Even unpleasant events, such as those leading up to America’s eventual countrywide fight over slavery in its Civil War, are important to note, honor and understand. A good understanding of history can illuminate the whys of today’s life, which is demonstrated by the long and bloody border war between Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri bushwhackers or border ruffians. Though much of that initial battle occurred in Lawrence, Franklin County played a part too, and a reading event at Neosho County Community College’s Ottawa campus helped engage local people in the historical melee.
Still others might have participated in a voyeuristic view Wednesday on social media via a moderated exchange on Twitter. The online re-enactment focused on those events leading up to the fateful killing of 200 men in Lawrence by more than 400 men and boys from Johnson and Cass counties in Missouri and the destruction of Lawrence’s downtown in 1863. The event was an interesting twist through a collaboration of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and others to engage more people in the event’s anniversary.
Franklin County’s own city of Lane is named after James H. Lane, a leader of the Jayhawkers abolitionist movement. He served as one of the first senators from Kansas. In 1856, Lane was the site of a battle that came to be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre where pro-slavery men — James, William and Drury Doyle, Allen Wilkinson and William Sherman — were hacked to death. Ironically, though Lane fought against slavery, his namesake community, as well as much of the Franklin County area, has virtually no racial diversity today, according to the 2010 census.
The impact of our “Bleeding Kansas” days continues to be felt today. Though much of the eastern portion of the state remains overwhelmingly white, its inhabitants continue a tradition of commitment to Kansas’ roots of freedom for all, regardless of race.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher