Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2012

Plans in works to mark raid on Lawrence

Quantrill attacked city almost 150 years ago

August 19, 2012


Maybe it was a bout of early-morning grogginess, or perhaps a more constant affliction of eternal optimism, that clouded the judgement of Ralph Dix.

Whatever the case, at 5 a.m. Aug. 21, 1863, Dix thought he could reason with the armed visitors to his town.

“Ralph wanted to think well of people,” said Pat Kehde, Lawrence resident and local historian. “He thought reason would triumph.”

If you have lived in Lawrence long, perhaps you recognize the date. On that day in 1863, a band of “border ruffians” led by Missouri raider William Quantrill burned large swaths of the city. His raiders left more than 180 men and boys dead, indiscriminately killing some men they encountered and leaving others untouched.

If you look closely at Lawrence’s Oak Hill Cemetery, you will find a monument to those killed on Lawrence’s bloodiest day.

Kehde, though, doesn’t have to travel to the cemetery to remember. A walk to the Lawrence Public Library will suffice. Ralph Dix was Kehde’s great-grandfather, and he went to reason with Quantrill’s raiders at about the spot where the library’s parking lot sits today.

Whenever she walks across the parking lot, Kehde remembers that her family’s history forever changed on this spot.

• • •

Not everybody has a spot that causes them to remember Quantrill’s Raid. A group of community leaders, though, are beginning to formulate a plan to change that.

City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting are scheduled to create a new task force that will come up with suggestions on how the community should remember the 150th anniversary of the attack and the rebuilding that followed.

The task force will be in addition to efforts already under way by local historians that likely will include a year’s worth of educational events and exhibits.

“It certainly warrants that,” said Steve Nowak, executive director of the Watkins Community Museum of History. “Quantrill’s Raid and the events around it really are this part of the country’s Gettysburg.”

The commemoration, though, may go beyond educational events. Fred Conboy, president and CEO of Destination Management Inc., which manages the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and the local convention and visitors bureau, said there has been informal talk of a more permanent memorial.

“What shape that takes, I’m not sure,” Conboy said. “But I think people would like to see it be something other than a stone statue of a historical figure. I think there is thought of a living, breathing memorial that really can be a place for the life of the community.”

• • •

Ralph Dix didn’t come to Lawrence to be an abolitionist as much as to be a businessman.

Kehde, who is a self-professed “Quantrill’s Raid junkie,” said her grandfather opened a blacksmith’s shop on Vermont Street and was doing quite well. Just before the attack, he had signed a deal to make more than 300 “prairie plows.”

It was perhaps with that in mind that Dix thought he could overcome any problem Quantrill’s men would present. After all, he was not a Lawrence firebrand. The Missouri ruffians should have no score to settle with him.

His wife — just 19, with three children — begged him to run, not reason.

“She knew right away,” Kehde said.

• • •

When it comes to Lawrence residents knowing about the history surrounding Quantrill’s Raid, local historians aren’t sure the knowledge level is very high anymore.

“I’ve known people who have moved here from somewhere else, and they get confused and think Quantrill was the good guy,” Kehde said.

Leaders at the Watkins Museum hope the next year will help clear up any confusion about what Kehde regards as the “most significant event in the history of Lawrence and maybe the most important in the state.”

Nowak said the museum currently is working on a new permanent display about Quantrill’s Raid that will be housed on the library’s second floor. He predicts it will be the most ambitious exhibit ever undertaken by the museum, incorporating audio and video presentations and showcasing a recently loaned piece of art, Ernst Ulmer’s “Blood-Stained Dawn.”

Nowak said the exhibit will be open by August 2013 in time for the 150th commemoration.

“I think it is incredibly important that we have something that educates and helps us remember,” Nowak said. “That event was a turning point for Lawrence. It was an occasion where the community made a commitment to not only survive but thrive.”

Conboy said he expects a full year’s worth of events in the 41-county Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. The heritage area includes counties on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border, and Conboy said he expects to have events that put the raid in broader context.

For example, Conboy said, not always told is the story of the sacking of Osceola, Mo., led by Lawrence leader James Lane about two years before Quantrill’s Raid.

Beyond the details, local historians hope the public gains a better understanding of just how pivotal the events of the day were in shaping the country’s history.

“People today probably think that Kansas was paid attention to back then like Kansas is paid attention to now,” Nowak said. “But that’s not the case. Very important people in every major seaport on the East Coast were paying attention to Kansas on a daily basis. Quantrill’s Raid was front-page news.”

• • •

Ralph Dix did not pay attention to his wife. He tried to reason instead of run. He met the raiders outside of his shop on Vermont Street.

“He didn’t want to believe it,” Kehde said. “He didn’t get it. He only got it once it was too late.”

