Marais des Cygnes
Text from Site Memorial Marker
The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles, 1854-1861, occurred May 19, 1858, when about 30 Proslavery Missourians seized 11 Kansas Free-State men near Trading Post and marched them to a ravine 225 yards northwest of this marker. Lining up their prisoners, they callously shot them down, killing five and wounding five others. One escaped injury by feigning death. Northerners were horrified, and John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized the fallen in a poem, "Le Marais du Cygne."
A few weeks after the massacre John Brown arrived here and built a two-story log "fort", about 14 x 18 feet, which he occupied with a few men through the summer. In December he made a raid into Missouri in which 11 slaves were liberated and one man was killed. Brown's famous "Parallels," dated January 3, 1859 at Trading Post pointed out that "hell is stirred from beneath" because of his raid while no comparable action had been taken to find and punish the Marais des Cygnes murderers.
A Brown follower, Charles C. Hadsall, bought this property in 1858. Later, adjacent to the site of the fort, he built the stone house which stands here today. The building and grounds were presented to the State of Kansas in 1941 by Pleasanton Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In the cemetery at Trading Post, Kansas is this granite obelisk in memory of those executed in the Marais des Cygnes massacre. Part of Whitter’s poem is inscribed on the marker.
The actual site of the massacre is now a Kansas state historic site.
On May 19, 1858, in the little ravine , 11 Free-State settlers of Kansas were lined up to face the fury of a firing squad. Their captors and executioners were some 30 Proslavery men from Missouri led by Charles Hamelton.
John F. Campbell, William Colpetzer, Michael Robinson, Patrick Ross and William Stillwell were killed. William Hairgrove and his brother Asa, Amos Hall, the Rev. Benjamin Reed and Charles Snyder were wounded. Austin Hall, unhurt, dropped with the others as the bullets whipped by and was left for dead.
The turnoff to the Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site is on Kansas Highway 52,
Turn on Young Road then right on 1700 Road.
Visit the Kansas State Historical Society website for more information.