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Kansas Historical Quarterly - Beautiful Bismarck

Bismarck Grove, Lawrence, 1878-1900

by Jim L. Lewis

Autumn 1969 (Vol. 35, No. 3), pages 225 to 256
Transcribed by Tod Roberts; digitized with permission of
the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets refer to endnotes for this text.

Kansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 1969LOCATED on the north bank of the Kansas river about two miles northeast of Lawrence is the Will Hayden-Eugene Nunemaker farm. To the casual observer in recent years, there was not much to distinguish it from other farms in the Kansas valley. The huge red barn, with a green roof and of unusual design, might have caused some wonderment, but by July, 1969, this too had disappeared. Grain bins on a small rise, a depression in the middle of an alfalfa field, corn growing east of an ordinary Kansas farm house, cattle-feeding pens next to the railroad track and a few elms at the Lyons street entrance to the farm are the remaining features.

But to those who know, this is not just a farm. It is the site of Bismarck Grove, once the scene of innumerable picnics and parties, church encampments and gatherings, some of the greatest fairs in Kansas history, and of temperance meetings to which thousands came to count demon rum out of the state and put Kansas on the map as the first state to have constitutional prohibition. It was a place where old settlers reminisced in the shade of its venerable trees during the 25th and 30th anniversary celebrations of the settlement of Kansas, the locality where shouts and military commands echoed through the trees during sessions of drill by state militia. The grove has been the scene of many varied activities -- of prayer meetings at five in the morning, of horse racing and gambling, of buffalo and deer grazing peacefully, of tents covering the ground like a city and so many people on the grounds that it was hard to move about.

The first recorded history of the area dates from 1829, when the Delaware Indians were assigned a tract of land in northeast Kansas called the Delaware Reserve. Treaties concluded by the secretary of interior with the Delaware nation on May 30, 1860, and July 2, 1861, turned some of this land back to the United States government. A portion was then deeded to railway companies as part payment for their construction. In 1864, a few miles to the northeast of the townsite of Lawrence, within the Delaware Reserve, lived Chief Sarcoxie of the Turtle band. Between his home and the river was a large body of timber, oak, walnut, and elm which was referred to as the Delaware Woods.

In late 1864 tracks were laid for the first railroad to Lawrence. As the railroad was built west from Wyandotte, its route took it through this Kaw valley timber. Some of the land adjoining the railroad right-of-way was granted to the Union Pacific Railway Company, Eastern Division. It had been chartered originally as the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company. In 1869 the name was changed to the Kansas Pacific Railway Company. In 1880 the railroad was incorporated as the Union Pacific Railway Company. It is presently known as the Union Pacific Railway Company. 

Though most of the fine valley land was later sold by the railroad, a tract comprising about 240 acres was kept by the company. A patent from the United States government conveyed this land to the railroad on June 5, 1868. A well and a water tank, built close to the tracks, made this a frequent watering stop for the engines. In 1867 temporary machine shops were built on the southern portion of the property. Lawrence, a city attempting to recover from the Quantrill raid of four years before, hoped to secure permanent location of the machine shops at this point. Many other communities along the line were also anxious for this plum, for it would provide jobs for hundreds of employees and should assure the growth of the town.

Shawnee County KS headquarters at old settlers meeting in Bismarck Grove, 1879
Cannon prepared to fire at old settlers meeting, Bismarck Grove, 1879

 

Men at the Bismarck Grove old settlers meeting, 1879

A bit of segregation -- men (above) vs. women (below) -- existed at
the old settlers' meeting in Bismarck Grove, September, 1879.
The two-day affair commemorated the 25th anniversary
of the opening of Kansas territory to white settlement.

Women at the Bismarck Grove old settlers meeting 1879

It was not until October, 1870, that it was announced that the manufacturing and repair shops of the Kansas Pacific railroad were to be at the original temporary location. The city of Lawrence on December 5, 1870, agreed to give the railroad $100,000 in bonds to induce them to stay and make it their "permanent" location. [1] There was great happiness in Lawrence and the price of real estate in North Lawrence advanced 100 percent shortly after the news was announced. Work in the vicinity of the machine shops began almost at once. Forty acres of the south side of the tracks were fenced in and the little office east of the shops, marked "Bismarck," was moved down near the shop area. 