Come next year it will be 150 years since Dix went to go reason with men in no mood to reason. The passing of time means that Kehde doesn’t ever become overwrought by the thought of what happened to her great-grandfather, but she still does think of it.

“When I go to the public library, I remind myself that I’m walking on the ground that my great-grandfather was walking on when he was shot in cold blood,” Kehde said.

But the thought doesn’t usually stop there. She remembers her great-grandmother preserved as a young woman, running a boarding house for more than 20 men. She remembers how the community quickly rebuilt and seemed to adopt an even greater resolve to fight for the end of slavery.

“It seems to me that there is still something in the air that says we are here because of an idea, and we are going to do the best we can for people,” Kehde said.

Kehde said that occasionally a shorter thought comes to mind about the man who led the raiders who killed her great-grandfather.

“We’re not going to let that S.O.B. get rid of us,” Kehde said. “I know that’s what so many people were thinking after that day.”


Alceste 5 years, 5 months ago

Revisionist history Lawrence won't let go of.....

How many RAIDS into Missouri with the exact same consequences were planned and executed out of Lawrence, Douglas County, and the surronding areas?

Didn't Lawrence simply get a taste of its own "medicine", so to speak?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Those raids have been widely acknowledged-- even in this article.

But none of them were nearly as deadly or destructive as this raid on Lawrence.

mom_of_three 5 years, 5 months ago

are you speaking about Osceola, which is mentioned, or other raids which took place before 1860? And please, of which RAIDS do you speak?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

Good point. When KU and MU play, the teams are both named after terrorists.

Rich Noever 5 years, 5 months ago

Alceste Over two hundred slaves were freed in the raid on Osceola Mo. I guess human bondage has no importance for you. You don't revise history, you just ignore it.

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

"She remembers her great-grandmother preserved as a young woman, running a boarding house for more than 20 men. She remembers how the community quickly rebuilt and seemed to adopt an even greater resolve to fight for the end of slavery. "


Based on the following article I put Kehde's age at 70-71 years of age.

So how is it that a person born in 1941/1942 'remembers' events that took place almost 80 years before her existence?

That is what's wrong with defining the history of Lawrence. It's all based on emotion and sentimentality, and not enough examination of the facts. Just cherry pick through the facts that tend to make Lawrence look good and 'remember' everything else even though you had no part in it.

BigAl 5 years, 5 months ago

Nothing changes the fact that Kehde's Great-Grandfather was killed by a pro-slavery terrorist leaving a young widow with three children.

John Kyle 5 years, 5 months ago

You actually did research to see if the Ms Kehde was old enough to remember the raid? I believe when the it says "[s]he remembers..." it's referring to her remembering the stories...not remembering the raid. Any fool should see that. But some people have to cherry pick everything to make Lawrence look bad.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Some people listen to their family elders. This makes you look bad if you never listen to your family history, not her. Stop being such a clown and go talk to your family elders. You might learn something interesting.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 5 months ago

I think she means that she remembers hearing about her great-grandmother. The woman is to be admired for picking up and finding a way to take care of herself and her children, and she so young herself.

Jean Robart 5 years, 5 months ago

picky picky picky maybe it's part of an oral history from someone who either witnessed the raid, or someone in the family...

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

If they would have known that 150 years later that Sam Brownback would be governor they never would have rebuilt the town.

Rex Hargis 5 years, 5 months ago

The atrocities on both sides of the border were horrendous. Many counties on both sides of the border were completely depopulated. The James Lane mentioned was a senator for the state and ran his bunch of "Jayhawkers" out of Leavenworth. Lawrence, although active as a stop on the freedom road, was not a real center for raids across the border. There was a company of black volunteers that was gathering in the area of South Park when Quantrill hit, but they were not complete and unarmed. There was also a federal detachment north of the river, but they could not cross, and after sustaining a few casualties, hunkered down and stayed put.

mom_of_three 5 years, 5 months ago

But its necessary to put the raids in a context. Were the raids 1855-1858 or after 1858 or during the Civil War? Everyone mentions raids, but no one is being specific.
The border raids prior to 1858 were more terroristic, and very few were actually killed. but there was lots of destruction and theft.

riverdrifter 5 years, 5 months ago

"Our domestic terrorists were against slavery. Their domestic terrorists were for it..."

Strong point, O_bob. That's the size of it.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 5 months ago

A bullet point does indeed seem appropriate.

Alceste 5 years, 5 months ago

oh poppy cock. they were both just bands of bloodthirsty men (rather young, actually) who enjoyed killing, be the victim man, woman, child, dog, cat, horse or whatever. Jesus wept.

