Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“My Dear Mother”: Letters by William Clarke Quantrill

August 20th, 2019

One of the most renowned collections in Spencer Research Library is a series of letters written by William Clarke Quantrill to his mother, Caroline Cornelia Clarke Quantrill, between 1855 and 1860. During this period, Quantrill wrote sporadically to Caroline, letting her know his whereabouts, describing his plans for the future, promising he would come home soon, and vowing to send money when he could. Quantrill rarely revealed his views on politics or current events in these letters, and nothing in them hints at the course he would choose after he stopped writing home altogether. On August 21, 1863, 156 years ago this week, Quantrill gained infamy for organizing and leading a guerrilla raid on Lawrence in support of the Confederate cause.

Quantrill was born in Dover, Ohio, on July 31, 1837. After graduating from high school at age sixteen, he began teaching school in Dover, a career he would return to off and on several times. His father passed away in 1854, leaving Quantrill, as the eldest of eight children, the male head of the family. Caroline took in boarders, and his oldest sister took in sewing jobs, but the family remained very poor.

In the summer of 1855, Quantrill joined a group of other Dover residents and traveled to Illinois to seek better farmland and to see what other opportunities may lie a little farther west. In the letter below, dated August 8, 1855, he tells Caroline of his safe arrival, indicates he will try to send her some money, and mentions the possibility of getting a teaching position. “This country is a great deal different from Ohio,” he writes, “for miles around I can see nothing but tall grass.”

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855
Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

By July 1859, Quantrill had tried his luck at various occupations, in addition to teaching, and had explored business enterprises in Mendota, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and the Kansas and Utah Territories. He had even tried his luck in the gold mines of Colorado. He was restless, and nothing seems to have satisfied him. The letter below, written to Caroline on July 30, 1859, was from Lawrence, Kansas, the place where he would gain his notoriety. In it, he relates a story to his mother that must have stirred her worst fears for her son’s safety.

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859
Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

It has been some time since I wrote to you, and I am now a long ways distant from the place I last wrote to you. I have seen some pretty hard & scaly times, both from cold weather & starvation & the Indians & I am one of 7 out of a party of 19 who started from Salt Lake City for the Gold Mines of Pikes Peak which are talked of all over the country & undoubtedly the Humbug of all Humbugs. I say so because I spent two months in the gold region haveing [sic] my own experience & that of a number with whom I was acquainted to prove it conclusively…

I am now in Lawrence after having spent over $300 & many a day & night when I expected either to be killed or freeze to death & at last when nearly in the settlements to have my horse and all taken from me & a companion of mine shot in 3 different places & left for dead & all that saved my head was I was out hunting away from the camp about a mile and a half & hearing the firing hurried to camp in time to see the indians driving off our horses & my friend lying on the ground apparently dead but still breathing with difficulty having been shot 3 times, his leg broke below the knee, shot in the thigh with 7 iron slugs & last shot through the body with an arrow which I first thought would kill him but he lives yet & if taken care of properly will be as well as ever in 6 or 8 weeks. I hardly know what to do at present nor where to go but in my next letter I will be able to tell you some more. I think my friend & myself will make goverment pay us for our losses by the Indians if possible when he gets well.

You would hardly know me if you were to see me I am so weather beaten & rough looking that every body says I am about 25 years of age.

In his final letter to Caroline, written on June 23, 1860, Quantrill inquires about the money he says he sent to her, tells her he will send more when he can and talks about the weather and his health. H also speaks of wanting to visit, but says he cannot get away. After this letter, Caroline would contend that she had no more word from him, relying on rumors and reports that she heard from the newspapers, her neighbors, and strangers to try to know his whereabouts.

