|Detail from St. John, KS mural|
Bickerton returned to Pennsylvania, and on January 2, 1875, a conference was held to describe the place selected and gain the endorsement for his settlement. Having accomplished that, the Zion Colonization Society was organized, funds were pledged, and those who wished to join the colony were invited, including those who lacked church affiliation. Those who owned property in Pennsylvania were least interested in leaving, but those who stayed behind agreed to provide financial support for those who chose to go, especially needed until the farms on the prairie began producing revenue.
Unfortunately, the promised financial support proved as undependable as the Kansas weather. That future could not have been known when the first group of settlers arrived in five wagons on April 3, 1875. Bickerton described the unwelcoming conditions of their arrival as "very rough weather and snowing. Many of the Brethren came from the East, and we lived in tent houses." Despite the harsh conditions, they staked their claims and filed them in Larned. Only 2 or 3 women had arrived with the men, as husbands had wanted to construct better dwellings before bringing their wives.
The details of the treatment from those who had stayed in Pennsylvania to offer financial support while the colony got established is not a proud story. Particularly damaging was one returned member who reported exaggerated negative conditions and prospects. When supplies and financial support stopped, Bickerton returned to Pennsylvania to sort out the problem, taking with him a display of the crops they had raised. Unfortunately, the intentional deceptions continued, resulting in severe privations for the settlers.
|Detail from St. John, KS Mural|
The St. John mural appears to depict arrivals of later colonist, as the early arrivals were in winter snows, and few women were among them. Those original men needed oxen rather than cattle to open the prairie sod for fields.