Events to mark 165th anniversary of Battle of Black Jack, 200th year of Santa Fe Trail

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The beginning of June will mark the 165th anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack, a key conflict that preceded the Civil War and took place in a small town on the Santa Fe Trail just outside of what is now Baldwin City.

The Santa Fe Trail, an 870-mile trek spanning much of the central United States, also is celebrating a momentous occasion: 200 years since its construction.

Baldwin City and neighboring Wellsville will commemorate the two anniversaries with a series of events on June 2 and 5. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, June 2:

5 a.m.: A guided tour of the Black Jack Battlefield, 163 E 2000 Road, Wellsville, beginning at the exact time the battle took place in 1856. Attendees should arrive no later than 4:45 a.m. and should consider bringing a flashlight and wearing appropriate clothing and footwear for hiking.

Saturday, June 5:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Shuttle buses will be available to take folks from Baldwin City High School to the city’s Trail Park, where events and exhibits will be ongoing during the day, including:

  • Speakers from the National Park Service, the Santa Fe Trail Association, and Kansas Department of Transportation, Douglas County, and Baldwin City
  • A new walking trail showcasing some of the best Santa Fe Trail ruts along the entire trail length
  • A covered wagon replica
  • Black Jack Cabin pioneer artifacts
  • An Ezekiel Williams reenactment (Williams is colloquially known as one of the “Godfathers of the Santa Fe Trail”)
  • Battlefield walk

3 p.m.: A second guided tour of the Battle Jack battlefield, conducted by local historians Kerry Altenbernd — who frequently portrays abolitionist John Brown — and Johnathan Hart, who will portray Henry Clay Pate, the pro-slavery militia leader who Brown’s forces battled that day.

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