Category Archives: Events

2018 Leavenworth Vintage Homes Tour


Planning for the 27th annual Leavenworth Vintage Homes Tour scheduled for Sunday, December 9, 2018, from 1pm to 6pm, begins in January of every year.   Year-long planning ensures the much-anticipated tour offers a unique experience in the historic town of Leavenworth, the First City of Kansas.

TOUR HEADQUARTERS:  Carroll Mansion Museum   1128 Fifth Avenue

The tradition of the Annual Leavenworth Vintage Homes Tour begins at tour headquarters, the Carroll Mansion Museum, home of the Leavenworth County Historical Society, that has served the community for over 60 years.  In 1964, Miss Ella Carroll, the last of the Edward Carroll family to reside here, donated her 16-room Victorian home to the Society.  The 50th anniversary of the opening of the home as a museum was celebrated in 2015.

While the home only saw four families in residence here, it was the Carroll family for whom it is named. They made it their home for 77 years and witnessed much of the history that occurred in Leavenworth.

When John Foster purchased the property in 1857 and built a 4-room farmhouse, the Missouri River marked the westernmost boundary of the United States.  Ten years later, Foster doubled the size of the house and transformed it into a 2-story brick Italianate design.  Depressed property values caused the family many hardships, so the house and surrounding 3 ½-acre tract of land were eventually sold to Lucien Scott, president of the First National Bank and considered then the wealthiest man in Kansas.

Scott transformed the Foster house into the Queen Anne Victorian mansion seen today.  Elaborately carved woodwork and stained glass windows adorn many of the rooms, which are complimented by uniquely designed parquet flooring, fireplaces, grand mirrors, and exquisite architectural details.  The Scotts entertained lavishly here, but their residence was brief and the property was sold to Edward Carroll in 1887.  Mr. Carroll was also a banker and had served in the Kansas Legislature a number of years.  Since that time, there has been minimal renovation to the structure, but it has been lovingly cared for and preserved over the years.

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and today provides not only a step back in time to the Victorian Age in Leavenworth, but serves as a local research center and repository for early Leavenworth County history.


317 N. Esplanade :  Haley & Roman Shaw 


North Esplanade Street in this historic river town was formerly known as Main Street and runs north and south, beginning its upward slope at the levee near the downtown business and industrial districts.

The home at 317 N. Esplanade is in the North Esplanade Historic District, composed of fourteen residences on four contiguous blocks with a commanding view of the Missouri River and the park.  The area between the Esplanade and the Missouri River bluff has always been a park, while the west side has always been a residential neighborhood.

North Esplanade Park was platted in 1854 as a city park, “The Esplanade”, and is considered the oldest city park in Kansas. The first houses built here for the workingman were relatively small, along with some boarding houses.  Beginning in the 1860s, larger homes were built by a more prosperous class of people comprised of owners and managers of the developing commercial and industrial operations of Leavenworth.

The North Esplanade has always been a popular residential area because of its tranquility and quality residential neighborhood.  The gracious two-story Victorian brick home featured on the tour was built circa 1875 for Col. Leroy G. Terry who came to Leavenworth with his wife, Anna, in the early 1850s.  He was a prominent businessman, freighter and owner of a number of stage and omnibus lines in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Indian Territory.  After his death in 1877, his wife took over the management of his businesses and resided here until her own death forty years later.

Exterior features of this historic home include a two-story bay window on the south side and a widow’s walk over the porch on the east.  As one steps over the threshold, they are met with an open staircase in a spacious foyer.  Also of interest are the butler’s pantry with built-in china cabinet, fireplaces, a sitting area at the top of the stairs for Eagle watching, and a cathedral-beamed ceiling in the family room.


321 N. 6th Street:  Trinity United Methodist Church  

In the territorial days of Leavenworth, many settlers of German ancestry came to Kansas from throughout the German-speaking world.   They came for economic, political and religious reasons and consequently had an impact on Kansas entering the Union as a Free State.  These settlers represented numerous religious denominations….Catholics, Evangelicals, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Jews–all who established German congregations here.

The church on the corner of 6th and Osage Streets, just across the street from what was then the first Jewish synagogue in Kansas (now the Temple Apartments), was actually established in 1858 as an Evangelical Association Church in a schoolhouse at Third and Delaware.  Objecting to the pricey rent of $1.50 per week, plans were made to erect a sanctuary at 6th and Osage.   The church was dedicated in 1862, offering services in German and stood for 50 years, becoming a landmark of the city.

