Tag Archives: William Quantrill

Legler Barn Museum in Lenexa, Kansas

On our way home from Overland Park, Kansas, Jim and I were driving down 87th Street Parkway and caught sight of a sign pointing the way to the Legler Barn Museum. Unable to turn away from a barn museum, we abandoned the I-35 exit and headed west to Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park, where the museum and several other historic buildings are located.

Legler Barn Museum.

Legler Barn Museum.

Adam Legler.

Adam Legler.

It’s hard to imagine it now, but the area around 95th and Quivera in Overland Park (where Oak Park Mall is located) was once rural and part of a long stretch of land that belonged to the Legler family. Adam and Elizabeth Legler immigrated to the U.S. via the Port of New Orleans in 1847. In 1863, the Leglers moved to Johnson County and made their home just north of the Santa Fe Trail at what is now 95th and Quivera. The stone barn, a two-story structure with porthole windows on the south side, a sandstone roof, and living quarters on the second floor (the Leglers lived above their animals before their home, which would stand until the 1930s, was built), was constructed in 1864 from locally quarried stones.

 

The portholes on the Legler Barn have inspired theories that the barn was once used as a fortress against unhappy Native Americans, William Quantrill's men, and Missourians during the Civil War. Their purpose was to allow ventilation without overwhelming the livestock inside with the southern sun.

The portholes on the Legler Barn have inspired theories that the barn was once used as a fortress against unhappy Native Americans, William Quantrill’s men, and Missourians during the Civil War. Their purpose was to allow ventilation without overwhelming the livestock inside with the southern sun.

Its location near the trail and a reliable spring meant that the Legler farm was a beacon to both invited and uninvited guests. Legend suggests that William Quantrill and Jesse James rested there. Long after the house was gone, the barn stood. Then, in 1971, the barn was forced off its own land when the area was developed for Oak Park Mall and numerous other businesses.

The corner of 95th and Quivera today. Adam Legler’s house and barn stood on the northwest corner.

Fortunately, instead of demolishing the barn, city officials carefully documented the structure before disassembling it and putting it into storage, where it stayed for more than a decade until the Lenexa Historical Society (Lenexa being a nearby Johnson County town) was able to restore the barn in a local park.

Three generations of women wore this wedding dress: Clarissa Allen wore it in 1908; her daughter Mary Jane Nesselrode wore it in 1940, and Mary Jane's daughter Clarissa May Mears wore it in 1964.

Three generations of women wore this wedding dress: Clarissa Allen wore it in 1908; her daughter Mary Jane Nesselrode wore it in 1940, and Mary Jane’s daughter Clarissa May Mears wore it in 1964.

In addition to the history of the barn, the Legler Barn Museum shares the history of Lenexa. The community got its start in 1869, when Charles Bradshaw would sell land to Octave Chanute, who wanted to start a railroad line to Kansas City. (Chanute would go on to build the first bridge over the Missouri River, design the Kansas City and Chicago Stockyards, found the town of Chanute, Kansas, and would also be the designer of the Wright Brothers’ plane.) The town was officially incorporated in 1907.

Whereas much of Johnson County has a reputation for bulldozing history for the sake of suburban progress, Lenexa still has connections to its roots. Many descendants of the area’s earliest settlers continue to live nearby and are involved in the historical society. The museum includes historic quilts, furniture, maps, and photographs.  A wedding dress worn by three generations of Lenexa women is displayed in a reproduction of a Victorian bedroom on the second floor. And an interesting display explains how Lenexa accidentally became the spinach capital of the world during the 1930s (they still celebrate with a Spinach Festival).

Near the museum are several other fun historic pieces, including a train depot and a caboose. There is no charge to see the museum, but donations are appreciated. There is also a lovely park nearby. This little museum is definitely worth a look.

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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: Blue Mound on the Oregon Trail

Many trails originating in what is now the Kansas City metro area followed the same path until they reached Gardner, Kansas, where they separated. From Gardner, the Santa Fe Trail headed southwest through much of the state. The Oregon and California Trails moved in a more east-northeasterly direction.

The Oregon Trail had progressed several miles north of the Santa Fe Trail by the time it reached present-day Douglas County. Near Lawrence, just south of the Wakarusa River and 56 miles from the trail’s beginning, is one of the early major landmarks for the Oregon- and California-bound travelers: Blue Mound. Despite the trees and human development, this large hill is still visible for quite a distance; during the 1800s, when the land was still open prairie and the treeline was limited to the Wakarusa riverbank, it would have been visible from many miles away.

