People in Lecompton help preserve historic tombstones

Local News

LECOMPTON, Kan. (KSNT) — After a man discovered two tombstones that are more than 150 years old in the woods of a Lecompton family’s property, they were turned over to the Lecompton Historical Society.

The tombstones date back to 1863, the year William Clark Quantrill raided Lawrence, killing almost 200 men. Three of which were from Lecompton.

With the help of the Lecompton township, they were moved to Maple Grove Cemetery.

“Employees wrapped the stones and preserved them, and as you can see they’re in excellent condition for the long journey they’ve had,” said President of the Lecompton Historical Society Paul Bahnmaier.

The location where they found those two tombstones used to be known as the Bald Eagle Cemetary up until 1942. That’s when a rock company bought the land and the graves were moved to the side of the property. Eventaully, the gravestones disappeared.

One of the tombstones found belonged to a college student who drowned in the Kansas River, and the other to James O’Neil, a Lecompton man who was killed in Quantrill’s raid in 1863.

“It was fantastic in a sense that we were discovering a history that had been lost and at that point,” said Bahnmaier. “There was no remembrance of the O’Neil family.”

Quantrill’s raid was one of many that took place during a seven-year period of fighting, known as Bleeding Kansas.

“A mini civil war, a prelude to the Civil War would ignite out here in the prairies of Kansas,” said Constitution Hall Administrator Tim Rues.

The state became a battleground that played a significant role in the abolition of slavery in the United States.

“Eighty years after the founding of this country, the issue of slavery and whether it would survive and expand would be played out in Kansas,” said Rues.

While O’Neil’s grave is a reminder of all of the bloodshed during that time, its recent discovery preserves a history that was once lost.

“Their family name has been preserved,” said Bahnmaier. “There may not be any bodies, but their family name history has been preserved right here in historic Lecompton.”

Now, it will never be forgotten.

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