Lecompton, Ks played an intricate part in Kansas history as well as National history. It is a very small town. It is turning into a ghost town. A few mom and and pop restaurants but they ar small. If it were not for the history of the town and the monuments the town would probably die.
Constitution Hall, erected by Samuel Jones in 1856, became the place where the Kansas Territorial Government convened. In the fall of 1857 (October 19), the Lecompton Constitutional Convention met and drafted a pro-slavery constitution in the upper story of the building. The downstairs was rented as the federal land office and private law offices. (1)
They do offer tours. They do reinactmints with local civil war / bleeding Kansas actors. The tour guide/guides are very knowledgable. There is a small fee to get in but well worth it to preserve history. The building dos not have air conditioning so when my wife and I went they had to open the windows and even then it was pretty warm. So if you are planning a visit plan accordingly.
During 1857 this building was one of the busiest and most important in Kansas Territory. Thousands of settlers and speculators filed claims in the United States land office on the first floor. They sometimes fought hand-to-hand for their share of the rich lands that were opening for settlement. The government was removing the Native Americans from Kansas to make their lands available to whites. (1)
Upstairs the district court periodically met to try to enforce the territorial laws. Most free-state people refused to obey these laws because they had been passed by the pro slavery territorial legislature. This resistance made law enforcement nearly impossible for territorial officials. Time after time the territorial governors called out federal troops from Fort Leavenworth or Fort Riley to maintain order.(1)
This is the upstairs exhibit where the court would have been held. This part of the exhibit covers important people during this time. It does not cover all of them but the ones in the area at that time. Not many of the original court remains just in thought.
In January 1857 the second territorial legislative assembly met on the upper floor. Although still firmly pro slavery, this group removed some of the earlier laws that their antislavery neighbors opposed.(1)
Inside of Constituition Hall. The original floor and studs from the building. Made from cotton wood trees.
Part of the museum exhibit. Many of the exhibits were timelines. Many of the items were reproductions.
The Lecompton Constitutional Convention met that fall in this same second-floor assembly room. The purpose of the convention was to draft a constitution to gain statehood for Kansas. Newspaper correspondents from across the country gathered to report on the meetings. Many Americans feared a national civil war if the convention could not satisfy both pro slavery and antislavery forces. Regrettably, compromise proved impossible because pro slavery men dominated the convention. They created a document that protected slavery no matter how the people of Kansas Territory voted. This was intolerable for their antislavery opponents, who refused to participate in what they considered to be an illegal government. Eventually the Lecompton Constitution was defeated at the national level. It never went into effect. (1)
Instead, free-state forces rallied their supporters. They gained control of the territorial legislature in the October 1857 election. Two months later this new legislature was called into special session to deal with critical territorial problems. They met in the same Lecompton assembly hall that their political enemies had controlled only a few weeks before. Here they began to reform the laws of Kansas Territory according to their own beliefs. That work continued during later legislative sessions. In 1858 the assembly was moved from the pro slavery capital of Lecompton to the free-state town of Lawrence.(1)
After 1894 Constitution Hall was owned by Odd Fellows Lodge number 413. Over the years they shared their lodge room with the Grand Army of the Republic, the Masons, and the Modern Woodmen of America. Rebekah lodge number 698 took over responsibility for the building in 1946. This women’s group conducted their social and services activities here until Constitution Hall became a state historic site in 1986.(1)
Experience prison life in our 1892 jail. Contains the original door, hardware and original window bars. Used until the 1920’s as a jail. Relocated in 2012 from private to public property next door to Constitution Hall. (1)
My wife was apparently more than happy being in prison. The prison was just big enough for a small cot. There was no bathroom,shower or window. In the Kansas heat I can only imagine how how it was during the summer and into September.
Territorial Capital Museum/Lane University:
This museum chronicles the history of Lecompton from territorial times to the present. The museum has everything from cannon balls from the Bleeding Kansas conflict, to quilts. Construction began here on this location for an elegant capitol in 1855 with a $50,000 appropriation from Congress. Only the basement and the stone foundation was completed. Work ceased for good by 1857 when all the money was spent and antislavery legislators gained control. The unfinished capitol building was deeded by Kansas in 1865 to Lane University. Lane University building constructed in 1882 using capitol ruins. The University closed and moved to Holton, Kansas, in 1902. The building was then used as the United Brethren Church until 1920. Sold to Lecompton High School in 1920. Lecompton Historical Society organized in 1968 to save the abandoned, deteriorated structure. Restored, rehabilitated, and opened to the public as a museum in 1982. (1)
Services still held there. President Eisnhower and his wife were marries in this room. Very neat place. There is a second level to this room. Many of the other rooms are currently exhibits and filled to the brim with historical items. There is not a lot of information posted about the artifacts. Many items are local artifacts. They do have tours.
(2) photos taken by author