By 1910 the church was identified as the Zion Evangelical Church.  The present church structure, now known as the Trinity United Methodist Church, was built in the same location in 1912.  The first organ was brought up the Missouri River from St. Louis.  The church interior was remodeled in 1948 and a new pipe organ, made by the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, was installed in the spring of 1949.  In 1946 the Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren Church followed by another merger in 1968 with the United Methodist Church.

A unique feature of this century-old church are the 26 stained glass windows, dedicated to early German settlers and church members in Leavenworth.  The west window depicts the Garden of Gethsemane (dedicated to H. Christina Trollman Reuter) and the east is Christ’s Ascension (dedicated to Arnold Schalker who emigrated from Cincinnati, Ohio in 1863 and who owned a bakery on Shawnee Street).  The altar window was installed in 1962 and shows Christ in the Garden. It was given in honor of Albert and Kathryn Schrey, also bakery owners in Leavenworth for 30 years.  A small window on the east is dedicated to Frederich, Sr. and Christina Barth, grandparents of Maj. Gen. George Bittman Barth at Fort Leavenworth.  Frederich was a wagonmaker and wheelwright, who came to Leavenworth in 1856.  More recent renovations include an access ramp, exterior brick tuck-pointing, and a Memorial Garden.

The Trinity United Methodist Church has served God and the community through many years as a permanent fixture on Sixth and Osage in historic Leavenworth.


420 Arch Street:  The Davies-Frank House of Robert & Robin Frank

The Colonial Revival home at 420 Arch with a classic center hall design is always a tour favorite.  Built by Louis and Ada Vanderschmidt in 1921, the home was first featured on a Leavenworth homes tour in 1975.  Mr. Vanderschmidt was a partner with William Small in the operation of a 3-story dry goods store on Delaware Street.  Always the optimist and local booster, he had faith in the future of Leavenworth and the financial stability of the country. The Vanderschmidts had two children.  Their daughter, Louise, later went into business with her father when they opened “Louise’s Dress Shop” which many older citizens will remember.

Other residents of the home were Judge Joseph Dawes, his wife Ruth, and their 8 children.  Judge Dawes served as a district court judge and was later named probate judge of Leavenworth by Gov. Robert Docking.

Harry E. and Opal Smith, owners of the Smith Rexall Drugs at Fifth and Delaware, purchased the home in the mid-1950s and resided here for forty years.  Their ownership was followed by Col. (Ret.) John and Emily Sapp who operated the Carriage House China Shop on Ottawa Street for a number of years.

In 1999, the Franks became the owners and have accomplished numerous remodeling projects over the years including the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, fence, and a custom cherry wood office.  The family room fireplace is made from Kansas-produced bricks, collected by the Sapps and have identifying stamps.  More recently, the west side porch was converted to a four-season room off the formal living room.   Brick patios and walkways throughout the courtyard landscaping outside contribute to the overall aesthetic of this vintage home.  The gardens were on this year’s Master Gardeners Spring Garden Tour.

The Franks have restored three vintage homes in Leavenworth, but this home has become their pride and joy and has been host to four weddings of their friends. The home often undergoes a facelift since Robin is an interior designer and owns Vision Interiors in Leavenworth.


 501 N. Broadway:    Stephen & Kayla Sanchez-Schebler  

North Broadway Street was designed to become one of Leavenworth’s premiere residential boulevards.  Located in the 1858 Western Addition of Leavenworth, on the west side of the original town, its 80-foot wide street was considered among the widest thoroughfares laid out in the city during the 19th century.  Large lots encouraged the building of bigger and more expensive homes with shot-gun style homes built on the cross streets.  By 1865, when the majority of the grand homes had been built here, Leavenworth had five local brickyards, the Phoenix Foundry, a cast iron manufacturer, granite and limestone quarries, and lumber yards which enabled such building in a time when many settlers here lived in sod huts.

The home at 501 N. Broadway is described as a two-story, wood-shingle-sided frame “cottage” in the Queen Anne style with early Craftsman influences and bordered by a native stone retaining wall. It was built by Paul E. Havens, local banker, for his daughter Bess and her husband, D. R. Anthony II, in 1896 just prior to their marriage.  The Havens’ grand Italianate/Classical Revival home (built in 1868) is located next door at the north end of the block.

