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Archive for Tuesday, November 18, 1997

RETIRED KU PROFESSOR REVISITS QUANTRILLREUNION

November 18, 1997

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Richard Sheridan's article on the 50th anniversary reunion of survivors of the 1863 Lawrence massacre appears in the most recent issue of the journal Kansas History.

It was Aug. 21, 1863, when Ralph Dix was ruthlessly gunned down on Massachusetts Street as his wife, Jetta Dix, watched helplessly.

Through countless tales and written accounts, including some by Jetta Dix herself, a century and a half has not, however, dulled the edges of the memory for the couple's great-granddaughter, Pat Kehde.

"There's been a whole lot of sort of romanticizing this thing," said Kehde, 56, co-owner of The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh. "She was covered with blood, he had a wife with three children ... they lost everything. I think it's a huge mistake for people to go on and on about this romantic past, because it was terrible."

Survivors of William Quantrill's raid, which left more than 150 dead, began to gather intermittently in 1891. The reunions allowed the community to share its grief.

In 1913, the group gathered for the 50th anniversary of the raid. Katie Armitage, local historian, said Dix and at least eight other widows of the raid attended the event.

The size of the reunion, about 200 people, and the variety of stories told there motivated retired KU professor of economics Richard Sheridan to take a closer look at the gathering in the most recent issue of the journal Kansas History.

To complete the task, Sheridan, who retired from KU in 1988, expanded on a section from his already completed anthology on Quantrill. He had assembled a chronology of the life and times of Quantrill, a number of narratives from witnesses to the massacre, and accounts by survivors of the raid, many of whom gathered that August day in 1913.

"People came from all over the country -- they had insights, viewpoints, experiences to share with other survivors," said Sheridan, 79. "They scattered as far the Hawaiian Islands to the East Coast."

Using a magnifying glass on Monday, Kehde was able to locate two familiar people in a reunion photograph published with the article. They appeared to be Lucy Dix, her great aunt, and Jetta Dix.

"She rebuilt the house, she ran a boarding house," Kehde said. "My great-grandmother was an incredibly strong lady."

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