There are so many ways to plan your visit in Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. Exploring the history of the region can result in a true “Blaze Your Own Trail” experience. The stories in this series can be used on their own for a day trip, or paired with other posts to create a multi-day adventure in the heritage area.
Orders Number 11
During the Civil War on the Western Border, the summer of 1863 was particularly devastating for the communities on the Missouri-Kansas border. Union General Thomas Ewing had issued various orders targeting pro-Confederate guerrillas operating along the border, including harassing and arresting female kinfolk of known guerrillas. This action infuriated guerrillas, for whom animosity against pro-Union supporters in Kansas had been growing for years. This anger boiled over into violence after the makeshift jail that held many female relatives of guerrillas collapsed, resulting in several deaths.
Six days later, William Clarke Quantrill led more than 400 guerrillas in an attack on Lawrence, Kansas, resulting in the murder of between 150 and 200 men and boys. The raid on Lawrence, Kansas, pushed General Ewing to issue Order No. 11, four days after the raid. The order stated that everyone living in Jackson, Cass, Bates and part of Vernon counties, who could not prove their loyalty to the Union and who didn’t live within one mile of a town that was a Union stronghold, had to leave their home. In order to prevent guerrillas from foraging in the empty countryside, Ewing specified that grain and hay be seized. In reality, soldiers carrying out the order burned fields, homes and everything left behind by residents, leading many to describe the affected area as the “Burnt District.” This order created thousands of refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, who left their homes on foot with very little notice, taking with them only the things they could carry. The results of the order continued to affect the Burnt District for years.
Tour Stops in Kansas City
While Jackson County was included in Order Number 11, people who lived north of Brush Creek and west of the Blue River were allowed to stay in their homes.
Order Number 11 Interpretive Sign / Pacific House Hotel, 401 Delaware Street, Kansas City, MO
The Pacific House Hotel served as headquarters for Union General Thomas Ewing. This is the building from which Ewing issued Order Number 11. Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources installed an interpretive sign across the street from the site of the hotel. The sign provides a good background for further exploration of Order Number 11.
Nearby Site: Arabia Steamboat Museum, 400 Grand Boulevard.
Stretch Your Legs: Take a walk along the Missouri River in Berkely Riverfront Park.
Need a Nosh?: Our friends at Wide Awake Films, whose studio is located near the Pacific House Hotel, recommend grabbing a coffee at Quay Coffee, 412 Delaware, or a great meal at Farmhouse, 300 Delaware, both within walking distance of this historic site.
Insider Tip: Weekend mornings are lively with over 90 vendors at the City Market Farmers’ Market.
Dig Deeper: civilwaronthewesternborder.org/map/district-border-headquarters
Martial Law (or Order No. 11) Painting, Central Branch, Kansas City Public Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City, MO
The library is about six blocks south of the City Market, just a quick streetcar ride to the Library stop at 9th and Main and a one-block walk west on 10th Street. In the library’s main hall, behind the check-out desk, hangs a reproduction of the painting Martial Law (or Order No. 11) by George Caleb Bingham. Although Bingham was pro-Union, he was a critic of General Ewing and his orders and painted Martial Law in 1868 as a
reaction to Ewing’s order.
Explore More: Visit Bingham’s gravesite in Union Cemetery at 227 East 28th Terrace. The site where Bingham painted Martial Law is preserved at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate in Independence, Missouri. See more of Bingham’s work at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City.
Insider Tip: The Kansas City Public Library’s Central Branch has multiple exhibit galleries with rotating exhibits. Check out the Stanley Dunwood Film Vault on the library’s lower level. The library, housed in a former bank building, has cleverly reused the bank’s vault as a film screening room.
Dig Deeper: opinionator.blogs.nytimes. com/ 2013/09/06/an-artists-revenge/
Union Prison Collapse Historic Marker
Grand Boulevard and Truman Road, near the Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
A final site in Kansas City is at corner of Grand Boulevard and Truman Road, near the Sprint Center. This marker tells the story of the Union Prison collapse. Prior to issuing General Order No. 11, General Thomas Ewing ordered that sympathizers who
aided and encouraged guerrillas be arrested. Many known guerrillas’ female relatives were imprisoned in a building near 1407 Grand Boulevard. Learn the fate of these women and how the Union Prison collapse escalated events on the border.
Nearby Sites: Head east on I-670 and South on The Paseo to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District.
Need a Nosh?: While there are lots of places to grab a bite in the Power & Light District, some of our favorite places are just south of this site, across I-670. Check out Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen or Nara.
Explore More: Find “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s sister Josephine’s grave in Union Cemetery at 227 East 28th Terrace.
Dig Deeper: civilwaronthewesternborder.org/encyclopedia/collapse-union-women%E2%80%99s-prison-kansas-city
Tour Stops in Cass County
Once you’ve finished checking out the sites in Kansas City, head south on U.S. Highway 71 / I-49. Harrisonville, the county seat of Cass County, is just 35 miles south of Kansas City. Pleasant Hill, a trailhead for the Rock Island Spur of the KATY Trail, is a short 18 minute side trip off the Interstate. Both Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville were excluded from Order No. 11, but the rest of the county suffered from the order.
