Rest in Peace, Rees Perkins Brown

Rees Perkins Brown—The Fourth Antislavery Martyr of Bleeding Kansas–January 18, 1856


Debian Marty, Ph.D.

Division of Humanities & Communication

California State University Monterey Bay

18 Jan 2016


He had been elected a representative in Kansas on the day he was killed.”

The election had been moved from Leavenworth to Easton, to avoid conflict between the pro- and anti-slavery forces.  The effort proved futile. On January 17, 1856, voters in Easton elected R. P. Brown as their Free State representative.  The next day, a pro-slavery mob captured Brown, tortured him for hours, and then dumped his dying body on the frozen doorstep in front of his pregnant wife and child.  He died during the small hours of the night, technically one day after he won the election.

Initially, the press misidentified him as a Kentuckian named E. P. Brown.  Later, he would be mistaken for John Brown’s son-or nephew- whose death presumably motivated the Pottawatomie Massacre. More recently, a scholar claimed that Brown was a wool dealer from Springfield, Massachusetts.  All were in error.

Although he was not related to the Osawatomie Browns, it was John Brown Jr. who presented a set of resolutions to the Free State legislature calling for the slain man’s sacrifice to be honored.  “Resolved,” he declared, “That we recommend to the lovers of freedom and justice to erect a monument to the memory of the deceased.” That memorial was never built.  Today is the 160th anniversary of his death and this is a remembrance.  He was an Ohio native and his name was Rees Perkins Brown.

Rees Perkins Brown

 He was the son of a slave owner.  His father, Moses Brown, moved from North Carolina to Mississippi in the early 1800s even as other relations migrated north.  The family’s discomfiture over Moses’ slave-owning status led them to send a nephew south to change his mind.  Dutifully, the nephew appealed to his Uncle Moses to leave Mississippi “on account of the children” and to renounce the institution of slavery.  Eventually, his persuasive powers prevailed.

With five children and a very pregnant wife, Moses Brown boarded a steamboat headed for Ohio.  Family lore maintains that Moses freed nearly twenty people in Cincinnati before joining the northern Browns in Logan County, Ohio.  There, on July 3, 1825, his wife Nancy gave birth to a son. On the day before the country celebrated its forty-ninth year of independence, Moses and Nancy named their child after her grandfather and brother, both of whom were slave owners.  Their namesake, Rees Perkins Brown, however, would grow up to challenge their southern way of life.

The Ohio Browns were antislavery Quakers.  Moses never returned to the faith, but his change of heart led him to sign a petition “praying” for Congress to abolish slavery in Washington D. C.  After his death, his widow Nancy migrated west with her now adult children and their Quaker relatives.  They settled in Michigan’s southwestern frontier in 1844 and straightaway got involved in local antislavery politics and the Underground Railroad network.  Their new home in Cass County, Michigan was an established refuge for people fleeing slavery, a fact which drew the persistent attention of slavecatchers.

On August 20, 1847, a Kentucky posse raided the Michigan refuge and rounded up their “human chattel.”  Rees, now twenty-two years old, joined his neighbors to thwart the slave catchers.  Their captives escaped.  This successful resistance earned the slave owners’ wrath.  Several of the rescuers were charged with violating the Fugitive Slave law, including two of Rees’ relatives.  To protect Rees from prosecution, the family urged him to leave.

He crossed the state line to enroll in Indiana’s new university, Notre Dame du Lac.  Although an honors student, Rees soon had to withdraw.  The bill for his board remained unpaid, and he became ill with consumption.  Standard medical advice recommended warmer climes, so he ventured south.  During the winter of 1850, he secured a teaching position near his father’s former home.  A teacher’s meager wages did little for his pocketbook. But the year and a half he spent in Mississippi improved his health–and solidified his anti-slavery convictions.

“While South I learned the horrible reality of slavery.”

 Rees wrote to his older brother, Aaron, who was trying his luck in California’s gold mines, to report that he had “found some of our relatives in the South that we had given up all hope of ever seeing again.” Their father, Moses, had four children from a first marriage, three of whom chose to remain in Mississippi when the rest of the family moved north.  Born in Ohio, Rees had never known his southern relations.  HIs excitement at meeting these long-lost family members quickly waned, however, for it was while visiting them that he “learned the horrible reality of slavery.”

Of particular concern was his half-brother, Edward S. Brown, a wealthy slave owner living in Liberty Township.  A “more dis[s]ipated character never disgraced humanity,” complained Rees in his letter to Aaron.  “It would be wasting time to give a full description of his character,” he declared, before ominously confiding, “I will describe him by saying that no crime is too heinous for him to commit.”

Back in Michigan, Rees’ youngest sister, Samantha, contracted consumption. She, too, sought the purported healing powers of the southern climate. That fall in 1850, she and a few other Michigan family members joined Rees on a visit to their relations in Liberty.  In her diary, Samantha revealed more specifics about slavery’s “horrible reality.” She and her family “had frequent opportunities of witnessing the cruelties inflicted upon the blacks by their merciless tormentors.” She bewailed the fact that “I have lain my head in bed and listened to the strokes as they descended on the shrieking victim until my heart bled for the oppressed.”

In the spring of 1851, Samantha and the other Michigan Browns grew so “homesick” that they shortened their visit and returned north.  She never recuperated from her illness. Within a few months, Samantha passed away at age twenty-three.  Rees mourned his sister’s death deeply, experiencing a “sullen indifference” to spiritual comfort.

He wrote an entry in her diary, explaining how his religious skepticism derived from “the hidebound bigotry of many who stand forth as orthodox expounders of God’s word.” He struggled at length with the “contradictory tenets, the gross inconsistencies” of that religious bigotry until he “learned a lesson of infinite value.” In his sorrow, he came to accept the possibility of an afterlife and the Christian doctrine of resurrection.  Rees placed his faith in “this noblest of lessons,” because he “saw that he was mortal and felt that he soon must die.”

