Pro-slavery forces looted and burned Osawatomie following the Battle of Osawatomie on August 30, 1856, and left three buildings standing.

Osawatomie’s citizens returned to the town after the battle, and the town’s women played a large part in rebuilding the community.

Glenda Riley utilized a letter from Jane G. Carruth, an Osawatomie Pioneer, in an article in the spring 1986 Kansas State Historical Society Journal titled, “Kansas Frontierswomen Viewed through their writing” which recorded the struggles of Osawatomie’s pioneer women following the Battle of Osawatomie.

Jane Carruth wrote to the Rev. Peter Snyder in an Oct. 23, 1856, letter, stating “I never expected that pioneers found air castles substantial enough to live in. My castle is much as I expected to find it at first; that is, to live on the ground in a shanty. We have a tent instead of a shanty. We have sent to Lawrence for cloth and paint to enlarge our tent, and shall try to winter in it, if Mr. C does not get able to build this winter. I added some sheets for temporary use, so that we could have our stove in, and I find our tent is the most comfortable place that I have ever seen.”

Osawatomie’s pioneer women were an admirably resilient lot, and simply resumed the patterns of their daily lives after the pro-slavery forces looted and burned Osawatomie and persevered.

Jane Carruth wrote, “Today I blistered my hands using a beetle [a heavy mallet] and wedge [used to split small pieces of wood]. Our children are enjoying the walnut season. I wish that your family could have some of them. I measured one this week that six and a quarter inches around. I think that they could be called ‘mammoth,’ surely.”

Jane Carruth was looking toward enduring a Kansas winter in a tent, yet her letter is virtually devoid of any complaints, instead she wrote of preparing hats for her children for winter, and wrote, “To-day I have been making the boys some black cloth caps for cold weather.”

Indeed, instead of spending her day complaining, she busied herself caring for her family, and even thought of friends and family elsewhere instead of concentrating on her own woes.

Carruth wrote, “I find plenty to do every day. Yesterday I took the children to one of the neighbor’s groves in pursuit of persimmons, a pulpy fruit about an inch through, and very delicious. Lucy has saved the seeds and in time will send some to you. It is a tree twenty feet high and would make a shade tree.”

Osawatomie’s pioneer women did not allow the pro-slavery forces looting and burning of Osawatomie to discourage them, but worked to rebuild the lives of their families and the community.

Pro-slavery forces stole and destroyed property but not the spirit of Osawatomie’s pioneer women, and that same strong spirit still lives in Osawatomie’s women today.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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