Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New to Kansas during the Civil War

Clipping from Wyandotte Gazette
(Kansas City, Kansas), August 29, 1863
After collecting typical information from census records, the Lee family seemed like any other ordinary family. Martha Jane Pollock was my husband's 3rd great-aunt. She married Orville A. Lee, and they had three daughters between the years 1850 and 1857 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. At some point between 1857 and 1865, the Lee family moved from Pennsylvania to Atchison County, Kansas. Over his 40 years in Kansas, Orville worked as a farmer, coal merchant, and owner of a feed store. His daughters were school teachers.

Nothing extraordinary about the Lee family, right? Well, while I'm not yet certain when they arrived in Kansas, it's very possible that they found themselves there during the Civil War. The 1865 state census shows that they were definitely there in the summer of '65, right after the war ended. So they could have just arrived, or they might have been there for several years. If they were there during the Civil War, it had to be scary to live in a strange, new state during such a volatile time.

Prior to the war, the Kansas territory was already a contentious area with respect to the issue of slavery. Violence between pro-slavery settlers and area abolitionists led to the territory being called "Bleeding Kansas." Then, during the war, citizens of Douglas County, Kansas became victims of Confederate guerillas during the Lawrence Massacre. This event, in which more than 150 men and boys were killed, had to have caused fear among their neighbors, including those living in nearby Atchison County. One can only imagine what the Lee family was thinking and feeling if they were new residents there.

This is just a reminder that it's important to find out what was happening in the country, state or town where your ancestor lived. Knowing the historical context of your ancestors' lives may cause you to look at them a little differently.

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