Like Samantha and his northern relations, Rees became “so thoroughly disgusted with the workings of the institution of Slavery” that he could not remain in the south.  In May, 1851, he boarded a steamer bound for the free states.  His breaking point, according to his brother, Aaron, came when Rees witnessed “the burning of a slave in Liberty, Mississippi.”

This atrocity may have been Edward S. Brown’s “heinous crime” to which Rees had ominously referred.  The “horror of that accursed outrage,” Aaron believed, “was vivid in [Rees’] memories on all occasions,” and “gave bent to his political feeling and action.” Upon his return to Michigan, Rees “immediately identified himself with the Free Democratic Party, and continued his connection with it down to the period of his death.”

The Free Democratic Party’s platform denounced slavery as “a sin against God and a crime against man.” The party also repudiated the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required northern cooperation with slavecatchers.  This new law ensnared Rees’ Michigan relatives who were among those sued for interfering with the Kentucky Raid’s slave catchers.

Their trial ended with a hung jury, but left the defendants deeply indebted. Their difficulties were complicated further by the slave owner’s lawyers, who took advantage of a legal technicality to argue for a retrial under the more punitive terms of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.  To aid his relatives and anti-slavery allies, Rees traveled through Ohio and Canada to raise funds for their legal defense.  He came back practically empty-handed.  In December 1851, prior to the judge’s ruling on the motion for retrial, Rees’ disheartened relations unilaterally settled with the slave owner.  The decision shocked their abolitionist community. “Blood money!” their critics cried.

Political tensions over slavery continued to escalate in Michigan and throughout the United States. On May 30, 1854, President Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This law allowed territorial residents to adopt or reject slavery, free from Congressional influence.  Pandemonium ensued, as pro- and anti-slavery advocates rushed to the territory, alongside opportunistic speculators and westward pioneers.  Still, here was a chance to act against slavery.  Within a year, Rees Perkins Brown was on his way to Kansas.

 “Leavenworth will be a great town”

 Rees arrived in Kansas on April 27, 1855, first exploring Lawrence and then Leavenworth.  The latter, he wrote in his travel diary “was situated in a beautiful place” and would become, he believed, “a great town.” He watched the troops drill at Fort Leavenworth before heading home to collect his family.

Now a husband and father, Rees returned to Kansas that fall with his wife, Martha Ann, and their two-year old daughter, Samantha Evangeline.  The family arrived in Leavenworth on October 4, 1855.  In a letter to her Michigan pastor, Martha wrote, “When we landed in Leavenworth City dwellings were hard to get. Mr. McCrea solicited us to go on his claim (he was then in prison) and be company for his wife and have a home for ourselves.”

Cole McCrea was a Free State man, imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth for killing a pro-slavery man, Malcolm Clarke.  McCrea’s wife, Elizabeth, and infant son were living alone several miles west of town in Salt Creek Valley.  Before the Browns took McCrea up on his offer, Rees participated in the Free State election to secure delegates for the United States Congress and the upcoming Topeka Constitutional Convention. When, on October 9th, he cast his ballot and affixed his signature, “R. P. Brown,” he officially chose a side in the territory’s increasingly bloody dispute.  He had three months and nine days to live.

“Prominent in the Defense of Lawrence”

 The subsequent murder of a Free State man, Charles Dow, escalated the threats of violence and vigilante justice.  The territorial governor called for troops to restore order as outraged Missourians and pro-slavery settlers surrounded the city of Lawrence.  Free State men rushed to the city’s defense.  One of the few to come from Leavenworth was R. P. Brown.  Upon his arrival, he was commissioned by James H. Lane to serve as a Major in the 1st Regiment of the 1st Brigade of Kansas Volunteers.  It was November 27th.

Within two weeks, the armed standoff was resolved by a peace treaty.  The “Wakarusa War,” however, had heightened hostilities and produced the death of yet another Free State man, Thomas Barber.  Although R. P. Brown’s role in the skirmish is unknown, his “gallantry” greatly impressed his commander-in-chief.  Charles Robinson declared that “Brown had been prominent in the defense of Lawrence.” He “was true as steel and brave as a lion,” Robinson opined, “and hence was feared and hated by his opponents as were but few others.”

Rees’ reputation for bravery was established further upon his return to Leavenworth.  Less than one week after the Wakarusa treaty was signed, another Free State election was held, this time to ratify the Topeka Constitution and its ban on slavery.  As the voting was underway, Captain Charles Dunn led twenty armed men to the polls to put a stop to the election.  At the polling place, Dunn confronted an election judge and demanded that he turn over the ballot box.  The judge refused. As Dunn called for his posse, the judge fled the building.  George Wetherill, an election clerk, grabbed the ballot box and hid it, then hurried out too.  Dunn and his men mobbed Wetherill, punching and kicking him.

A witness reported that “some few of the Free State men who had not been frightened off, interfered.” They were led by “a young man from York State named Anthony and a man named Brown [who] cocked their pistols and rushed forward.”  They carried the injured Wetherill away from danger and to a nearby store.  Later, Rees’ wife, Martha, would identify Wetherwill’s rescue as a turning point.  “From that time,” she believed, “my husband was a marked victim.”

Contemporary observers also described Rees as a marked man, albeit in different terms. Hannah Anderson Ropes commented that “in personal appearance,” Rees Perkins Brown “was quite a marked man, even in a crowd. He was unusually tall, with a rich, brown complexion, dark abundant hair and beard, and eyes large dark and sad in expression.”  The Free State Governor’s wife, Sara Robinson, remembered him similarly, except for having noted his “pleasant dark eyes.”

Their appraisal was expanded upon by a local missionary. He asserted that Brown’s “boldness and energy were the very qualities which disposed the ‘Ruffians’ to mark him for death.”  Given his distinctive presence and bold bearing, Rees was readily identifiable. As a marked man, however, his days were numbered.

“R. P. Brown came and rescued me.”

Despite the efforts of Dunn and men like him, the Topeka Constitution was ratified.  Now, a government needed to be formed and state officers chosen. Rees ran as a candidate for the Free State Legislature in Leavenworth’s Twelfth Senatorial District.

