Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2001

Lawrence’s history steeped in pro-, anti-slavery battles

August 19, 2001


Here are some highlights of Lawrence's earliest days.

In 1854, Lawrence was named for Amos A. Lawrence, treasurer of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company. The wealthy Bostonian encouraged those against slavery to settle in Lawrence to provide a buffer against the pro-slavers in Missouri. He also provided supplies and money for the anti-slavery cause and donated $12,000 toward founding a Free State college. The money ultimately went to Kansas University.

March 30, 1855, marked the date of the first nonviolent conflict between Free-Staters in Kansas and those favoring slavery. About 800 armed Missourians crossed into Kansas Territory to vote for members of the first territorial legislature. Pro-slavery candidates won in Lawrence and most other districts in the Kansas Territory.

One of the actions of the pro-slavery legislature was to establish Douglas County, named for Stephen A. Douglas. This was considered an insult by Lawrence residents, who considered Douglas a traitor to the anti-slave movement in the North.

During 1855 and 1856, gun battles between Free-Staters and Pro-Slavers were not uncommon in Douglas County. One series of battles was called the Wakarusa War.

The first battlefield skirmish between the two forces took place near Baldwin and is known as the Battle of Black Jack.

The Free-Staters won.

Many historians agree the first bloodshed of the Civil War began in "Bleeding Kansas," as it was called in the 1850s.

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