Behind the home is the original carriage house that had room for three stalls for horses, a carriage, and an upstairs room for the groomsman.  D. R. Anthony was the second of five generations of Anthonys in Leavenworth who owned and operated the Leavenworth Times for nearly 100 years.  Visitors to the home included the sister of Col. Anthony, Susan B. Anthony, and President Howard D. Taft.  Anthony served in the United States Congress and was Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.  He also managed the Leavenworth Times, the Anthony family farms and businesses.

Other occupants of the home included Dr. John Abel, a chiropractor who kept an office in the one-story addition of the house, and a ballet studio in the basement that was run by his wife.

The home, featuring hardwood floors and built-in cabinetry, has been remodeled in recent years, preserving many of the architectural details.  The grand staircase upon entering the home is the focal point of the first floor.


503 Marshall:  Mark & Katherine Gerges

 Past residents and owners of the modified Queen Anne-style home on Marshall Street read like a Who’s Who of Leavenworth’s small business owners.

The home, built in 1899, was actually the second or third building on the site and is named for Dr. Samuel E. and Mary Johnston, who owned the property for twenty years, from 1898 to 1918.  While an active participant in local and state dental associations, the local YMCA,  and  a deacon in the Congregational Church, Dr. Johnston is credited with being the founder and first president of the local Rotary Club.  A quiet, reserved gentleman of the highest ideals, he labored earnestly for the success of the club and gave of himself unsparingly to that end.  Mark and Katherine Gerges purchased the home in 2003.  Mark, himself, is a current member and former president of the Leavenworth Rotary Club.

The earliest listing for the address, found recently in Leavenworth city directories, is that of Mrs. Alexander Harlow, dating back to 1882, with her five adult children.  Her husband, who had fought in the Seminole Wars and against Gen. Sterling Price in the Civil War, had recently died.   Prior to that, he worked as a gardener after serving as a county commissioner.  The last of the Harlow family to reside here briefly was the youngest daughter Mabel after her marriage in 1895 in the house to Harry C. Varne, who manufactured hot air furnaces.

Other residents included William and Emma Goodjohn, owners of the Goodjohn Sash & Door Co. (1920-1935).  The Goodjohn Company succeeded the Broadway Manufacturing Co., owned by A. A. Fenn and managed by Goodjohn.    Albert and Polly Short, of the Short Title Co., resided here from 1935-1976.  Albert served in World War I and was stationed with D. R. Anthony II (whose home is also on the tour) at the Artillery Officers Training School, Camp Taylor, Kentucky.   Prior to the residence of the current owners, Robert Carlson resided here from 1979-1996 and was responsible for the stained glass windows installation. Don’t miss the leaded glass windows, second=floor transoms, carved newel post, and a recent extensive remodel, following a fire.  Mark and Katherine Gerges have continued the tradition of preserving the history of this home, both inside and out.


TOUR EXTRA:   601 S. 5th St.

“Scenes of Early Leavenworth & a Vision for the Future” Photo Exhibit at the Carnegie Arts Center Lofts

 The Leavenworth County Historical Society at the Carroll Mansion Museum owns a significant collection of glass plate negatives taken by pioneer photographers in the early days of Leavenworth.  Selected pieces from the collection, considered to be a national treasure, will be on display during this year’s tour at the Carnegie Arts Center Lofts.

Built in 1900 with funds donated by industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie,  the two-story brick and limestone building at 5th and Walnut Streets was the first Carnegie Library in Kansas and served in that capacity until 1987.   The building then provided a home for the Arts Center until June of 2012.   Since then the structure has undergone historic redevelopment and has been converted into residential living spaces by Exact Architects.    It is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.  While no apartments will be open for viewing during the tour, past visitors to the library/arts center will be able to see some of the changes made to preserve this historic building for years to come.  Greenamyre Rentals are currently the management agency for the Carnegie.

On display in the central hall, photographs from the museum’s collections will be on exhibit. The collection is considered to be one of the rarest in the United States, depicting the building and growth of a Midwestern town covering a century of time.  This is especially true for Leavenworth, the First City of Kansas.  Images from the collection are quintessential reflections of life in the post-Civil War West and the time of western expansion. Paula Fleming, retired photo archivist for the Smithsonian Institute, has noted the significance, not only due to its documented history, but because of the exquisite detail that can be found in the early wet-plate negative process used in stereoscopic negatives.  This type of negative, dating back to the 1860s and 1870s, is rare.  Prints made from the collection are available for sale.

