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Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas: An Informal History


From the inner flap:


This history of Lawrence, Kansas, begins with the arrival of the first white Americans in 1819. It describes, in a very readable way, the early history of the co7untry around the future site of Lawrence. The author then describe the development of the city from its founding in 1854 to 1980. Not since Richard Cordley's History of Lawrence, pubished in 1895, has anyone attempted such a sweeping history of the city.


The early history of Lawrence is unique, for few cities in America can claim such a turbulent beginning. It can be said that the Civil War really started in Lawrence in the late 1850s and not with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. The events in Lawrence from 1854 through 1863 had a tremendous impact on the nation. This book tells, in much detail, abou the founding of Lawrence, the political problems surrounding the admission of Kansas to the Union as a "free" state, the 1856 "Sack of Lawrence" by Sheriff Jones and pro-slavery men from Missouri, and Quantrill's infamous raid on August 21, 1863. The political bombast preceding the Civil War was centered in Washington, D.C., but the violence, the murders, and the raids between pro- and anti-slavery forces were centered in Eastern Kansas - and Lawrence was the free-state stronghold.


Dary tells of Lawrence's struggle to become a city, of its competition with Kansas City, Missouri, to become a major railroad center, and of the city's growth during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One chapter "Harvard on the Kaw" describes the origin and development of the University of Kansas and another deals with natural phenomena including floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Included are the city's weather records kept by the University of Kansas weather station from 1868 to 1980. Still another chapter recalls old legends of the Lawrence area, including tales of buried treasure.


This is more than a political and economic history of a city: this is an intimate description of how people lived in Lawrence during a period of 126 years. Chapter IX, "Entertainment and Recreation in Early Lawrence," is particularly interesting.


This volume is illustrated with 166 black and white pictures and 3 maps. The pictures have been selected with care and discernment from many sources including the Kansas State Historical Society, the recently discovered Alfred A. Lawrence Collection covering the period from 1900 to 1948, and the Dougle County Historical Society. Five appendices cover the histories of all known newspapers cover the histories of all know newspapers published in Douglas County, a short history of the Douglas County Historical Society and the Watkins Community Museum, a list of prominent names of people who have touched Lawrence history, and a reprint of a register signed by Kansas settlers.


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