KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

Jayhawking September 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — melon19 @ 3:23 pm

Jayhawking is something that intrigues me quite a bit. I grew up in Kansas and always knew that Jayhawking was a term that came from around the Civil War. However, it was always a subject that we seemed to move over quickly in school. I had never really thought about where the name “Jayhawk” came from. I looked it up and apparently it comes from the jaybird and the hawk. The jay distresses intruders and the hawk kills them. It makes sense in the context of the kind of Jayhawking that Charles Jenison was doing.

Charles Jenison came from New York originally and was a doctor for a while. He quit the trade and decided to start stealing horses instead in and around the Kansas Territory. He was very good at doing this and traded the horses to neighboring states. Not only did he become known as a legendary horse stealer, he also became known as a devout abolitionist. He hung two Missourians who he caught returning slaves to their “masters”. Missourians were obviously outraged. Jenison said what he was doing was “honorable and just”.

Jenison was put in charge of the 7th Kansas Calvary Regiment. They became known as “Jenison’s Jayhawkers.” Becoming lieutenant colonel seemed to justify his prewar behavior. He and his regiment were assigned to the Western Missouri border. This allowed him to continue on with his guerilla-combat like ways. He resigned from his position for a while and started a small business. After Quantril’s raid, he was once again asked to raise a regiment and protect the border.

After the civil war,  Jenison was elected onto the house of representatives and later the senate. He led a very interesting and influential life. However, it was highly debated as to whether or not he was of noble character. In whatever way people may view him though; he is part of a legacy that we still study today. It is a legacy that we even revere through our own school’s mascot, the Jayhawk.

Madeline Johnson






7 Responses to “Jayhawking”

  1. bross7 Says:

    Your blog is like a fun fact about our school mascot but also very well stated to understand the history behind the word. In our course readings along with lecture the term “Jayhawking” came up and at first I had no idea what it meant. I did find it rather bizarre that it was related to our school mascot and I was curious as to what exactly the term meant. I like how in your blog you defined what each part of the word stands for like the “Jay” meaning to distress intruders and the “Hawk” meaning to kill them. I also like how you incorporated a little background information of Charles Jenison and how his regiment used the word as part of their name. I think this is really cool because forever I thought that our school mascot was so sweet and innocent looking but only if several others actually knew what “Jayhawk” stands for!
    -Brittany Ross

  2. KuJen33 Says:

    That is so interesting! I also grew up in Kansas and heard the term “jayhawking” many times but no one ever really explained where it came from. It makes sense why KU chose our mascot to be a jayhawk too. I think its really interesting too that the rival between Kansas and Missouri still continues today and people are still angry about what happened so long ago. Great post!

    -Jenny Jordan

  3. Michelle Dunson Says:

    Interesting post! I always knew Jayhawkers were the name for the anti-slavery forces during Bleeding Kansas, and I even knew the Jayhawk was a combination of a jaybird and a hawk, but I never knew why those birds were chosen or what they had to do with the slavery conflict. I’m curious though, did Charles Jenison coin the term Jayhawking, or do we know who did?

    -Michelle Dunson

    • melon19 Says:

      I couldn’t find who exactly coined the phrase, but I did find that historians think it was used first in 1849. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not it was even first used by Kansans. It was soon identified as a Kansas cultural word however.



    • Kristen Epps Says:

      That’s a good question, Michelle. Madeline’s answer is right…it is difficult for us to pin down that information. If you are ever in Osawatomie, Kansas, there is a historical plaque there that claims that the term was first used in a saloon in town. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but I’ll try to find a picture of that plaque.

  4. mraasch Says:

    As i was reading this article it made me realize that KU of all places does not really go into any detail why we got the name Jayhawks. I believe that we should have more of a brief history on Kansas history and how we as a state became the way we are.

    With that, it is intriguing that Kansas would use a Jayhawker has a LT in the military to protect its boards; even after knowing his past as a radical supporter of the Union cause. Not only a leader in the military, but as a political leader. It just goes to show that no matter what the person believes in, as long as it is for a better cause (the nation) it seems to be worthy. Kansas is a state founded on glory, pride, and respect; something that no one can ever take from her.

  5. canfieldjay Says:

    Awesome post! Wow, its seems that Charles Jenison was a very intelligent man who also had a severe case of ADHD. After reading through the links given, it is impressive to note all the things he was involved with. He went from a doctor to a horse thief, then from an abolitionist to a lieutenant colonel, quit the army to start a business then take a shot at the House of Representatives. Busy guy.
    I strongly agree with the conclusion in this post. It seems that, as time passes, those who were famous in the past become famous again in the present but for different reasons. This is not always the case, there have been good people who will forever be remembered as good people but then you have guys like Jesse James, Doc. Holiday, and Charles Jenison whose legacy will outlast their character. Its what the legends are made of.

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