Architectural renderings will also be presented to convey the vision of the historical society in building an extension to the museum as an early Kansas history research center.  The historical society has been collecting Leavenworth artifacts for over 60 years which will also be properly maintained and preserved in the new facility.   Visitors from across the United States and around the world will be afforded an excellent overview of the history of the First City of Kansas along with handicap parking and accessibility.


Tour tickets are available  November 1, for a donation of $15 prior to the tour and $20 on tour day by visiting the Carroll Mansion Museum, 1128 Fifth Avenue, Candle Queen, The Pot Rack, and the Leavenworth Antique Mall in downtown Leavenworth or Kelly Law Office in Tonganoxie.  For on-line ticket sales and additional tour information, visit:

The tour goes on regardless of weather and may be visited in any order.



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2017 Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour

It’s a Leavenworth holiday tradition steeped in history!  The Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour has been an integral part of the holiday season in Leavenworth for over twenty-five years. The tour committee, headed by Kathy Huskey, has been busier than Santa’s elves putting together another great holiday historical homes tour.  It’s always fun to rediscover the forgotten or lesser known history of vintage homes and churches found right here in Leavenworth, the First City of Kansas.


DSC_0035 (1280x827) (2)The Carroll Mansion museum, at 1128 Fifth Avenue, is tour headquarters, which will open at 12 noon on tour day, December 10, for pickup of pre-ordered tickets, the sale of holiday wrapped specialty breads and museum tours.  Ticket availability at local businesses and through on-line purchase will end at 12 noon on December 9, but will be offered on tour day at the museum for a $20 donation per ticket.  The gift shop will also be open for holiday gift and museum memento purchases, to include a 3D commemorative ornament featuring the façade of the museum.  Throughout the day live entertainment can be enjoyed at the museum as well as a visit from Father Christmas.

Even before the Leavenworth County Historical Society acquired the Carroll Mansion in 1964 from Ella Carroll, the last of the Carroll family to reside here, the home was considered one of Leavenworth’s historic landmarks.  Built in 1857 as a four-room farmhouse by John McCullough Foster, it underwent two major renovations and by 1887, when Edward Carroll purchased the property, the home appeared as it does today.  The property, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, today provides a step back in time to the Victorian age in Leavenworth. It also serves as a local research center and repository for early Leavenworth County history.  It is here that the rich history of Leavenworth County is collected, preserved, and shared.

1015 S. 5th St.Most often lost to history are the folks who once lived in Leavenworth’s vintage homes, such as the residence of Ray and Helen Hartjen on south 5th Street that was once owned by Margaret O’Keefe, widow of Cornelius, who was an early day carpenter.  The home was actually built by long-forgotten H.D. Rush who owned the first lumberyard in Kansas.  The O’Keefes raised ten children, many making a significant mark on Leavenworth history….a prominent criminal lawyer, a Catholic Chaplain in the Army stationed in the Philippines, a railroad postal clerk, and a prison guard.  The youngest daughter, Elizabeth, married William C. Helmers, the president of Helmers Furniture manufacturing and Josephine, the last to reside here until her death in 1960, was a principal at Third Avenue School.

218 Pine St.The house on Pine Street is a two-story late Victorian style originally constructed in 1868, and usually described as a “Federalist Craftsman Victorian farmhouse located in the heart of Mayberry.”  Certainly the past owners and residents of the home carried out the Mayberry ideal that was comprised of business owners, churchgoers, charming children, a friendly and helping-hand neighborhood and more.

From 1907 to the late 1940s, Irish immigrant, Mathew B. Reardon owned the home.  Mathew Reardon was for many years the street foreman at Leavenworth Light and Heating Company.  He and his wife, Matilda had three daughters and following Mathew’s death in 1950, she sold the house to Ivan & Lucille Meyer.   Born in Basehor, Ivan Meyer served in World War II.   After the war he and his wife and children returned to Leavenworth and with two of his brothers, expanded the Meyer Dairy that had originated with their father in Basehor.

