Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

Hidden artifacts?

August 22, 2002


To the editor:

I visited Lawrence last weekend to attend the activities commemorating Quantrill's raid of Aug. 21, 1863. Terrible as that incident was, I was surprised to see it is considered more significant than the even more barbaric incidents of Lawrence's Territorial days as headquarters of the pre-war free-state movement.

As I drove by the Eldridge Hotel, I paused to look at something nearby the graveled parking lot between it and the Silver Works store. That hesitation's cause prompts me to write.

The Eldridge Hotel is the spot's third building. The Free State Hotel was first, built between April 1855 and April 1856. It was destroyed during the May 21, 1856, sacking of Lawrence. During that incident, Lawrence had an odd honor bestowed upon it: The first cannonball the Border Ruffians sent flying toward it was fired by a former acting vice president of the United States, David Rice Atchison, who, while a U.S. senator from Missouri, became president pro tem of the U.S. Senate, a spot normally maintained by the vice president, but one left vacant during Millard Fillmore's administration. Another hotel was built in its place.

The second hotel was destroyed by Quantrill in his raid of 139 years ago. And another was built in its place.

Now, my reason for writing. With all this shooting, burning, and destroying going on next door to what is now a vacant lot, I wonder what might have fallen to the ground there while those two hotels were being obliterated.

Before the spot is covered with something of such lasting historical significance as a "Starbucks," why not perform an archaeological dig to see what might lie 5 or 10 feet below the surface. An 1856 unexploded cannonball, perhaps?

David Aspelin,


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