Archive for Thursday, September 24, 1992


September 24, 1992


Halloween will have an interesting twist for Kansas history buffs this year.

On Oct. 31 129 years, 3 months and 10 days after William Clarke Quantrill's infamous raid on Lawrence some of his bones and a clump of his hair are to be taken from the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka to the Confederate Veterans' Cemetery in Higginsville, Mo., for reburial.

The ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Higginsville, which is on Interstate 70 east of Kansas City.

On Aug. 21, 1863, Quantrill hit Lawrence with his band of guerrilla fighters, killing 150 local men as well as looting and burning the city before high-tailing it back to Missouri.

Less than two years later, on June 6, 1865, the Confederate guerrilla chief died of gunshot wounds at Louisville, Ky. He was 27 years old.

Initially, his body was buried there, but historical accounts report that on Dec. 7, 1887, a man named William W. Scott, a boyhood friend and would-be Quantrill biographer, went with Quantrill's mother to dig up his remains.

MRS. QUANTRILL apparently planned to rebury them in the family cemetery plot in Canal Dover, Ohio, not far from Louisville, but Scott had other ideas.

Randy Phies, public archaeologist at the Kansas State Historical Society, said this week that no more than 10 days later, Scott wrote to F.G. Adams, the first secretary of the historical society, offering Quantrill's bones for sale.

In May 1888, Phies said, Scott came to either Lawrence or Topeka and talked to Adams about the bones, giving him two tibiae, which are the larger lower-leg bones, the shin bones.

In the jargon of museum collections, Phies explained, the tibiae were a "teaser" meant to entice Adams to buy the rest of the bones. Apparently, Scott would have sold Quantrill's skull for as little as $25.

Either no money was available to make the purchase, or Adams chose not to buy, because Scott returned home without making the sale.

In the meantime, though, Phies said, Mrs. Quantrill may have buried at least some of her son's bones in the family plot as she intended. No one knows.

WHEN SCOTT died in 1902, Phies said, the historical society negotiated with his widow for her husband's Quantrill manuscripts, and "she tossed in the arm bones" two from Quantrill's right arm and one from his left.

Also in the society's collection, Phies said, is a small vial of Quantrill's hair, labeled as having been given by Scott to a woman in New London, Conn., in 1890. The woman's husband reportedly rode with Quantrill and survived an ambush planned by Quantrill on his own men.

Phies said he had not traced the vial's history but noted it was to be reburied with the bones.

Interestingly, he added, Quantrill's skull made its way via Scott's son to a college fraternity, where it was used for years in initiation rituals complete with lighted eye sockets. Now the skull is displayed in the Dover, Ohio, Historical Society Museum.

THE UPCOMING reburial is possible, Phies said, because of two laws passed in 1989 by the Kansas Legislature. One permits the historical society to release burial remains and goods in its possession, and an unmarked burial sites preservation law established a state board to decide what to do with such remains.

The goal of the laws, Phies said, is to get remains such as Quantrill's properly buried or reburied.

In Missouri in 1989, the Sons of Confederate Veterans learned of Kansas' new laws, Phies said, and contacted the historical society regarding Quantrill's bones.

Robert L. Hawkins III, commander-in-chief of the group, has been in charge of arrangements.

Hawkins is out of his office until next week, but Phies said he understood the Missouri group made arrangements through that state's Department of Natural Resources for the reburial at Higginsville's cemetery.

He said he also understood an effort by the group to reunite the skull with Kansas' remains for the reburial proved unsuccessful.

FOR THE Kansas society's part, though, Phies added, "We welcome this opportunity." He noted since no direct descendants or close relatives of Quantrill's were known, the Sons of Confederate Veterans seemed an appropriate group to carry out the man's reburial.

Phies said he was especially "tickled to be a part of all this" because the first day he worked for the historical society in 1974 as a lab intern while he was a Washburn University student he spied Quantrill's remains on an examining table.

"It just can't be," he remembered thinking when he saw the identification tags. "I'm from western Kansas, but I still recalled the name."

The experience, he said, was pivotal in his decision to pursue a career in archaeology.

"Now, here I am, able to participate in the final analysis, final study and reburial. . . . I will personally take (the remains) to Higginsville."

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