To avoid more conflict between the pro- and anti-slavery forces, the next election was postponed and the polls relocated. On a bitterly cold day–January 17, 1856–voters cast their ballots at Thomas A. Minard’s farm in Easton, twelve miles west of Leavenworth.  Predictably, a political confrontation ensued.

This time both sides were heavily armed. Many spent the day drinking whiskey, flashing their guns, and issuing taunts and threats.  Though tensions ran high, the polls closed without significant incident.

Near midnight, a Free State man, Stephen Sparks, was on his way home with his son and nephew, when they were waylaid by a liquored-up group of pro-slavery men.  Word of Sparks’ detainment reached Brown who, with a company of fifteen men, came to the rescue.  Shots were fired.  A proslavery man named John Cook was mortally wounded; Sparks’ son was injured.

Each side pulled back—Brown’s men retreated to Minard’s home, the proslavery group carried the wounded man Cook to nearby Dawson’s store.  The rest of the night passed uneventfully. Sparks left the next morning, taking refuge in Lawrence’s friendlier environs. He immediately wrote his brother, a Baptist minister living in Indiana. Of his rescue, Sparks declared, “To [Brown’s] gallantry I am indebted for my life.” Back in Easton, R. P. Brown and seven of his men finished breakfast and headed for home.

“They murdered me like cowards.”

 The pro-slavery men had recognized R. P. Brown as the leader of Spark’s rescue.  As their party regrouped at Dawson’s store, they secured a doctor for Cook, who was in great pain.  Alarmed, both the doctor and the store clerk sent express messages to Kickapoo and Leavenworth calling for reinforcements. The next morning, January 18th, fifty men set out toward Easton. Captain Martin’s company of Kickapoo Rangers was the first to encounter Brown and his men on the road.

Joseph H. Bird, traveling with Brown, accounted for what next transpired.  The Kickapoo men, he said,

jumped out of their wagons and came up towards us, and we then jumped out of our wagon. Brown called to them and told them to keep their distance, that we were well armed and could defend ourselves against them…We looked at the top of the hill and saw a body of horsemen coming…there was a cry that they had got Brown sure, and they made a rush towards our wagon.

Vastly outnumbered, Brown, Bird and their companions relinquished their weapons.  Under Captain Martin’s direction, they were rounded up and taken back to Dawson’s store in Easton.  A “fierce discussion” erupted over what should be done.  Several pro-slavery men were drinking heavily, tying up rope into nooses and threatening to hang them all. Others objected to any violence against the prisoners.  Eventually, the Rangers decided to separate Brown from the others, leaving them under guard. Brown was led into the adjoining room to be put on “trial” for the previous night’s attack.

During Brown’s interrogation, a Kickapoo Ranger named Robert Gibson stormed into the room, leading a pack of enraged and drunken men.  Joseph Bird, having been forced inside to give testimony against Brown, instead became a witness to the subsequent attack.

Gibson had the Sharpe rifle, which he presented to Brown’s heart. Brown then took hold of it and pushed it away from him.  Gibson then took his hatchet and struck Brown… a gash on the temple.  I saw the cut and blood.

Brown tried to defend himself, but the Rangers became “ungovernably fierce” in their bloodlust.  Some men fled the melee, including Captain Martin and Joseph Bird. With the situation out of control, Martin allowed Bird and the other Free State men to escape. He then also left the scene.  The remaining mob, however, set upon Brown with blows and kicks, yelling “kill him!” Brown was heard to cry out, “Don’t abuse me–It is useless-I am dying!”

By now it was nearly dusk.  Charles Dunn, who had attacked George Wetherill at Leavenworth’s polling place, arrived at the Easton store having unsuccessfully pursued Stephen Sparks.  Dunn, along with a pair of pro-slavery men, tossed his former nemesis onto the back of a lumber wagon. They left the injured Brown uncovered in the frigid, sub-zero air as they set out to take him home.

The trip over miles of hard, frozen ground caused Brown to moan as he lay in the wagon bed.   Eli Moore, riding in the back of the wagon with Brown, tried to silence the wounded man with kicks.  With rising frustration, Moore put his boot to Brown’s cheek, twisting his neck in order to expose his injury. He then spit tobacco juice into the gash along Brown’s temple, declaring that it “would ease any damned abolitionist.”

Dunn, Moore and the others carried Brown to a saloon in Salt Creek Valley.  There, the party imbibed copiously, as they went through the “farce” of dressing Brown’s injuries.  Seeing the futility, they continued on to the McCrea homestead, where the Brown family had taken up residence.

Elizabeth McCrea and Martha Brown were at home with their children, waiting.  A Free State man who escaped earlier from Easton had warned them of the impending danger. Around midnight, the women heard the drunken party approaching. “Within about half a mile of the house,” Martha reported, “I heard [the Rangers] shouting & halloing like so many wicked fiends let loose from the Infernal Regions of darkness.”

Dunn and his men drove up to the house and backed the wagon up to the door.  They dragged Brown out of the wagon bed by his feet, letting his body fall with a thud onto the frozen ground. “Here is Brown!” they drunkenly announced.

Martha rushed to her husband’s side.  In a faintly audible voice, Rees gasped, “I have been murdered by a gang of cowards, in cold blood, without any cause!”  Over Dunn’s objections, the women managed to get Rees in bed, where he remained conscious and cognizant of his surroundings.  Helplessly, he witnessed Dunn accost his wife, Martha, “pushing his hands down into her Bosom.”

Martha went “to the foot of the bed and from a pile of Blankets drew a small charged revolver.” She said, “The first villain that lays his hand upon me, I’ll Kill…”  Dunn and his men saw “that there was shoot in this demented woman’s eye” and departed.

From this death bed, Rees uttered his last words to his wife. “I am not afraid to die,” he said, “if I have done wrong in any way, I hope God will forgive me.  I die in a good cause. I am sorry to part with you and our little child, but I want you should meet me in Heaven!”

