Reenactors to recreate the defense of Lawrence in Wakarusa War

Share this post or save for later

Note: This post was contributed by the staff of the Watkins Museum of History and not produced by The Lawrence Times news team.

On Nov. 21, 1855, a tragedy in Douglas County, Kansas helped spawn nationwide conflict. 

After a proslavery man killed his antislavery neighbor, both sides in the slavery dispute mobilized hundreds of armed militiamen. Proslavery men, mostly Missourians, placed Lawrence under siege; meanwhile, Lawrence residents carried out military drills and fortified their town for defense. 


This so-called Wakarusa War began 10 years of violence in Kansas and the rest of America over the issue of slavery — an issue some say remains unresolved to this day.

This weekend, reenactors will recreate the defense of Lawrence on the very ground where much of it occurred 168 years ago.

Dozens of people dressed and armed with painstaking historical accuracy will recreate military and civilian life in South Park, where antislavery militias encamped and trained in 1855. 

Highlights of this Dec. 9-10 program will include 1850s-era military drills, a recreation of the famous Abbott Howitzer and its crewmen (some of the original defenders of Lawrence), and 19th-century wet-plate photography. Historians from the Kansas State Historical Association and National Park Service will also give interpretive talks on subjects such as “Kansas’s First Jayhawks.” 

This event is free and open to the public. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 on the west side of South Park. 

For a full schedule, visit the event page via the Watkins Museum’s website at

— Will Haynes is director of engagement and learning for the Watkins Museum of History.

If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Latest Lawrence news:

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

Lawrence Indigenous, queer communities and allies mourn death of nonbinary Oklahoma teen

Share this post or save for later

Members of Native American and queer Lawrence communities joined in solidarity for a vigil in honor of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma who died this month after suffering injuries from a fight in the girls’ bathroom at school — the bathroom state law required them to use.


Previous Article

Disciplinary panel: Hearing on complaint against Douglas County DA will not be livestreamed

Next Article

Lawrence school district awarded grant for behavior support; private schools expected to partner with district