Archive for Friday, August 10, 2012

History draws ‘rut nuts’ to town

August 10, 2012


A party of 50 set out from Lawrence to travel the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. This group didn’t embark in search of a new life, however, but an old past.

Oregon Trail enthusiasts visit historic sites

Charles Weickert, Marysville, talks about viewing the wagon ruts east of Baldwin City left over from settlers traveling the Oregon Trail. Weickert is part of about 300 Oregon California Trail conventioneers gathering at the Lawrence Holidome. Enlarge video

Marge Harding, from Oregon City, Ore., sets up a display of period dress for the 1840s as part of the Oregon and California Trails Association meeting on Wednesday at the Lawrence Holidome. More than 300 people have come for the convention.

Marge Harding, from Oregon City, Ore., sets up a display of period dress for the 1840s as part of the Oregon and California Trails Association meeting on Wednesday at the Lawrence Holidome. More than 300 people have come for the convention.

Kerry Altenbernd, played John Brown at Black Jack Park where some of the 300 Oregon and California Trails Association convention-goers, who came to Lawrence to celebrate the history of plains settlers.

Kerry Altenbernd, played John Brown at Black Jack Park where some of the 300 Oregon and California Trails Association convention-goers, who came to Lawrence to celebrate the history of plains settlers.

The Oregon and California Trails Association held its annual convention in Lawrence this week, to experience the Oregon and Santa Fe trails that pass through Douglas County and the area’s Civil War history.

“Between 1840 and 1860, half a million people sold the farm and headed West,” association member John Krizek, of Prescott, Ariz., said as he walked a stretch of the Santa Fe Trail on Thursday.

“We are trying to save the evidence of those hearty folks that built this country.”

The group followed footsteps of both the settlers and militia who used the trails. These footsteps led them to Black Jack Battlefield, three miles east of Baldwin City. Jeff Quigley and Kerry Altenbernd of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust greeted them in period dress and recounted how John Brown and free-state militia captured pro-slavery Henry Pate’s encampment after three hours of fighting.

“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t like history,’” said Altenbernd, dressed as John Brown. “That’s because history isn’t taught right. History lives, and that’s what we do here. We tell the story.”

That personal connection to history is what draws many association members — who sometimes refer to themselves as “rut nuts” — to the tours.

“They’re hungry for it,” said association board member Vern Osborne of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Standing on old battle fields and treading paths of long-gone settlers also helped Charles Weickert, of Marysville, find the past he was searching for.

“I’m becoming more interested in my ancestors and what they had to put up with,” he said amidst the sunflowers and switch grass growing in the wagon ruts. “It just helps me get back closer to the earth and what the Indians tried to tell us long ago: The earth is the Lord’s.”

– Staff intern Adam Strunk can be reached at 832-7146.


FlintlockRifle 5 years ago

This would have been very interesting to attend,,had word of this been spread around, maybe it was in the ""rut nut" circle.

kerryaltenbernd 5 years ago

The Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve and the Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park both contain ruts from the Santa Fe Trail. They are three miles east of Baldwin City off US Highway 56. The ruts on the Prairie Preserve are accessible through the two-acre "Black Jack Park" along the highway. The Battlefield and Nature Park is a quarter mile south on E 2000 Road. The Prairie Preserve is owned by Douglas County. The Battlefield and Nature Park is owned by the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, and is open to the public for self-guided tours from dawn to dusk year-round.

riverdrifter 5 years ago

Black Jack Park, a few miles east of Baldwin City on US 56. The ruts there are nearly over your head.

blindrabbit 5 years ago

KansasLiberal: Deep ruts on Santa Fe Trail at Black Jack Battlefield area 2 miles east of Baldwin City on US56. Area is public, park in area just off of 56 and also visit log cabin there. No area of Oregon/California Trail ruts, the only public place that I am aware of is near Chi Omega fountain and Lindley Hall on KU campus. Too bad Lawrence has not recognized O/C Trail, route crossed at 6th and Wakarusa, up the hill near St. Margarets Episcopal Church, then to Elkin Prairie (what's left of it) then to site of proposed new Rec. Center. The Rec Center location would be a good place to provide some access and recognition.