The history of the settlement and purpose of Lawrence, Kansas had and has everything to do with commerce and not one darn thing about slavery. Wealth from the East sent the impoverished to "settle" in Lawrence for one reason......MONEY; had nothing to do with slavery. Not one blessed thing.....

repete66211 5 years, 5 months ago

"To remind our children the price to be paid for core beliefs." People weren't killed in the raid for their beliefs. They weren't fighting for anything, just in the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of the violence of an invading military force.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 5 months ago

Quantrill and his bunch were an early tea party.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

Quantrill's tendencies to crime and violence make him much more like the Occupy dudes.

Enlightenment 5 years, 5 months ago

So Kansas fought to abolish slavery 150 yrs ago, but in present day we can't acknowledge same sex marriages or provide LGBT the same rights and privileges as straight people.

booyalab 5 years, 5 months ago

Slavery versus same sex people not getting the legal right to half their partners possessions even though their partner is free to put them in their will. Oh yeah, totally the same thing and I'm sure real slaves would agree. Getting whipped and being considered someone's property is nothing compared to it.

Enlightenment 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh I see what you're saying, sorta like the gay bashing, the physical and psychological beatings, the parents trying to "turn" their children and make them straight, and the countless cases of depression and suicide of gays because society is extremely judgmental and non accepting.

repete66211 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm pro-queer, but I think you're being a little dramatic here Enlightenment. The suffering that gays experience and have experienced shouldn't be minimized, but being an oppressed minority is hardly comparable to being considered the private property of another human being.

Joe Berns 5 years, 5 months ago

Marriage isn't a right or a priviledge. Its a sacrament from God.

Scott Kaiser 5 years, 5 months ago

Quantrill at one time was a teacher in Lawrence and went by the name of Charley Hart. This is how he knew Lawrence so well and so many of the citizens.

Kat Christian 5 years, 5 months ago

Why, why, why do we need to be reminded time after time of the terrible raid and murders and negativity that happyed during Quantil's raid? All you do you is honor and promote Quantill who was the demon by the way. I don't see or feel excited about his propect and anyone who is is demented for all I know. Society has lost prospective of what life is all about when they seem to dwell on these sort of negative and ugly aspects of our history in life.

Yoda51 5 years, 5 months ago

"Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it."
~ George Santayana (1863-1952)

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

While were at it how about just ignoring the battle at Gettysburg, or 9/11, or World Wars I and II? Those were ugly aspects as well but pivotal points in history. They happened and they were real and nothing can change it.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

"Those who cannot pass history are condemned to repeat it next semester." (from a source)

tbaker 5 years, 5 months ago

“I’ve known people who have moved here from somewhere else, and they get confused and think Quantrill was the good guy,” Kehde said.

When pondering who the "good guys" were, be sure and look up the 19th century origins of the term "Jay Hawk."

Alceste 5 years, 5 months ago

The term became part of the lexicon of the Missouri-Kansas border in about 1858, during the Kansas territorial period. The term was used to describe militant bands nominally associated with the free-state cause. One early Kansas history contained this succinct characterization of the jayhawkers:[4]

Confederated at first for defense against pro-slavery outrages, but ultimately falling more or less completely into the vocation of robbers and assassins, they have received the name --- whatever its origin may be -- of jayhawkers.

Another historian of the territorial period described the jayhawkers as bands of men that were willing to fight, kill, and rob for a variety of motives that included defense against pro-slavery "Border Ruffians", abolition, driving pro-slavery settlers from their claims of land, revenge, and/or plunder and personal profit.[5]

While the “Bleeding Kansas” era is generally regarded as beginning in 1856, the earliest documented uses of the term "jayhawker" during the Kansas troubles were in the late 1850's, after the issue of slavery in Kansas had essentially been decided in favor of the Free State cause.[6][7] The earliest dated mention of the name comes from the autobiography of August Bondi, who came to Kansas in 1855. Bondi claimed that he observed General James Lane addressing his forces as Jayhawkers in December of 1857.[8][9]Another early reference to the term (as applied to the Kansas troubles) emerging at that time is provided in the retrospective account of Kansas newspaperman John McReynolds. McReynolds reportedly picked up the term from Pat Devlin, a Free State partisan described as "nothing more nor less than a dangerous bully."[10] In mid-1858, McReynolds asked Devlin where he had acquired two fine horses that he had recently brought into the town of Osawatomie. Devlin replied that he "got them as the Jayhawk gets its birds in Ireland,” which he explained as follows: “In Ireland a bird, which is called the Jayhawk, flies about after dark, seeking the roosts and nests of smaller birds, and not only robs nests of eggs, but frequently kills the birds.” McReynolds understood Devlin had acquired his horses in the same manner the Jayhawk got its prey, and used the term in a Southern Kansas Herald newspaper column to describe a case of theft in the ongoing partisan violence. The term was quickly picked up by other newspapers, and "Jayhawkers" soon came to denote the militants and thieves affiliated with the Free State cause.[11]

Seems like the rest of the world don't look too kindly upon the term "Jayhawker" shrug

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