clarinet, and Mr. Harlow from Vermont with a melodeon. Thus re-enforced, they furnished music for the first Fourth of July celebration in Lawrence in 1855. This celebration was held in a grove a mile northwest of the town. It was the first festive occasion after the settlements in Kansas were started. By primitive modes of travel, including a train of wagons from "Kennedy valley" drawn by eleven yoke of oxen, settlers came from every direction until the greatest crowd of white people thus far seen in the territory had assembled.

The Delaware and Shawnee Indians had been invited and many of them were present. They appreciated the anti-slavery attitude of the New Englanders. After he had heard "Home, Sweet Home," "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia," Pechowkee, a dignified old Delaware chief made a speech of welcome in which he said:

"We are glad that our white brothers do not come to us with the trumpets of war, but with the sweet flutes of peace and civilization.
The Indian, too, loves Liberty; the tree of liberty has been watered by many an Indian with his blood."
Quantrill's Raid and the Civil War

About this time a movement was started to secure new instruments for the band. Governor Charles Robinson headed a subscription list to raise the necessary funds, and the band gave a series of open air concerts to encourage contributions. At last their hopes were realized. A set of fine new silver instruments was received from Hall, of Boston. As soon as they had been tested the members of the band were anxious to appear in a public recital with their new equipment. It was a good band. Patient drill had made the members proficient and they were able to render harmonious music under the direction of their new leader, Mr. McCoy, from Ohio. Proudly they assembled on the evening of August 20, 1863, and gave a concert from a platform that had been erected on the spot where the great Sbunganunga boulder now stands (by what is now the Massachusetts Street Bridge). Several times that evening they were called upon respond to encores. It was high tide for the old band.

Little did the players or the listeners at that August 20th concert dream of impending disaster. Hours later, at dawn of the next day, Lawrence was destroyed by Quantrill's raiders.

Editor's Note:
(For those who might not know the story, Quantrill was the head of a notorious group of pro-slavery men known as "Bushwhackers." They raided homes on the Kansas side of the river, burning and killing in retaliation for similar actions being conducted by Jim Lane and other "Jayhawkers" from Lawrence on the Missouri side of the river. Lawrence had already been destroyed once by pro-slavery forces, but had re-built. Quantrill's men were determined to get rid of the abolitionists once and for all by murdering all the men and many of the boys.)

Between 185-200 Lawrence men and boys were killed, the vast majority of them unarmed. (Editor - The city arsenal where all weapons were kept was captured early on by Quantrill's men.) In the carnage that followed, most of the town was again burned to the ground.

The Lawrence City Band website offers the following about Joseph and the aftermath of the raid:

The next day came Quantrill's Raid...three musicians were killed , others injured and the whole of Lawrence was, in practical terms, destroyed physically, mentally and emotionally. Joseph Savage had survived the raid and was riding to his farm north of Lawrence when he saw upon a fence post one of the horns belonging to the band. The marauders had found it in one of the homes and for some reason took it along as they left Lawrence, probably not wanting to carry it any farther. The horn was bent and slammed on to the post for all to see. The horn is now on exhibit at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas. Fred Kimball, E. P. Fitch and another member of the band were instantly killed, and their director was so injured that he died soon afterward. For more than a year the survivors had but little time or heart for music, but at the time of the Price raid in October, 1864, they went to the front as a militia band and served on the border for two weeks.

Joseph and Forrest survived the carnage by pure luck. There are two very different stories regarding how Joseph escaped the slaughter, so I included both of them below. It might well be that the second one actually meant to refer to Forrest rather than Joseph.

Version #1 of how Joseph Savaged survived Quantrill's raid, from A History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley, 1895

It was growing lighter now and (Quantrill and his men) traveled faster. As they drew near to the town they grew eager for blood... Just outside of the town two of them turned aside and rode into the yard of Mr. Joseph Savage, who then lived at the Hanscom place. They went up to his front door and knocked. Mr. Savage had the good fortune to be suffering with weak eyes at the time. He had just risen and was in the rear part of the house bathing his eyes. He heard the knock but could not go to the door till he had washed his eyes. He had seen the troop going by the house, but supposing them to be Union soldiers, he gave the matter no thought. As soon as he was able he went to the door and opened it just in time to see two horsemen riding out of his gate. His weak eyes undoubtedly saved his life.

Version #2 of how Joseph Savaged survived Quantrill's raid, according to the "Quantrill Scrapebook" collection at the Kansas State Historical Society and quoted her from the excellent book Bloody Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre by Thomas Goodrich, 1991.

(Joseph Savage), his wife, and German friend...came to the home of Otis Longley; here they stopped... To their surprise they saw Otis suddenly bolt out his back door and run to the front... Close behind came two men cursing him to halt. He kept going, however, and just as he was about to reach the fence along the road, a shot rang out. Otis struggled to climb the fence. But another explosion sounded behind him and another bullet blew open his jaw, knocking him back to the ground. When the two Rebels walked up -- on greedily chomping slices of cantaloupe--Otis was on his hand and knees, coughing streams of blood. Again he tried to rise. A loud blast at close range dropped him for good. The men then crossed the fence. Joseph Savage, sometimes crawling and sometimes running and rolling, had already made a break for cover. But trembling and pale, the German sat beside Mrs. Savage stiff with fear. The woman's pleading and the sight of the horrified German was just too much, however, and the wagon was allowed to pass. The two guerrillas strolled back to the house, the one still eating melon and the other merrily tooting (Joseph's) new silver horn.
The Reunion Concert
On September 15, 1879, the remaining members of the band assembled and played for the last time. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival at Lawrence of that New England party which left Boston in 1854 singing Whittier's "Kansas Emigrants," and they had been called together to furnish music for the old settlers' meeting at Bismarck Grove... Forrest Savage and Joseph Savage came in from their farms near Lawrence. The music furnished by the old band was one of the most appreciated features of that quarter-centennial celebration.

Forrest was the last survivor of the band. A year after Lydia passed, he died peacefully in this house on August 17, 1915, his 89th year.

One more thing about Forrest...

I'll add one more item about Forrest, since I think it says quite a bit about who he was. This is an editorial he wrote that was published in the Jeffersonian Gazette of Springfield, Massachusetts on April 20th, 1899. He is calling out the hypocrisy of Christians for celebrating Easter while, at the same time, supporting the United States at war in the Philippines against Filipino nationalists who were fighting for independence.

As you might recall, the U.S. had just defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War and claimed much of Spain's land in America, including their colony of the Philippines. Rather than change from one colonial ruler to another, Filipino nationalists wanted independence, a movement the U.S. militarily crushed. Forrest calls out "members of these churches, with the most destructive weapons of war this world has ever seen, (who) will be marching on with loud yells and curses, killing and destroying the natives of the island who have never harmed a hair of their heads, who with their rude instruments of war gladly die by the thousands for the liberty of their native land."

It is said that over 200,000 Filipinos died either outright from the war or from the resulting famine and disease during the American colonization of the Philippines, and the mistreatment continues to this day.

I am proud to be living in the house built by Forrest and Lydia Savage.

Larry Carter

Forrest and Lydia were certainly interesting people. There were a number of fascinating characters involved with the early history of Lawrence, including neighbors Charles and Sara Robinson (first governor of Kansas - impeached basically for being a moderate in a time of radicals) who lived several miles straight east of here. John Brown and Jim Lane (from the radical abolitionist cause) were also contemporaries of Forrest and Lydia. Finally, Hugh Cameron (later known as The Kansas Hermit) lived a couple of miles south on the Kansas River. Cameron (left) is the namesake for my "Lawrence Old Guard Productions." Click HERE for his story.
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