Tag Archives: Sycamore Springs

John Brown and the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad Map  James Lane Trail Coming Out of Western Missouri, into Northeast Kansas Territory, and Back East to Iowa

State of Kansas-Nemaha CountyNemaha County, Kansas.  Area with Underground Railroad traffic

In Washington, the James Buchanan Administration validated the election results and the territorial legislature was preparing to draft what would be known as the pro-slavery, Lecompton Constitution.

In 1855, Brown moved to Kansas near Osawatomie, leaving behind numerous lawsuits and business entanglements in Ohio. In Kansas, from 1855-1859, John Brown came to help with the slavery issue. He became a white American abolitionist who believed an armed uprising was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He would murder for the cause. Brown was known as a “folk hero” in the North and a “terrorist” in the South (Was he like the terrorists we hear about today?  In his own way?) He thought he was chosen to fight this “holy war”. His radical ideas about racial equality set him apart from other abolitionists.

John Brown Mural Mural of John Brown in Kansas Capital Building-Topeka, KS

The Lane Trail was used by John Brown and others to transport slaves north to freedom.

Slaves were chattels (personal property), and those aiding in their escape could be prosecuted for receiving and concealing stolen property. In Netawaka, John Brown and the slaves spent the night. When no move was made to arrest them, Brown loaded the slaves into wagons and headed north.

 

The Beginning Of The Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil war, John Gray enrolled in the Union militia but was rejected at Leavenworth, Kans.  Still desirous and anxious to serve his country, he joined the Brown County Kansas Home Guards.

While Mr. Gray was away, his wife, Annie Maria, cribbed 1,000 bushels of corn and cut and hauled the winter’s fuel from the woods, a distance of seven miles. Alice and her mother and siblings lived all alone and unprotected.

John Gray was possessed of a roving disposition. He was one of the original “Forty-Niners” who crossed the plains to the gold fields of California during the great rush of 1849. He returned home via Cape Horn (using the Drake Passage, South America. The Passageway was a major milestone by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. It was used before the Panama Canal was built in 1914. ) He also went on many freighting expeditions to Pike’s Peak and was an old Indian fighter.

After the memorable trip on horseback to Sycamore Springs, Alice Gray became friends with Chief Chawkeekee of the Kickapoo Tribe.  She was often asked to sit in on the Tribal Council. White men were never allowed to attend the Council. Women were rarely allowed to have this honor.

Alice taught school during the greater part of her mature life, and later years was engaged in the Indian service. Her first appointment in the Indian service was at Tuba, Ariz., as a teacher among the Western Navajos.

At her own request she was transferred to the Great Nemaha School of Iowa Indians and worked for several years on the reservation in Horton, Brown County, Kansas.

Miss Alice Mabel Gray married George W. Williams in 1881.

George Williams was seventeen years old when his father died, and he was left to help an invalid mother rear a family of boys and girls in a new and barren country. With ox teams he helped break up the virgin sod. With four yoke of oxen he hauled all the family supplies from the Missouri river. This was one of the first homesteads in Nemaha County, KS.

The Overland Trail to the Far West passed through Nemaha County near Oneida and Seneca KS at this time, and great wagon trains of gold seekers were constantly passing through on their way to the mountains of California. Many of the Pony Express riders and the old United States Rangers were well known to him.

Mr. Williams had often seen large herds of deer on the land where Oneida is located. He had many times seen hostile bands of Indians decked out with paint and war regalia and looking for trouble, but no depredations were committed by the Indians near the Williams’ home.

 

When the Oneida post office was placed under the civil service, Alice Williams was appointed the postmistress, The First Woman Postmistress.

Alice has direct descendants who came to America on the Mayflower and also family members who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Connected to “Sacking and Burning” of Lawrence KS-1856

At this point, I want to give some background information on who was John Gray and his daughter, Alice.

Much of this information is summarized from various “Nemaha County (Kansas) Historical Records and Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, KS.

John Gray was married in Illinois in 1857 to Annie Maria McCune, who was born in New York, left an orphan at the age of twelve years, and then made her home with a cousin.

The cousin was the editor, George Washington Brown, who came to Kansas in 1854 to be the editor of the “Herald of Freedom.” – The first free-state newspaper in the Territory.

Mrs. Gray (Annie Maria McCune) was in Lawrence, Kansas in 1856, when the town was sacked and burned by pro-slavery ruffians, and she lost all earthly belongings.

Lawrence 3Lawrence 2Scenes of Lawrence

She then went to Illinois with a pro-slavery family named McVeigh, and later was married to John Gray. Six sons and a daughter (Alice) were born to this marriage.

John Gray and his family settled at Hiawatha, Brown County, Kansas, in May of 1857. There was just one house in Hiawatha at the time. Mr. Gray came there to make his in the new state of Kansas. He located a homestead one mile north of Hiawatha. (It was from here that John and his daughter, Alice, later made the trip to the “healing waters” of Sycamore Springs.)

Alice Mabel Gray was born in 1860 at Hiawatha, Kans., the daughter of John and Annie Maria McCune.

