Thursday, August 26, 2010

#221: The Lawrence Massacre and the Kents

At the dawn of August 21, 1863, William Quantrill and between 300 and 400 riders descended on Lawrence, Kansas from Mount Oread. Over the course of four hours, they killed between 185 and 200 men and boys, burned one out of four buildings including all but two businesses and looted the banks before heading south out of town. Quantrill's raiders ended up burning the town of Brooklyn (it was never rebuilt) and their last attack was on Abraham Rothrock, a Dunkard Minister. Rothrock was shot and died from his wounds seven years later in 1870. The raiders were then intercepted by Union soldiers riding on the Leavenworth-Ft. Scott Trail near Prairie City but were able to escape. It's opined that if those Union soldiers hadn't attacked Quantrill and his men then the raiders would've went east toward Prairie City and Palmyra-Baldwin City, possibly destroying them thus completely altering the history of Douglas County.A print of the Lawrence Massacre that was published in Harper's Weekly in September 1863.These signs, erected by the students of Vinland Elementary, line East 1400 Road leaving Lawrence and mark the route Quantrill took to escape. The route jogs to the east at the Douglas-Franklin County line.Abraham and Mary Rothrock gravestone in Brumbaugh Cemetery at the curve of East 1452 Road.The only indication Brooklyn, Kansas ever existed. This sign was erected by the Baldwin City Santa Fe Trail Historical Society in the 1980s. Other similar markers were placed at Black Jack, Signal Oak, Trail Park, Willow Springs, Globe and Baden.

Smallville was first established as Superman's hometown in 1949 but it wasn't until the 1978 movie Superman that it was placed in Kansas and since then, Smallville has routinely been placed somewhere in Kansas. What's interesting is that even though Smallville was located in Kansas, details of its history were never established. Especially parts dealing with the Bleeding Kansas era between 1854 and 1861--most of this can be attributed to writer and artist interpretations of Smallville being out in western Kansas where places weren't settled until 1870s or 1880s. In the novel "It's Superman!", which is set in 1938, Smallville is located along U.S. Highway 75 in Osage County making it part of the Topeka Metropolitan Area. In the TV series, Smallville, the town is located in fictional Lowell County, three hours from Metropolis which is shown as being located where Kansas City is. The location of Metropolis at least explains why Lawrence or the University of Kansas has never been mentioned.

Lawrence was founded in 1854 by the New England Emigration Aid Company which was established by Eli Thayer to send people from Massachusetts to Kansas so Kansas could become a free-state. The Emigration Aid Company also helped establish towns such as Manhattan, Topeka and Osawatomie. Lawrence was promptly burned in 1856 by the Douglas County Sheriff, Samuel Jones, who supported the Confederates and again in 1863 by Quantrill. The raid by Quantrill was by far the worst because most boys and men were slaughtered--although Quantrill's team was searching for Senator James Lane-who escaped by hiding in a ravine. Lawrence was rebuilt and has a population estimated at around 90,000, the University of Kansas was established in 1865 and Lawrence has tended to keep the liberal ways its ancestors had even as Kansas has remained staunchly conservative.

The Kents was published between August 1997 and July 1998 to relatively little fanfare but it chronicles Jonathan Kent's ancestors settling in Kansas. The first ones, Silas and his sons Nathaniel and Jebediah, settle in Lawrence and as the Civil War begins, the brothers are torn apart like many brothers were.

The Kents #1 (Aug. 1997)
Written by John Ostrander
Penciled by Timothy Truman
Inked by Michael Bair
Colors by Carla FeenyLettered by Bill Oakley

Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
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