Blue Mound from the northeast.

Blue Mound from the northeast.

After Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence on August 21, 1863, Major. Preston B. Plumb was at Blue Mound with somewhere between 100 and 250 men, but was unsuccessful at stopping Quantrill’s men, who headed south past the mound and scattered for a successful escape. During this week’s Twitter reenactment of Quantrill’s Raid (which you can still read on Twitter!), Jim Lane criticized Plumb for not taking the offense.

Today, roads surrounding the mound, which is still in a highly rural area, are easily accessible. However, be warned: despite appearing on Google Maps and TomTom as a county road, E 1700 Rd to the immediate south of the mound appears to be a long driveway to private property. To learn more about the Oregon and California Trails, click here.

Blue Mound from the southeast.

Blue Mound from the southeast.

 

If the Citizens of Lawrence and William Quantrill Could Tweet…

If you’re on Twitter, here’s the one list you should be following during the next 72 hours: QR1863. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence on August 21, a cast of nearly 50 people portraying both Quantrill’s raiders and the citizens of Lawrence have been tweeting the events leading up to the raid. It should be an amazing way to understand and experience the tragedy, anger, fear, and chaos of the raid and the retaliation that followed.

QR1863

Exploring the Santa Fe Trail: Douglas County, Kansas

Two wonderful things happened during the past few weeks. The first is that Joanne VanCoevern, manager of the Santa Fe Trail Association, shared with me a series of very detailed maps of the Santa Fe Trail. The second is that a fellow writer introduced me to Google Map Engine Lite, which lets you draw your own maps. So, after our recent adventure following the Santa Fe Trail in Douglas County, Kansas, I’m able to show you where the trail runs (roughly) and how we followed it.

My very first Google Map Engine map. The black line is the Santa Fe Trail; the red line is the route we followed.

My very first Google Map Engine map. The black line is the Santa Fe Trail; the red line is the route we followed. Click on the map to visit the Google Map Engine map.

The black line represents what is officially believed to be the common route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. An important thing to remember is that people didn’t really follow the trail like a road. If there was a lot of mud, they veered off the trail onto dryer land. If they thought they could take a short cut, they took a short cut. Today, though, we have to stick to the roads (the red line). The local farmers and ranchers frown upon driving through their fields just to follow the trail.

We started our adventure at Simmons Point Stage Station and followed the trail backwards (people heading to Santa Fe would have moved in a southwesterly direction; we were on the return trip). We’d noticed this building before, but we didn’t realize its historic significance until we were studying the trail map. While it is believed to be a fairly “new” building–Simmons Point wasn’t constructed until the 1880s, after the trail was technically decommissioned because the railroads were in place–it’s still considered an important trail site. The trail itself runs right behind the house. Unfortunately, this building is in terrible disrepair and likely won’t survive much longer. Go see it now while you still can.

Simmons Point Stage Station, which was likely built after the Santa Fe Trail was in heavy use. This historic building is in terrible disrepair and will likely collapse in the near future.

Simmons Point Stage Station, which was likely built after the Santa Fe Trail was in heavy use. This historic building is in terrible disrepair and will likely collapse in the near future.

Next, we headed northeast to find the marker at Globe, which was once a mail stop. From the marker, looking southwest, you can actually see the silo and tower next to Simmons Point.

We then zigzagged northeast until we found Willow Springs, which was a major watering hole along the trail. Today, this area is surrounded by beautiful farmland and there is a historic German Baptist Brethren church just south of the historic marker.

Willow Springs, once an important watering stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Today it is also the location of one of the oldest German Brethren churches in Kansas.

Willow Springs, once an important watering stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Today it is also the location of one of the oldest German Baptist Brethren churches in Kansas.

As we headed east, we watched the land for any signs of trail ruts, but most of this area has been heavily cultivated for farming and nothing was obviously visible. We crossed U.S. 59 and headed toward what the trail map called The Narrows: an area where there was only a thin strip of land high enough to keep wagons and beasts of burden out of the mud.

We found a marker for Brooklyn, which was once a trading post on the trail. The post was destroyed by William Quantrill’s raiders in 1863. A weirdly cheerful marker just across the road highlights the area as being on Quantrill’s trail.

The trail slants to the southeast toward what was once Palmyra, a little town that was quickly incorporated into the larger Baldwin City. Historic Markers near the high school give a brief history of the town. An important well is just a block east of the school.