Later….more on John Gray and Alice

Prospective Kansas Retreat for Artists and Creative Writers

There is a rich history connected to Sycamore Springs Resort near Sabetha, Kansas.  Yes, I will get to the history later!

At this time, the resort is for sale.  It makes me sad to see what is happening to the place.  It has been a vibrant, active, go to place, for so many years.

I lived there during the 1950s and 1960s and the place was alive and well.  It was” the” place to be.  It was Mid-Century Modern as we would know it now.

What I envision for the coming years for Sycamore Springs could be meaningful for future generations.

Exploring the web for information about creative artists and writers and their resources I came across several established properties pertaining to this issue. Yaddo   is located near Saratoga Springs, New York; and the other Hedgebrook is in the Seattle, Washington area. Also, D.H. Lawrence Ranch, Taos, New Mexico offers retreats for writers.

Am I missing something here?  Wouldn’t it fit to have a place to retreat like these in the middle of the United States? Like Kansas?  There are many opportunities to preserve the history and offer the property a new legacy.

The Swimming Pool and Skating Rink could be for public use and add financial resources for the Residence.

Sycamore Springs is perfect for this type of Retreat or Residency.  It has accommodations available; it is in a rural setting; and there are many areas to wander (wonder, too) and create.  I think there is potential here, not only for writers but artists of any genre.  Yes, it needs some TLC and upgrades but the bones are there.

I don’t own the facility but I do know who does.  If this is something of interest, email me: storybookpieces@gmail.com.

Forgotten Letters

I think I’m going to just jump in and start telling a story.

When I think of telling stories we have to go back many years ago. The history of telling stories called “oral tradition” with the Native American Indians was commonplace. Oklahoma State Historical Society has written a whole section on oral traditions, folklore and narrative that explains how they kept their stories alive. (More to come relating to Sycamore Springs on this subject).

Many years ago my family would receive letters and postcards (that is another story)  from family members who were missionaries.  It was always a long letter that you always had to “jump in” somewhere and start reading because it was written all over the page not in an orderly way.  They had great words of wisdom in every letter that we received.

So, in order for me to tell this story I have to “jump in” somewhere and start telling my story.

I think it was from the movie “Amistad”, one of the slaves said that “we are products of our past, we are who we are because of who and where we came from” (not a complete quote). I truly believe the words are true.

I remember an incident as a young child when my grandparents’ home was being sold and where they were no longer able to take care of it.  The family had an auction to sell off the furniture and extra belongings.

I was too young to know what was important to keep and my parents allowed the neighbor men to clear out the house, cupboards and drawers too. My father only allowed my mother to keep a few pieces. The men focused on the things that seemed most important and hauled the rest of the things to a ditch to be burned later (this was in the early 1960s when you could do this).

My mother had enough sense to know that there were probably documents that needed to be kept and we went  down to where they were going to burn the pile and we picked through most of it and she chose a bag full of papers and photos that should be saved.  Years later, she gave those to me and I tucked them away in the attic for many more years.

I can remember one winter when we had lots of snow in Kansas and we could not go anywhere, I was depressed and just needed some kind of a lift.  I had put all those old papers in an antique chest of drawers where it didn’t have handles. For some reason, I felt really drawn to that the drawer.

I got a screwdriver out and you know how you wiggle the end on each side until you get the drawer partially to open?  There in the drawer were old family pictures and letters that were just scattered. I decided it was time to make sense of what was going on since I love to organize everything.

There were old photos from my grandfather’s side of the family. He had grown up in Hillsdale, Michigan and later moved to Nebraska with my grandmother.

My grandfather was a lay preacher. In the messed up papers and pictures there were a bundle of his letters.  They were handwritten letters tied together with a string.

More to come….

Vanishing Past-Connecting the dots

 

Skating Rink and Swimming Pool
Skating Rink and Swimming Pool

Historical Fact or Fiction

The story is a journey of pieces.  How did we end up living where we live?  What sort of links along the way influenced our families? How and why.

I am from Kansas.  My parents owned a resort – Sycamore Springs for the first 17 years of my life.   My parents owned this business but they also made it our home.  We met so many people along the way, what a life! and what a story!

Sycamore Springs, Sabetha, Kansas, has a rich history back to the 1800s.  There are ever-flowing mineral springs, the Native Americans lived here, the place had a hotel and also a health sanitorium (mineral baths) was established here, Doctors and all.  Merry-go-rounds, live performances, skating rink, swimming pool, recreation areas, ball field, and much more.

I grew up here with all of this history and stories of Sycamore Springs. also I will link this to the Kansas area communities of Pennsylvania Avenue, Sabetha, Morrill, Hiawatha, Bern, Salem, Nebr., Falls City, Nebr and other towns, Lawrence and Lecompton,KS and churches in Northeast Kansas.

My blog will create links to historical events; family genealogy; stories, humor, inspiration; and family heirlooms. Why do we collect or keep family heirlooms?  Hmmmm, can’t wait to figure all of this out!