When I first moved to Johnson County, Kansas in the fall of 2018, I began hearing about Quantrill’s Raid. I had never heard of the raid, but it’s understandable since I am from Texas. After the long (crazy) winter finally ended, I ventured into Lawrence, Kansas. I wanted to see what “Bleeding Kansas” was all about.
First, A Brief Background
Before the Civil War, a war raged between the pro-slavery advocates in Missouri and the antislavery activists in Kansas. Kansas Territory opened for settlement in May 1854 and Lawrence was founded later that year. The town was one of the first outposts of the anti-slavery Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society. Lawrence was often called the free-state headquarters. Violence soon erupted as antislavery and slavery settlers battled for control. The conflict grew after the Civil War started in 1861.
William Quantrill and his band of 400 guerrillas attacked Lawrence on August 21, 1863. The attack began shortly after dawn and lasted about four hours. Raiders killed between 160 and 200 men and teenage boys. They burned as many as 185 homes; fires also devastated the commercial district. Citizens fled into nearby cornfields or cellars or attempted to escape across the Kansas River. Only a few original buildings remain today, although the brick roads remain.
I would recommend stopping by the Lawrence Convention & Visitor’s Bureau at 402 N. 2nd Street to start. It’s a great little building that sits beside a train track (a train was waiting there we arrived). You can pick up a free self-guided tour map that will help guide you on this journey. They also have some other cool free information you can take with you.
Initial Stop: Lawrence Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
402 N. 2nd Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
There is also a clean bathroom inside of the visitor’s bureau. Go now before you start wandering around town. Seriously, if you are doing this on a weekend during daylight hours, go now.
Do not drive this self-tour on a weekend afternoon when the University of Kansas is in session. Part of the journey is on the campus and downtown; it is crowded with cars and students. Parking is limited, and you may spend the whole tour in your car. During the regular school year, your best bet might be weekdays between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Estimated time: 1 ½ hours to 3 hours (depending on the time of year)
The Miller House
1111 E. 19th Street, Lawrence, KS
Your tour will begin at the Miller House. The Miller House is a private home with a five-acre farm, but you can pull in front of it to look at it or to take a picture. We pulled around back, which was very peaceful and full of songbirds, but quickly realized that it was not a museum.
Why start here? The Raiders did. The first Lawrence casualty was Reverend Snyder, killed as he was milking his cow at a nearby farm on the modern-day 19th street. Built in 1858 by anti-slavery activist Robert Miller, it was an important stop on the underground railroad.
Location: 115 West 11th St., Lawrence, KS
South Park is Lawrence’s oldest park and was part of the original 1854 settlement. A historical marker is in the original section of the park at the corner of Massachusetts and South Park. It isn’t on Google Street View, but we noticed it when we arrived.
House that survived Quantrill’s Raid
1205 Rhode Island Street, Lawrence, KS
From the park, head over to 1205 Rhode Island street to see one of the houses that survived the raid.
What’s also interesting about this street are the surviving roads; they are all lined with bricks.
Historical Marker on New Hampshire Street
933 New Hampshire Street., Lawrence, KS
The next point of the tour tells you to go north from the Rhode Island Street towards 11th and turn left. Then, immediately turn right onto New Hampshire Street. A historical marker on the ground near the parking lot marks where the location of the white recruit encampment. Raiders killed 17 of the 21 young men the in camp. The black camp was located at 10th and Massachusetts; these soldiers escaped the raid.
The marker is at the entrance to the parking lot on the west side of New Hampshire, but we couldn’t find it. It was very crowded that day, so we were probably frazzled. Looking at Google Street view, I found what could be a historical marker in front of the parking garage at 933 New Hampshire. It is on the ground in front of the crosswalk.
Commercial District (Massachusetts Street)
Quantrill’s Raiders burned much of the commercial district on Massachusetts Street. The district stretched from 6th street to 9th street at the time. The only surviving building from the time is the House Building at 731 Massachusetts Street. It was originally a hotel. Patrons from the nearby Eldridge Hotel were moved there before a fire gutted the hotel.
