Find Your West
History is more than a timeline. At its core, it is about people. Not just the famous and infamous, but the everyday and ordinary. Mothers and daughters, fathers and husbands, brothers and sisters, family and friends. When we read about history, we are reading about them. In February, the Dickinson Research Center purchased several historical photographs from the Steve Turner Collection of African Americana that will help the Museum better tell the diverse stories of the American West. Look closely. These faces are not fiction.
Around 1849, Rose Jackson made the difficult overland journey from Missouri to Oregon, likely as an enslaved person with Dr. William Allen, his wife Martha, and their six children. They traveled in a wagon train and faced cholera and a brutal blizzard before arriving in Oregon City nearly 2,000 miles later.
Dr. Allen died within a few years and Martha remarried, residing in Clackamas County with her children and new husband, William Barlow. Rose, it seems, was still living with the family as the 1860 Federal Census reveals a young servant, Rosanna, born in Virginia in 1838.
Moses Smith and Fellow Kansans
Kansas played an early and important role for escaped enslaved people seeking freedom, with Underground Railroad stations in Leavenworth, Topeka, and Lawrence. Although most continued traveling northward, some stayed and settled and by 1860, more than 600 African Americans lived in the territory as abolitionist and proslavery forces fought along the Missouri border in a series of conflicts known as Bleeding Kansas.
Following its admittance to the union as a free state in 1861, African American men began volunteering in large numbers to fight the Confederates, first in state units and then as federal troops. The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry was not only the first African American unit in the country, but also the first to see battle.
Learn more about Rose, Moses, and others in our upcoming exhibitions, Find Her West and Find Your West. Meet individuals from diverse backgrounds and eras who experienced and shaped the American West through roles far more complex than stereotypes suggest.
1860 U.S. Federal Census
1870 U.S. Federal Census
1880 U.S. Federal Census
Kansas Historical Society
Fort Scott National Historic Site
The State Historical Society of Missouri
Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas
The Fort Scott Weekly Press