600 OsageThe stately home of Bonnie Joranko and Michael Burke is always a crowd pleaser.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home is familiarly known as the Judge Robert Crozier home.  The Judge numbered among Leavenworth’s early pioneers.  First he founded what is known today as the Leavenworth Times and later was appointed by President Lincoln as the 3rd U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas.  Crozier implemented the major expansion of the small four-room house into the grand two-story Italianate seen today.

Historic Ben Day LoftThe homes tour also includes a loft apartment at the Historic Ben Day Loft Apartments at 1100 Third Avenue.  Back in September 1923, the building was one of two grade schools opened in Leavenworth, which had been designed by Charles A. Smith, the “school board architect”.  With identical layouts and facades, the brick schools were located on North Broadway and Third Avenue and were named after their locations.  Myron K. Feth of Feth & Feth was an associate architect in the design.

In 2011 the school building was purchased and plans drawn for a total renovation.  The building was featured on the Candlelight Vintage Homes tour in that year, showing the “before” of the extensive transformation.

Match Stick Church, SpruceA homes tour isn’t complete without including one of Leavenworth’s historic old churches.  This year is no exception and the church chosen for the tour is certainly a forgotten “jewel”.   Some old timers might remember it as the “Match Stick Church”, but today it is the home of the All Nations Seventh-day Adventist Church, at 528 Spruce.   Built in 1894 under the direction of Rev. J.W. Kimmel, pastor of the newly founded First English Lutheran Church, funds were always in short supply.  To raise money the idea of selling match sticks was formulated.  So many boxes of matches were sold that the church soon became known as the “Matchstick Church”.  Church Spruce & 6thThe purchase of bricks was made incrementally, according to the funds raised, which resulted in bricks of varying shades of red on the façade of the church.   Setting foot inside the doors of this quaint place of worship, the visitor immediately experiences the sights and sounds of Christmas.  Ambient light from its stained glass windows and the strains of the century-old pipe organ harken back to times gone by!

First Presbyterian ChurchAn added bonus on this year’s tour is the First Presbyterian Church at 407 Walnut.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the historic church celebrates the “Classical Revival” style of architecture by William P. Feth.  The building is majestic on the outside and awe-inspiring within. Local prominent businessmen have supported this church over the years to include the Abernathys, E.P. Willson and William Small, all who have left their mark on the pages of Leavenworth history. Not only will the visitor enjoy the exquisite Tiffany stained-glass windows in the sanctuary but will also witness a live nativity scene.  During Sunday’s tour hours a chili feed will be available to tour goers for a donation to Presbyterian charities.

To celebrate the season, join with others who have made the Leavenworth Candlelight Vintage Homes Tour their own holiday tradition. Revisit the past in historic Leavenworth on Sunday, December 10 for the 26th annual homes tour.    Tickets for this year’s tour can be ordered on-line at with a pre-tour donation of $15 or at the Carroll Mansion museum, 1128 Fifth Avenue, Leavenworth, KS, on tour-day for $20.  This is one of the major fundraisers for the historical society, so be sure to order your tickets and tell all your friends.  Tour sites will be open from 1:00pm to 7:00 pm.  The tour goes on regardless of weather.


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What’s in a Name? The AXA Building

The AXA Building, located on the southeast corner of 5th and Delaware, has served as the centerpiece of Leavenworth’s downtown business district for more than 100 years.  The building was constructed in the spring of 1905 by owner, Charles Espenscheid, who promised it would make Delaware street the finest business block in the city.  The architect was locally prominent William P. Feth and the builder, Robert Yoakum, whose bid for the project’s completion was four month’s time, 61 days less than the lowest bidder.  Plumbing and heating was done by the Tholen Brothers and the painting and decorating contractor was C.M. Tarr.

Designed to be 2 ½ stories, the primary façade faced west and was symmetrical with two identical wings connected by a one-story arched entryway.  The floor plan called for five businesses and 26 office suites to be used primarily for physicians and attorneys.

The Mehl & Schott Pharmacy was the first ground floor tenant and conducted business here for many years. It was the son of one of the owners, Henry and Harriet Mehl, Byron Mehl, who became a first lieutenant in the Twelfth Field Artillery and was killed in action July 21, 1918, in France–the first from Leavenworth to lose his life in the war.  The Byron H. Mehl American Legion Post #23 was named after him.

