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John A. Halderman, 1833-1908

Materials relating to John A. Halderman

Born in Fayette County, Kentucky, on April 15, 1833, John Adams Halderman was the third and youngest son of Susan Henderson Rogers and John A. Halderman, a physician. The younger Halderman apparently acquired an interest in a military career early in life, but frustrated in his efforts to gain appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Halderman attended McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, Xavier College in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the University of Louisville. His most important educational experience, however, came in the Lexington law office of his uncle, Colonel C. C. Rogers, where Halderman read law, and in the spring of 1854, he was admitted to the bar.

At about this same time, Halderman became intrigued by the prospects for a young man in the newly created territory of Kansas and was soon on his way west. Although at least one source indicates that Halderman's father opposed slavery and supported John C. Fremont's Republican candidacy in 1856, the son identified himself with Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas's wing of the Democratic Party and, although he later insisted that he too opposed the institution of slavery, supported the principle of popular sovereignty as embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and was identified with Kansas's “proslave” party. Thereafter, Halderman worked diligently to make Kansas a Democratic state, while serving as private secretary (November 1854) to the territory's first governor Andrew H. Reeder, secretary of the first Territorial Council in 1855, Leavenworth County's first probate judge, a member of the territorial council of 1857, and a Douglas delegate to the 1860 national convention. Nevertheless, Halderman vehemently opposed the infamous Lecompton Constitution that sought to force slavery on an unwilling Kansas populace and was even a partner in the purchase of the Leavenworth Journal as an oracle for that opposition. “While I controlled or owned it [the Journal],” wrote Halderman in 1881, “it favored a free state in Kansas, fought Lecompton, and supported Douglas.” But the split among “proslave” partisans over the ill-advised Lecompton effort further weakened the fledgling Kansas Democracy, and Halderman's party building efforts were to no avail. The Free State (soon to be Republican) Party won the day in Kansas and, at some point during the Civil War (probably in 1861), Halderman switched his party allegiance.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Major John A. Halderman helped recruit and then lead the troops of the First Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment, who saw considerable action at the Battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10, 1861), near Springfield, Missouri. During the latter part of that same year, Halderman married Anna B. Dorrien, and to support a growing family during the postwar period, Halderman expanded his business interests and pursued his law practice in Leavenworth. He served as mayor of that city for two terms, as a regent of the state university at Lawrence, and as a member of the state legislature. In 1880 Halderman received an appointment as the first U.S. consul to Bangkok, Siam (later Thailand), and in 1883 he was named the first U.S. minister to Siam. He resigned that post in July 1885 and spent the last two decades of his life in Washington, D.C., where he died on September 21, 1908.

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Dean, Virgil W. Biographical sketch of “Halderman, John Adams.” In American National Biography . New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

In Memoriam . . . John A. Halderman . Circular No. 3. Leavenworth, Kans.: Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Commandery of the State of Kansas, 1909.

Wilson, Paul E. “John Adams Halderman: Our Eldest Brother.” The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association 54 (Summer 1985): 84-95.

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