UGRR - Wakarusa River Valley
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Following the route of the Under Ground Rail Road through the midwest, this cache is the first in a new series that will help you learn more about this invaluable piece of our history that lives in our towns, our neighborhoods, and our lives. Public access area in Clinton State Park. Permission obtained by Wakarusa Valley Heritage Museum.
Congrats to the SUPER FAST FIRST TIME FIND by wanderfish!!
The Underground Railroad and geocaching are a perfect fit. We want geocachers to follow the route of freedom seeking slaves who traveled the secret trail and found refuge with Station Masters as they made their way north. Gary Jenkins and I have combined our talents at historical research and geocaching to create a series of caches along this clandestine "underground railroad" path.
The Wakarusa River Valley was formed by glacial melt water breaching the banks of the Kansas River. As the meltwaters slowed the land was blanketed by a fine silt. The rich land left from the retreating glaciers would eventually be inhabited by Native Ameircan as long as 10,000 years in the past.
In 1820, an explorer named Stephen Long reported visiting and Indian village he called "Warreruza." By the mid 1800s the Wakarusa Mission as established as well as the Wakarusa Fort. The Oregon Trail passed throgh the area and crossed the Wakarusa River at Bluejacket's ferry. The known tribal names inhabiting this area have been the Kansa and the Osage.
The Wakarusa River valley contained an extensive wetlands riparian habitat. These wetlands have been reclaimed over the past 150 years for cultivation of corn, wheat, oats and other grains. In 1977, Clinton Dam was built to reduce Spring flooding. this greatly reduced the remaining wetlands. the last tract of wetlands is about 600 acres and is known as the Haskell-Baker Wetlands. This area is located just south of Lawrence near the Haskell Nations University. The area has been the subject of controversy between persons wanting a new highway built and conservationists.
The Wakarusa Valley Heritage Museum contains much information about this area, focusing on the rich history of the first settlers inhabiting the valley. These settlers were Abolitionists relocating from the East to stop slavery from spreading into Kansas. Many of these settlers were Underground Railroad Stationmasters and Conductors.
One of the more interesting stories is about Joseph Gardner. He was hiding an escaped Freedom Seeker named Napoleon Simpson. Late one night some Missouri slave hunters approached his cabin and demanded he send out Mr. Simpson. Mr. Gardner, a peace loving Quaker, son and Napoleon Simpson all took up firing positions and engaged the Missourians in a pitched gun battle. During the battle, Napoleon Simpson was wounded fatally. Joseph Gardner grabbed Napoleon's hand and asked what he could do to help. Napoleon is reported to have replied, "Fight, Fight hard!" The slave hunters were eventually driven off and Mr. Simpson was buried in an unmarked grave thought to be on the grounds of the museum.
Another interesting story is about a local farmer named George Washington. Mr. Washington is buried in a nearby cemetery. George Washington was a Missouri slave who escaped across a frozen Missouri River into Quindaro, Kansas. From there George joined the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Regiment and fought in the Skirmish at Island Mound, in Bates County Missouri. This was the first known engagement between Colored Troops and Confederate soldiers. George fought out the rest of the Civil War under officers like Joseph Gardner and other Wakarusa Valley settlers. After the war, Mr. Washington returned to the Wakarusa Valley and homesteaded land. He raised 9 children and died after a successful life as a farmer. His farm is under the waters of Clinton lake. Check out the nearby museum for more cool information about The Underground Railroad! Watch for another cache coming soon at the cemetery.
Gehax sbe gur gerng!