“He died in defence of the liberties of Kansas, and shall his memory not be preserved?”

 Out of the seventy-six votes cast at Easton, Rees Perkins Brown received seventy-three and was elected a Free State representative.  But no doctor came to his death bed, no coroner held an inquest, and no grand jury indictments were issued to seek justice on his behalf.  The writ issued by Judge Lecompte to secure Brown’s safety was never served, the Free State rescue party arrived days too late.

Quietly, on January 20, 1856, R. P. Brown’s “remains were consigned to their lasting resting place” at Pilot Knob cemetery, “amid the howling wind and drifting snow.”

There his body lay until his older brother Aaron read of his murder in the newspaper and came to Leavenworth to investigate.  He had Rees’ body exhumed in March.  Three physicians confirmed the mortal blow to his temple, a gash two inches long that had cut through brain and bone.

Martha Brown’s letter to her father explaining Rees’ death circulated in northern newspapers.  Concerns about her mental health and financial well-being were relayed as well to sympathetic readers.  Come early spring, Martha and her daughter left Kansas.  Elizabeth McCrea accompanied them to Chicago, where they were met by their Michigan family. That summer, just weeks after what would have been Rees’ 31st birthday Martha gave birth to their second daughter.  She named their baby Anna Rees Brown.

A special election was held to replace Rees in the Free State assembly.  Resolutions were passed honoring his sacrifice and calling for a memorial.  In May, a Congressional delegation came to investigate “the troubles in Kansas.”  They took testimony about the circumstances surrounding R. P. Brown’s death and published the partisan-torn findings.  That same month, in retaliation for Rees’ murder and the subsequent sacking of Lawrence, John Brown (no relation to Rees) led his men to commit the Pottawatomie massacre.

Some months later, a reporter visited Pilot Knob cemetery.  “The grave of Brown is surrounded by a neat fence,” he wrote, “painted white, upon which is written the following:”

Rees Perkins BROWN, born in Logan County,Ohio, 3d of July, 1825.

Brutally murdered by that damnable League, the Kickapoo Rangers.

He died for Freedom, let us live for it.

Better die a martyr of Freedom like Brown, than live a champion of Slavery like DOUGLAS,

He was murdered because true to his native North and her free Institutions.

 At the head of the grave, the reporter found a rough stone engraved with the initials R. P. B.

Senator Stephen A. Douglas, author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act which permitted “squatter sovereignty” and gave way to bloodshed, would soon lose the presidential contest to Abraham Lincoln.  With the cemetery long gone, let alone Brown’s gravesite, no memorial currently exists.  On the 160th anniversary of the death of Kansas’ fourth antislavery martyr, let this be a remembrance. Rest in peace, Rees Perkins Brown.


Sources Consulted

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Goodrich, Thomas.  War to the Knife:  Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stockpole, 1998.

Graden, Debra, ed. Kansas Voter Registration Lists, 1854-1856 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999. Accessed 14 Jan 2016.

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The Tradition Continues: 24th Annual Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour

2011-11-01@17.17.18The Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour is scheduled for Sunday, December 13, 2015, from 1pm to 7pm.  This time honored tradition in historic Leavenworth marks its twenty-fourth year in featuring six vintage homes, the Carroll Mansion Museum and this year, the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum, all decorated for the holiday season.  Many of the tour stops are either on the National Register of Historic Places or are located within a historic district of Leavenworth. The tour is as much a part of the holiday activities in Leavenworth and the greater Kansas City area as Father Christmas himself.  With a reputation as one of the finest holiday homes tour in the area, tour goers come from all over the metropolitan area and beyond, to experience the holiday spirit and compelling connections offered with each tour stop to the unique history of Leavenworth.  This eagerly anticipated annual tour is planned by a committee composed of volunteers from both the Leavenworth Vintage Homes Society and the Leavenworth County Historical Society.  It is a major fund raiser for the historical society with most tickets ordered in advance for a $12 donation ($17 on tour day) at the Carroll Mansion Museum or downtown at dorMail, The Pot Rack, Candle Queen, June’s Northland, 5th Avenue Frames, Sunflower Sisters Vintage, and the Leavenworth Antique Mall.  Tickets are also available on-line at

Carroll Mansion by Zohner

The Carroll Mansion Museum is tour headquarters, where the tour begins.  As the museum opens earlier on tour day at 11am,  a preview of the excitement for the day is clearly apparent as advance-tickets are picked up, the Victorian Gift Shoppe bustles with activity and holiday breads are sold in the Victorian kitchen.  The 50th anniversary of the museum, the Edward Carroll House, listed on the the National Register of Historic Places, is celebrated this year and the 16-room mansion has never appeared finer at Christmas.  Before the official tour begins at 1pm and throughout the day, tour goers have the opportunity to walk through the house and observe some of Leavenworth’s unique history found in its furnishings. On exhibit will be some of the prints made from the original Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection, which the Society is attempting to acquire.  A visit from Father Christmas is expected and live entertainment is scheduled throughout the day to include:  The Recorder Consort, Heritage Singers, and new this year, members of the Kansas City Harp Society with Wujeong Duncan.

The home at 625 Olive Street625 Olive_2254_ap

has always been recognized as the house Fred Harvey built for his youngest daughter, Sibyl.  While she never resided here, the house has always been a part of the must-see Harvey family sites in Leavenworth.  The home has retained its original charm with interior oak woodwork, native to Kansas, and original stained glass windows.   Current owners, Mike and Mary Stephenson, have furnished the home with period pieces collected from around the world, incorporated with treasured family heirlooms.  Over the years, the home has been featured in magazines depicting the lifestyle of the early 1900s and included on several local tours to benefit community organizations.  The home is included in the Union Park Historic District where adjacent Union Park was dedicated in December 1870, commemorating the victory of Union forces in the American Civil War.