Ownership of the AXA building in 1971 was held by Ruth D. Todd, granddaughter of Charles Espenscheid.  That year application was made for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places. In 1978, V.B. Greenamyre purchased and restored the building to its original design.  At this time there were seven businesses in the building with the capacity for twelve offices. Ron Booth, a local pharmacist, purchased the pharmacy in 1981, and until recently operated the Corner Pharmacy.   Four years later he purchased the AXA building itself and looked forward to an eventual complete restoration.

What remained a mystery about the most photographed building in downtown Leavenworth however is when the observer looks high above the west entrance and sees the inscription:  “19 –AXA – 05”.  Is this a symbol, a time-stamp, or of some astrological significance?  Historians and casual passersby have suggested several possibilities and speculated that the owner Espenscheid and architect Feth, might have chuckled to one another when they decided to add this small design detail and commented, “A hundred years from now, no one will ever be able to figure this one out!”

Perhaps the joke is really on them for in the July 28, 1905 issue of the Leavenworth Times the following article was discovered:

“What does that word ‘AXA’ mean?” is a question asked by almost everyone who passes the new Espenscheid building and notices the letters carved over the entrance; and the inability to answer the question is almost as universal as the question itself.  Architect Feth furnished the explanation yesterday.

“It is a contraction of Mrs. Espenscheid’s given name,” he explained.  “She was given a Biblical name that is pronounced the same as ‘Axa’ but I certainly don’t know how to spell the right name. Before Mr. Espenscheid married, he used to always address his present wife as ‘Axa,’ and so decided to give the building the same name.”

Mrs. Espenscheid’s given name was “Achsah”.

For those interested in our rich local history, membership is open in the Leavenworth County Historical Society, whose home is the Carroll Mansion Museum, 1128 Fifth Avenue.  Visit our website for more information:

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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

A.G. Richardson to Aaron Brown, 23 Aug 1859, Box 1, Folder 3, Aaron Brown Papers, 1857-1904, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.

A.G. Richardson to F. G. Adams, 26 April 1885, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

“A Heaven-Approved Act,” Herald of Freedom, May 10, 1856, 3.  Accessed January 15, 2016,

Andreas, A. T. , History of the State of Kansas. Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883.

B.S. Brown to Nathan Macy Thomas, 21 Jul 1856, Box 1 Correspondence 1856-1859, Nathan Macy Thomas Papers, Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Bloody Souvenir,” Clipping from the Lafayette (IN) Weekly Commercial Advertiser, 4 May 1865 in R. P. Brown 1855 Diary, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

“Cass Liberty Convention,” Signal of Liberty, September 29, 1845, 90. Accessed January 14, 2016,

Criminger, Adrianne Fortenberry. The Fortenberry Families of Southern Mississippi. Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1984.

de la Cova, Antonio Rafael, “Samuel J. Kookogey in Bleeding Kansas: A ‘Fearless vindicator of the rights of the South,’ Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 35, 2012, 146-163, accessed January 14, 2016,

Etcheson, Nicole.  Bleeding Kansas:  Contested Liberty in the Civil War. Lawrence, Kansas: University Kansas Press, 2004.

Gleed, Charles S., “Samuel Walker,” Kansas Historical Collections, 1897– 1900, 6 (Topeka:  W. Y. Morgan, State Printer, 1900),

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.

Harrold, Stanley.  Border War:  Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Jason Brown Letter, Clipping from the Lawrence Journal, February 8, 1880.  Accessed January 26, 2015, West Virginia Archives and History,

John Banks to Charles Adam Weissert, 5 January 5 1940, Box 2, Notes on R. P. Brown Folder, Charles Adam Weissert Papers, 1893-1947, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

“Kansas: A missionary in Kansas writes to the American Missionary as follows,” New York Tribune, March 24, 1856, 6. Accessed January 12, 2016,

Kansas Affairs, Special Committee Appointed to Investigate theTroubles in the Territory of Kansas, 34th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rep. 200, Washington: Cornelius Wendell Printer, 1856. Accessed January 14, 2016, Making of America Books,

“Kansas History-Another Chapter of Reminiscences,” Leavenworth Weekly Times, September 4, 1873, 2. Accessed November 17, 2015,

“Letter from the Widow Brown,” Herald of Freedom, January 10, 1857, 2. Accessed Jan 14, 2016,

Martha A. Brown to Elder Price, 2 Apr 1856, Account of the death of her husband at the hands of a pro-slavery mob in Kansas in 1856, Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mathews, Alfred, History of Cass County, Michigan, Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1882.