The stand of timber to the north of the shops was used as a picnic ground by railroad employees and their families and by other townspeople allowed to enjoy its facilities. Organizations soon began using it as a place for retreat and celebration. The 100th anniversary of the nation's independence was celebrated in the grove by the Odd Fellows of Excelsior lodge. By the late 1870's it was becoming renowned as a pleasant gathering place. 

Some time before 1878 the Bismarck shops were phased out and the work moved to Armstrong, now a part of Kansas City, Kan. Though Lawrence regretted this move, there was nothing in the contract saying the company could not move once the "permanent" buildings were built. However, the grove on the north part of the tracks bought more attention and business to Lawrence than the shops on the south side ever had. 

In September, 1878, large numbers of people got their first look at Bismarck Grove during the National Temperance camp meeting. It promised to be one of the biggest temperance meetings the West had ever seen and it was the first large gathering in the grove. The temperance society announced that railways throughout the country would give reduced rates and that many thousands from the East would attend the meetings. Temporary structures were quickly built in the grove. Dining halls, barracks with "good linen" spread over straw for beds, and a tarpaulin and pine-board roof over a grandstand seating 4,000 awaited the arrivals. The announcements of such huge crowds prompted the sale of privileges (the right to sell certain items on the grounds) at a high price. These concessions included a photograph gallery, a baker's shop, candy factory, circular swings, and shooting galleries. To add to this carnival atmosphere, there were salesmen of cheap jewelry, lemonade criers, and tobacco salesmen. Liquor was also sold on and around the grounds to those who knew where to buy it. [2] 

On September 1 the excursion trains began arriving and discharging their passengers at the southwestern corner of the grove. A circular drive through the trees led them northeast past the Dicker and Morton dining houses with their table room for 300-400 patrons. Farther on were the barracks, and then on past the center of the grove was the grandstand. To the left of the grandstand were tents for sleeping accommodations and at the southeast corner of the grove were the privilege stands. 

Although it was billed as a temperance meeting, politics and religion were inseparable features of the activities. The first day's program was a prayer meeting, followed by an address by D. P. Mitchell, the Greenback candidate for governor. The incumbent governor of Kansas, George T. Anthony, spoke in the afternoon with the Republican nominee for governor, John P. St. John, speaking at the evening session. 

During the week temperance evangelists pleaded for people to sign pledges that they would totally abstain from alcoholic beverages. Revival hymns were sung and a "Children's Day" was held on which youngsters were told about the evil effects of drunkenness. On the whole the first large gathering in Bismarck Grove was a success. A permanent state temperance organization was formed and also a ladies' temperance union. There was disappointment among those who had bought privileges and made preparation for a larger attendance although a probable aggregate attendance of 50,000 was present during the eight-day "week." However, the beauty and adaptability of the grounds for large gatherings was fully demonstrated and arrangements were made for next year's meeting to be held at the grove. [3] 

Possibly the greatest camp meeting in the history of Kansas was held in the grove during the last two weeks of August, 1879. Much had happened to promote the cause of prohibition following the successful meeting of the previous year. St. John, the Republican candidate for governor and an outspoken advocate for prohibition, had won election. The state legislature had proposed a constitutional amendment to be voted on the next fall, outlawing alcoholic beverages. Thousands gathered at Bismarck Grove to provide the momentum for pushing victory at the polls. 

Much had been done by the Kansas Pacific railroad to make the grove more attractive. Fountains had been put in, walks and drives laid out, gas lights had been installed on the grounds, and a great tabernacle, which seated 5,000, had been built. D. Sheldon, the manager of the grove, and his workmen were ready to put up hundreds of tents for those wishing to camp on the grounds. 

The list of speakers included the most notable names in the national temperance movement. Leading the list was Francis Murphy, returning from a successful temperance campaign in San Francisco, where seven weeks of speaking had brought thousands of "signers." Governor St. John shared the leadership of the meeting. He was the symbol of what temperance people could do with their votes. Most of the speakers were from Middle-Western states with a few from the east coast. 

The meeting began on Thursday and by Sunday some 12,000 people were on the grounds to "whale" whiskey. The Sunday meeting began at 5:00 A. M. with prayer meetings and lasted until late at night. Those who came at 5:00 found vacant seats, but many were disappointed at the regular morning meeting when all seats and aisles were filled. As the speakers came upon the platform the old patriotic song, "Marching On," was rendered, followed by the hymn, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." Francis Murphy proudly introduced Governor St. John by saying that in no other state of the Union had a man, wearing the badge of total abstinence, ever been elected to the highest state office. The governor was received with a storm of applause. He launched into his address, using as his text, "We hold these truths to be self-evident...." [4] 

A crowd of at least 15,000 had gathered by the middle of the second week. A reporter said that some portions of the grounds were so densely occupied as to cause discomfort. [5] One of the special features at Wednesday's meeting was the presentation of three Indian chiefs brought from their reservations. Captain King of the Ottawas, Jim Charley of the Peorias, and Bogus Charley of the Modocs, all gave touching testimonies to the temperance movement. 

