“Bleeding Kansas” to “Best Small Town”: Lecompton Ages Gracefully
Lecompton, Kansas, once the focus of violent conflict leading up to the Civil War and home of Bleeding Kansas’ failed pro-slavery constitution, has aged into a charming tourist-destination village of 640. It was recently named one of five Best Small Towns in Kansas by readers of Kansas! Magazine.
Lecompton’s history, with some echoes of modern partisan divides, is now peacefully preserved in two award-winning museums – the Territorial Capital Museum, operated by the Lecompton Historical Society in the 1882 Lane University building, and Constitution Hall, operated by the Kansas Historical Society in the 1856 wood-frame building where the document was signed.
Other significant historic sites include the Territorial Democratic Headquarters on the Kansas River; a replica of Fort Titus, and the 1892 Lecompton City Jail. The town, off Interstate 70 between Lawrence and Topeka, also has two locally owned-eateries, numerous specialty shops, no stoplights, and many other attractions.
“Because of the town’s significant pre-Civil War history, the museums attract thousands of visitors to town,” said Lynn Ward, curator at the Territorial Capital Museum. “One hundred and sixty years ago, the name of this town was on everyone’s lips. All across the country and all across the world, people were talking about Lecompton. The first battles of the Civil War happened here, before the Civil War officially started.”
For 21 years, Constitution Hall State Historic Site in Lecompton has hosted a series of talks and dramatic interpretations on the violent territorial and civil war history of Kansas, 1854-1865. Attendees experience history by listening to the programs on Sundays at 2pm, from January 29-March 5, at 319 Elmore with a suggested donation of $3 each.
More than 500 Kansas towns were eligible for the Best Small Town designation, awarded to those with a population of less than 5,000. Lecompton, which had a population of 5,000 before the capital was moved to Topeka, is the smallest among the winners. Kansas! Magazine is published quarterly by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
For more information, visit the Historic Lecompton website www.lecomptonkansas.com.
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Please contact the staff at the two museums in Lecompton (Tim Rues, Lynn Ward, and Paul Bahnmaier) if you need an expert on the Lecompton Constitution, Bleeding Kansas, Pre-Civil War history, Civil War history, Lecompton history, Christmas ornaments, caring for artifacts, Lane University, James Lane, Sheriff Samuel Jones, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Kansas maps, Oregon Trail, photograph care, etc. by calling Tim Rues at Constitution Hall 785-887-6520 or Paul Bahnmaier or Lynn Ward at the Territorial Capital Museum 785-887-6148.