Notre Dame University Boarders and Apprentices Ledger #2, 1848-1849, Information forwarded by Wm. Kevin Crawley, Archivist, email message to author, September 8, 2006.

“Old Brown, Young Brown,” Albany (NY) Atlas & Argus, November 20, 1859.  Accessed November 12, 2015,

Petitions praying the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, &c. were presented as follows: By Mr. Allen, of Ohio: The petition of inhabitants of Logan county, in the State of Ohio, 14 December 1837, HR25A-H1.8 Slavery in District of Columbia, Folder 4, National Archives, Washington D. C.

Phillips, William. The Conquest of Kansas, by Missouri and Her Allies. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1856.

R.P. Brown, 1855 Diary, Miscellaneous Box 1, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

R.P. Brown commissioned by James H. Lane as Major, Nov. 27th, 1855, Miscellaneous Brown, R. P., State Archives, Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

R.P. Brown to Aaron Brown, 12 Aug 1851, Box 1, Folder 3, Aaron Brown Papers, 1857-1904, State Historical Society of Iowa, Manuscript #38, Iowa City, Iowa.

“R. P. Brown, The Kansas Martyr,” Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot, February 28, 1856, 1.  Accessed Janaury 14, 2016,

“Recapture of Slaves,” Jacob M. Howard Papers 1796-1870,Folder, “Kentucky Slaveowners v. Michigan Quakers,” Box 7, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, Detroit, Michigan.

Reverend L. B. Dennis, “The Truth About Kansas,” Fairfield Ledger, Mar 6, 1856, 2. Accessed February 12, 2015,

Robinson, Sara T. L., Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life, Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Company, 1856.

Ropes, Hannah Anderson, Six Months in Kansas, Boston: J. P. Jewett, April 1856.  Accessed August 6, 2013,

S.D. Lecompte to Mr. McMeekin, 18 January 1856, Reese P. Brown Biography, 277, Miscellaneous Box 1, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

Samantha Brown 1856 Diary Entries in Rolfe S. Patrick and Charles C. Patrick., compilers, Patrick Family Record. Portland, Oregon: Charles C. Patrick privately published, 1949.

“Sketch of the Martyred Brown,” Herald of Freedom, March 22, 1856, 1.

Smith, George Gardner, Ed., Spencer Kellog Brown: His Life in Kansas and His Death as a Spy, 1842-1863, as Disclosed in His Diary,” New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1903. Accessed January 14, 2015,

Solemn Distribution of Premiums at Notre Dame Du Lac University, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana, 4 Jul 1848, Detroit: Munger & Patterson Printers, 1848. Accessed January 10, 2016,

Stephen Sparks, “The Missouri Border Ruffians,” Logansport (IN) Journal, March 29, 1856, 1. Accessed May 4, 2015,

“The Butchery of R. P. Brown,” Herald of Freedom, February 2, 1856, 1.

“The Lane-Jenkins Claim Contest” in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Vol. XVI, ed. William E. Connelley, Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant. 23-24.

“The Michigan Slave Cases,” Covington(KY)  Journal,  February 25, 1852, 1.

“Mrs. Anna Surls Died in Iowa Jan 28: Was the Daughter of Reese Brown-Spent Early Life in Cass Co.,” Cassopolis (MI) Vigilant, February 25, 1937, 1.

“Mrs. Harvey Myers Dies in New Mexico: Death of Former Cass County Lady Recalls Abolition Days,” Cassopolis (MI) Vigilant, July 30, 1936, 1.

“The Murder of Brown in Kansas,” New York Daily Tribune, March 11, 1856, 1. Accessed November 12, 2015,

“The Outrage Upon the Ballot Box in Kansas,” Lake Superior(MI) Miner, February, 9, 1856, 2. Accessed January 24, 2015,

“Visit to Graves,” New York Daily Times, November 28, 1856.  Accessed November 12, 2015,

Watts, Dale E., “How Bloody was Bleeding Kansas? Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854-1861,” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 18, 1995: 116-129, accessed January 14, 2016,

Wilder, Daniel W., The Annals of Kansas, Topeka, Kansas: G. W. Martin, 1875.

“Written Expressly for the Herald of Freedom: A Complete History of Kansas,” Herald of Freedom, October 24, 1857,1. Accessed January 15, 20

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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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