Freedom's Frontier Heritage Traveler

The Big Divide: A Travel Guide

Our History Is Different

Every part of America has its own history. But what sets apart the Freedom’s Frontier region is that its history changed America. In fact, the Missouri-Kansas state line is the most consequential border in American history. So many “hinges of history” turned right here in the Border Region:

  • The Louisiana Purchase brought in the entirety of 11 states including Kansas and Missouri and pointed the young nation toward its frontier.
  • The Missouri Compromise headed off sectional trouble but would tear the country apart three decades later when it was repealed.
  • The Indian Removal Act created a “permanent” Indian territory in present-day Kansas, and led to overland trails originating in the Border Region, that took thousands of families to homes in the Far West.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act put the country on a path to Civil War, and turned the Border Region into a national battleground aka “Bleeding Kansas.”
  • The Lecompton Constitution tried to admit Kansas to the Union as a slave state. This set off yet another firestorm — within the Democratic Party, resulting in deep divisions that ultimately put Abraham Lincoln in the White House.
  • Missouri’s Civil War — Few people today realize how precarious a position Missouri was in during the first months of the Civil War. Early Confederate victories here put a scare into the Union Army, which was already on its heels out east.
  • The Battle of Island Mound is now recognized as the first time that African-American soldiers fought in the Civil War.

And that’s before we even mention William Quantrill, Jesse James, Harry Truman, Amelia Earhart, the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education — and many other people and places who didn’t just change history here, they changed American history.

One Book Takes You There

TheBigDivide-FrontCover-MedRes In 2013, a writing couple that live right on the state line published the first comprehensive travel guide to exploring the Border Region’s unparalleled history. Thousands of adults and kids have been introduced to sites all throughout Freedom’s Frontier, thanks to their book, The Big Divide: A Travel Guide To Historic And Civil War Sites in the Missouri-Kansas Border Region.

Diane Eickhoff, a historian and author of a biography of Kansas women’s rights pioneer Clarina Nichols, teamed up with her husband, former Kansas City Star television critic Aaron Barnhart, to write The Big Divide.

“When we moved here 18 years ago, almost from the beginning we realized something big was happening here,” Eickhoff said. “But we found that Kansans didn’t know about Missouri history and Missourians didn’t know about Kansas history. To understand what a big story this is, you need both sides.”

And you need a book packed with 130 recommended historic sites, museums, and battlefields. The Big Divide also has resources for parents looking to instill a love of history in children and grandchildren. The authors took their four grandkids to many of the sites in their book.

A Different Kind of Travel Guide

Booklist, Library Journal, Kansas History, and Emerging Civil War are among the publications that have recommended The Big Divide. Unlike other travel guides that list mostly lodging and restaurant reviews, The Big Divide is dedicated to helping people put together awesome history road trips. The authors traveled 4,000 miles and visited over 200 sites before trimming their list to 130 recommendations, each with full reviews and site information.

Affordably priced, The Big Divide is available from many area gift shops and through Amazon. The authors give talks throughout the region on behalf of both the Kansas Humanities Council and Missouri Humanities Council. These talks are free to attend, and Diane and Aaron sign copies of their books at these events.

More information about The Big Divide.

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2015 by in heritage travel, Heritage Traveler, Historic Sites, Kansas, Missouri, Museums, Nature, Road Trip, tourism, travel.


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