Back Home: April 1865 Mural by Tom Lea
Pleasant Hill Post Office, 124 Veterans Parkway, Pleasant Hill, MO
The New Deal-era mural in the Pleasant Hill Post Office depicts the devastation of Cass County as a result of Order No. 11. A burned-out chimney, prominently featured in the mural, was representative of some of the only built structures left in the district after the Civil War. These chimneys became known as “Jennison’s tombstones” after Jayhawker Charles Jennison, who led the 15th Kansas Cavalry, carrying out Ewing’s Order.
Explore More: Visit the Civil War Interpretive Marker to learn more about Pleasant Hill during the Civil War. The marker is across Paul Street from City Hall, 203 Paul Street, Pleasant Hill. The Historical Society Museum is also located in the historic downtown at 125 Wyoming.
Stretch Your Legs: The westernmost trailhead of the KATY Trail is located at 308 West Commercial Street.
Insider Tip: Instead of backtracking to the Interstate, Missouri Route 7 provides a more direct route between Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville.
Dig Deeper: kansascity.com/living/star-magazine/article296116/Finding-art-in-unexpected-places.html
The Burnt District Monument
2501 West Mechanic Street, Harrisonville, MO
This recreation of a Jennison’s Tombstone stands in remembrance of the 20,000 citizens from the District of the Border, many of them women, children and elderly, who were forced to leave their homes as part of Order No. 11. Interpretive panels around the monument tell the story of Order No. 11.
Explore More: Head to the Courthouse Square in Harrisonville to find three murals that depict the history of Cass County during the Civil War.
Need a Nosh?: Freedom’s Frontier board members and Harrisonville residents Kevin Wood and Larry Pfautsch head to Emilios Mexican Restaurant, 1806 N. Commercial St, for really good Mexican food and breakfast all day long. They also suggest Brickhouse Coffee Bar and Eatery on the Harrisonville Square.
Insider Tip: Mechanic Street, leading west out of Harrisonville, roughly follows the old Morristown Road. During the Civil War, residents who lived along this road were often targets for Union forage teams.
Dig Deeper: c-span.org/video/?326005-1/discussion-missouris-burnt-district
Burnt District Museum and Sharp-Hopper Cabin
400 East Mechanic Street, Harrisonville, MO
Sharp-Hopper Cabin was first constructed in 1835 and is one of the few structures in Cass County that survived Order No. 11. The Museum and Cabin interpret what life was like in Cass County before, during and after Order No. 11.
Insider Tip: The museum is co-located with the library. While the museum and cabin are open on Thursday and Friday between 10 and 3, you can still explore the cabin’s exterior and exhibits that are in the library’s lobby.
Kids Will Love: The Red Barn Ranch is great for a fall stop with a pumpkin patch, corn maze and other kids’ activities.
Stretch Your Legs: Snowball Hill Prairie is owned and preserved by the Missouri Prairie Foundation and is one of the highest quality prairies remaining in the region.
Dig Deeper: casscolibrary.org/casscountyhistory/panel2/
Tour Stops in Butler
Head south on Interstate 49 about 30 minutes to arrive in Butler, the county seat of Bates County. Bates County was the hardest hit by Order Number 11, but that’s not all there is to the history of Bates County. A visit to the Bates County Museum will provide a great overview to the history of the county.
Bates County Museum, 802 Elks Drive, Butler, MO
Unlike Jackson, Cass and Vernon counties, Bates County was completely depopulated as a result of Order No. 11. Not only were families forced from their homes, commercial and
municipal buildings, including county records, were burned. The Bates County Museum has worked to uncover the history of the people who faced Order No. 11 through oral history, archival research and archaeology.
Nearby Sites: Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site, 4837 Northwest County Road 1002, Butler, MO.
Need a Nosh?: Freedom’s Frontier board member, Kay Caskey, often treats our board by bringing delicious cookies or baked goods to our meetings from Koehn Bakery, 101 S. Orange Street. Stop by for a loaf or cinnamon rolls to take home. If you are looking for something more substantial, Museum Director and Freedom’s Frontier board member Peggy Buhr recommends Flaming Lantern, 1104 W. Fort Scott St.
Kids Will Love: Poplar Heights Living History Farm, at 5250 Northeast County Road 5004, Butler, MO, preserves an 1890s farm.
Shop Around: Browse the fabric and patterns at Rocking Chair Quilts on the Butler courthouse square to stock up for your next quilting project.
Dig Deeper: youtube.com/watch?v=QHbybtwChAA
Extend Your Trip: Beyond Bates County
If you want to cover the entirety of Order Number 11, you need to include Vernon County. Visit the Bushwhacker Museum at 212 W. Walnut St, Nevada, MO to learn how the Order affected the part of the county.
Spend your second day exploring the Frontier Military Historic Byway.