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, June 23, 1860
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, June 23, 1860. Handwritten copy of the original. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

Caroline loved her son and found many of the stories about him quite hard to accept or even untrue. Caroline wrote the letter below on February 24, 1889, to the childhood friend of her son, William W. Scott. In it, she rails against Scott for what she perceives as his attempt to vilify and profit from her son. “You have told me a great-deal to hirt [sic] my feelings,” she tells him. Scott had become like a son to Caroline and often provided for her. He also wanted to write a book about Quantrill, but out of respect to Caroline, he was waiting until her death to do it. When she found out about the book, she turned on him, writing

Now I will tell you some thing of your Self The foalks in these parts did not have any confidence in you from the fact of you Being a Yankey Man They could not depend on your word They didnt know but you were a Son of Some Old Yankey. hunting up something to make money out off. I have had to tell as much as fifty time all about your place of birth, and that my Husband educated you along with My Son. & that you Boath graduated at the same time, & were fine scholars. So you see I had a goodeal [good deal] of talking to do to make it good on your side…

You may as well give up writing a History of my Dear lost Boy, for you never will get any thing correct. no one but His men & friends and my-self could get up a correct History of him. His men never will Enlighten the Yankeys on the Subject. So what they gather up will be mostely Lies.

Image of a letter from Caroline Clarke Quantrill to W.W. Scott, February 24, 1889
Letter from Caroline Clarke Quantrill to W. W. Scott, February 24, 1889. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

Caroline defended her son until her death in 1903.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Sources:

William Clarke Quantrill Correspondence. RH MS 75. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Leslie, Edward E. The Devil Knows How to Ride. New York: Random House, 1996.

Locating a Picture: Finding the Location of the 50th Anniversary Photo of the Quantrill Raid Survivors

January 31st, 2014

For my class project in GEOG 658, I attempted to find the backdrop of the 1913 photo of the Quantrill raid survivors using GIS (Geographic Information Systems). The only aspect of the photo that is known is that it was taken in Lawrence. Beyond that, the exact location of this photo is unspecified.

Survivors of Quantrill's Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913. Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.,

Photograph of survivors of Quantrill’s Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913.
Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.
Click image to enlarge and view.

The photo reveals important information about its location. Judging by the position of the people relative to the central building in the backdrop, the photo was taken at an intersection of two roads. The heights of the adjacent buildings are also visible. Identifying the stories of the adjacent buildings and their sequence from the corner building provides an identifiable skyline to locate using other sources, such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and Google Street View. Sanborn Fire Insurance maps show the relation of the buildings to one another and to the city streets, as well as tell the heights of the buildings. A trolley line is also visible to the left of the buildings.

Eldridge House from Sanborn map

Detail of Eldridge House plan from the Lawrence, KS Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1912.
Massachusetts Street is at the top of the image.
Call number RH Map Sanborn, Lawrence 1912, sheet 4. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

I used GIS software to map the 1910 trolley line onto a modern map of downtown Lawrence and to mark the heights of buildings around each intersection. With this information combined into one map, I was able to narrow down the locations for the photograph.

From this investigation, the most likely location for the 1913 photograph is the Southwest corner of Massachusetts and 7th streets, where the Eldridge stands. This location is at an intersection, was historically located along the trolley tracks, and the building heights of the adjacent buildings appear to match the sequence observed in the historic photo. The 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows several businesses located on the first floor, including an Express Office, Telegraph Office, and Barbershop. A close look at the 1913 photo shows the advertisements for these businesses.

Detail of Survivors of Quantrill's Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913. Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.   Detail of Survivors of Quantrill's Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913. Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.,

Detail of Survivors of Quantrill's Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913. Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Details from photograph of survivors of Quantrill’s Raid, Lawrence, KS, August 21, 1913.
Wells Fargo Express Office, Telegraph Office, and Hodges Bros. Hotel Barber Shop.
Call number RH PH 18 L.8.2ff. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Jennie Ashton
Conservation Student Assistant
Graduate Student, Museum Studies

Dear Mother, Dear Sister, Dear Diary: Women’s Stories from the Kansas Frontier

October 22nd, 2013

Kansas Territory was opened for settlement in 1854, and women accompanied or joined their husbands and families and helped build new communities. These women’s stories survive through the letters and diaries they left behind, some of which have been preserved – and can be discovered – in Spencer’s Kansas Collection.

Image of "Friendship" needlepoint bookmark

“Friendship” needlepoint fabric bookmark, originally between blank unnumbered leaves 218-219,
Thankful Sophia Mayo Journal, Call Number: RH MS P875. Click image to enlarge.

