Crossroads of Conflict  |

Contested Visions of Freedom & The Missouri-Kansas Border Wars

Historical Sites

The landmarks selected for the Crossroads of Conflict are historic sites and institutions that shed light on the deeper cultural themes of the workshop. These landmarks will allow NEH Scholars to see, hear, smell, feel, touch and taste evidence of the past.

(click to view information)

The John Wornall House The Arabia Steamboat Museum Watkins Woolen Mill
Jesse James Farm Lecompton Lawrence
Bates County Island Mound Historic Site Poplar Heights Farm
Westport The Nelson-Atkins Museum

The John Wornall House
Kansas City, MO
The John Wornall House was built less than three miles from the town of Westport by a successful farm family, who emigrated from Kentucky to Missouri in 1843. By 1858 John Wornall was a wealthy farmer whose Greek revival style home exemplified antebellum prosperity. The house was at the center of the Missouri-Kansas Border War and acted as a field hospital for both Confederate and Union wounded during the 1864 Battle of Westport.

NEH Scholars will gain a different point of view about the Civil War through exploring the home of a family who lived directly on the open border between Missouri and Kansas. They will be asked to analyze the difficult experiences of civilians who found themselves along the political border, as well as in the path of warfare.

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The Arabia Steamboat Museum
Kansas City, MO
The Arabia Steamboat Museum is of particular interest and benefit to workshop participants. Its vast collection provides a snapshot into the commerce of 1856 by exhibiting the contents of a fully-loaded steamboat bound from St. Louis to Sioux Falls when it sank on a snag in the Missouri River. Fabric and buttons, bourbon, champagne, boots and tools are among the thousands of items recovered from the sunken vessel; these provide evidence of the diverse lifestyles and levels of sophistication on the frontier that contributed to conflict. Workshop participants will meet with David Hawley, whose family excavated the steamboat, and learn what the Hawleys discovered about the variety and abundance of consumer products that were available to the residents of the Missouri-Kansas border region during the period under discussion. He also will discuss the discovery of an earlier steamboat that he hopes to excavate during the Winter of 2017-18.

NEH Scholars can make use of the wide variety of Arabia artifacts to create lesson plans and activities for students that will demonstrate how they can learn about a historical period and place from material culture.

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Watkins Woolen Mill
Excelsior Springs, MO
The Watkins Woolen Mill provides insight into the Border Wars from the perspective of a Kentucky emigrant in transition, who came to Missouri and began an estate, an industry and a thriving community. In addition to an intact, three-story woolen mill with all of its mid-century era manufacturing equipment, the 1,600 acre site also contains an elegant home, fruit-drying shed, smokehouse, brick kiln, sawmill, gristmill and acres of well tended orchards and croplands. A brick schoolhouse and church are also in the vicinity. This preserved community provides insights into the foodways, gender roles, and traditions that were a part of life in this early industrial setting.

NEH Scholars will analyze the impact of the Border Wars on a family of local entrepreneurs who were able to benefit from selling manufactured goods to the Union army, while at the same time secretly harboring support for the objectives of the Confederacy. Scholars will learn to interpret an early industrial and residential site; skills that can be transferred to similar sites in their home communities.

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Jesse James Family Farm
Kearney, MO
The Jesse James Family Farm provides an example of a Missouri homestead, which included only a few slaves who lived and worked in close proximity to the white family. Jesse James rode with Confederate guerrillas before becoming well known for his post war criminal activities. The James Farm, and the stories that surround it, provide a window into a modest lifestyle that nonetheless supported a decidedly pro-Southern disposition.

Since few people outside of the Kansas-Missouri area have knowledge of the James brothers connection to the Border Wars and Civil War, this site affords a great opportunity to analyze how and why there continues to be such admiration for Jesse and Frank James. NEH Scholars can develop lessons on how “legends” are created and how the perception of who is a hero changes over time.

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Constitution Hall
Lecompton, KS
Lecompton, Kansas, originally settled by pro-slavery sympathizers, was the first territorial capital of Kansas. Constitution Hall was the meeting place for the Kansas Territorial Government that convened in 1856 to write the constitution for a pro-slavery state—a document that came within eight votes of being passed by the Congress of the United States.

