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Archive for Monday, August 8, 2005

Grisly gatherings

Data from 142 years ago and the reunions spawned by a brutal massacre may explain a lingering interstate resentment.

August 8, 2005

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A glance at Lawrence attitudes of 100 years ago provides a clear reason why Kansas-Missouri animosity has maintained such a presence for so long and may never totally vanish.

Border warfare raged on many previous occasions in the 1800s. The most notable manifestation of the hatred generated by such activity came in August 1863: William Quantrill and his raiders roared into Lawrence from Missouri, slaughtered all the men and boys they could find and did their best to level the town.

In later years, the date of the massacre, Aug. 21, was an event to be soberly recalled, observed and analyzed in Kansas, particularly Lawrence. We are nearing another annual such commemoration. By contrast, surviving raiders and their families and friends held regular "celebrations" of the event in Missouri. Little wonder resentment in the Sunflower State has been so slow to dissolve.

On Aug. 28, 1905, the Lawrence Daily World noted in an understated manner: "It is quite natural that Cole Younger, a thief and murderer, should be the leading spirit in the annual Quantrell Raid reunions in Missouri. He is often mentioned in that role. They all are a lot of thieves, thugs and murderers and the statute of limitations has mighty little business fooling around to help them out. It is a disgrace to Missouri that these people are allowed to hold their reunions. That state and its leaders ought to stand for better things."

Cole Younger's propensity for crime is well-known and he has been documented as one of the raiders. But this local comment occurred in 1905, 42 years after the Lawrence massacre. There still were regular reunions of the killers and their kin.

As for the raid itself, there was uncertainty 142 years ago about the real human toll and that has not changed. On the Aug. 21 anniversary of the attack in 1905, the Daily World noted:

": 42 years ago today, W.C. Quantrell and his band raided Lawrence and killed all of our citizens they could find. It was one of the bloodiest deeds in the history of the country. One hundred and forty-seven bodies were found at the time. Afterwards, the bodies of six others were found in wells where people had hidden when the raiders came. The others, at least 30, were never found or accounted for but their families know they died. Some surely were burned in buildings that were set afire. There were 412 raiders and the survivors of that criminal group held a reunion near Independence, Mo., today, an event they stage each year. They ought to take a good deal of satisfaction in their declining years to read the list we print today of their victims and to know that many bodies of the victims were never found. : Lawrence should never forget this terrible massacre, and it is an anniversary the town should mourn forever."

Over the years, the Quantrill Raid toll has varied between 150 and 160 but the Daily World's reports indicated that figure was at least as high as 180. Reports indicate only men and boys died and that women were spared. That, too, has been disputed. But considering the toll in local humanity and the way Lawrence was forced to rise from the ashes, it is grisly, indeed, to imagine annual reunions of murderers in Missouri.

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