Southeast of Baldwin City are some of the most impressive trail ruts along the trail. The camera just doesn’t do justice to what you can actually see on the ground. The satellite images are even more impressive. Because it was already dark when we reached this point, I’m posting a photo I shot in May when we were visiting Black Jack Battlefield, which is just south of the trail ruts.

Santa Fe Trail ruts near Black Jack Battlefield east of Baldwin City. The ruts are deep enough that they're visible in satellite images.

Santa Fe Trail ruts near Black Jack Battlefield east of Baldwin City. The ruts are deep enough that they’re visible in satellite images.

The Santa Fe Trail Association is a fabulous resource for trail history and location information. There’s something magical about knowing that this important road, which once wandered out into the unknown, now flows through today’s farm fields and backyards.

Sunday Snapshots: Two Historic Lawrence Cemeteries

A year ago, we picked up a copy of Ronda Hassig’s The Abduction of Jacob Rote: A Civil War Tragedy, a smart and accessible historical novel written from the perspective of Jacob Rote, a young boy who was kidnapped by Quantrill’s men and forced to lead them into Lawrence (it’s based on a true story). Written for middle schoolers, it’s a quick and easy introduction to the tragic events that would later be known as Quantrill’s Raid and the Lawrence Massacre.

With Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence on our minds, we grabbed a free copy of Historic Cemeteries Tour of Lawrence at the Lawrence Visitor’s Center and started exploring how this tragic event shaped the way Lawrence buried its dead. The guide covers five cemeteries: Davis Cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery, Haskell Children’s Cemetery, Memorial Park Cemetery, and Oak Hill Cemetery. We explored two with strong connections to the Lawrence Massacre: Pioneer Cemetery and Oak Hill Cemetery.

Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery July 1 2013

Established in 1854, Pioneer Cemetery is a typical early town settlement cemetery. Originally known as Oread Cemetery, it is the final resting place for some of Lawrence’s earliest settlers and several deaths connected to the battles over slavery.

Pioneer Cemetery Plaque July 1 2013Thomas W. Barber, an abolitionist from Ohio who was murdered by pro-slavery supporters, is buried there, and the chilling poem that commemorates his death is engraved in two large stone tablets.

Pioneer Cemetery Thomas W Barber monument and poem

Thomas W. Barber Memorial.

Several Civil War Soldiers form the 13th Wisconsin Cavalry who died of typhoid fever are buried there, as well.

Pioneer Cemetery Soldiers

Civil War Soldiers.

Originally, most of the 180 men and boys killed during Quantrill’s Raid were buried here (including 70 in a mass grave), but most of the remains were reburied at Oak Hill Cemetery. Four markers of Lawrence Massacre victims are still visible.

Today, the land is reserved for University of Kansas faculty and staff members, whose cremains are marked by highly personalized ground markers.  It is a simple yet moving cemetery, and it’s hard not to imagine the trauma the community must have endured burying so many of their men and boys here, only to move them to Oak Hill Cemetery later on.

Oak Hill Cemetery

Part of Section 2 at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Part of Section 2 at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Established in 1865, Oak Hill Cemetery was created in response to the mayor’s plea for a cemetery that was closer to town (Pioneer Cemetery was out in the country back then and difficult to maintain).

Professionally landscaped as a garden cemetery, Oak Hill also served to memorialize the victims of Quantrill’s Raid. Although some Raid victims are buried individually, most were reinterred in a mass grave behind a large monument commemorating them.

Obelisk monuments are common for cemeteries of this era, and Oak Hill has one of the largest collections of intact obelisks I’ve seen in Kansas.

One of the largest collections of intact obelisks in Kansas.

One of the largest collections of intact obelisks in Kansas.

The cemetery is also home to some famous Kansans. U.S. Senator James H. Lane (1814-1866), architect John H. Haskell (1832-1907), President Abraham’s Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher (1816-1889), and basketball coach Dr. F. C. “Phog” Allen (1885-1974) are all buried here. Emporia Gazette editor William Allen White called Oak Hill Cemetery “the Kansas Arlington.”

Usher mausoleum.

Usher mausoleum.

This large cemetery is home to numerous artistic monuments, including a receiving vault. The cemetery includes statues, tree stump monuments, family mausoleums, and other personal and amazing expressions of grief and remembrance. A vast cemetery with thousands of burials, you could easily walk through this cemetery every day for a year and not see every single grave.

More about Quantrill’s Raid and the Lawrence Massacre

The city of Lawrence and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area have numerous events planned during the next several weeks to commemorate this important moment in Kansas/Missouri history. Visity 1863 Lawrence and the Freedom’s Frontier websites for more information.