Archive for Friday, February 6, 1998


February 6, 1998


— Bleeding Kansas will be the subject of a Constitution Hall lecture series.

How bloody was Bleeding Kansas? Was radical abolitionist John Brown really a warm, friendly guy? What kind of weapons were used during the 1850s Kansas guerrilla war over slavery?

Those questions and others will be answered here in a

series of historical lectures at Constitution Hall Museum beginning Feb. 15.

This will be the second consecutive year free lectures have been organized at the museum by curator Tim Rues.

Each of the five lectures in last year's program on Territorial Douglas County attracted 40 to 65 people. History buffs from Kansas City, Topeka and Lawrence came to this Kansas River overlook, which 130 years ago was a political stronghold for pro-slavery forces.

"It was well received last year," Rues said. "This year I think there will be even higher attendance because of the subject matter."

Rues predicts the April 26 lecture on weapons used during the war between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces will attract so many people it might need to be moved around the corner to Lane University Museum, a larger Lecompton historical site.

"Dale Watts has done extensive research on the weapons used," Rues said. "That includes everything from rocks to cartridge-loading Sharps carbines. Guns seem to be a popular topic."

Watts is a historian with the Kansas Historical Society. In the Summer 1995 issue of Kansas History magazine he published an article, still controversial among historians of the period, stating there were only 56 politically motivated murders in Kansas from 1854-61. In short, he concluded that Bleeding Kansas was not as bloody as many suppose.

Watts contends that many killings attributed to the political struggle actually resulted from land disputes and other murderously mundane disagreements.

He will be available for questioning by those who might doubt his numbers.

The Feb. 15 lecture, first in the series, is titled, "The Undeclared Civil War in Southeast Kansas." It will be presented by Brad Woellhof, curator of the Marais des Cygnes Massacre Park, a state historic site near Trading Post.

The other lectures are:

  • March 1: "Col. Henry Titus and the Kansas Filibuster Expedition," by Antonio de la Cova, professor of Latin American Studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

Filibusters were American pro-slavery supporters who tried to foment revolution in Nicaragua and other Central American countries with hopes of creating a new haven there for U.S. slaveholders.

  • March 29: "A Cabin in Kansas: John Brown of Osawatomie," by Andrea Renick-Bell, curator of the Adair (John Brown) Cabin state historic site in Osawatomie.
  • April 19: "John Brown's Other Raid," by Patrick Brophy, director of the Vernon County Historical Society Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, Mo.

Rues said Brophy will present the "Missouri perspective," of the border wars.

  • April 26: Watts will deliver his weapons lecture titled, "Plows and Bibles, Rifles and Revolvers: Guns in Kansas Territory."

Each of the lectures begins at 2 p.m. and should last about one hour, Rues said. Admission is free. For additional information contact Rues at 887-6520.

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is

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