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Quantrill’s Raid and Its Aftermath: Anna Soule Prentiss

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago, on August 21, 1863, William Clarke Quantrill and his men rode into Lawrence bent on destroying the town. The results of the dawn raid were the destruction of numerous businesses and homes and 143 deaths. State officials and people from surrounding towns provided aid to Lawrence to help meet the basic needs of the residents and to rebuild the town. 

"The Destruction of Lawrence," an artist's sketch from Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863
“The Destruction of Lawrence,” an artist’s sketch from Harper’s Weekly, September 5, 1863. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:L:8.5. Click image to enlarge.

Although her family lived in Lawrence, Anna Julia Soule was a school teacher in Kanawaka, six miles to the west, at the time of the raid. That morning, she saw the smoke coming from Lawrence, and would later recall that “we (the citizens) knew that a raid had been feared but vigilance had been relaxed and, concluding that there was not much danger, the town had stopped keeping guard at night” [1].

When Anna reached Lawrence after the raid, she found her high school teacher among the dead at the first house she stopped at. Upon locating her brother William Soule, Anna learned that her the rest of the family were safe, but that the family’s house had been destroyed. They had nothing except for the clothes they were wearing. The family stayed at the home of prominent Lawrence physician Sylvester B. Prentiss in the days following the raid. 

Anna briefly return to Kanawaka to teach after the raid, but not for long. As she would later write, “the term was nearly out and the excitement made teaching difficult, as even in the country the raid was the only thing in all our minds” [2].  

Instead of completing the term, Anna decided to go to Maine with her mother and sister to live with family and friends for a time. Of the first leg of the journey back east, she wrote,

“We went on the stage to Leavenworth, borrowing bonnets for the trip so far and sending them back on the stage. The people of Leavenworth were very kind, the women meeting daily to sew for the Lawrence sufferers and offering us help, but we only accepted such things as seemed necessary for our journey, as the people in Lawrence were in greater need than we were, for we were going to our friends who gladly helped us” [3].

The ladies returned to Lawrence in 1865 to find the town rebuilt. On June 21, 1866, Anna married Dr. Prentiss. Over the years, she was an active participant in the Lawrence community. She was involved in Lawrence’s temperance organization, was a founding member of the Lawrence No Name Club, active in her church, and took part in the reunions held by raid survivors. Anna was also the proprietor of a home goods store for several years.

Photograph of Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900
Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900. The structure was located at 1105 Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas; Brothers is located there now. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:C15. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Anna wrote about her experiences during Kansas’s territorial period for publications and the various clubs, organizations, and activities in which she was involved. 

[1] Clevenger, Maurine. “Memories of Early Lawrence.” Jayhawk: The Magazine of Kansas, volume 2, number 8, August 1929.

[2] Prentiss, Ann Julia Soule. “From Boston to Kansas in 1855.” Kansas Woman’s Journal, June 1926.

[3] Ibid.

Letha Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

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