Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Daniel E. Sutherland

Committee Member

Elliott West

Second Committee Member

Patrick G. Williams


Social sciences, Kansas territorial history, James Henry Lane, U.S history, United States


Historian Craig Miner suggests that territorial Kansas between 1854 and 1861 was "a nursery of weird and manic figures." Foremost among the weird and manic figures of Kansas history stands James Henry Lane, formerly a U.S. congressman from Indiana, and destined to become one of Kansas' first pair of senators. Writing at the midpoint of the twentieth century, Albert Castel pronounced Jim Lane "the most colorful and fascinating personality in the history of Kansas," adding that "Very likely, too, he was mentally unbalanced and paranoid."

Yet, James H. Lane never set foot on Kansas soil until he was well into his fortieth year of life. Thus, the individual who by 1860 earned a national reputation as "the Grim Chieftain of Kansas" hardly sprang full-blown from the prairies of his adopted state. He was, rather, haunted by a tragic past that has been largely overlooked by historians. So traumatic were the events that predated Jim Lane's arrival in Kansas that they arguably determined his behavior after he settled in the territory, and ultimately became part of the mix of variables that led to his suicide shortly after the Civil War. In 1854, Lane's mother, Mary Foote Howse Lane, warned her son, "What a man is at forty, he will continue to be through the remainder of his life." The present study aspires to shed light on what made Jim Lane the man he was as he celebrated his fortieth birthday, just under a year before he immigrated to Kansas.

Lane biographer Ian Spugeon recently noted "the habit of historians to focus almost solely on Lane in Kansas," as well as a need "to interpret Lane's actions in the broader context of the collapse of the second-party system and the sectional conflict." Aspiring to help fill that gap, the present study suggests that a leitmotif of the Lane story involves the inception, as much as the collapse, of America's second two-party system. Moreover, the saga of Jim Lane before Kansas was essentially a family affair. Enablers so far largely neglected by historians inspired and helped him along the way.