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Archive for Friday, October 20, 1995

MASSACRE HAUNTS ANCESTOR

October 20, 1995

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Feelings about the bloodiest day in Lawrence history run 130 years deep.

Jane recites her last name sparingly during this visit to Lawrence.

A trip to Oak Hill Cemetery, site of a distinctive monument to suffering, exacerbated her sense of loathing about the name.

"I felt -- what's the word -- ashamed, sad, guilty. I went to the car and yelled, 'I wish I wasn't me!'"

Jane Quantrill, of Berwick, Australia, is the great-great-granddaughter of the late guerrilla leader William C. Quantrill, who led more than 400 men on a savage raid of abolitionist Lawrence on Aug. 21, 1863.

On that day, bushwhackers massacred at least 150 of the city's men and boys, nearly all of them unarmed and pleading for their lives. The attackers, many wildly drunk on looted liquor, burned much of the city's business district and at least 100 houses.

Quantrill, a 34-year-old novelist and mother of two children, James and Anna, has known since childhood about her forefather's legacy. The family didn't advertise the facts nor hide from the truth.

"The descendants don't like it, but they'll talk about it," she said. "In my 20s, I started reading more about it."

In an interview Thursday at the Eldridge Hotel, which was badly burned during the raid, Quantrill said it was unsettling to walk down Lawrence streets that once were the scene of such carnage. Yet, it was her intention to gain first-hand insight into her family's past.

"It felt odd to be here at first," she said, "but everyone has been so nice."

If the infamous raider were here today, Quantrill said, she would ask him a simple question.

"Why the hell did you do this?"

Quantrill said she blamed her great-great-grandfather for planning the raid. However, she said, few people appreciate that there were hundreds of other invaders involved in the attack.

"I can't blame him completely," she said. "How could you control 450 men? These men were drunk. And how do you control people like (top Quantrill lieutenant) Bill Anderson, who was just out of his mind?"

Quantrill possesses physical reminders of her distant relative's bushwhacker days. At home is a ring, necklace and pistol believed to have been stolen during one of the many Quantrill raids and passed from generation to generation. On her wrist was a bracelet composed of a silver scorpion grasping a piece of turquoise.

"Of course, it was at one time someone else's."

The late Quantrill was mortally wounded near Taylorsville, Ky., in May 1865. Paralyzed below the shoulders by a bullet in his back, he lingered for a month before dying June 6, 1865. He was 27 years old.

Nearly 130 years later, his great-great-granddaughter found out what it was like to be a defenseless victim of inhuman ferocity.

In retaliation for working undercover with Australian law enforcement officials to infiltrate a neo-Nazi group, Quantrill was shot in the leg.

"I could feel the gun on my leg. It was a warning. If I kept talking, they would aim the gun higher."

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