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Archive for Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lawhorn’s Lawrence: The hidden survivors of Quantrill’s Raid

June 9, 2013

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Brenna Buchanan Young goes over the fine points of a building like investigators go over a crime scene. No detail is too small to matter.

In fact, maybe we’re on to something here. The “CSI” TV show franchise has made millions. Maybe there is potential for “BHI” — building history investigator — and it could be based right here in Lawrence.

As Lawrence prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary of William Quantrill’s deadly, Civil War-era raid on Lawrence this August, there is quite a bit of building history investigation going on.

A few investigations, actually, have produced quite a bit of excitement in Young’s circles. But be forewarned: Unlike the “CSI” folks, it is not blood spatters or DNA that gets BHIs like Young excited. It’s coining.

Yes, I was excited too when I thought that word described a process to put more coins in my pocket. But it’s not. It is an architectural term used to describe the stacking of cornerstones of a building.

Brenna Buchanan Young, project manager for the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence Project and an architectural historian, has researched older buildings in downtown Lawrence and found that several more survived Quantrill's Raid than originally thought. Photographed inside the Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Massachusetts St., Buchanan Young is certain the building is pre-Quantrill and the south wall, shown behind her, with its quoins — masonry blocks at the corner of a wall — are the same ones visible in photographs of the building taken with less than a year of the burning of Lawrence. Buchanan Young is holding a copy of David Dary's "Pictorial History of Lawrence."

Brenna Buchanan Young, project manager for the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence Project and an architectural historian, has researched older buildings in downtown Lawrence and found that several more survived Quantrill's Raid than originally thought. Photographed inside the Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Massachusetts St., Buchanan Young is certain the building is pre-Quantrill and the south wall, shown behind her, with its quoins — masonry blocks at the corner of a wall — are the same ones visible in photographs of the building taken with less than a year of the burning of Lawrence. Buchanan Young is holding a copy of David Dary's "Pictorial History of Lawrence."

This photo taken from David Dary’s “Pictorial History of Lawrence” shows buildings in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street in October 1864, about a year after Quantrill’s Raid destroyed many of the town’s downtown structures. Architectural historian Brenna Buchanan Young believes more downtown buildings than originally thought survived the raid in some form.

This photo taken from David Dary’s “Pictorial History of Lawrence” shows buildings in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street in October 1864, about a year after Quantrill’s Raid destroyed many of the town’s downtown structures. Architectural historian Brenna Buchanan Young believes more downtown buildings than originally thought survived the raid in some form.

And when Young — an architectural historian by training — saw the coining in an October 1864 photo of downtown Lawrence, she became excited. The coining on the building at 706 Massachusetts St. — which now houses The Dusty Bookshelf — is strikingly different than the coining on the second story of the building. The grainy photo also allowed Young to see the side wall of the building because the lot next to it was vacant in 1864. The evidence there also is striking: Limestone rubble was used on the second story but not on the first.

Young is now confident in saying the clues strongly suggest the ground floor of the 706 building survived Quantrill’s Raid. Only the second story was rebuilt.

All right, maybe that isn’t the type of dramatic discovery that makes for a hit television show. But if you love Lawrence — Young is a Lawrence native — it is important because it may spark a point of historic pride: William Quantrill didn’t take as much from us as we thought he did.

• • •

The seminal moment of Lawrence’s history generally is boiled down to this: Infamous raider William Quantrill comes to Lawrence in the early-morning hours of Aug. 21, 1863, kills about 180 men and boys and leaves the town in ashes.

The general thinking is, because of that atrocity, most of the physical pieces of Lawrence’s pre-1863 history have been lost forever — destroyed by a hell-bent Missourian.

Historians for a while now have taken issue with part of that narrative. It isn’t quite accurate to say the entire town was burned. Young estimates there were 70 to 80 structures outside of downtown that survived the raid. Young believes there are 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 says. “It was a burnt district.”

The district, of course, was downtown. Historians generally have agreed that downtown Lawrence was almost entirely decimated by the raid. The thinking has been that maybe one, two or three buildings — the buildings that today house Francis Sporting Goods and Goldmakers jewelry are most often cited — survived the attack. The general consensus has been that much of what existed downtown prior to 1863 doesn’t exist there today.

But the BHIs aren’t so sure now. The upcoming commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the raid — Young is the project manager for the Lawrence 1863 group — has caused many people to pull photos from their attics and submit them to people such as Young and to places such as the Watkins Community Museum of History.

The pending commemoration also has sparked projects in which history buffs are taking a closer look at photos that have been on file for years.

Young has seen many clues that suggest more buildings survived than previously thought. In doing historical forensics on the area from New Hampshire to Vermont and from Sixth to 13th streets, Young has come to believe that there are at least 100 buildings that either had significant portions survive the raid — or used large amounts of their original materials to rebuild.

It is exciting, Young says, because like most architectural historians she has a theory about buildings.

“Buildings do talk, if you know how to translate what they’re saying,” Young says.

Come to find out, Lawrence buildings may have more to say than we thought.

• • •

This is where history gets tricky. One of the great Lawrence stories is about how the community came together and rebuilt in the wake of the raid. The phoenix out of the ashes. If there were fewer ashes, however, does that make the story less heroic?

Young doesn’t think so. She goes back to that October 1864 photo that we previously mentioned. That photo shows that just 14 months after the raid, 706 Massachusetts St. had been rebuilt to two stories, 710 Massachusetts St. had been rebuilt to three stories and 712 Massachusetts had been rebuilt to two stories. That’s an impressive amount of work even using today’s construction methods.

“There really is no question about the spirit of Lawrence and how determined they were to have Lawrence maintain its status as an up-and-coming metropolis and as an abolitionist stronghold,” Young says.

