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War on the Wakarusa: A Living History Event

12/9 @ 9:00 am 12/10 @ 1:00 pm

Join us in South Park for a time traveling adventure!

In December 1855, the Wakarusa War began the violent struggle over whether Kansas would become a free or a slave state, and it happened right under our feet, on ground we walk every day. Nearly 800 Kansans responded to the defense of Lawrence, threatened by an army of Missouri volunteers bent on destroying the newly founded town. Join us in exploring the causes and conflict that saved Lawrence, while learning about the fellow Kansans that lived through it nearly 170 years ago. Living historians representing these citizens and soldiers will be recreating one of the nine infantry companies of James Lane’s 1st Free State Kansas Volunteer Brigade and the artillery crew of the famed “Abbott Gun” to scale, as well as representing the essential roles of the women and men of Lawrence that kept this army fed and equipped during this desperate time in our history.



Saturday, Dec 9, 10 AM – 3:30 PM

10:00-11:00: ‘War on the Wakarusa,’ (speakers Eric Smallwood KSHS/Jake Koch NPS) An in-depth interpretive talk on the causes of the Wakarusa War, and the events that led up to Bleeding Kansas.

11:30-12:30: ‘Abbott’s Armory,’ (speaker Paul Rosewitz US Archives St Louis) Interpretive talk focusing on James Abbott’s acquisition of arms and ammunition for Free State Kansas troops, including a history of the famous Abbott Gun. Will include artillery drill (no firing).

1:00-2:00: ‘Kansas’ First Jayhawks’ (Speakers Eric Smallwood, KSHS/ Jake Koch, NPS) A detailed look at Charles Robinson and Jim Lane’s Free State army, through the lens of the Topeka Guard, Company F, 1st Kansas Volunteer Brigade. Will include infantry drill (no firing).

2:30-3:30: ‘Living History,’ (speakers Heather Freedom, Eric Smallwood, Robert Barnes, Jake Koch) The importance of experimental archeology through costumed interpretation in today’s historic study. Will provide time for public to examine and try on historical clothing if they wish.

The time between each program should allow time for self-paced interaction with interpreters, as well as impromptu speech, poem, and first hand account readings if there is enough public present.

Sunday, Dec 10, 10 AM – 12:30 PM

10:00-11:00: ‘Purged with Blood’ (speakers Jake Koch, NPS/ Eric Smallwood KSHS) The greater impact of the Wakarusa War on the nation, and how the events surrounding it brought on civil war.

11:30-12:30: ‘Peace on the Wakarusa’ (speakers, various) A closer look at the treaty that ended the siege of Lawrence, what it left unsolved, and how it fueled the Free State movement.

South Park

1141 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, Kansas 66044