The August heat, and dust from thousands milling in the grove, became oppressive as the week went on. Some of the tents became almost unbearable. Whenever a breeze was created a cloud of dust would be found in its wake, so that with the coolness of stirred air would come the discomfort of dust. Tents began to assume the familiar army tinge from use and dust. The dust was especially deep at the grove entrance. 

A reporter painted a word picture of the scene at the grove depot one morning when the train was late. It was the day after "Military Day" and some of the companies were returning home. He described several stacks of guns on one side, a crowd of nearly 1,000 people all around, singing parties everywhere, lovers promenading, military officers scurrying about, and everybody wilting with heat and dust and stumbling over lunch baskets. All kept a constant lookout for pickpockets and often there was heard the fretful words, "Oh, I do wish the train would come." [6] 

Trains that took people home also brought more to the grounds and attendance figures for the meeting climbed until the peak was reached on the last Sunday when between 20,000 and 25,000 were on the grounds. The crowd was undoubtedly the largest ever at the grove, and by noon the place seemed alive with humanity. At all times the tabernacle was crowded to suffocation. Overflow meetings were held in various parts of the grove where people stood patiently listening to the speakers. 

The encampment was a great success. All agreed that much good had been done for the cause of temperance and Christianity. The 12-day meeting had brought out between 75,000 and 100,000 people, an average daily attendance of about 7,000. It was thought that 5,000 had signed pledges at this memorable meeting. [7] 

Immediately following the 1879 temperance meeting, the grove was used for 10 days by the Inter-State Sunday School Assembly, better known as the Chautauqua. John H. Vincent came to Kansas in 1878 and gave such glowing accounts of the success of the assembly in western New York state by Lake Chautauqua, that Kansans determined to have one. The Rev. J. E. Gilbert, then pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal church in Topeka, was selected as the first president. 

Before the meeting, Gilbert attempted to explain the program, which was entirely new to Kansas and, in fact, to any state outside New York. He made it clear that it was not a "camp-meeting" and that no part of the exercises would consist of the sensational. He explained that there would be outstanding lectures, courses of study, and concerts. He expressed the hope that the people of Kansas would appreciate such a meeting and patronize it in such numbers as to justify the large amount of money spent in organizing it. [8] 

Gilbert succeeded in bringing to the encampment a quality staff. One lecturer, the Rev. J. S. Ostrander of New York City, was extremely successful in attracting audience attention by his use of visual aids. In his lecture, "Bible Manners and Customs" he used 16 assistants dressed in Oriental costumes, representing different countries mentioned in the Bible. 

Jennie B. Murrill of the New York Normal University, who was highly complimented for her lectures on juvenile Sunday School work, was another of the full-time staff members. Several area ministers served part-time. Among these were A. B. Jetmore of Topeka, who lectured on "Church and State"; W. M. Page of Leavenworth, who discussed "The Minister in the Prayer Meeting"; and Gilbert himself who lectured on "Genesis and Science." 

The Rev. D. Gochenour of Ellis gave an address entitled "The Sabbath," in which he appealed for the sacredness of Sunday. An example of the type of observance for which he was asking may be found in an article in the Topeka Daily Blade, September 1, 1879. It described the arrival of a group of Topekans at the grove on Sunday morning: 

[It] was so quiet that men were of the opinion the meeting was gone. The sacred stillness which pervaded the surroundings seemed, for the first time to arrest the Topekans with the impression that it was the Sabbath day. Once within the enclosure, here and there through the grove, could be seen groups of ladies and gentlemen sitting and calmly reposing on the rustic seats, enjoying the delightful morning air... Nearing the tabernacle the crowd stopped at a tent where the sign reads: "Register your names and get a programme." This all did and ... [followed] the printed regulations which are as follows: "The day will be kept sacred. No trains will stop at the grounds. (This was not observed.) The gates will be open to admit people ... as follows: 7:30-8:30 A. M.; 10:30-11:00 A. M.; 1-2 P. M.; 6-7 P. M. They will be closed the remainder of the day to secure the services from interruption. All on the grounds will be required to attend the morning and afternoon sermon, or retire outside the gates." 

