Quantrill's Raid Downtown Walking Tour
A self-guided walking tour of downtown sites associated with Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill's devastating raid on Lawrence in 1863.
Start your tour at the northwest corner of South Park, just north of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation building at 1141 Massachusetts Street. At dawn on August 21, 1863, Quantrill and his raiders rode northwest through the outskirts of Lawrence and South Park toward their objective of the downtown business district. About four hours later, having completed their mission and wary of approaching Union troops, the raiders regathered just east of the park with their plunder and rode southward out of town. Go north along the west side of Massachusetts Street, leaving South Park.
At the corner of what is now 11th and Massachusetts Streets, a squad of raiders went west to the top of Mount Oread to watch for signs of approaching Union troops. The main body--shouting "On to the Hotel!" and other slogans--continued their ride down Massachusetts Street toward the Eldridge Hotel as smaller bands tracked along Vermont and New Hampshire Streets. "When they came to the high ground facing Massachusetts street, not far from where the park now is, the command was given in clear tones, 'Rush on to the town.' Instantly the whole body bounded forward with the yell of demons." -- Rev. Richard Cordley, Lawrence resident
On this corner stood a small encampment of recruits for the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment. As Quantrill's raiders entered Lawrence, the twenty or so black recruits heard gunfire and horses' hooves and knew they were in danger. The men immediately fled to a willow grove two miles down the river, where they hid with other African Americans until the raiders left Lawrence. "As I stood looking some three or four negroes from the camp, which was some forty rods from where I stood, came rushing by, hallooing 'The Secesh [secessionists] have come!" -- Erastus D. Ladd, raid survivor
The historical marker on the wall of the parking garage commemorates a small encampment of white volunteers for the 14th Kansas Cavalry, many of them only teenagers. The actual site of the encampment was about one block south of this location. As they rode downtown, a group of raiders trampled their tents and killed 17 of the 21 unarmed, unprepared recruits. "Before we crossed New Hampshire St. [three of us] were down.... I ran across an open lot to Joe Rawlins' back fence ... when we saw some of the gang ahead of us on Rhode Island St., I jumped the fence and turned to help Charley, when he was shot in the back and fell at my feet dead, leaving me the last of five." -- Cosma T. Colman
Constructed by Josiah Miller from 1858 to 1860, the House Building was located in the center of Lawrence in the territorial period. Miller acquired town lot 35 and built this commercial structure on Massachusetts Street. A leader of the effort to attract settlers to the Kansas Territory, Miller became the postmaster and built this three-story structure as part of the effort to bring commerce and prosperity to the Central Plains. In 1860, Miller added an identical structure on the north half of the lot, creating a 50-foot-wide frontage known as the "Miller Block." The southern half of the building was leased to Jacob House for his gentlemen's clothing store in 1862. Miller leased the north half to Joseph Wharton who set up a dry goods and groceries store. Jacob House's daughter-in-law remodeled the building into a two-story structure with office space above in the early 1920s. The building has housed many businesses and upstairs offices over the years and was listed for sale in 2019.
The Eldridge Hotel stands on the site of the former Free State Hotel. One of the first buildings in Lawrence, the Free State hotel served as a place for the city's early settlers. The original hotel was built in 1855 by the New England Emigrant Aid Society. The hotel's name reflected the politics of its founders; during the time period known as Bleeding Kansas, members of the New England Emigrant Aid Society opposed the extension of slavery into the territory. In 1856, pro-slavery partisans attacked Lawrence and burned the original Free State Hotel to the ground. Colonel Shalor Eldridge rebuilt and expanded the Free State Hotel, which stood until another attack on the city-once again by Southern Partisans. The 1863 attack on Lawrence by William Quantrill and his raiders included the murder of more than 150 people-the worst episode of domestic terrorism until the attacks on Oklahoma City. After the raid, Colonel Eldridge once again rebuilt the hotel. As Kansas had entered the Union as a Free State, and as the Civil War was coming to an end, he renamed his establishment Hotel Eldridge.
In 1863, this was the site of a wooded ravine that separated downtown from West Lawrence. With steep banks and only one small bridge spanning it, the ravine served as a hiding place for Lawrencians during the raid. While some of Quantrill's men rode along the edge of the ravine and shot into it, others crossed the bridge to look for prominent residents of West Lawrence. Several men were killed in that part of town, but others--including Senator James H. Lane--used cornfields and hilly terrain to avoid discovery.
Site of the Johnson House hotel and the Ralph Dix home, where Getta Dix watched her brother-in-law die in her arms.
This corner was the original site of the Methodist Church. After the raid, the church served as a morgue as surviving Lawrencians brought victims' bodies here for identification.
The Watkins Museum of History is the headquarters of the Douglas County Historical Society. The society and museum's mission is to "promote civic engagement by supporting the preservation, research, and interpretation of county history through active exhibits and thought-provoking educational programs for the public." The museum is housed in the historic Watkins Building and contains three floors of exhibits telling stories of Lawrence and Douglas County history, from the tense days of Bleeding Kansas through the Civil Rights Era and KU Jayhawks championships. Admission is free. The second floor gallery exhibits provide an excellent introduction to how the creation of Lawrence and Kansas helped precipitate the Civil War, as well as the cause and effects of William Clarke Quantrill's infamous raid on the city on August 21, 1863.