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Lawrence, Kansas and the American Civil War

Updated on June 22, 2015

Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas was founded by the New England Emigrant Aid Company. It was named for Amos Adams Lawrence (July 31, 1814 –August 22, 1886) who was an important figure in the United States abolition movement. He was also “instrumental in establishing the University of Kansas and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, which was named for his father in law. The Kansas Territory was opened to settlement in 1854. Lawrence was situated along the path of the Oregon Trail which followed the Kansas River.

Dr. Charles Robinson and Charles Branscomb, representatives of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, got to the area which is now the town of Lawrence in July of 1854. They liked what they saw and chose it as the town location. In July of 1854 a party of 29 men came to establish the town. It was officially named on October 6.

Civil War

The history of Lawrence, Kansas in the following years became entangled with the American Civil War and the lead up to that war. Like all major conflicts, the Civil War and its causes was complex. One factor in the conflict was whether the southern states, who were in disagreement with the government had the right to leave the Union, if they chose to. They called themselves the Confederate States based on the idea that the states were joined in a Confederacy or alliance which could be discontinued. On the other hand, President Abraham Lincoln was strongly of the opinion that the South did not have the right to break up the Union of States.

Slavery and the owning of slaves was another factor. A lot to the disagreements and the emotional impacts of the times was involved with the practice of slavery. The south had slaves and intended to keep them. The North was against the practice. As it happened, Lawrence Kansas was deeply committed to the prospect of eliminating slavery, partly because of its location it was a target for pro slavery raiders. Feelings ran deep on both sides, with anti-slavery people holding deep moral convictions as to the evil of slavery. The other side equally thought that the northerners should mind their own business. The feeling was that the anti-slavery people had no right to tell other states what they can or cannot do.

Lawrence is located close to the border of Missouri whose sympathies were with the confederacy and the pro-slavery cause. Kansas was not only a “free state” but Lawrence was founded by anti-slavery people.


Lawrence was not only started by anti-slavery people but it didn’t take long for them to put forth where they stood. Both the Kansas Pioneer and the Herald of Freedom were newspapers established soon after the town was founded and supported the anti-slavery cause.

Northwest of Lawrence by about ten miles lies the town of Lecompton which was the pro-slavery headquarters. There were also land squatters from Missouri near. Trouble was coming and it came in the form of an incident known as “bleeding Kansas.’ It started with a man by the name of Franklin Coleman who shot another man by the name of Charles Dow on November 21, 1855 in a place called Hickory Point a few miles south of Lawrence. After that incident, Douglas county Sheriff Samuel L. Jones led some men from Missouri into Kansas to attack Lawrence. With the help of John Brown and James Lane, citizens of Lawrence gathered together and put up barricades. No attack occurred, however. A treaty was signed and the Missourians left reluctantly.

Nevertheless Jones and others continued to harass the town of Lawrence. The Newspapers and the Free State Hotel were indicted as “nuisances.” Sheriff Jones was shot on April 23, 1856 when he tried to arrest Free State settlers. That happened on April 223, 1856. He was not killed and on May 21 he led a posse of 800 southern Sympathizers to Lawrence. They took over Dr. Robinson’s residence for a headquarters. The newspapers were raided and printing presses were thrown in the river and the Free State Hotel was destroyed.



These incidents became known as “Bleeding Kansas.” Those militant bands that were with the Free State cause became known as “Jayhawkers.” They were guerrilla fighters who had clashes with the “Border ruffians” from Missouri. The term Jayhawker became associated with Kansas and now refers to a native born Kansan.


In April of 1861 the American Civil War broke out. About two years later Lawrence was under attack. This time it was from William Clarke Quantrill and two or three hundred Confederate Guerilla riders who attacked Lawrence at the dawn of August 21, 1863. Most of the houses and businesses were burned down by Quantrill’s men. About 150 to 200 men were killed.


The name of Quantrill is known to most people and they know it has something to do with raiding the Kansas City of Lawrence. The term Jayhawker is also familiar to most people. Hopefully this article will help put these terms in perspective of the anti-slavery movement and American Civil War. The city of Lawrence was established by anti-slavery people, the jayhawkers were groups of guerrilla fighters who clashed with the pro-slavery people in nearby Missouri. Lawrence was attacked by pro slavery people from Missouri and finally the town was burned down by the guerrilla band of Quantrill, known as Quantrill’s Raiders.

Sources: Facts for this article were geaned from articles in Wikipedia.

copyright 2011 Don Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      aesta1, the Civil War seems to have left deep scars on our society. I have often wondered why it is more remembered than the Revolution. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is interesting to read more about that portion of U.S. history. There is so much to learn and sometimes, unlearn about it.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Yes, the James brothers were there and well as the Younger Brothers. I did write some fictional hubs as well on the subject. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • ziyena profile image

      Ziyena Brazos 

      5 years ago from Somewhere in Time ...

      You may already know this, but it was Jesse and Frank James who rode with Quantrill ... unfortunate fact, but true. Bleeding Kansas no more. Great Hub and voting UP

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Paul, I was never a real Civil War buff but there are some events that have attracted my attention lately. I think it is that the study of history is like working a big jig saw puzzle. If you have one piece you have to find where it fits in which leads to many others. There is much history in the area around Lawrence, Kansas City and the general area.

      Thankds for reading, commenting, votes and sharing.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Don, Thanks for refreshing my knowledge of Bleeding Kansas and the events leading up to the Civil War. Now I know why the University of Kansas football team call themselves the Jayhawks. I've never been to Kansas, but would like to visit Lawrence some day. Voted up and sharing with followers. Also Pinning and sharing on Facebook.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy. Sad in a way that a towns main claim to fame is to be burned down. As I recall Lawrence wife came from Appleton, Wisconsin. Thanks for the up votes and the share.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for the history lesson Don. I learned much from reading this regarding the town of Lawrence, Kansas. The Civil War was a horrendous time in our nation's history! Interesting that A.A. Lawrence was instrumental in establishing universities in Kansas and also in Appleton, Wisconsin. He must have been a learned man. Up, useful, interesting and will share.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks midget for the share and the comment. I appreciate the compliments.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for this fascinating piece of history, Don. Well written indeed, and detailed!! Sharing!!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the comment Dexter . I appreciate the compliment.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      6 years ago from United States

      I like historical hubs, Dahoglund. It is great to read one that is very well written and enlightening.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      drbj, I haven't seen the film but the reviews are all good that I have read. Quantrill is significant because of his infamous followers, namely the James brothers and Younger brothers. This hub was meant to putthe burning of Lawrence into more perspective than I've seen it before. There was quite a bit leading up to it. Thanks for the comments and the compliments.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, Don, for this engrossing history lesson. I remember reading of Quantrill and his Raiders but much of the Lawrence, Kansas story was new to me. I saw the film, 'Lincoln,' recently and it put many of the events of the time into perspective for me. Excellent film and excellent hub.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Lipnancy, it seems there were a lot of conflicts between groups before it led to war. Tensions in places like Lawrence were strong even before the Civil War broke out. thanks for commenting.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      6 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for this reminder in history. A divided nation or team never works.


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