KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Volunteers are helping clear out brush and uncovering foundations of what used to be Quindaro Township, a key stop on the Underground Railroad.
Abolitionists founded Quindaro in the mid-1850s and its people helped escaped slaves from Missouri and connected them with the Underground Railroad.
Jim Leiker, a history professor at Johnson County Community College, said Quindaro Township was once a thriving town.
“We had a lot of newspapers, general stores,” he said. “So it’s one of the earliest settlements in Kansas.”
Rev. Stacy Evans is a pastor for the Allen Chapel AME Church. The church currently owns some of the property that once was the township.
Evans is also a member of the Quindaro Townsite Foundation who is working to preserve the grounds. She walked FOX4 through some of the ruins and pointed out what some of the buildings were.
“So we believe this to be one of the two hotels that used to be down here,” she said. “Most of the buildings that are still standing, the foundations that we’re clearing are industrial buildings. Most of the residential housing had been torn down during the Civil War, the soldiers used a lot of the wood to burn fires and cook with and all that during the Civil War. So you can see here they’ve been clearing and cleaning, they’ve cut down trees and that have been growing up between the walls.”
Archeological teams have uncovered the ruins of 22 buildings.
“So this is the brewery and it has been stabilized,” Evans said. “So when we say that we want to stabilize the ruins. This is a good example of what stabilization looks like. We don’t want to rebuild the whole building; a historian says that people will just love to walk around in something like this and see it how it truly was. As opposed to trying to reconstruct something that may not be to scale actually.”
But most importantly, Evans wants people to learn about Quindaro’s network into the Underground Railroad.
“If you come back here, you’ll see it’s also a pretty awesome place to hide escaped slaves,” she said while at the site of the brewery ruins. “And that’s another thing that’s unique about this town is it doesn’t just have one Underground Railroad site. There are many homes and many businesses that helped to hide escaped slaves. So, this is the brewery where they kept the ice and probably hid a lot of escaped slaves.”
This preservation project has attracted people from across the country to help, like Scott Cisek from Chicago.
“It just seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually get in and be with the ruins,” he said. “I think this, what happened here really represents the country at its best, and hopefully, continue to be a beacon as we move forward.”
Evans hopes to see the area revitalized and a tool to teach people about the town’s rich history of helping escaped slaves reach freedom.
“I think, with this new clearing project, we hope to stabilize more foundations, we hope to make the trails even greater,” she said. “Bring back elements of education and the arts to this area jobs. We’re just super excited at its potential.”
Quindaro township was also home to Western University, the first and only Black college to exist in Kansas from 1865-1943.
The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2022.
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