To get there, continue north on New Hampshire street and then turn left on 9th street, then right on Massachusetts Street. It’s on the left-hand side of the street. If your traffic was anything like our traffic, you’ll have plenty of time to sit in your car and view it. (It is Lawrence’s main street and is very busy on a Saturday afternoon. I need to find out when Google Street view did their trip and go back for a second round).
The Eldridge Hotel
701 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, KS
The Eldridge Hotel, originally called the Free State Hotel, was raided and burned and then rebuilt shortly after. The original hotel was built in 1855. It was again rebuilt and restored in 1925 due to its importance to the city of Lawrence.
Historical Marker on 7th Street
601 W. 7th Street, Lawrence, KS
On 7th street, between Kentucky and Tennessee Streets, was a wooded ravine that separated downtown from Old West Lawrence. After turning left onto 7th street from Massachusetts, you will drive over this road (over what is now a city park). The raiders followed this road during the rampage. A historical marker can be found between Louisiana and Indiana Streets, as you are heading West on 7th Street. The marker indicates where the raiders shot four prominent citizens.
The marker is a little hard to spot. As you are heading west, you will see an alleyway on either side of the road. It’s on the left side, down on the ground, and looks like a gray metal box from the side of the road by the telephone pole. A passerby (who was no doubt used to this) was gracious enough to point it out to us so that I could jump out and go take a picture.
Emily Hoyt’s Boarding House
743 Indiana Street, Lawrence, KS
Turn left at Indiana Street and head down to the brick house at the northwest corner of 8th and Indiana. At the time of the raids, Emily Hoyt ran a boarding house at this location. She pleaded with the raiders that it was her only source of income. See the cupola at the top of the house? Her son was hiding there at the time and survived.
The Bell House
1008 Ohio Street, Lawrence, KS
The Bell House, at the top of a high hill, was under construction at the time of the raid. The one-and-a-half story limestone building burned during the raid, but Annie Bell saved it from destruction. Her husband, Captain George Bell, was a county clerk for Lawrence who saw the raiders when they made the first raid. He retrieved his gun and attempted to reach the raider’s first but was captured and shot by an old acquaintance. Annie Bell and her four children lived in the cellar of the house and rented the upper bedrooms for a time. Also, note the brick roads that still line the street.
Your next stop will take you through the University of Kansas campus.
Location: 420 W. 11th Street, Lawrence, KS
(Turn right at stop sign).
As you head past Ohio down to 11th street, turn right on Louisiana Street and up the hill to the stop sign. Turn right at the stop sign and turn on the circular drive between the dormitories. Although the buildings block much of the view these days, scouts from the raiding party were able to use the view to see the entire city. You can park and look out at the vista; it’s quite beautiful.
Pioneer Cemetery, Lawrence, KS
Drive around the campus and you will see many of the original Oregon Trail roads that were traveled by the raiders. The next stop will be the Pioneer Cemetery, located at the top of the hill near Constant Avenue and Irving Hill Road. It’s on Constant Avenue so turn onto there from Irving Hill Road.
Established in 1854, Pioneer Cemetery is a very peaceful cemetery where the raid victims were buried. While most were soon moved to the Oak Hill Cemetery, a few of the victims are still interred here. It is slightly hidden among trees and bushes and is away from the crowded campus. You can almost feel the past as you walk around the park-like area.
The Goss House
1101 21st Street, Lawrence, KS
The Goss House is another historic home that operated as a stop on the underground railroad.
Oak Hill Cemetery
1605 Oak Hill Ave, Lawrence, KS 66044
The land for Oak Hill Cemetery was purchased in 1865, shortly after the raid. A large monument to honor the raid victims was erected in 1895; a few of the victims were relocated to this cemetery. The markers of the victims can be found throughout Section 1. There are also many individuals buried here that were influential during the territory days. The cemetery is large, so it can be hard to find these markers.
For additional details about the tour and the raid, get the free Quantrill’s Raid: The Lawrence Massacre from the Lawrence Convention & Visitor’s Bureau or visit the Civil War on the Western Border’s Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence website.
Find travel information about Lawrence, Kansas on TripAdvisor (where to stay, etc.)
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