The fact that there wasn’t quite as much to rebuild shouldn’t diminish the story any, she says. In fact, it might even be cause to celebrate just a little bit.

Oops, I used the wrong c-word there. If you’ve noticed, we talk about the upcoming events that will mark the 150th anniversary of the raid as a commemoration, not a celebration. That makes sense: You don’t want to celebrate the cowardly killing of about 180 Lawrence residents.

That’s why “commemorate” is a leading candidate to be the Lawrence buzzword of 2013. But maybe we should make one exception to our reticence to celebrate this summer.

Maybe we all should go downtown and be reminded of a fact that we’ve known for a long time now. We can be reminded of the fact by the crowds, the commerce, the vitality that fills our downtown on any given day. And now, thanks to a little work from Brenna Buchanan Young and our other building history investigators, we can keep our eyes peeled for a stone or a marking or, heck, even coining that survived the raid.

It all will help remind us of this fact: William Quantrill — a man intent on destroying Lawrence and everything it stood for — was an utter failure.

And that’s worth celebrating.

— Each Sunday, Lawhorn’s Lawrence focuses on the people, places or past of Lawrence and the surrounding area. If you have a story idea, send it to Chad at clawhorn@ljworld.com.

Comments

FlintlockRifle 1 year, 3 months ago

Great read, keep them coming, just love reading about by-gone days here in Lawrence.Keep digging Chad.

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Brian Hall 1 year, 3 months ago

From what I've read, Quantrill and his men went south out of Lawrence and their next target was supposedly Baldwin but were chased away by Union soldiers three miles west of Baldwin and into Franklin County. The last thing they burned was the small town of Brooklyn and the last person they shot was Abraham Rothrock, who survived.

The Quantrill's Raid pamphlet available at the Visitor's Center is a great resource and offers a driving/walking tour of Lawrence and Douglas County.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 3 months ago

You're correct about Quantrill's route out of Lawrence. I was out there metal detecting today and found only a 1963 Roosevelt silver dime. I'm sure Quantrill himself dropped it!

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mom_of_three 1 year, 3 months ago

Some Native American tribes were more prevalent to slave holding. There were slave holding native Americans in Kansas, since George Clarke was the Indian agent and he was pro slavery. There were slave holding Indians on the trail of Tears, that even their money and status couldn't keep them from having to give up their land and houses. They had "assimilated" and yet were forced to give up everything.
Native American tribes in Florida, assimiliated escaped slaves, and other tribes incorporated their slaves into their families. but there were a few tribes that treated their slaves as did the whites. There are some books about native american slave holders and some websites. Yes, I believe the Natives Americans in Okahoma were confederate. That didn't help their cause after the war.

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true_patriot 1 year, 3 months ago

Great stuff, love it. Look forward to the Sesquicentennial of the Raid this August.

i did know Quantrill was a teacher in Lawrence prior to the raid and he therefore would have know the families and locations. Apparently he made lists. Makes him seem even more psychopathic given that prior intimacy with the town and its families and children.

The context is that people died on both sides and it was a very violent time going back several years prior to the raid to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act. The Civil War really start in eastern Kansas in a lot of ways.

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mom_of_three 1 year, 3 months ago

That's the argument. Bleeding Kansas was the start of the Civil War.

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Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 3 months ago

Note definition 3a & 3b.
From Merriam Webster: Definition of DECIMATE

1: to select by lot and kill every tenth man of

2: to exact a tax of 10 percent from (poor as a decimated Cavalier — John Dryden)

3a : to reduce drastically especially in number (cholera decimated the population)
b : to cause great destruction or harm to (firebombs decimated the city) (an industry decimated by recession)

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TheEleventhStephanie 1 year, 3 months ago

There's a neighborhood NW of Baldwin called Quantrill Estates. Doesn't seem like something you'd want a neighborhood named after, but maybe that's just me...

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fiddleback 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes there's an area called "Quantrill Overlook" And it's not just you -- to me it's another reminder of a smirking Southern mindset that has come to dominate Kansas. Even if it's not meant as a jab at Lawrence, it's still another oblivious reinforcement of a mass murderer's fame after the public has long since forgotten the victims. Even more grotesque is the more intentional fetishizing of Quantrill that continues to this day; there's even a William Quantrill Society in MO. This Confederate dead-ender syndrome is like a virus that just won't die...

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riverdrifter 1 year, 3 months ago

Lived here all my life and have never heard of 'Quantrill Overlook'. Where is it?

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mom_of_three 1 year, 3 months ago

never heard of crowley county, but Crawford is south of Bourbon county.

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mom_of_three 1 year, 3 months ago

yep, know cowley well. its on the oklahoma border. winfield is about 15 miles north of the border. ark city pretty much borders it.
if you are more interested in kansas history and relatives, try doing some searches on kshs.com or kansasmemory.org. . cato's history sounds interesting... being close to missouri, they certainly saw their fair share...even down in the southern part of the state.

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Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 3 months ago

Fascinating article and great comments to go with it!

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LawrenceTownie 1 year, 3 months ago

You might be thinking of Signal Oak, the point north of Baldwin where lighted lanterns were hung in a large oak tree to signal Lawrence that the raiders were coming. From this point you can see Lawrence with no problem, and Lawrence people would be able to see lights in the tree at night, if they had a high enough vantage. I have been able to see this point from Lawrence during the day, when I have been a passenger in a car, and traveling down Iowa street from around 18th street.

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tolawdjk 1 year, 3 months ago

Best book I have found on the subject is "The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders" by Edward E. Leslie. Spends quite a bit of time Quantrill's life before and after the massacre.

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