In November 1854, Elizabeth Mallory and her sister Jennie Crittenden left Wethersfield, Connecticut, and headed west to Kansas. They came as part of the sixth contingent of the Emigrant Aid Company, an organization dedicated to sending citizens with anti-slavery sentiments to the new Kansas Territory to ensure that it would not be admitted as a slave state. Elizabeth’s husband Anson H. Mallory had left with the first Company party in July and was waiting for the sisters in Lawrence.

Elizabeth and Jennie wrote to their mother and siblings from 1859 to the mid-1860s, and these letters give us a glimpse into their lives during Kansas’ earliest years. For example, the excerpt below is from a letter Elizabeth wrote to her mother on June 28, 1863, reassuring her that all was well. Abandoned by her husband Anson, Elizabeth had recently been granted a divorce. She resumed using her maiden name and signed her letters “ESC.” In 1857, sister Jennie had married George F. Earl, who came to Lawrence as a member of the Emigrant Aid Company and served as a Captain in Kansas Company A during the Civil War.

Image of the second page of a letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her mother, June 28, 1863

Second page of a letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her mother, June 28, 1863,
Jennie Earl and Elizabeth S. C. Correspondence,
Call Number: RH MS P285. Click image to enlarge.

My health is good and I am enjoying life and health better than I have for many months and I can say years that have past, I have all the dressmaking that I can do, and am getting alonge as regards the worlds goods better then thousands [illegible] me, I have a good family in my House and I am boarding with them which makes it very pleasant for me. I was with Jennie when she was sick [giving birth] she has a nice large Girl. It weighed 12 pounds when it was born she had not named it when I saw her last which was a week ago, she has gone down to Paolia where her Husband is stationed.

Elizabeth survived Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence on August 21, 1863, and wrote to her brother about her experiences the next month.

Image of the first page of a letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her brother, September 22, 1863

Image of the second page of a letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her brother, September 22, 1863

Image of the third page of a letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her brother, September 22, 1863

Letter, Elizabeth Crittenden to her brother, September 22, 1863,
Jennie Earl and Elizabeth S. C. Correspondence,
Call Number: RH MS P285. Click image to enlarge.

My dear Brother you know nothing of the Horrors of this war, nor neather did I, untill the 21st day of August, our town was surprised about day light, by 300 men headed by Quandrel who murdered every man that came in their way, most of our people were in bed, and the Rebels would knock at the door and when the men opened the door, they would shoot them down, and then rush in, and set fire to the house, threatening death to the women, if they stird, and by that way the House would get to burning so fast, that it would be impossable to get the bodys of their Husbands out, so that they would have to burn up.

Elizabeth also described the raid in a letter to her mother; this document is included in Spencer’s current exhibit about Quantrill’s Raid and can be accessed with a transcription as part of our accompanying online exhibit (see http://exhibits.lib.ku.edu/exhibits/show/quantrill/after/item/6144).

Another early Kansas woman, Sarah Goss Clark, left Pewaukee, Wisconsin, and moved to Kansas with her husband Lymon (Timothy Limon Clark) in 1864. Sarah’s brother Nathaniel was a noted ornithologist who helped found Neosho Falls in 1857. As is often the case regarding migrations, other family members eventually joined him in Kansas. The Sarah Goss Clark papers include her diaries from 1864 to 1874, correspondence with her mother and siblings, and other miscellaneous items. In her earliest diary, Sarah discusses many of her family members and the trials she faced during her first year in Kansas.

Image of entries in Sarah Goss Clark's diary, July-December 1864

Entries in Sarah Goss Clark’s diary, July-December 1864, Sarah Goss Clark Papers,
Call Number: RH MS 839. Click image to enlarge.

Image of entries in Sarah Goss Clark's diary, January 1865

Entries in Sarah Goss Clark’s diary, January 1865, Sarah Goss Clark Papers,
Call Number: RH MS 839. Click image to enlarge.

July 4. 1864. First spent in Kansas. Joseph & Alex. went to Leroy on horsback for the fourth. Doing my work with Little Lucy’s help.
Nov.24th Thanksgiving day. We are paying no attention to the day Lyman & Stickney
[her husband and brother] gone to find and purchase some oxen.
Sunday. Christmas. Feel lonley today. I feel that many changes have taken place in our situation & family since last Christmas. It is just four monthes to day since our dear little Freddie died. The thoughts of it fills me with sadness.
Jan. 7th my birthday forty seven to-day. Why have I been spared so many years, when so many promising young lives have been taken.

