Fishburn Archives at Park University Partners with Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area

Monday, December 23, 2013


George S. ParkDec. 23, 2013 --
Park University’s Fishburn Archives and Special Collections was recently accepted as a partner in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. The FFNHA is an organization dedicated to building awareness of the struggles for freedom in 12 western Missouri counties and 29 eastern Kansas counties that were involved in the region’s Border War of the mid-1800s.

According to Carolyn Elwess, Park University archivist, the partnership will bring attention to an 1855 incident in Parkville, Mo. (home of Park University’s flagship campus), that put the tiny frontier town on the national map. George S. Park (right), founder of Parkville and later a co-founder of Park University, was the publisher of Parkville’s first newspaper, The Industrial Luminary, which was printed weekly from 1853-55. When the Kansas Territory was officially opened for settlement in 1854, it was left up to the Territory’s voters to decide whether the proposed state should enter the Union as free state or slave state. Zealous groups on both sides of the issue were often involved in violent confrontations and the “wars” captured the attention of the nation.

At the time, Missouri was a slave state and many Platte County, Mo., residents were slave owners who wanted Kansas to follow suit. George Park was outspoken in his Luminary editorials, particularly when hundreds of Missourians crossed the river to vote illegally in Kansas elections on the free/slave issue. However, pro-slavery advocates took umbrage at that column and decided that George Park was an abolitionist, which he wasn’t.

Industrial Luminary“The accusation was enough to give a Platte County pro-slavery mob an excuse to ride into Parkville, and on April 14, 1855, they took over the Luminary office (right), removed the printing press, paraded it through the street and threw it into the Missouri River,” Elwess said.

The Fishburn Archives and Special Collections is home to original copies of The Industrial Luminary and other newspapers of that era. A collection of items from George Park includes correspondence concerning both the incident and its outcome.

“I am excited to have a venue to get this previously unpublicized information out to researchers and historians, and to make the collection accessible,” said Elwess.

Access to the collection is by appointment only by contacting Elwess at carolyn.elwess@park.edu or (816) 584-6891. For more information about the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, visit www.freedomsfrontier.org; for more information about the role George S. Park and Parkville played in the ensuing Border War, visit www.freedomsfrontier.org/Visitors/Sites/Comments.aspx?ID=141.