The Bloodiest Trading Post in Kansas




tp postcard




Trading Post, Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes River, is about an hour down the highway from where I live. This unincorporated town is reputed to be the longest continuously occupied community in Kansas, established in 1825 as (you guessed it) a trading post with the Osage Indians.

For years I drove by this tiny spot on the map and had no idea of the monumental impact it had on this region and the whole United States.

In 1858, a brutal massacre on “free state” men occurred just a few miles away. John Brown built a cabin close by to protect fellow abolitionists and plotted vengeance on slave owners, which culminated with his raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia, a year later. From trading post, Kansas Senator Jim Lane and his infamous Jayhawkers launched a retaliatory raid on southern sympathizers in Missouri in 1861.

All this from a little place called Trading Post.door to cabin

I stopped one day and visited the small museum there and found a few interesting artifacts. Here’s the door to the cabin built by John Brown, who vowed to protect “freestate men” in Kansas after the massacre.

Near the museum, a memorial to the massacre victims was erected.

memorial (1)

I also visited the site of the MARAIS DES CYNES MASSACRE, which inspired John Brown to greater violence, spurred Jim Lane to attack Missouri, and arguably lit the spark that started a Civil War.

Did you know?massacre image (1)

Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles (1854-1861) occurred May 19, 1858, when thirty pro-slavery Missourians seized eleven Kansas ‘Free-State’ men and marched them to a creek bed near Trading Post. The eleven men were lined up execution style and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State.

The incident shocked the nation and galvanized abolitionists.

A few weeks later, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort” (about 14 x 18 feet), which he occupied with a few men through that summer.  That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated eleven slaves, killing one white man in the process. Ultimately, he took his fight east to Virginia, where after his ill-fated raid he was captured and hanged.

Later that same year, Kansans rejected a pro-slavery constitution and entered the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

curry print

A Brown follower bought Brown’s property near Trading Post and later, at the site of the fort, built a stone house that still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site.
fort site

Visiting this and other historical sites caught up in the bloody conflict, I thought about how the border conflict changed the lives of everyday people for decades to come.

The character of the hero in my upcoming novel, Fugitive Hearts, is shaped by this tragedy, which leads him down a path of vengeance first, and then to the pursuit of justice.

Read more about it here:

EEBurke_FugitiveHearts800 (2)

“Sheriff…I just shot my husband.”

Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman.

Is she a killer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?

For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.

Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.

Will he bring her to justice…or into his heart?

“Pure romance and passion that will steal your breath!”

Linda Broday, New York Times Best Selling Author

Coming July 28, 2015

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Other books in the series:

Today, I’ll be giving away a free eBook in the Steam! Romance and Rails series: A Dangerous Passion. Just comment to enter the drawing.

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34 thoughts on “The Bloodiest Trading Post in Kansas”

  1. Ladies, thanks for inviting me back to Petticoats & Pistols! Always a pleasure to visit the corral.
    I realized I’d forgotten to identify all those pictures, so here goes:

    Upper left: door to John Brown’s “fort” (cabin), which he built to protect the Free State from raiders

    1st Right: Memorial for the slain of the massacre, which reads: On the 19th day of May 1858, the men whose names appear on this monument were taken from their daily avocations by a band of armed border ruffians and marched to a deep ravine four miles from this place and there shot and left for dead. Their only offense was they were Free State men.

    2nd Right: Lithograph of the massacre

    Middle: famous Curry mural depicting John Brown that is in the Kansas Capitol

    Lower left: Stone home built on the site of Brown’s “fort” near where the massacre took place, now part of a National Historic Site

    When I took a trip out to the site, I was struck by how remote it was (and still is…thought I was driving into a corn field). I could only imagine those men’s fear. They were all unarmed.

    I imagined what if some young man’s father was among those victims. His blood would run hot. He would want revenge, justice. These are the things that shape a man. This tragedy shaped my hero.

    • It’s our pleasure, E.E! It sounds like you have created a very wounded hero in Fugitive Hearts. I can’t wait to read this story!! I’ve got to! Now! The suspense is killing me. Frank and Claire have powerful secrets. I can’t wait to find them out.

  2. YAY! Sending a big welcome, Elisabeth! We’re so happy to have you visit. I love your blog. I’d love to take a trip to Trading Post, Kansas. A fascinating place full of history and ghosts and interesting facts. Isn’t it strange how we pass by something like this every day and never pay it any mind? I did that when I lived in Wichita Falls for so long. Never realized the history that’s there. It was only after I moved away that I learned about so many things.

    Congratulations on the new book!!! I love that cover. The colors, the images, the people are outstanding. Your covers always catch my eye. Do you know if it’ll be out in print? I hope so. But, I’ll order the e-book until it does.

