Lawrence - From Ashes
Massachusetts Street 1908 Postcard
even existed these rolling plains were home to
thousands of years. The Kanza,
were the most prominent indigenous nations in the area.
But, as the new
America began to push West in the 1820s, traders and explorers started
to travel the western trails of what would become known as the
Santa Fe Trails. These paths had long been used by the Indians
between camping and hunting sites. Explorers, trappers, traders,
soldiers and settlers began to follow the Indian paths to the
with earnest. The settlement of Lawrence,
which would not be formed for another thirty years, was located
between the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails.
Kansas Territory was opened
to settlement on May 30, 1854 by the
Kansas-Nebraska Act. According to the concept of "popular
sovereignty," settlers could decide whether to admit their territory
as a slave or free state. Soon, New England abolitionists began
organizing emigrant aid societies to encourage like-minded citizens to
settle in the new territory. On August 1, 1854, Twenty-nine
northern emigrants, mostly from Massachusetts and Vermont, were the
first to arrive in Lawrence, Kansas, named for Amos A. Lawrence,
a promoter of the
Emigrant Aid Society. A second party of 200 men,
women and children arrived in September. Lawrence
is one of the few cities in Kansas founded purely for
On October 16, 1854,
the first anti-slavery newspaper was established in Lawrence
to voice the sentiments of the New England Emigrant Society. The
newspaper, called the
enraged the pro-slavery supporters. The name of the paper
shortly changed to the Kansas Tribune.
The first school taught in Lawrence
was commenced January 16, 1855, by Edward P. Fitch, who came from
Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Located in the back office of the Emigrant
Aid Building began with about twenty students.
On December 1, 1855, a small army of
Missourians, acting under the command of "Sheriff"
Jones, laid siege
in the opening stages of what would later become known as "The
Wakarusa War." However, the intervention of the new governor,
Wilson Shannon, kept the proslavery men from attacking Lawrence.
The historic Eldridge Hotel
was burned twice
Bleeding Kansas days. It has been rebuilt
and renovated several times and continues to serve guests today.
Kathy Weiser, March, 2009. This image available for photo prints &
But, later when a young man, who had come to
the aid of the
rode off to his home about six miles west of Lawrence, he was met on the
way by a group of pro-slavery men from
Lecompton. Though the man never
even drew his weapon, he was shot in cold blood by the pro-slavery
faction. His body was returned to Lawrence where the entire citizenry
followed it to its burial, in the presence of his young wife and children,
in Pioneer Cemetery. This event, more than any other, hardened the Free-Staters to the realization that they had
come, not simply for an election to determine whether Kansas would be free or slave, but to fight a war over the issue.
May 21, 1856, a motley group of some 700 armed proslavery enthusiasts
the stronghold of the abolitionist movement. They burned the Free
State Hotel (now the
Eldridge Hotel), smashed the presses of two Lawrence
newspapers, ransacked homes and stores, and killed one man. The event
became known as the "Sacking of Lawrence."
also acted as an important stop on the Underground Railroad, helping
escaped slaves reach freedom safely. Anti-slavery Jayhawkers from Kansas
frequently clashed with pro-slavery Bushwhackers from the neighboring
slave state of
Missouri/Kansas border war grew in 1861 after war broke out and Kansas
chose to become a free state. Lawrence
became the continuing scene of several bloody encounters and the state
would become known as
The worst of these
occurred in 1863, when
Quantrill assembled a group of 400 men in
and rode into Lawrence, a town long hated by Quntrill and his men. Home of the demagogic antislavery
Senator, Jim Lane, it was also a stronghold of the Red Legs, Union
guerrillas who had sacked much of western Missouri. An attack on this citadel of abolition would bring
revenge for any wrongs, real or imagined that the Southerners had
The motives for the
settling of Kansas were social and moral, and the issues were stupendous.
Hannah Oliver, survivor
The Lawrence, Kansas
Raid as illustrated in Harper's Weekly, September, 1863.This image available for photo prints &
on the morning of August 21, 1863, Quantrill's Raiders descended on
the still sleeping town of Lawrence. In this carefully orchestrated
early morning raid, he and his band, in four terrible hours, turned
the town into a bloody and blazing inferno unparallel in its
and his bushwhacker mob of raiders began their reign of terror at 5:00
a.m., looting and burning as they went, bent on total destruction of
the town, then less than 3,000 residents. By the time it was over,
they had killed approximately 180 men and boys, and left Lawrence
nothing more than smoldering ruins.
The resilient citizens of Lawrence buried the dead and banded together
on the road to recovery. Within days, makeshift stores re-opened and
rebuilding began. By the following spring, new stores, two newspapers
and telegraph wires were established. The first bridge across the
Kansas River at Lawrence was also finished. Only months later, the
railroad came through. Lawrence had survived and would adopt the city
motto: "From Ashes to Immortality."
In 1864, the University of Kansas was founded beginning with six
departments of instruction: science, arts and literature, medicine,
theory and practice of elementary instruction, and agriculture. The
University of Kansas was the first State institution in the United
States to adopt co-education of the sexes, although private
institutions further east had been the pioneers in this direction.
Fe Trail traffic declined after the Civil War ended in 1865, and
railroads rapidly rolled across the Plains. By the 1870s, the wagon
trails had become obsolete.
In 1884, the Haskell Indian Nations University opened as the United
States Industrial Training School for Native Americans. Becoming known
as the nationís premier intertribal university, enrollment increased
from its original 22 students to more than 400 students within one
After all its difficulties, Lawrence was bound and determined to
survive, along with its burgeoning University of Kansas, which has
long become the focus of Lawrence, Kansas.
Today's Lawrence is very different from the frontier city raided by
Quantrill, but much of its Civil War history remains. Many of the
buildings constructed following the raid are still in use today, as are
several of the buildings that aided the Underground Railroad.
Although most physical
traces of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails have been erased, a few wagon ruts are still visible around
Lawrence. You can follow both of the trails through Lawrence
and Douglas County with an award-winning self-guided tour brochure
available at the Lawrence
Visitor Information Center located at North Second and Locust Streets.
Earning a reputation as a
vibrant hub for entertainment and the arts, Lawrence
today is a multi-cultural college town alive with world-class museums,
tempting restaurants, and a multitude of shops and galleries.
of America, updated June, 2017.
Haunted Eldridge Hotel
Kansas & the Missouri Border War
Bleeding Kansas Timeline
Quantrill - Renegade Leader of the Missouri Border War
William Quantrill - The Man, the Myth, the Soldier by Paul R. Petersen
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