Friday, April 06, 2007

Quindaro, Kansas

A few days ago we reviewed our Fifth Grade history about the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and its de facto repeal with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. These two pieces of legislation effectively turned Kansas into the first battlefield of the Civil War long before the secession of the Southern states. People on both sides of the slavery question poured into Kansas to influence elections in that state.

To say that feelings ran high understates the matter. In Clay County, Missouri, just across the river from Kansas, pro-slavery gangs launched raids into Kansas to terrorize and intimidate the "free-staters." Organizations such as the "Platte County Self-Defense Association" were formed in Missouri as newspapers in Jackson, Platte, Clay, counties editorialized that Missouri should "do its duty" to prevent another free state entering the Union. One source says that a "tidal wave of political hysteria swept over western Missouri." In a notorious incident at Parksville, Missouri, G.S. Park and W.J. Patterson, editors of the abolitionist journal the Luminary, were threatened with drowning and their press destroyed. "And if they go to Kansas to reside," said one agitator, "we pledge our honor as men to follow and hang them whenever we can take them.

The frenzy in Missouri was matched in Kansas. Abolitionists arrived in large numbers from Northern and Northeastern states. Violence broke out between the two groups.

Meanwhile, slaves sought to escape to Kansas. However, this was not necessarily a good idea. The newly established towns of Atchison, Leavenworth, and Delaware City were virtually closed to free-stater and abolitionist. As a result, the free-staters sought to establish a safe haven on the Missouri River below Kansas City. The haven became the town of Quindaro.

Much of the land in the area was owned by Abelard Guthrie from Ohio. He was married to a Wyandot Indian named Quindaro, who used her influence with the tribe to acquire even more land. Guthrie named the town for his wife [who was also known as Nancy]. The town was located directly across the river from Parksville, Missouri.

Quindaro [the town] grew rapidly through 1857 and had promise of becoming the largest town in Kansas. It was an abolitionist stronghold and a stop on the Underground Railroad. This letter describes some of the abolitionist activity.

Kansas City and Leavenworth grew very rapidly and soon eclipsed Quindaro as major cities in Kansas. By the 1870's, most people had moved away from Quindaro. The town had a brief resurgence when Freedmen's University (later called Western University) was found there. But eventually, Kansas City (Kansas) overtook Quindaro.

Today, Quindaro is a section of Kansas City, Kansas, hard by the Missouri River. A statue of John Brown stands at North 27th and Sewell streets.

Quindaro's importance as the first free port and Underground Railroad stop in Kansas cannot be underestimated.

Genealogical Research Note: When looking for black individuals in Western Missouri in the late 1800s, don't forget Quindaro, Kansas! (Regrettably, has it transcribed as "Quindave" in some places).

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