Significant because of its location in Leavenworth is the two and one-half story foursquare with reversed gabled roof home at 412 Walnut Street2015 214 Walnut St-0The first residential home of Leavenworth was built just across the street in 1854.  Prior to the construction of the house, the land was the site of the Westminister Presbyterian Church, built in the early 1870s and razed in the early 1900s.  Now owned by Rebecca and Sam Lex, the house was built one hundred years ago, in 1915, and showcases original hardwood floors, built-in oak buffet and leaded windows.


Newly renovated, the Stove Factory Loft apartments are steeped in history.  A small foundry that manufactured parts for steamboats and stoves back in 1857, grew into the Great Western Stove Company by 1875.  Headed by E.P. Willson, the company then manufactured coal, wood and gas stoves and ranges of all kinds.    The $25 million Stove Factory Lofts development began in 2005, by the Foutch Brothers.  Today, the first phase of the renovation has resulted in a 5 story apartment building overlooking the Missouri River on South Esplanade Street.  The apartment of Ray and Chelsea Hackler highlights brick walls and wood beams in juxtaposition with modern interior design.  The building is within the Leavenworth Downtown Historic Industrial District.

600 Osage Se

600 Osage Street has long been recognized as the Judge Robert Crozier home.  While the original structure, built in 1860 by land agent, real estate broker and attorney, William Ralston, it was in 1882 that Judge Crozier purchased the property and undertook its major renovation.  Crozier served as a U.S. Senator and Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, having arrived in Kansas Territory in 1857 to establish the Leavenworth Daily Times, known today as The Leavenworth Times.   The visitor is warmly welcomed by owners, Bonnie Joranko and Mike Burke with an oak bridal staircase in the main entry, oak pier mirror, original woodwork, parquet floors, and stained glass.

2015 602 Seneca-1

The Merritt H. Insley home at 602 Seneca is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was initially constructed in the late 1850s.  Renovations were made in the early 1860s by John Kerr, local banker, and in 1866 by Civil War Captain Merritt H. Insley, banker and entrepreneur.  Since 1920 the home has been in the family of current owners, Priscilla and Dave Bodde, who have meticulously restored the two-story Italianate to the glory of its Victorian years.



The 311 North Broadway frame home, has offered many secrets to its past history to the current owner, Sally Graham, during various renovations.  Hand cast ornate plaster moldings and cornices, not frequently found in Leavenworth homes, can be seen in the living room. Prominent Leavenworthians to reside here included John B. Lamber, at one time a proprietor of the famed Planter’s Hotel and an early settler in 1857.  His wife was Mary J. Smith, sister of Leonard T. Smith and Mrs. Jasper S. Rice, also leading citizens.  Throughout the home are hardwood floors, a completely remodeled kitchen, French doors, plantation shutters, high ceilings and period architectural details.

2015 412 Kiowa St

From humble beginnings as the home of U.S. Army Captain William Bly, a Buffalo Soldier during World War I, the original structure became the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church before it was opened in 1992 as the Richard Allen Cultural Center & Museum on Kiowa Street.  In 2002, a modern addition was built to the front of the home to accommodate additional exhibit space, office and tutoring classrooms.   The museum is a treasure trove of history with professionally executed exhibits highlighting artifacts of African American pioneers and members of the military.  “Black Dignity” portraiture of the 1870s to 1920s from the Everhard Glass Negative Collection is also on display.  The museum is another one of Leavenworth’s best kept secrets.


The LCHS and the Vintage Homes Society cordially invites the public to join them in celebrating the traditional holiday season, in support of the historical society, by joining other tour goers in sampling the Victorian age of Leavenworth.  It was here in Leavenworth, that the history of Kansas began and by stepping back in time, the importance of our place in history can be felt.   For additional information, visit the LCHS website,, their Facebook page listed under Leavenworth County Historical Society, or by calling the museum, 913-682-7759.   Most homes are not handicap accessible and the tour goes on regardless of weather.


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Major Fund Raising Campaign Launched by Leavenworth County Historical Society to Reclaim Leavenworth History

Leavenworth_small (1)

The Leavenworth County Historical Society at the Carroll Mansion Museum has announced the launch of a $1 million capital campaign to acquire the remainder of the Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection and to maintain and expand facilities at the museum, in order to promote the major role Leavenworth has played in early Kansas history.

The Everhard Collection

Nearly 50 years ago four tons of glass plate negatives, made in the first century of Leavenworth’s history by four local pioneer photographers, were loaded into a U-Haul truck and transported out of town.  The negatives had been in the possession of Miss Mary Everhard, who had operated her own photography studio here since 1922, having purchased it from Harrison Putney.   Putney had been in business with his predecessor and step-father, E. E. Henry and their glass negatives had been accumulating since Henry’s arrival in Leavenworth in 1867. Over the years, Miss Everhard also acquired glass plates from H.S. Stevenson, who, together with his father, Richard Stevenson, operated a studio in Leavenworth from 1858 to 1940.  Miss Everhard was clearly aware of the historic value of the negatives as the “whole panorama of western immigration” had passed before the cameras of these pioneer photographers.  The images taken by E.E. Henry were considered the finest examples of an early western town. The resultant move out of Leavenworth of nearly a century of local and early Kansas history, left a void for researchers, genealogists, and citizens, of primary source historical material.

A Friendship develops

During Miss Everhard’s career, her studio and glass negative collection were moved twice and survived a fire, two Kansas tornadoes, and a small flood.   She had spent many hours archiving the massive collection and interviewing local residents who were the children of Leavenworth’s early pioneers.  When her retirement drew near, a buyer for the collection was not to be found until David Phillips of neighboring Missouri came to town seeking photographs of his own ancestors who had come to the first city of Kansas to make a living.  His great-grandfather, William Phillips operated a livery stable and his grandfather, Douglas Phillips was a bookkeeper for Stutsman & Keene, merchant tailors on Delaware street in 1860s Leavenworth.    Phillips was directed to the Everhard Studio, then in its final location, at 521 N. 5th Street, which had previously been an old bakery, and there a friendship began between two photographers with a passion for Leavenworth history.

