Explore our Fiery History
Lawrence was founded in the 1850’s as the state’s center of resistance to the expansion of slavery. And it paid the price. Targeted, pillaged and burned to the ground during the Civil War, the community rebuilt with a commitment to education, civility, and the future. It’s quite a legacy to live up to… but we try. Add some fiery history to your visit by sampling our past.
Historical agencies throughout Douglas County will present programs that explore Quantrill’s Raid and highlight our area’s territorial and Civil War history for Civil War on the Western Frontier, August 13-20.
Monday and Tuesday, August 7-8
Let’s Build a Mud Fort, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM, Lawrence Visitors Center
Get down and dirty with some seriously fun local history. Two mornings of mud will leave your 7-12 year old and an adult companion with plenty of respect and admiration for the early residents of Lawrence who built mud forts to protect the town. $30 per child/adult pair. Register
Sunday, August 13
Reconstruction and Industrial Development along the Kaw – Post Civil War, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM, The Kansas Riverkings Museum
Recovering from war and the burning of the town by William Quantrill on August 21st 1863, Lawrence Kansas was on a mission to recover and thrive. In this hour-long talk you’ll hear our curator speak about the industrial development of the business that stretched across the south bank of the Kansas River after 1865: Bowersock’s dam, mill and power plant, the barbed wire factory, a commercial fishing industry, the Graeber boat rental fleet and others. Afterward, specific locations mentioned can be viewed on a self-guided walking tour.
Bleeding Kansas Play and Tour, 1:00 PM, Lecompton
Join an energetic 1850s town hall meeting where historic reenactors bring “Bleeding Kansas” to life at the Territorial Capital Museum. This town hall meeting reflects the time settlers voted to determine if their new state constitution would allow or prohibit slavery. Tour Historic Lecompton including Constitution Hall, Territorial Capital Museum, Old Jail, and Territorial Democratic Headquarters. Fee. (785) 887-6148
Wednesday, August 16
Gallery Talk: Underground Railroad and Freedom Rings, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum
Thursday, August 17
UnHoly Rebellion – The Civil War Diary of Charles Adam Wetherbee – 1861 – 1864, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Watkins Museum of History.
As part of Civil War on the Western Frontier, the monthly meeting of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will feature a special talk by Glady McGlen on a Civil War soldier’s diary. By 1861, Charles Adam Wetherbee had officially traded his comfortable life as a college student for one that included draft Sibley tents, long repeating marches in all forms of weather, wilderness, and bloodshed.
Friday, August 18
Oak Hill Cemetery Tour, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Watkins Museum curator, Brittany Keegan, will lead this tour of the cemetery that was built to honor the memory of Quantrill’s Raid victims. You’ll see the Quantrill’s Monument and learn the stories of some of those buried there. $18. (785) 832-7920
Saturday, August 19
Quantrill’s Raid and the Civil War – defining moments in the history of Lawrence – are commemorated at the Watkins Museum of History:
The Watkins brings back our highly popular walking tours for Civil War on the Western Frontier! This year’s tours offer a mixture of new experiences and old favorites. $15/$10 members*
Quantrill’s Raid, 8:30–10 a.m. · Tour Leader: John Jewell
An experienced local historian and tour guide takes participants through the shocking events of a defining day in Lawrence history.
Civil War Era History Hack Tour, 11:00 a.m.–1 p.m. · Tour Leaders: Cole Finley & Abby Magariel
Ready for the next level of Quantrill’s Raid tours? Join Abby and Cole for a new, unconventional History Hack tour of historic Lawrence sites!
Rebuilding of Lawrence, 6:00–7:30 p.m. · Tour Leader: John Jewell
Take a trip back to the aftermath of Quantrill’s devastating raid and learn how the citizens of Lawrence recovered and made their town stronger than ever.