Costumed local historical re-enactors will portray well-known pro-slavery and free-state supporters in Kansas, allowing the NEH Scholars to analyze the fiery rhetoric from both side of the conflict. They will have access to well-researched historical Readers Theatre scripts that focus on the border conflict. The dramatic presentations will give their students the opportunity to take on the roles of border war figures and “live” the experience.

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The City of Lawrence
Lawrence, KS
Lawrence, Kansas was established by radically anti-slavery settlers and subsidized, in part, by emigrant aid societies in the Northeast. Lawrence was the site of pro-slavery raids and the Quantrill’s Raid atrocity. It was a rallying point for the shadow, “Free State” government and was referred to by pro-slavery advocates as an “abolitionist hellhole.” Participants will visit the sites related to Quantrill’s Raid, including the cemetery where many of the raid victims as well as Free State leaders are buried. NEH Scholars will have the opportunity to view Border Wars-related exhibits at both the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area Visitors Center and the Watkins Museum of History.

NEH Scholars will learn to use the built environment as a teaching tool. Visits to Oak Hill Cemetery and the monument that was erected in the memory of the victims of Quantrill’s Raid will demonstrate the importance of sites of memory as ways to interpret the values of people from the past.

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Historic Bates County
Bates County, MO
The Bates County Museum provides additional insight into the experience of Missourians who lived on the border during the Civil War. The museum’s exhibits highlight both the Battle of Island Mound and Union Military Order Number 11, which resulted in the ejection of the civilian population from four Missouri border counties. NEH Scholars will also visit an archaeological dig site and learn about the artifacts left from the homes and businesses that were burned during this forced eviction.

Visiting the archaeological dig site will provide NEH Scholars with tools to use archaeological sites and artifacts to teach US History. Dr. Raab will explain how she identified a research question from the written record and then used the archaeological record to determine the impacts of warfare on the material circumstances of border residents long after the conflict ended. They also will learn about archaeological methods and be given the opportunity to participate in the process.

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Island Mound State Historic Site
Bates County, MO
The Island Mound State Historic Site is the location of the first armed military action between African-American Union troops and Confederate forces during the Civil War. Crossroad scholars will tour the battlefield and learn about the experiences of African-American soldiers during the Civil War.

Through the experience of visiting the battlefield, listening to General Donald Scott, and viewing the awarding winning film on the battle (which we will provide to each participant), NEH Scholars will gain the knowledge to bring this little known, but highly significant, event in US History into their classrooms.

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Poplar Heights Farm
Bates County, MO
Poplar Heights Farm is a restored 19th Century Missouri farm. A 150-year-old barn event space serves as the setting for the Crossroads of Conflict farewell dinner.

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Historic Westport and the Battle of Westport Site
Kansas City, MO
Outfitting the wagon trains was big business: that’s why Westport became a prosperous town that drew people on both sides of the slavery and free soil issues to and through the area. The overland outfitting trade fulfilled all of the traveler's needs, supplying everything: foodstuffs, wagons, animals, and other provisions. Colliding Union and Confederate forces fought south of the town in 1864 in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi.

NEH Scholars will learn about the importance of geographic location and topography to the establishment of towns and trade routes, as well as the sites of Civil War battles. Teachers will learn to “read” the landscape of Westport battlefield; a skill they can translate into field trips in their home communities or could integrate through virtual tours in their classrooms.

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum
Kansas City, MO
The Nelson-Atkins Museum will host participants in its American Art collection. The museum contains a significant collection of work that documents life in mid-19th Century Missouri. Museum staff will introduce NEH Scholars to the collection and lead them in “reading” the election paintings and political works of George Caleb Bingham, which offer a vivid portrayal of frontier democracy and the burning issues of the day. (Optional post-workshop activity on Friday afternoon)

NEH Scholars will learn to use paintings, drawings, and sculptures as tools for interpreting the past.

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Contact Us

NEH Border Wars
203 Cockefair Hall
University of Missouri-Kansas City
5121 Rockhill Rd
Kansas City, MO 64110

SUMMER 2017 Workshops
June 25 - June 30
July 9 - July 14

Sponsored by the
UMKC Center for Midwestern Studies

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.