When we read these women’s original letters to their “Dear Mothers” and the diary entries they wrote, we can feel their joys and sorrows and gain a deeper understanding of the everyday challenges faced by Kansas’ earliest settlers.

Tina Nolan Shepperd
Student Technician, Conservation Services

Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss Destruction and Survival

September 6th, 2013

This week we present you with two labels from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition: “Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival.”  The exhibit, curated by Sheryl Willliams, Spencer’s Curator of Collections, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the infamous attack on Lawrence and draws on materials from the Kansas Collection‘s holdings to illuminate this significant chapter in Kansas history.

Exhibition Title Wall for Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival

Title wall for the exhibition featuring a photograph of the 50th anniversary of survivors of Quantrill’s Raid.
August 21, 1913. Courtesy of KU Libraries.  Click image to enlarge or travel to KU Libraries Flickr Stream.

Visitors at the opening reception for Curator of Collections Sheryl Williams speaks to the audience about Quantrill's Raid

Left: Visitors at the opening reception for “Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence: Stories of Loss, Destruction and Survival”
Right: Curator of Collections Sheryl Williams speaks on Quantrill’s Raid.
Click image to enlarge or travel to KU Libraries Flickr Stream

The exhibition is open to the public in the Spencer Research Library’s gallery through the end of October and available online at http://exhibits.lib.ku.edu/exhibits/show/quantrill.  We encourage readers to explore its moving stories of loss and resilience.

Hell Let Loose

On August 21, 1863 Quantrill and some four hundred men rode into Lawrence, on a dawn raid, catching the citizens by surprise, in spite of earlier rumors of possible attack. At the end of four hours at least 143 men and teen aged boys, most unarmed and unresisting, were known dead, many killed in front of their wives and children. Most of the business district was destroyed by fire, and many homes were plundered and burned. Lawrence was in ruins and its remaining citizens in shock and despair.

According to an account of the raid written shortly afterwards by Rev. Richard Cordley:

No one expected indiscriminate slaughter. When it was known that the town was in their possession, everybody expected that they would rob and burn the town, kill all military men they could find, and a few marked characters. But few expected a wholesale murder. … A gentlemen who was concealed where he could see the whole , said the scene presented was the most perfect realization of the slang phrase, “Hell let loose,” that could ever be imagined.

Destruction of Lawrence, an artist's sketch from Harper's Weekly. September 5, 1863

Destruction of Lawrence, an artist’s sketch from Harper’s Weekly. September 5, 1863. Call Number: RH PH 18:L:8.5. Online Exhibition item link.

The Horror And Sorrow

Excerpted from “William Clarke Quantrill and the Civil War Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, August 21, 1863, an Eyewitness Account,” Rev. Richard Cordley,  edited by Richard B. Sheridan, 1999.

As the scene at their entrance was one of the wildest, the scene after their departure was one of the saddest that ever met mortal gaze.  Massachusetts Street was one bed of embers.  On this street seventy-five buildings, containing at least twice that number of places of business and offices, were destroyed.  The dead lay all along the side-walk, many of them so burned that they could not be recognized, and could scarcely be taken up.  Here and there among the embers could be seen the bones of those who had perished in the buildings and had been consumed.  On two sides of another block lay seventeen bodies.  Almost the first sight that met our gaze, was a father almost frantic, looking for the remains of his son among the embers of his office.  The work of gathering and burying the dead soon began.  From every quarter they were being brought in, until the floor of the Methodist Church, which was taken as a sort of a hospital, was covered with dead and wounded.  In almost every house could be heard the wail of the widow and orphan. The work of burying was sad and wearying.  Coffins could not be procured.  Many carpenters were killed and most of the living had lost their tools.  But they rallied nobly and worked day and night, making pine and walnut boxes, fastening them together with the burnt nails gathered from the ruins of the stores. It sounded rather harsh to the ear of the mourner, to have the lid nailed over the bodies of their loved ones; but it was the best that could be done.  Thus the work went on for three days, til one hundred and twenty-two were deposited in the Cemetery, and many others in their own yard.  Fifty-three were buried in one long grave. Early on the morning after the massacre, our attention was attracted by loud wailings.  We went in the direction of the sound, and among the ashes of a building, sat a woman, holding in her hands the blackened skull of her husband, who was shot and burned at that place.

