Following the Battle of Osawatomie on Aug. 30, 1856, the pro-slavery forces under the command of John Reid looted and burned the town, leaving three buildings standing.

Many of the families that had fled the free-state community did not return to Osawatomie following the Battle of Osawatomie, but a hardy, dedicated few returned to the smoking ruins of the free-state town and chose to stay in Osawatomie and rebuild their homes.

The pioneers who chose to persevere in the face of the difficulties posed by rebuilding their homes after they had been looted and burned faced the additional difficulty that most all of their belongings had been either stolen or destroyed by John Reid’s pro-slavery guerillas.

The Rev. Samuel Adair took the lead in working to come to the aid of the remnant of free-state families in Osawatomie who had chosen to brave the Kansas winter in hastily built cabins and shelters.

Rev. Adair sent out appeals to abolitionists in Ohio, and as the word spread that the defenders of the abolitionist cause in Osawatomie were in need of basic supplies to survive the upcoming winter in the abolitionist bastion in Kansas Territory, donations of money and supplies were delivered to Osawatomie.

Abolitionists from all points of the compass donated food, clothing, medical supplies, and even building materials to help rebuild Osawatomie.

The courageous founders of Osawatomie who refused to give up on the free-state community inspired abolitionists to give material support for the abolitionists who refused to allow the pro-slavery looting and burning of Osawatomie to deter them from their efforts to establish an abolitionist community in the midst of pro-slavery territory in Kansas Territory.

Abolitionists nationwide were inspired by the courage of Osawatomie’s founders in the face of determined and violent opposition by pro-slavery advocates to their abolitionist beliefs.

While John Brown and his guerillas garnered press coverage for their militant abolitionist campaign, the abolitionists who dug their heels in and stayed put in Osawatomie following the looting and burning of the city garnered admiration for having the courage to simply stay the course in Osawatomie despite the difficulties of rebuilding the town from its charred ruins following the Battle of Osawatomie.

Sadly, history has largely overlooked the contributions of the peaceful abolitionists who, in the end analysis, were instrumental in ensuring that Kansas entered the Union as a free state simply by having the commitment and dedication to refuse to allow militant pro-slavery advocates to intimidate them into abandoning either Osawatomie or their abolitionist beliefs. They chose to simply stay put and rebuild their abolitionist community.

Peaceful abolitionists in other communities in Miami County and in Kansas Territory did the same after being attacked by militant pro-slavery advocates, and their dedication to the abolitionist cause played a major role in ensuring that Kansas entered the Union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861.

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

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