The Origins of Mound City: Part 1
Mound City—the Beginning
What do you know about the history of Mound City? Our history is not centered on one singular idea, event, or theme, but is a tapestry of events, woven together over the course of 200 years.
The Osage tribe inhabited this area for centuries prior to white settlers coming here. The expanse of the Osage people covered much of the Midwest, until they were slowly forced south, to present-day Oklahoma. As the Osage were pushed out, the Potawatomi tribe of Indiana were forcibly marched to Kansas—with some of them brought here, to Linn County in the late 1830s. More specifically, they were brought to Sugar Creek Mission, located northwest of Mound City and east of Centerville. The mission only operated for ten years before the Potawatomi were moved further northwest to modern-day Potawatomi County, Kansas. When Kansas was deemed open to settlers, countless men crossed the Kansas-Missouri state border and laid claims in our area. They came from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all other areas. Men from all walks of life, with differences in opinions on how life should be lived, came here, in the hopes that their beliefs would be the foundation for the future state of Kansas.
During the Bleeding Kansas era, this town was a hotbed of political opposition. Should Kansas be a Free State or Slave State? The founding fathers of this town—and this county—fought over that question during the years leading up to Kansas becoming a state in 1861. Linn County saw firsthand why Kansas’ territorial days was indeed called Bleeding Kansas. Men died here because of their beliefs. Mound City had its share of guerilla warfare between the Jayhawkers and the Bushwackers. Famous abolitionist John Brown himself visited this town, wrote his essay Parallels about the Marais des Cygnes Massacre. It goes to show that while much has changed in the past 160 years, some things—such as fighting over politics—has not.
It was also during Mound City’s infancy that some of those here—a specific group of abolitionists, were also early advocates for women’s rights. Less than two miles north of Mound City was the hamlet of Moneka, and it was a hive of forward-thinking individuals. Both men and women of that town advocated not only for the end of slavery, but for the basic rights of women as well. Some of the families from there—and Mound City—provided their homes as safe houses on the Underground Railroad.
Though far from the worst of the bloody battles of the Civil War, Mound City still heard the beating of the war drums, the firing of guns and cannons, on October 25, 1864, when, just a few miles east of town, the Battle of Mine Creek took place. Confederate troops, led by General Sterling Price, were retreating south when they were stalled along the banks of Mine Creek, allowing the Union troops to catch up to them. What resulted was one of the largest cavalry battles of the entire Civil War. Citizens of Mound City were left to clean up the carnage, help the wounded, and bury the dead.
Angela K. Holt