Leavenworth Promoted

Back in Chicago, shortly after the Memorial Day purchase of the collection and departure from Leavenworth in 1968, Phillips began his journey through a century of glass negatives.  He separated the very best negatives from the collection for inclusion in exhibits in Chicago and Washington, DC. The first exhibit, “Fragments from the Past”, featured forty enlarged prints depicting Leavenworth’s street scenes, commercial shots and rural views as well as studio portraits taken between 1867 and 1900.

In the June 1970 issue of American Heritage, an article featured a stereopticon view of Leavenworth in 1867, of the railroad station near the Missouri River.  The exact size (under 4” x 4”) was shown along with an enlargement of a small section of the original image.  The resultant photograph brought to life the detail previously “hidden” in the original.   For anyone viewing this remarkable comparison for the first time, it will always be remembered as the defining moment in realizing the true significance of this extraordinary photographic collection and the enhancement photography accomplished by Phillips.

Two coffee table sized books by Phillips followed, “The West:  An American Experience”, published in 1973, and “The Taming of the West”, in 1974 which represented the visual heritage of the United States between 1859 and 1900.  The books were intended “to perpetuate the work of unknown great photographers of the past now serving as a historical document of the life of their day.”  Both books featured photographs of Leavenworth, a town Phillips described as being “built on the floor of the Kansas prairie,” that would become the launch pad of the wild west.

A debt of gratitude is owed to not only Miss Everhard, for collecting and archiving this early history of the First City of Kansas, but to Mr. Phillips as well, who has saved and cared for the collection for the past 50 years and who promoted the unique place that Leavenworth holds in the early history of the west.

Portions Sold

Over the years, parts of the original collection were sold to museums and private individuals.  The Gene Autry Museum of Western History in California purchased about 25,000 negatives and the Amon Carter Museum in Texas, nearly 6,000 plates in 1989. When the mission of the Autry Museum changed in the 1990s, the Leavenworth County Historical Society was contacted to arrange a purchase.  In March of 1998, then Carroll Mansion Museum director, Robert Holt and two board members flew from Kansas City to Los Angeles and returned this portion of the original collection to Leavenworth.  Also in 1998, another 3600 negatives were acquired from Mr. Phillips.  Since that time the process of cleaning, cataloging, storing, and scanning of these negatives has been the focus of a long line of volunteers at the museum.


The current collection of glass negatives, held by the Historical Society, in itself, represents a fascinating cross-section of Leavenworth county residents, from the wealthy businessmen and society wives, to coal miners, soldiers, & store clerks, to children and babies to individual houses, storefronts, government buildings, St. Mary College, and the Old Soldier’s Home.  Since most of the photographers etched the name of the subject and year the photo was taken on each plate, the collection is a veritable treasure trove for the historian or genealogist.  Images are unique and one-of-a-kind, in that they are not likely to be found anywhere else unless a print survives in a family album.  The current collection spans the years from the late 1800s through the 1950s.


Acquisition Committee Formed

The Society is now seeking to acquire the rest of the original Leavenworth collection, consisting of the very best glass plate images from the early years of Leavenworth that have remained with David Phillips in Chicago and bring them back home to Leavenworth, the First City of Kansas.

Museum volunteers have formed an acquisition committee to reclaim this history by launching a $1million capital campaign to acquire this rare collection and to maintain and expand current facilities at the Carroll Mansion Museum.  Such an expanded facility would accommodate the equipment necessary to provide quality photo prints of these vintage images, allow ample space for the study, promotion, and proper storage of this and other collections of the museum, and offer suitable meeting room and handicap accessible facilities for the general public, while maintaining current museum facilities.  It would also enhance and supplement tours of the Victorian house museum which has been open to the public for the past 50 years.  The Kansas community as a whole would benefit by the incorporation of images and historical findings in school curricula, exhibits, and area promotions by showcasing Leavenworth as a significant landmark, in Kansas, of the beginning of westward expansion.

No better example of a picture being worth a thousand words is more evident than in such a collection of thousands of negatives.  The value of just one photograph can be realized by simply suggesting a long-sought after clue to a piece of history previously unknown or forgotten.  Rediscovering and bringing to light this history would offer a better understanding of how past events have shaped the First City of Kansas. If we do not save this for future generations, it will be lost.

The LCHS has consulted with the National Archives, Smithsonian, Kansas State Historical Society and the Kansas Humanities Council about the importance of such a photographic collection, which by spanning nearly a century of life in a community, makes it among the rarest in the nation.

Public Support Needed

The Historical Society, who has served Leavenworth for over 60 years, is reaching out to the community to help it educate and inspire generations to come with the acquisition of this photographic treasure, not only for Leavenworth but also the state of Kansas, and the significant role it played in our nation’s history.  This million dollar capital campaign is the largest financial endeavor ever put into action by the LCHS.

The Society extends a welcome invitation to all to become a part of our history by supporting this endeavor.   Any donation to its 501(c)3, tax deductible organization for this campaign will be appreciated:  personal check, credit card, a pledge payable over a period of time, or the assignment of an IRA or stocks.  For more information, visit the website ( and click on the “Reclaiming History Capital Campaign” tab to view video links and donate to the fund. Email: or drop by the museum to view examples of glass negatives and prints made from the images.  The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:30am to 4:30pm.  If you are passionate about Leavenworth history and its preservation in our community, the Leavenworth County Historical Society at the Carroll Mansion urges you to join in supporting its efforts by becoming a member, a volunteer, or by donating generously to this capital campaign fund.

It has long been the mission of the Leavenworth County Historical Society to preserve our past in memory of our early residents and their pioneering spirit.  Please support and join the campaign to reclaim Leavenworth history!

