Saturday, August 1, 2009

History in Our Own Backyard

I took a trip down to Rhodes Paint Horses again this weekend to help with some chores and on the way back, I decided to finally stop at the Marais de Cygnes Massacre site.

A little background: In 1855, Kansas territory became an armed camp as a result from legislation that declared that local voters would decide if the new state was to become slave or free. Thousands of settlers flooded into Kansas, some from the neighboring slave state of Missouri and some from northern states. Quickly events disintegrated into a precursor to the Civil War, with pro-slave groups clashing with pro-free groups in small battles up and down the state’s eastern border. One of the anti-slavery groups was led by the staunch abolitionists, John Brown, an. A few years later, 1859, Brown lead an attack on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. The plan was to capture the weapons in the armory and precipitate a war of liberation. The attack was unsuccessful and Brown and his followers were hanged. The event became famous among Northern Abolitionists, who came to consider him a hero and martyr for the cause of aboliton .

The Massacre at Marais de Cygnes was one of the most brutal and shocking events during this moment in Kansas history. It made temperatures rise across the nation, and it's easy to see why.

Site of the massacre:

I thought this was an amazing story. It was a woman--a brave woman--that found and saved the survivors. For her to approach these killers took a lot of guts....
In case you can't read the sign, it says, "Sarah Read learned that her husband, the Reverent B.L. Read, had been captured. She bravely followed the trail of the men nearly two miles when she heard gunshots. She soon encountered some of Hamilton's men and demanded to know what they did with her husband. Eventually, she discovered the victims in the ravine. Her wounded husband implored her to get help. She returned with the wives of two other victims to administer aid."

About a month after the massacre John Brown came to the site and built a "fort" which was later turned into this stone house.

Plaque on the house:

It's amazing to think that some of the most important events that took place leading up to the civil war happened here, practically in our backyard. I hope that whereever you live, you take the time to appreciate its rich history and its impact on the nation and the world!

A blush as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch-grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air
For wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never
Bleach out in the sun!

Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead.

From the hearths of their cabins,
The fields of their corn,
Unwarned and unweaponed,
The victims were torn,--
By the whirlwind of murder
Swooped up and swept on
To the low, reedy fen-lands,
The Marsh of the Swan.

With a vain plea for mercy
No stout knee was crooked;
In the mouths of the rifles
Right manly they looked.
How paled the May sunshine,
O Marais du Cygne!
On death for the strong life,
On red grass for green!

In the homes of their rearing,
Yet warm with their lives,
Ye wait the dead only,
Poor children and wives!
Put out the red forge-fire,
The smith shall not come;
Unyoke the brown oxen,
The ploughman lies dumb.

Wind slow from the Swan's Marsh,
O dreary death-train,
With pressed lips as bloodless
As lips of the slain!
Kiss down the young eyelids,
Smooth down the gray hairs;
Let tears quench the curses
That burn through your prayers.

Strong man of the prairies,
Mourn bitter and wild!
Wail, desolate woman!
Weep, fatherless child!
But the grain of
God springs up
From ashes beneath,
And the crown of his harvest
Is life out of death.

Not in vain on the dial
The shade moves along,
To point the great contrasts
Of right and of wrong:
Free homes and free altars,
Free prairie and flood,--
The reeds of the Swan's Marsh,
Whose bloom is of blood!

On the lintels of Kansas
That blood shall not dry;
Henceforth the Bad Angel
Shall harmless go by;
Henceforth to the sunset,
Unchecked on her way,
Shall Liberty follow
The march of the day.

John Greenleaf Whittier - May 19, 1858

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