Volunteering – A Way To Give Back!

Pleasanton, KS – The folks who have followed me for a hot minute know that I have already articulated the story of the events that unfolded at the Battle of Mine Creek, in current Pleasanton, Kansas.  So I will not rehash that, but I will link this short story as a call to action.  Mine Creek is the only actual “battle” of the Civil War that took place on Kansas soil and I happen to live within an hour of the site.  Just a short jaunt down Kansas 69 finds me at one of the largest Cavalry engagements of the Civil War. 

It had been a long week filled with some peaks and valleys.  On the downside, I had found out that my position had been eliminated along with a number of other positions.  That was unfortunate.  But there were some significant ups as well.  We, www.thecivilwartraveler.com, sold our first advertisement, my daughter Rooster won her election as student body Vice President and a couple of different events at her track meet and my son, Moose, earned his religious award via the Boy Scouts of America.  So, technically speaking, there had been more wins this week than losses. 

Friday night, I had to report to the hospital for a sleep study.  Thanks to service in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have developed a case of sleep apnea, as so many returning veterans have.  As anyone who has had a sleep study done knows you don’t exactly get the “best night of sleep” of your life.  By 1:40 AM I was lying in bed surfing Facebook on my phone.  I was reminded that I had an event coming up later that day that I was interested in going to.  It was Volunteer Day at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site.  Sleep apnea or no, I was going to go work off some stress from the week. 

Since Moose didn’t have anything going on and he needed some volunteer hours for high school, I grabbed him up and we headed down to Pleasanton, yes, named after Major General Alfred Pleasanton, “The Knight of Romance.”  After we arrived, we were given our assignment by Tami.  She asked us if we brought tools, which we did and she promptly put us to work on the repair of a foot bridge.  The long Kansas winter had taken its toll on the bridge.  After assessing the foot bridge, I determined that I didn’t have the right tools, or the right vehicle for the job, so I asked to be excused and Moose and I headed home to properly gear up.  In the spirit of Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor, we needed “more power.” 

I don’t know what it was, maybe the frustration of my position being eliminated, or the fact that as I have gotten older, I have made a conscience attempt to be better with being “handy.”  But if it took my last breath, that “damn bridge” was going to be fixed!  After two more hours devoted to “coming and going” we finally arrived back in my Jeep with saw horses, a circular saw, hammers, decking screws, a drill, power cell and the all-important tape measure.  Not to mention, the obligatory battlefield bug spray.  As I approached the bridge, now properly armed to do battle, I could hear the faint drums and trumpets in the background.  Not of battle, but the song, “Fanfare for the Common Man.”  You may recognize the tune, from the Olympics.  I cannot emphasize enough that I have never really been particularly “handy” with tools.  I can make a pistol or rifle sing, but when it comes to hammers and wrenches, well, let’s just say I earned the “F” Mr. Webster gave me in wood shop back in high school.  With all that in the back ground, that bridge was going to be “fixed” as God as my witness.

Naturally, Murphy’s Law would pick now to assert itself.  The AC adaptor on the power cell decided that it was not going to cooperate.  Without power, the circular saw and drill became nothing more than paper weights.  But I approached the situation with dogged determination.  That “damn bridge” was going to be fixed!  Moose kind of looked at me with a “now what?” look.  From this point, there was only one direction to go it.  That was to effect repairs the old-fashioned way.  Two men, two hammers and a box of decking screws.  From that point it was on…I am pleased to report that the foot bridge at Mine Creek is now safe for foot traffic.  We were able to effect meaningful repairs, but I have to be honest, I am not done with that “damn bridge.”  I have a meeting with Moose’s Boy Scout Troop leadership coming up.  I am going to propose that one of the Eagle Candidates adopt the idea of replacing the bridge for an Eagle Scout project.  It seems like the perfect Eagle Scout project.  I also have a meeting this week with Jim, the Administrator for Mine Creek.  We met on Saturday at the Volunteer Event, and I believe that I am going to volunteer at the site while I am searching for employment.  This will give me the opportunity to ensure that I get out of the house while I am “on the bench.”  Hopefully, by the time you read this article, I will have already landed.  All that aside, how many of y’all volunteer? 

Since the article was originally written, the bridge rebuild has been approved for an Eagle Scout project and from what I understand, the project is being planned.

The bridge that was in need of repair over Mine Creek. Proud to say, we made it better, but it will be rebuilt soon.
Mine Creek view from the bridge!
A rare view of The Civil War Traveler working. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
The tools of the trade.
I had to bribe Moose with letting him drive the Jeep! I bought the Jeep in Afghanistan, so it will be with me forever.
Moose and I after a hard afternoon’s work! Thanks Mine Creek State Historic Site!!!

John Brown Museum – “I have only a short time to live, only one death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will be no peace in this land until slavery is done for.”

Osawatomie, KS: “John Brown.” The name alone conjures up images in my mind.  An older man with a long flowing beard and crazy eyes.  He has a bible in one hand and a Sharps rifle in the other.  My first exposure to John Brown was as a child.  I recall watching Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan doing battle with John Brown, played by Raymond Massey in the movie “Santa Fe Trail.“  In my mind, then and when I re-watch the film now, Massey did a masterful job of portraying the man who had set the nation ablaze; the man who would commit treason and who would cause a shock wave that rocked the very foundations of the nation.  By our standards today, Brown would be considered a domestic terrorist, but here in Kansas on Freedom’s Frontier, the legacy of John Brown is not so black and white. 

