Murder and arson were the main topics of discussion Saturday during a horse-drawn tour of central Lawrence.
In conjunction with the 140th anniversary of William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, seven great-great- grandchildren of a man targeted during the raid -- Jacob Ulrich Sr. -- toured the city to learn about what happened Aug. 21, 1863. They passed homes, parks and office buildings that serve as reminders of the four-hour killing spree considered by many to be one of the worst atrocities in the nation's history.
"It's more horrendous than I thought," one of Ulrich's descendants, Joyce Reinke of Bloomington, Minn., said afterward.
The tour began at the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Mass., with a talk that described the years of guerrilla fighting between free-state and pro-slavery forces that led up to the raid.
Tour guide Paul Stuewe, who teaches history at Lawrence High School, emphasized that the raid wasn't a military battle. Rather, it was a slaughter of at least 150 unarmed men, he said.
As the trolley rolled south on New Hampshire Street, Stuewe pointed out a parking garage. At the time, the area was part of South Park, and 17 unarmed Union recruits camping there were some of the first to die, he said.
Most of the city's guns were sitting in an arsenal north of the Eldridge, Stuewe said.
At the northwest corner of Eighth and Indiana streets, Stuewe pointed to a home where he said a woman came out to meet the raiders. She told them she was a widow and that if they wanted to burn her house, they should kill her, too, Stuewe said.
They passed by.
"This is the only house in Old West Lawrence that we know of that was not burned by the raiders," he said.
The basketball court in Buford M. Watson Jr. Park was, at the time, a brush-filled gulley where some men hid, Stuewe said. In another part of the park, the body of the only raider killed that day came to rest after a mob dragged him through the city.
Ulrich was a miller who helped found Pleasant Grove south of Lawrence and was a friend of abolitionist John Brown, Ulrich's descendants said. Quantrill's men stopped in Pleasant Grove on the way out of Lawrence, burned Ulrich's barn, and tried to burn his home, family members said. Ulrich escaped by hiding in a cornfield.
Asked whether they harbor a bitterness for Quantrill -- the man one historian described as "the bloodiest man in American history" -- they took the high road.
"It's just history," said Ila Ulrich of Kansas City, Kan.