Although his August 1863 raid on Lawrence made William Quantrill’s mark on history, he was also notorious for raiding Olathe and the Battle of Blackjack. It was during this time of border skirmishes that free state Kansas earned the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.”
Qunatrill was no stranger to the Gardner area. In fact, according to an old, 1933 edition of The Gardner Gazette, “It may not be generally known that Quantrell, the guerilla, formerly lived upon a claim adjoining the homestead of George Thorne, a short distance from Gardner,” the article says and continues, “Someone, so it is said, jumped Quantrell’s claim and he then went to Paola and lived for a time.”
Quantrill, spelled various ways, was a captain of the Confederate partisan rangers, better known as the Bushwackers, and the most famous of his raids took place in Lawrence on Aug. 21, 1863.
The focus of the raid was Jim Lane, leader of the Kansas Brigade, or the Red Legs because they wore red piping on their pants.
Peter Brecheisen, 1850-1938, was one of the original Gardner area settlers and has many descendants still living in the area. According to Pictorial Past to Present of Peter Brecheisen II, a book compiled by Tressa Griffin Stone of Gardner, Peter Brecheisen joined the militia at the age of 14 during the Civil War “to drive General Price from the state.”
In 1863, while taking a wagonload of vegetables and dairy products to sell in Lawrence, Peter and his father camped for the night and were awakened by a band of horsemen riding past the wagon, yelling “hold your fire.”
They saw smoke and heard the explosion of the ammunition supplies at the Lawrence armory.
The father and son turned around and went home, stopping on the way at the sound of a woman’s tears where they “helped carry Mr. Stone, who lived at Key Stone where W. W. Gersteneberger now lives, into the house. He (Stone) had been murdered by Quantrill’s men,” according to a 1938 article in the Lawrence Journal- World.
The father and son then returned home to Eudora, gathered food and supplies and hid in a cornfield until the marauders had left.
Peter’s father then returned to Lawrence where he helped bury the dead.
By some accounts, about a quarter of pro-Union Lawrence was burned, and about 200 men and boys killed.
A July 19, 1933, Gardner Gazette article speculated: “It is hardly likely that even if Quantrell had been
permitted to hold and enjoy his claim he would now be one of the solid and highly respected citizens of the community. More likely the guerilla instinct was in his blood and sooner or later in some way would have made its appearance.
“Still, it is interesting to speculate about what would have happened had the claim-jumping incident not have occurred. It is inconceivable that any man would give up a quarter section of Johnson county land – particularly such land as that in the neighborhood mentioned – and had Quantrell not been deprived of his claim he might now have been a stockholder in Farmers or Gardner State Bank and a member of the board of county commissioners or township board, and a pillar in the church.
You can’t tell. A mighty chain of events sometimes has its first link some incident less important than the jumping of Quantrell’s claim.”
(Tressa Stone contributed to this article. ‘Pictorial Past to Present of Peter Brecheisen II’ available at Gardner Historical Museum.)