Our popular bus tours of Lawrence in the Civil War era return with new insights into this pivotal time in local history. $25/$15 members*
Quantrill’s Raid, 8:00 –9:30 a.m. · Tour Leader: Michele Montour
In commemoration of a turning point in Lawrence history, take a tour visiting the places and telling the stories of the victims, survivors, and villains of Quantrill’s Raid. The tour will include downtown Lawrence and key homes in West Lawrence with stops at the Miller House and Oak Hill Cemetery. (Please note that minimal walking and standing will be involved in the stops.)
Ravine and the Raid, 11:30 –1:00 p.m. · Tour Leader: Katie Armitage
This tour will describe the scene on Vermont Street, recount stories of men save in the ravine (now Watson Park), then cross into Old West Lawrence to look at three homes that survived the 1863 raid. The final part of the tour follows the raider’s retreat from the Lawrence area.
Underground Railroad, 3:00 –4:30 p.m. · Tour Leader: Judy Sweets
Join us as we visit two of the last remaining Underground Railroad-associated structures in Lawrence, the Grover Barn and the Miller House. The tour will also include a stop at a colorful mural by local artists depicting an event in which a local family sheltered an escaped slave girl while slave catchers hunted for her. In between you will hear other stories of the Underground Railroad.
Quantrill’s Raid Victims Memorial Service and Historian Keynote Address, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM.
The annual reading of the names of the raid victims will be conducted by community leaders. This will be followed by the Civil War on the Western Frontier keynote address by Robert K. Sutton, former Chief Historian of the National Park Service, about Lawrence in the Civil War Era and his new book, Stark Mad Abolitionists.
Civil War Folk Music with Jim Krause, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
“School of the Soldier” Kids’ Civil War Activities, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM. $5 per child*
Special Tour of Quantrill’s Raid artifacts by Director Steve Nowack, 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Presentations by Living Historians
4:00–4:30 PM: Herschel & Jacque Stroud: The Strouds give a moving portrayal of the Speer family and their terrifying experiences during Quantrill’s Raid.
5:00-5:30 PM: Kerry Altenbernd as John Brown: Fiery abolitionist John Brown speaks to visitors about his battles in Kansas to free the slaves.
Evening Walking Tour, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM, $15/$10 Members*
*Register for tours or School of the Soldier by calling the Watkins Museum at (785) 841-4109
Sunday, August 20
Battlefield Tour with John Brown and His Free State Militia, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Baldwin City
Kerry Altenbernd as John Brown, assisted by members of the 13th Kansas Infantry Regiment reenactor group serving as his civilian Free State militia, and maybe a few proslavery men too, will provide a special tour of Black Jack Battlefield. Black Jack Battlefield is the place where the abolitionist John Brown led a Free-State militia in an attack on the camp of a pro-slavery militia led by Henry Clay Pate at dawn on June 2, 1856. The reenactors will be camping on site, so come out early and visit with them. FREE
Lawrence: Free State Fortress
Make your first stop the Lawrence Visitor Center to see the 27-minute docudrama that chronicles 10 years of Lawrence history, ending with Quantrill’s Raid. The film is shown upon request Monday- Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sunday 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM. FREE
Eudora and the Civil War
The Eudora Community Museum’s exhibit explores Eudora and the Civil War. Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. To schedule a tour, call 785-690-7900 or email EudoraHistory@gmail.com. FREE
Underground Railroad & Freedom Rings
Visit the Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum at Clinton Lake just outside of Lawrence. The area was a key region for the Underground Railroad and a hotbed of abolitionism and had strong community and family histories for Free State Kansas. Many slaves were safely led through the Wakarusa Valley and on their way to freedom by these noble men. Besides an exhibit about the Underground Railroad, you can also visit the “Freedom Rings”, a large-scale outdoor sculpture which serves as a beacon of light and symbol of freedom to represent the history of the region and the Underground Railroad.
Civil War on the Western Frontier is funded in part by the City of Lawrence, the Lawrence Transit System, Douglas County, and Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.