blindrabbit 5 years ago

kerry: Did not see your post prior to mine on Santa Fe Trail and Black Jack Park! what do you think about some Oregon/California Trail recognition per my prior post?

kerryaltenbernd 5 years ago

I definitely think that more recognition of all the rich local history we are fortunate enough to have here in Douglas County the better. Having the proposed Rec Center as one place for that recognition would probably be a good idea, but I am concerned that the powers that be would not push very hard for doing so. I was on the School Board when Free State opened, and I tried hard to get it to be a place where local history could be recognized and commemorated. Wayne Wildcat was preparing a three part painting about the Free State history of the area that would have been in the commons area of the high school. As he had with the painting at Central, he was involving students in the research, planning, and execution of the work. Outside sources were going to supply all the funding. All he needed was the school district to agree to accept the work and it would have been done, but internal politics in the district thwarted us at every turn, and after several years of trying, he finally became frustrated by the opposition and dropped the project, much to the detriment of the students at Free State and the recognition of our history in Lawrence. If the Rec Center is built, for it to be a place for recognition of our history, then there will need to be a concerted effort to make sure that internal city politics do not let what happened at Free State repeat itself again.

kerryaltenbernd 5 years ago

I hope I wasn't too pessimistic. With the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area and the revitalized Watkins Museum, there is much more support for history in the area.

FlintlockRifle 5 years ago

Kerry, in Big Springs just to west edge of town on north side is some ruts , but it is on private property. From the turnpike you can see them , there use to be an old wagon siting in the ruts, but think it has different owners know .Keep pushing foreward.

Mark Kostner 5 years ago

I had two ancestors who traveled on the California Trail. If there are authenic ruts at the rec site I'd love to see them. There are Santa Fe Trail ruts near Dodge City and Fort Union, NM but they were made in short grass in a dry climate. That would be remarkable if something survived in the moist climate of Northeast Kansas. I know US 40 follows the trail for a ways and you can tell by the winding road that wasn't built on a grid or blasted through like most highways.

riverdrifter 5 years ago

Look me up and I'll show you SF trail ruts on both public and private land.

blindrabbit 5 years ago

kansasexile: The Elkin Prairie was unplowed until about 1990; it is on the O/C Trail and just east of the proposed Rec. Center site. The Rec. Center property was (and is still pasture), whether it was ever plowed, I do not know, but due to the contour, I doubt it. It seems to me that the Elkin property did have ruts and if my recollection is correct, people visited them prior to the plowing. By-the-way, the plowing (essentially in the dead of the night) caused a big stink; we visited the following morning along with many other unhappy Lawrencians.Whether any visible remnants of the trail exist on either property, I do not know! As much of these properties were owned by the Jarvis Brink family at one time, they might be a good source of information

Lawrence Morgan 5 years ago

Adam Strunk and Richard Gwin - great article, photographs and video, and the comments are great too!

This is what comments ought to be like on the Internet - they should be helpful and if possible expand on the article itself!

displacedsunflower 5 years ago

This article is interesting for 2 reasons : one is that I like history, and the other because my grandparents, when children, went to KS from IN & IA in covered wagons in the 1850's. My grandmother & parents settled at Centropolis and my grandfather & family settled on the Santa Fe Trail, on the hill 1 mile north of the old Globe store (& 1/2 - 1 mile east of the old stone inn/house along Rt 56 west of Globe). I looked from the road for wagon ruts in the fields up on the hill, but did not see any.thing that I recognized as being ruts I donated to the museum in downtown Lawrence, 3 bows that were on one of my family's covered wagons, but do not know if they have ever displayed them (I have lived out-of-KS for many years, so do not get to Lawrence very often anymore).

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