It had been a while since I had been on the trail.  The winter has been a long one here in Kansas and we have had snow since November.  I have been keeping myself occupied with developing The Civil War Traveler website and decluttering the house, but I have also been anxious to get back out on the trail.  Today was that day.  I had wanted to get to The James Brown Museum since last November and the schedule didn’t work or the weather was too unpleasant for touring.  So I grabbed Moose and we drove the 40 miles down to Osawatomie, Kansas to go over the Battle of Osawatomie and view the cabin that John Brown helped build.  The Museum and John Brown Memorial Park are located at 1000 Main Street, Osawatomie, KS 66064 and are just about an hour south of Kansas City. Not only do you get to see the cabin that John Brown lived in and helped to build, you also get to walk the battlefield of the Battle of Osawatomie.  The battle where Brown and approximately 30 members of an anti-slave militia fought a delaying action against a band of 250 Missouri Border Ruffians that had crossed the Kansas – Missouri frontier with murder on their mind.  Lead by pro-slavery General John Reid, the Border Ruffians mission was to kill John Brown for his part in the Pottawatomie Massacre and other Abolitionist activities.  With one of John Brown’s sons, Frederick, being killed early in the battle, Brown quickly rallied 30 Free State Men and took up a position by a stone corral.  Since the Free Staters were armed with breach loading Sharps Rifles, they were able to hold off hundreds of Border Ruffians long enough to allow the citizens of Osawatomie to flee the would-be massacre.  Though the battle is recorded as a Free Stater defeat, the battle played out much the same as General Lew Wallace’s stand a Monocacy.  Brown, like Wallace, was successful in buying time.   

We got the opportunity to tour the State Historical Site and walk the battlefield.  It was truly inspiring to be where one of the first battles was fought and to relive the history.  After we toured the battlefield, we went inside the museum.  They didn’t have a mock-up of Brown’s Cabin and living quarters.  Instead they had the actual cabin that Brown had helped build and live in.  It was amazing to walk through the same door and sit in the same living room and walk over the same floors that he did.  What a connection to the past.  I had the privilege of spending some time talking to Grady Atwater, the Museum Administrator, and I was deeply impressed with the wealth of knowledge he has.  I sat down and felt like I was in class again, largely because Grady is a history instructor at a local college.  We had a great discussion about what kind of man Brown was and like you would expect, he was in many ways a contradiction.  He was devoutly Christian but engaged in unethical business practices.  He was a strict but loving father.  His adult sons stayed with him because they wished to and his Free State Militia was free to leave whenever they wanted.  There were many other things we talked about, but I would like you to go talk to Grady.  He told me that he did his thesis on Brown, and it showed with his expert knowledge.  I would highly encourage anyone that happens to be in the region to stop by and learn more about the man who sent shock waves through the nation. 

After we finished up in Osawatomie, I had a surprise in store for Moose.  I told him not to eat breakfast because he would want to make sure he was hungry for lunch.  We went to a restaurant called Beethoven’s 9th, eight miles away from Osawatomie in a town called Paola.  Beethoven’s 9th is located at 2 W Piankishaw St, Paola, KS 66071.  The lunch was outstanding.  Beethoven’s 9th specializes in authentic German dishes and has a huge dessert selection.  New to 2019 The Civil War Traveler, I will be doing a review of certain venues.  I am pleased to say that Beethoven’s 9th will not only be our first review, but they will receive our first 5 Saber rating.  If you get the opportunity to stop in, tell Jenny the owner, that The Civil War Traveler sent you.  You will be in for a treat.

Interview with Grady Atwater of the John Brown Museum in Osawatomie, KS. It runs a little long, but Grady is excellent. Hang around for the end. It opened my eyes.
Osawatomie, “City of History and Promise”, as the sign reads on Hwy 169. Here is where John Brown made a stand and saved innocent people, thus earning the name “Osawatomie” Brown. He was a very complex individual as we will explore.
Here the legacy of John Brown looms larger than life as he is still regarded as a local hero for his stand against the Missouri Militia.
Forever on watch, standing a lonely vigil here on Freedom’s Frontier.
The entry way to the Adair Cabin. Home to John Brown. Here slept the man who would take the young nation to the brink.
The simple yet elegant hearth of the Adair Cabin. Here in this room, John Brown would plan the Pottawatomie Massacre. Here is where he made the decision to engage Deputy US Marshal Henry Pate at the Battle of Black Jack. And here is where he decided to “go east.”
The loft that Brown and sons built is still fully functional.
The building that houses the cabin and protects it for future generations.
I pledge allegiance to the flag….and one nation indivisible….under God.
Here rests in eternal slumber the 5 Free-Staters, including Frederick Brown, who gave their lives defending the citizens of Osawatomie against Reid’s Missouri Border Ruffians. Out numbered almost 10 to 1, they held against long odds.
Part of the Osawatomie battlefield. Here 30 men under Brown impeded Reid and his Battalion of irregulars, allowing the unsuspecting citizens time to escape the murdering wrath of Reid’s men.
A portrait of John Brown with a Sharps Rifle. There is a synergy here.