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50th Anniversary Carroll Mansion Museum Celebration

Carroll Mansion Museum

Set atop a knoll at 1128 Fifth Avenue, the Edward Carroll house witnessed and has been a part of  Leavenworth’s history for over a hundred years.  It is the perfect place for a Leavenworth history museum as well as the home for the Leavenworth Country Historical Society (LCHS).  Such was the sentiment found in a history written in 1979, for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the LCHS.   Also noted, that in 1964 the dream of opening a public museum was realized when Miss Ella Carroll gave her ancestral home to the Society. The Carroll family lived in this gracious Victorian home for almost a hundred years.  The generosity of Miss Ella is a tribute to her sense of history and love for our community.

An editorial in the Leavenworth Times in July, 1958 stated that, “museums cost money to acquire and they are expensive to maintain. . . .That the Leavenworth area, rich in history as the cradle of Kansas, could in time develop such a museum, few doubt, but it would cost heavily in the development.”    Just six years later, after the Carroll gift, furnishings that had been temporarily displayed at the Fort Leavenworth Museum since 1959 were moved to the new location and Leavenworthians began making generous donations from their attics and family heirlooms to fill the house with Victorian antique paintings, silver, china, period costumes, and furniture.

The LCHS history continued, “Recognizing the museum as an asset to the area, the county and city provided financial support to maintain the museum and enable the Society to make necessary improvements and repairs.  A new roof, exterior paint, electrical and heating system modernizations, a security system, insulation, air-conditioning, and storm windows were project accomplished in subsequent years.

“Thanks to the dedication of many volunteers, these 25 years have been fruitful.  Looking back, the Society can take great pride in its accomplishments.  Looking ahead, the opportunities to discover and preserve our local history with innovative programs are endless.  The challenge is great if the Society of the future is to match the accomplishments of the society pioneers of the first quarter-century.”

As the LCHS recognizes the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Edward Carroll House as a museum, it is the hope of the directors of the LCHS to increase awareness of the historical treasure the Carroll Mansion Museum represents not only for Leavenworth but our county and region.  Toward that end, the museum was open free to the public on Saturday, June 20, from 1 to 4pm.  Volunteers were stationed throughout the 16-room house, dressed in period costume.  A Proclamation from the Leavenworth County Commissioners was read, followed by a re-enactment of the presentation of the house deed and keys to 1965 LCHS President Edward Chapman made by “Miss Ella”, portrayed by Society member, Betty J. Ludwig.  Also present for the festivities were the Leavenworth’s P.A.S.T. performers and the Leavenworth Cruisers.  Gloria Sturgess, Leavenworth County Master Gardener, offered informative tours of the Victorian Herb & Heirloom Gardens and of course, there was free cake and ice cream.

A charter member of the Society, Louis Cuthertson declared in 1954, “Leavenworth cries for a historical society to accomplish cooperation and interest in the preservation of the diminishing remains of our great heritage, to honor and cherish the past, to make everyone keenly aware of our history, and to study our traditions so that upon them we may build a better future, and thereby preserve that future which is so soon to become the past.”

The Carroll Mansion Museum may sometimes be thought of as Leavenworth’s best kept secret, but for such an entity to have remained a viable institution for 50 years, and especially at a time when other small museums are closing for lack of volunteers and funding, a great debt is owed to all past and present volunteers, members and supporters.

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Student Museum Musings – Carrie’s Favourite Artifact

Oshawa Museum Blog

By Carrie, Archives Assistant Student

When I think about the collection here at the Community Museum, I think about quite a few pieces off the top of my head. The clothing that was worn, the bedding that was made and even the pictures that were taken. The item that always holds my attention, however, would have to be the Spirit Photograph that was sent to Thomas Henry by his son Ebenezer Henry.

EE (Eben) Henry, 1828-1917; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection EE (Eben) Henry, 1828-1917; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Photography changes and evolves all the time, and it was no different back in the 1800s. Wet plating was one of the first ways to produce pictures in the 1850s and continued for nearly a decade before it was replaced by a process that involved silver-plated copper, mercury vapor and many other steps as well as different types of plating. Near the 1880s, when the spirit photograph currently…

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Legend of the Dog: A Dog’s Tale  


On the front lawn of the museum stands an iron, oversize mascot by the name of “Storm”. For a good number of years now, a story about this dog has circulated and has consequently become a local legend. What follows, however, is the result of intensive research through the LCHS files and personal interviews.

“Storm” actually began his work on the front lawn of a house that stood just north of the museum at the corner around 1865. The home located there was owned by Henry C. Keller, a son of George Keller, one of the founders of Leavenworth, who built the first hotel in town.

In 1967, more than a century later, Helen Yoakum, early museum volunteer and Society charter member, described the beloved mascot of the museum as “the iron dog, which installed at least 100 years ago on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Marshall, served as a ferocious, yet kindly, guardian of the house during the residence there of the Keller and Cranston families . . . . the last owner, Eugene Burt, presented the dog to the historical museum where it proudly rules over a new domain.” The provenance indicated that the dog statue was ordered from New York to honor the dog that saved the lives of the two small Keller sisters in some sort of runaway horse and buggy accident. So, here on the museum lawn, the dog has stood since that time.

One will immediately notice that the dog has no tail. Back in 1965, it was said that the dog had lost it to pranksters one Halloween night many years prior. The tail was later found and re-attached, only to be lost yet again. When the house on 5th Avenue opened here as a museum, the statue graced the front lawn, with the tail attached, but as one might guess, it was soon discovered to be missing, once again. Attacks on the dog only worsened.

Not a decade had passed before vandals knocked the head of the dog off in late January 1975. With a monetary donation from a Keller descendant, Woodrow Odell, Tim Theel, and Carl Theel then executed an exact replica of the old iron dog, re-cast in Leavenworth and re-installed on the front lawn of the museum.

Along about 1983 a long-time resident of Leavenworth recalled her delight in driving down Fifth Avenue to catch a glimpse of the over-sized iron replica of the dog, and decided to write a story about it, interwoven with Leavenworth history, for a creative writing course in children’s literature.   After talking with museum personnel she began weaving the legend as she typed on an old electric typewriter she had used in college. Then, in February, 1990, while taking a three-day workshop on storytelling at the library, she again used the story and entitled it “Storm”.

