Tag Archives: John Brown

Sunday Snapshots: Osawatomie State Hospital Burial Ground

A few weeks ago, Jim and I drove out to Osawatomie to check out the town and drive past the grounds of the historic state hospital. I find the hospital’s origins fascinating; according to Lowell Gish’s Reform at Osawatomie State Hospital: Treatment of the Mentally Ill 1866-1970, the hospital came to be at a time when a Quaker ideal–that there is goodness and light in all of us, no matter what–drove treatment providers to see mental asylums as places to care for people instead of incarcerate them.

Most Kansans are familiar with the story of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence in 1863. Not as many people realize that Osawatomie was also in the thick of it. As an antislavery stronghold with connections to John Brown and Samuel Adair, Osawatomie citizens were attacked numerous times. In 1856, proslavery bands destroyed much of the town.

To honor both Lawrence and Osawatomie, the 1863 Kansas Legislature voted to reward the two towns. Lawrence would become the official home of the state’s university, and Osawatomie would become the home of the state mental asylum. The “Kansas State Hospital for the Insane in Ossawattomie [sic]” would come to be in a time when many damaged men were returning from the Civil War.

During the next century, thousands of mentally ill patients would find their way to what would become known as Osawatomie State Hospital. Many would live out their lives there. Some would have no family to claim them after they died.

A view of the cemetery from the southwest corner.

A view of the cemetery from the southwest corner.

The hospital’s burial ground lacks an official sign or entrance found at even the smallest abandoned country cemeteries in Kansas. A sign reading “Historic Memorial Site” is the only indication of it’s importance.

numbered graves

Although the cemetery is maintained, there is something tremendously sad and lonely about this particular burial ground. The graves are numbered 1 through 346 and were assigned in the order that they were occupied, with the last burials occurring in the 1950s. Only two stones have been replaced by family members who wanted or were able to honor their loved ones.

The grave of Clyde Nelson, a father, is one of only two stones bearing a name instead of a number.

The grave of Clyde Nelson, a father, is marked with a homemade stone.

The grave of Minnie Devine, a granny, is one of only two markers bearing a name instead of a number.

The grave of Minnie Devine, a granny, is one of only two markers bearing a name instead of a number.

The other markers belong to those who have been forgotten.

Grave 34

Grave number 34.

Reading a name on a tombstone is a powerful thing. You acknowledge the interred’s existence. The stones at the Osawatomie State Hospital’s burial ground tell us nothing beyond the order in which the patients were interred. It is a testament to how lost and forgotten some of our mentally ill can be.  And that is why this cemetery is worth visiting.  Bring a tissue.

Osawatomie State Hospital Burial Ground, facing southwest.

Osawatomie State Hospital Burial Ground, facing southwest.

Sunday Snapshot: Black Jack Battlefield Nature Trail

Just a few feet from the Santa Fe Trail (and only a few miles from my home) is one of Kansas’ newest additions to the National Register of Historic Places: Black Jack Battlefield. The Battle of Black Jack is considered by some to be one of the earliest battles of the American Civil War.  In 1856, John Brown attacked a group of Pro-Slavery men led by Henry Pate, who had taken prisoners in retaliation for John Brown’s attack on Pottawatomie Creek, which was in retaliation for an earlier attack on Lawrence, Kansas. (Franklin and Douglas counties were not peaceful places to live in during the 1850s.)

Today, the battlefield has been preserved. Visitors can take a guided tour or watch reenactments. You can also visit the nature trail from dawn to dusk at no cost. The nature trail is beautiful and will offer new blossoms as the seasons pass.

Sunday Snapshot: Wadsworth Mound

Wadsworth Mound

Rising 150 feet from the flat plains near Pottawatomie Creek on the Anderson County side of the Franklin/Anderson line is a large hill. The first White settlers to the area called it Steamboat Mound because of its shape. It was later called Wadsworth Mound for an early settler who helped found the nearby and now ghost town of Mt. Gilead. Today, it is known as Peine Mound for the current owners of the land that includes the hill, but it most often appears as Wadsworth Mound in a historical context. Here, the mound is seen from the west on Allen Road.

As the story goes, in 1856, James Townsley owned a house at the southern base of the mound, and he invited the infamous John Brown to share his log cabin as they planned their strategy to protect Anderson County from the pro-slavers. It is said that it was from Townsley’s home that Brown planned the attack on Dutch Henry’s Crossing near present-day Lane, Kansas — an event that would later be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.

Wadsworth Mound can be seen for miles and is easily accessible, just a few miles away from Greeley and the lovely church at Scipio. (Be sure to look at the map in satellite view.)