Even 150 years later, the survivors of Quantrill’s raid are drawing attention.
“There are a lot of people who want to see anything that has survived the raid,” said Debbie McCarthy, manager of the Lawrence Visitors Center.
Many come into the center expecting to find that there are very few surviving things to see. History books long have promoted the notion that the entire town was burned in the raid. But now modern-day historians are beginning to shine new light on that assumption.
Brenna Buchanan Young, a local historian and project manager for the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence Project, estimates that there were 70 to 80 structures outside of downtown that survived the raid. Young believes there are a quite a few that still exist, probably housing people who have no idea they are living in a home that survived the wrath of Quantrill.
“It wasn’t a burnt town,” Young said. “It was a burnt district.”
All the surviving structures in the city aren’t known today, but there are a handful of known structures that stand out, McCarthy said. The visitors center, 402 N. Second Street, provides visitors with a brochure to take a self-guided tour of some of the important remnants of the raid.
Here’s a look at some of the tour highlights. Take a look at the map above to find these locations. To find even more Quantrill landmarks, check out our interactive map below:
- The area near 19th and Haskell. Even though the most visible tenant at the intersection is a shopping center that houses everything from a massage parlor to a video store, this area of town is a good reminder of how history from the raid is all around us. Somewhere near the site of the present-day shopping center, Rev. S.S. Snyder became the first Lawrence victim of the raid when he was killed while milking a cow. Lawrence historian Katie Armitage is compiling that story and others as part of a new interactive exhibit at the Watkins Community Museum of History that attempts to tie significant events of the raid to modern-day landmarks.
- The Miller House, the large brick home just east of the current shopping center at 19th and Haskell, is an example of a stately farm house that survived the raid.
- South Park continues to be a focal point of modern-day Lawrence. In 1863, the park on the south end of downtown was used as a staging area for Quantrill’s raiders. The park, which was established in 1854, also was used for purposes such as grazing livestock and growing crops to supply the city’s residents. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department recently installed new signs at the park to give visitors a better sense of its history.
- The home at 1205 Rhode Island St., just around the corner from the park, is a good example of an East Lawrence home that survived the raid.
- The House building, 729-731 Massachusetts Street, has long been credited as one of the few Massachusetts Street buildings that survived Quantrill’s raid. But historians like Young are researching whether other buildings in downtown — or at least significant parts of buildings — were spared from damage in the raid. While downtown, visitors also will want to look at The Eldridge Hotel. It is not the same Eldridge House that was torched in the raid, but it is on the same site and shares the same namesake as the original.
- Several houses in what is now considered Old West Lawrence also avoided Quantrill’s torch, in part because the western portion of the city was difficult to access because of a ravine that separated it from the main part of the city. The house at 743 Indiana St. was a boarding house, and was saved after the landlady of the home pleaded with raiders that it was her sole source of income. The Bell House at 1008 Ohio St. was under construction at the time of the raid. The house survived, but Mr. Bell did not. According to research done for the tour, Mr. Bell left his wife and eight children at the home and was killed defending the city.
- Mt. Oread was one aspect of the city Quantrill had no hope of destroying. The large hill houses much of Kansas University, and was a prominent lookout spot during the Civil War. McCarthy suggests people go to the area near 11th and Ohio streets to get a sense of just how sweeping of a view Mt. Oread provided to early-day settlers. “Especially during the wintertime, when the leaves are off the trees, it gives you an incredible view, and you are just amazed at how far you can see,” McCarthy said.
- Pioneer Cemetery is where the raid ended for many victims of Quantrill’s party. The cemetery — which is on Kansas University’s West Campus, just northwest of the 19th and Iowa intersection — was the main cemetery at the time of the raid. A few raid victims still remain buried at the cemetery. But by 1865, Lawrence residents had started building a grand new cemetery, Oak Hill Cemetery in East Lawrence. Many of the victims of the raid were moved to the more elegant and easily accessible Oak Hill Cemetery. The community also erected a memorial for the raid’s victims. The memorial still stands today.
“I tell people to try to end their tour at the cemetery,” McCarthy said. “You can just get lost in there forever.”