With a desire to convey to children and new arrivals in Leavenworth the essential role of the Carroll Mansion Museum in preserving history, Donna Last, the author, also wanted to create an understanding that pets were loving, loyal and protective. She knew that people would drive down Fifth Avenue, just to see the dog, as she had done over the years.   Only a few months later, an article in the Leavenworth Times, actually submitted by museum officials, related the saga of the dog, merging a combination of descriptions from Helen Yoakum with Donna’s treatise.

The new account of the origin of the dog described the Keller family returning to their home at 409 Olive from a full day of shopping downtown. Packages filled a surrey drawn by a team of horses. Leaving “Rachel” Keller, a small girl at the time, in the surrey, the family carried groceries into the home. As the tale continued, the horses became frightened by the sight of a snake. When the dog saw the horses charging down the road, he ran ahead of the wagon and thereby stopped the horses by throwing himself in front of the team. He was instantly killed but had saved the child’s life. In his honor, the family had the iron dog made as a memorial to show their gratitude.

A few details of Last’s “dog tale” that has been perpetuated down through the years are not historically accurate. The Keller family did not live at 409 Olive (that was a different Henry Keller) nor did the 5th Avenue Kellers have a daughter named “Rachel”. And, a date of an 1892 accident is too late, given the fact that the Keller girls were mature women by then.

With clues provided by Ms. Yoakum, one can confirm the presence of both the Keller and Cranston families at Fifth Avenue and Marshall, then known as 308 Fifth Avenue. The Henry C. Kellers resided at that address for over thirty years followed by the Joseph Cranston family and descendants for over fifty years, based on information found in Leavenworth City Directories and Federal census lists. The Kellers and Cranstons saw the Carroll Mansion house occupied by the Fosters, the Taylors, the Scotts and finally the Carrolls.

As early as 1860, Mr. and Mrs. George Keller, with sons, Henry C. Keller and Alfred B. and one servant resided in Leavenworth. George Keller was actually one of the founders of the town of Leavenworth in the spring of 1854. He built the Leavenworth Hotel, then the Mansion House at the corner of Fifth and Shawnee streets. Early on, he sold both. It was his granddaughter, Cora Leavenworth Kyle, who was the first born female child in Leavenworth, on December 6, 1854. When George retired in 1866, he farmed land he owned in Springdale, west of Leavenworth.

In the 1870 Federal Census, George’s son, Henry C. Keller was enumerated, being a Deputy District Clerk and married to Julia M. Marshall. Their daughters were Lena M. and Bessie. Julia’s mother also made her home with them and they were then neighbors of the Fosters! In 1880 their neighbors were the Taylors and in 1885, the Scotts, followed by the Carrolls in 1895.

By 1900, new residents of 308 Fifth Avenue became Joseph and Sadie Cranston and children William A., Edith, and Joseph A. Their young servant was Lena Somers. The dog was still standing in the yard and “came with the house.” The Cranston children soon adopted the dog as a member of the family. With their friends, they often played on the lawn and jumped on the back of their “pet” for a pretend ride.

Joseph Cranston was the chief of police and also the proprietor of the Old National Livery and Feed Stables at 320-22 Cherokee. The Edward Carroll residence up the street then included Edward and his second wife, Mary J., and children Frank, Edward Jr., Ella, Mary and Lucian. They had two servants. The Cranstons remained at 308 Fifth Avenue through the 1920 and 1930 census until 1959. In 1930 only Ella and her sister Mary Agnes resided at 334 Fifth Avenue.

Vincent T. and Ida M. Ingersoll resided at 308 Fifth Avenue from 1960 to 1969. The house then stood vacant for a few years before it became the property of Cushing Memorial Hospital.

Helen Yoakum added that “Mrs. Cordelia Wallace Story of Chillicothe, Ohio, granddaughter of the first owner, was a generous patron of the Leavenworth Museum.” Imagine, maintaining a family tie to the museum on Fifth Avenue that has spanned a century of time.

Over the years, efforts have been made to determine an actual history of the dog statue. Cordelia Story, society member, had corresponded with museum personnel and spoke of scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings about the family, but never offered a family version of the story. A granddaughter of Mrs. Story, herself an avid genealogy researcher, could not clarify any family history nor legends concerning the dog.

Stories about the dog have appeared often in more recent local news articles, over the years. Once, a couple, who had moved to Leavenworth from Monroe, Michigan, were flabbergasted when they saw the dog on the museum lawn, recalling that Monroe County Community College had the same statue. More shocking to them, however, was that there were several other dogs of the same design in Leavenworth! Actually, when Theel Manufacturing recast the dog back in 1975, several were made and sold.

Queries have been received at the museum about the sighting of this same dog statue throughout the United States, to include a near twin in the Paul Newman movie, “Slapshot” which was filmed in a small Pennsylvania town. Often, a similar piece of folklore went along with the statue and usually was an event where a dog saved someone’s life or the lives of residents of an entire town.   Recently, the drawing pictured here was discovered in an old Zinc Animals illustrated catalog, manufactured by J.W. Fiske Iron Works in New York. They weren’t the only manufacturers of this style of dog though. J. L. Mott of New York called their dog the “Firehouse Dog”, of an identical design.

Finally, in the late winter of 2012, descendants of Henry C. Keller visited the museum and related a family story of a dog saving a child in a runaway horse and buggy accident. Details were not known, since it was told by the grandfather to a child sitting on his knee during his growing up years, but it gives credence to the lore, long passed down through the years, that indeed, the statue was purchased as a memorial to a dog who gave its life in the protection of the family. The earlier mentioned Last story therefore is correct in its basic premise of the dog’s actions.

The Keller residence at 308 Fifth Avenue no longer exists and the location is now part of the parking lot for Cushing Memorial Hospital. But, the replica of the dog figure on the front lawn of the museum still stands as a lasting symbol of a romantic past of the Keller and Cranston families of Leavenworth and will continue to stand guard, despite the absence of its tail!

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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