October 18, 2010

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas

We migrated down to Fort Scott, Kansas right on the border with Missouri. After leaving the Flint Hills, eastern Kansas becomes expansive tracts of soybeans and corn, intermixed with increasingly large patches of woodlands across the rolling topography. The forests have clearly become an eastern deciduous forest of hickories, oaks, and maples. With temperatures hitting a remarkable 85 degrees, our extended summer continues...

Fort Scott is a nice town, with a great little downtown of brick buildings and cute little shops. But, the main attraction for the town is Fort Scott National Historic Site.

We ate lunch as a little grill in town that had a 50's theme, before heading into the historic site.

Hilina dancing to 50's music in the restaurant we ate at for lunch
This old army fort played witness to several of America's most important historical events of the 1800's. It was established in the 1840's as a frontier fort to create a buffer between the new state of Missouri and the "permanent Indian country" beyond. Andrew Jackson had forceably removed the Cherokee and other eastern tribes and sent them to Oklahoma and Kansas and had hoped that that region would be their permanent homeland.

But, the fort only lasted 10 years before that vision was gone. With the Oregon Trail started and migration out west filling up the west, soon the settlers surpassed the buffer zone and the fort was decommissioned. For the native americans who were forceably moved from the east to these new territories, it was a promise broken.

Then, the fledging city of Fort Scott saw witness to "Bleeding Kansas". The Kansas Territory was given the right to self-determination by congress on whether it would be a slave state or free state. Most of the residents of Kansas were northern "free soil" farmers who opposed slavery. So, slave state "ruffians" began to flood over from Missouri and Kentucky to intimidate, attack, and even murder citizens to make them leave or support "slave-state status".
Bunks of the infantry soldiers at the fort
As the first elections came, these ruffians began to force their way to the ballot box to vote for slave status. Over 70% of the ballots were cast illegally, many at the point of a knife or gun. Soon, northern forces were mobilizing to flood the state with illegal voters to counter them. In addition, people like John Brown began to attack the pro-slavery factions in bloody combat.

When the civil war began, Fort Scott was an important frontier post, securing supply lines to crops and resources from the west and for training union troops who would fight in Missouri, Arkansas, and beyond.

A really cool walking stick found at our campground. Hilina was very excited.
We are now in Carthage, down in the southwesternmost corner of Missouri. We'll be heading into the Ozarks pretty soon for a few weeks of beautiful autumn colors and hikes. Since we have left the Great Plains, I can say I never really imagined I would enjoy visiting Nebraska and Kansas, but we did. We were lucky with great weather and we sort of hit the highlights that each state has to offer.

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