Before Kansas was a state and Topeka was the capital, there was Lecompton, the pro-slavery territorial capital and lightning rod for the national slavery debate.
Territorial Days, set for Friday and Saturday in Lecompton, will work to commemorate this history.
The two-day event will include a battle re-enactment, carnival, pancake feed, pioneer skill demonstration and a veterans memorial ceremony.
“I just think it’s a great event for the family,” said Paul Bahnmaier, event organizer and president of the Lecompton Historical Society. “There are many activities for everyone to enjoy, and you can experience the history.”
While Lecompton’s 36th annual Territorial Days promises a weekend of fun and frivolity, Bahnmaier said the event commemorates the much darker time period of “Bleeding Kansas.” The event’s battle re-enactment at 2 p.m. Saturday will recreate the 1856 Battle of Fort Titus, when 50 free-state militiamen overwhelmed the pro-slavery Fort Titus, two miles south of Lecompton. The free-staters marched on the fort from Lawrence, hungry and enraged after pro-slavery forces cut Lawrence’s supply lines. The group eventually overwhelmed the fort by shooting cannonballs made from melted down newspaper typeface.
Three men died, 14 were injured in the fray and free-state militia took 400 muskets as well as $10,000 in bank notes and gold after forcing the fort’s surrender.
Today, 156 years later, the wounds of “Bleeding Kansas” have healed, and event organizers hope Territorial Days will serve as a fun family outing and a lasting reminder of the state’s tumultuous history.