Marais de Cygnes

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. And as you all know, Kansas history is my favorite subject. And as you’re traveling around the state this summer there’s so many places, historic sites that you can visit. And speaking of southeastern Kansas, if you go down toward Trading Post, there’s the Marais des Cygnes Massacre site. Now, it’s funny that somebody commented back east at Gettysburg and some of the battlefields, isn’t it funny that they had all these battles in these gorgeous spots? And it’s the same in Kansas. The Marais des Cygnes Massacre site, while a really tragic story, now is a beautiful driving tour of those events. The Trading Post Museum is nearby and then you’re not too far from Pleasanton and Fort Scott and so you can just take in…and Mound City, give a plug to the state of Missouri, Mound City has a brand new state historic site over in Missouri to the First Kansas Colored, the first Black regiment in the Civil War. So, when you’re down in that area of the state, right on the Missouri line you’re gonna be within shouting distance of all those great sites. But we want to talk a little bit about the Marais Des Cygnes Massacre today. (Frank) Well, one little note, when I first started in radio, we did news and all that too. And there was a list of pronunciations of places in Kansas, and one of them was the Marais des Cygnes. It said this was not, mara-des-cygnic! (Deb) And of course it means Marsh of the Swans so it’s French. And yes, I’ve heard a lot of folks mispronounce it. So, you’ll learn how today. Early days in Kansas were so scarred by violence that the Territory earned the name, Bleeding Kansas. Raids and massacres between Kansas and Missouri grabbed headlines around the country. Both sides were guilty of countless atrocities but in the annals of our state’s history, this event in southeastern Kansas was particularly heinous. Missouri border ruffians like Charles Hamilton led raids into Kansas to steal goods and harass free-staters. Linn County was the site of some of the raids, including a particularly deadly one May 19, 1858. Hamilton and some 30 other men rode through the village of Trading Post, captured 11 free-state men, and marched them into a ravine where they opened fire upon them. Five of the men were killed, five were seriously injured, and one escaped unharmed. The community was drawn together in the face of these events even as they were unfolding. Sarah Read, wife of the captured Reverend Samuel Read, set off on foot, spyglass in hand, to chase down Hamilton and his men. She came upon the victims, some still alive, and tried to render aid. Word of the massacre spread quickly and by afternoon free-staters from around the area had gathered to treat the wounded, collect the dead, and help James Montgomery’s Jayhawkers ride into Missouri in fruitless pursuit of Hamilton’s gang. Locally, wrathful indignation accompanied feelings of shock. John Brown, arriving at the scene toward the end of June, built a fort some 220 yards south of the ravine. It was reported to have been two stories high, walled up with logs and with a flat roof. Water from a spring ran through the house and into a pit at the southwest corner. The land on which the fort was built belonged to Eli Snider, a blacksmith. Later he sold it to Brown’s friend Charles C. Hadsall, who agreed to let Brown occupy it for military purposes. Brown and his men withdrew at the end of the summer, leaving the fort to Hadsall. In later years Hadsall built a stone house adjoining the site of Brown’s fort, enclosing the spring within the walls of the first floor. In 1941 the Kansas legislature authorized acceptance of the massacre site, including Hadsall’s house, as a gift to the state from the Pleasanton Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars. In 1961 it provided funds for the restoration of the building, and in 1963 the entire property was turned over to the Kansas Historical Society for administration. A museum was established in the upper floor of the building in 1964. Today the park is operated as Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site, a self-guided drive-through interpreted setting open dawn to dusk daily. It is located four miles northeast of Trading Post via K 52 East. The Marais des Cygnes Massacre site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and is a partner in Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.