Photograph of Reverend Richard Cordley Image of William Elsey Connelley's  “Map of Quantrill's Route,” 1819.

Left: Reverend Richard Cordley, no date. Call Number: RH PH 18:K:205(f). Online exhibition item link.
Right: William Elsey Connelley’s map showing the route followed in pursuing Quantrill after the Raid, no date. Call Number: RH Map P7. Online exhibition item link.

Sheryl Williams
Curator of Collections and Kansas Collection Librarian

Going “Dutch”: The Lawrence Windmill

August 15th, 2013

Did you know that a windmill used to be the main landmark in Lawrence? The “Old Dutch Windmill,” as many called it, was located near the corner of what is now 9th Street and Emery Road. It was the first wind-driven mill in Kansas, and Lawrence was chosen as the location for the mill because there was a lot of grain farming in the area and the town was rapidly growing. The idea to erect the mill came from business partners John Wilder and Andrew Palmquist (whose name was later changed to Palm when he became a naturalized U.S. citizen). Palm returned to his native Sweden for several months to get help with the mill’s design. He brought back machinery as well as several millwrights—craftsmen who specialized in building windmills. Construction on the mill began in July of 1863. The mill sustained some minor damage during William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence on August 21st of that same year. However, the damage was quickly repaired and the mill was completed in June of 1864.

Photograph of Lawrence Windmill, June 1892. Photograph of the Lawrence Windmill with a man sitting where the arms of the windmill intersect

Left: “A Dutch Relic”: Lawrence Windmill, June 1892. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18 E:5.
Right: Lawrence Windmill with man sitting where the windmill’s arms intersect, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call number RH PH 18 E:16(f). Click images to enlarge.

The Lawrence windmill had two sets of millstones—one to grind corn and the other to grind wheat—which were imported from France due to their high quality. The windmill measured 64 feet above ground level and each of the arms was 34 feet long. It had an octagonal shape, with shingles on the upper part of the windmill and a base made of stone. These features are considered typical of Dutch windmills. However, the Lawrence windmill had a unique feature with its onion-shaped dome, which can be seen on some Swedish churches.

Color postcard featuring the Lawrence Windmill, undated.

Color postcard of the Lawrence Windmill, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18 E:20.1.
Click image to enlarge.

Wilder and Palm used the windmill not only for grinding wheat and corn, but also to power their manufacturing business where they made carriages and plows. The business partners even produced their own brand of flour and were quite successful with their enterprises for several years. But by the 1880s there were larger mills in Douglas County that could grind more bushels of grain per day than the Lawrence windmill. Wilder and Palm had also acquired quite a bit of debt. In July of 1885, the company went into receivership—a type of corporate bankruptcy. Assets were liquidated over the next two years and the windmill stood unused until April 30, 1905 when it was destroyed by fire.

Advertisement for Wilder and Palm featuring the Lawrence Windmill

Advertisement for Wilder and Palm featuring the Lawrence Windmill, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18 E:49(f). Click image to enlarge.

It was only after the mill stopped working that it became a symbol of the community. It was a popular picnic spot for KU students and was the subject of paintings, drawings, and photographs. More information about the “Old Dutch Windmill” can be found in John M. Peterson’s article “The Lawrence Windmill” in Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, volume 3, issue 3, Autumn 1980, which is available in the Reading Room of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library (Call number F 681 .K177 v.3:3). Additionally, in Spencer Library’s Kansas Collection, there is a paper entitled “Once Upon a Time: A Windmill in Lawrence” written by Jean Paul Pentecouteau in 1987 (Call number RH D6161). Pentecouteau was a student in KU’s School of Architecture and Urban Design.

Melissa Doebele
Public Services Student Assistant and 2013 Museum Studies Graduate