    Wishing you tons of success, my friend!! 🙂

    • Linda, are you kidding? You are getting a signed copy when it’s in print! With your name on the front! Thank you for all your support and encouragement! xo

    • Kim, I’m fascinated by the Civil War era. Many people don’t realize what a huge part Kansas played in the conflict, fully ten years before the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter. The bloody border conflict over the issue of Kansas remaining a free state set this country on fire. It’s a fascinating (and sobering) part of our past that is worth sharing. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Fugitive Hearts sounds great. I just bought it!
    I have done just the littlest bit of reading about the bloody border area of Kansas and Missouri as they came into the union.
    I was at a preserved house that was part of the Underground Railroad in Iowa and the guide talked a lot about it being ‘Open Season’ on killing during this time.

    I’ve heard other such things and now your book and blog post about it really catch my attention. Thanks for this. Looking forward to the book.

    • Mary, I’m thrilled the post interested you enough to buy the book! I’ve been fortunate to live near where so many of these events happened and the local historians are super helpful. One of these days, I’ll have to put together a readers’ tour. We’d have so much to pick from it would be hard to narrow it down!

  4. Fugitive Hearts sounds amazing! I am a teacher who loves to read while on summer break. Historical Fiction books are my favorite reads!

  5. I love reading about this during the civil war, my favorite time period. I also love the cover of your new book and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing with us!

  6. Thanks for stopping by! I’m also very interested in the Civil War era and the years preceding it, the Bloody Kansas years referenced in this post. Events that affected people for decades afterwards. Fugitive Hearts is actually set in 1874, about ten years after the end of the war, but the conflicts of that earlier time figure heavily into my hero’s backstory. Thanks so much for your interest in my book, and I hope you enjoy it!

  7. My favorite time period is the west from the Civil War on. Thank you for an enjoyable history lesson and a peek into how it affected your characters.

  8. Love the way you talk history, Elisabeth! I can’t wait to one day, hopefully soon, visit you and explore all of this intriguing history with you. I also can’t wait to read “Fugitive Hearts”! I’m still thinking about Claire and Frank after you introduced us to them in “A Dangerous Passion.”

    • Hi Jacqui! So glad you came by! You have a date for a Kansas tour whenever you find time to come see me. And it really delights me to know Claire and Frank so intrigued you! Hope you enjoy their story.

  9. Hi Elizabeth, My Kennedy and Pieratt relatives were right in the middle of all these skirmishes, chasing Quantrill out of Lawrence, had Beecher Bible rifles and hid along the Wakarusa River, helped with the Underground Railroad, etc. I did lots of research about my ancestors, who lived south of Lawrence during 1854-1865, for my Trail of Thread book series.
    I never thought of how much Kansas played a part of the Civil War until I researched it. And the women were at home trying to keep the families together, plant crops, trying to keep the homesteads from being ransacked and burned…while the men were running around…and they just came to homestead land and build a new community.
    Okay, so you know I’m into this time period and Kansas history. Sounds like I need to start reading this series so I’m ready for Fugitive Hearts! Thanks for posting today!

    • Linda, that’s so cool you had ancestors who experienced these things! Wow! I’m a transplanted Kansan, and my husband’s kin were probably among those your ancestors chased! 😉 I’m thinking we both need to read each other’s books. I downloaded one of yours today. 🙂

      • Was his relatives Border Ruffians?! ‘Course mine might be considered Jayhawkers now…
        It was some tough years for people living on either side of the MO/KS border.
        The Trail of Thread series is written in the form of letters, telling my ancestors’ and Kansas’ history, so no romance at all.
        It would be a good condensed history lesson for you to read the series though.
        I’ll read yours for a better ending for at least two people, I assume?

  10. I love all history but the Civil War is particularly fascinating to me. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    • Thanks for stopping by Glenda! I’m very interested in Civil War history, as well, and in particular the war along the western frontier, which was quite different from what went on in the East. Enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

  11. I don’t think I ever heard about Brown’s activities in Kansas. His raid in Virginia gets the most attention. We just returned from a trip to Northern New York and saw a sign for his grave. I hadn’t realized he was buried there. Thank you for an interesting post. Next time we travel through Kansas, we will have to check out the Trading Post site.

    • If you do decide to come down, stay in historic Fort Scott Kansas at a bed and breakfast called Lyons Twin Mansions. This Victorian mansion inspired my heroine’s home in Her Bodyguard. It’s a gorgeous historical site, wonderful innkeeper, Miss Pat, and you’ll love exploring Fort Scott. The restored fort there (circa 1845) is a national parks site. Here’s the link:

      FYI, I’ll send you (or anyone who emails me) a coupon for a free night with a two night stay.

  12. Living in South East Nebraska I’m thinking we need to take a road trip & explore Kansas! Very interesting about my border state… I’d love to read your book 🙂

    • Deanna, thanks for your interest! My book is now available for preorder!

      See my response above re: visiting the area around Trading Post.

      If you do decide to come down, stay in historic Fort Scott Kansas at a bed and breakfast called Lyons Twin Mansions. This Victorian mansion inspired my heroine’s home in Her Bodyguard. It’s a gorgeous historical site, wonderful innkeeper, Miss Pat, and you’ll love exploring Fort Scott. The restored fort there (circa 1845) is a national parks site. Here’s the link:

      FYI, I’ll send you (or anyone who emails me) a coupon for a free night with a two night stay.

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