The Topeka Daily Capital's reporter believed that there were between 3,000-4,000 on the grounds this particular Sunday. 

The first Chautauqua encountered some problems from people who believed that too much prominence was given to Methodists in the encampment. When this was discussed and Gilbert showed that every effort had been made to engage persons of several denominations, the affair was settled amicably. [9] Attendance was not as good as anticipated but the Capital expressed the hope that once the plan was understood there would be triple attendance the next year. [10] 

The Bismarck tabernacle, in almost constant use during the late summer and early fall of 1879, was the scene of one meeting that was entirely new to the Midwest. It was sponsored by the National Liberal League, an organization devoted to the complete separation of church and state, and its course was watched with close attention by both friend and foe. There was general surprise at the large number of eminent men and women who identified with the movement. By "liberal" they meant people who were broad-minded and not bound by orthodox forms of political and religious philosophies. 

This meeting of liberals, or "Free Thinkers" as they were often called, received extensive news coverage in area newspapers. The Topeka Daily Capital censured the Topeka Blade when the latter referred to the meeting as a "Free-Love affair" attended by fanatics from different parts of the country. The Capital comment that it was "not necessary that we agree with the principles of those who assemble there to do them justice," seemed to sum up the area's newspaper attitude. [11] 

At the Liberals' first meeting it was decided to issue a challenge to the Reverend Mr. Gilbert of Topeka to return to Bismarck to debate the question of "Genesis or Geology" with Prof. William Denton, a geologist. Gilbert responded to the invitation by sending a telegram on Sunday morning stating that he was sick and could not come. This prompted some remarks by the meeting's president, S. H. Walser of Lamar, Mo., concerning the health of orthodox preachers who were suddenly impaired by liberal events. A later telegram was sent by the liberals inviting him to speak on succeeding days. No answer was received and Gilbert did not appear, nor did any other Christian minister, to debate the issues. 

The Kansas Liberal League was organized at the final meeting with former Gov. Charles Robinson elected as president. The motto, "Freedom, Fellowship and Character," was adopted. After much discussion it was decided to recommend to the National Liberal League, preparing to meet in Cincinnati, that it inaugurate no political action in regard to nominating a President or Vice-President. The meeting adjourned with three cheers for Liberalism. [12] 

It was a successful meeting in many ways. In attendance it was about the same as the church encampment that preceded it, and the Liberals were able to pay all their obligations. It was regarded as an orderly meeting, with no disturbance or confusion. It was also reported that no liquor, beer, or cigars were used during the session. Newspaper relations were excellent and the liberals heartily thanked the press of Kansas for its kind notices of the meeting. 

An old settlers' meeting followed in September to celebrate the 25th year since Kansas was opened to settlement. Leavenworth and Topeka agreed that although Bismarck Grove had had many immense gatherings during the 1879 season, none would be as important or have as much interest attached to it as this meeting, at which many of the old settlers would be called upon to recall their experiences in helping to build a state. 

Preparation for the two-day meeting on September 14 and 15 included invitations to notable personages who bad helped the antislavery faction in Kansas. Some, such as Amos Lawrence, for whom the city of Lawrence was named, sent letters of regret. William M. Evarts, John Sherman, and John Greenleaf Whittier did the same. However, many important notables, such as Edward E. Hale, Gen. John Pope, and Walt Whitman, replied that they would attend and address the assembly. 

The weather was beautiful as the people began making their way to Bismarck on the first day. The hotels in Lawrence were full to overflowing the night before and the Ludington House had rented out all its billiard tables for berths. There was scarcely a house in the city that was not entertaining one or more friends who had come for the quarter-centennial observance. 

The center of activity in the grove was the tabernacle, where the speakers' stand was crowded with notables of the day. They included Ex-Gov. Charles Robinson, Col. John W. Forney, George A. Crawford, Walt Whitman, Judge John P. Usher, Col. Cyrus K. Holliday, and many others whose faces, forms, and records were: familiar to Kansas, and distinguished visitors from out of the state. Directly in front of the stand was the reporters' table crowded with 40 or 50 representatives of the Kansas and Missouri press. Then came the packed seats and crowded aisles, while hundreds gathered outside the tabernacle. Around the tabernacle was a city of tents with scores of people moving here and there among them. South of the tents were booths, dining halls, refreshment stands, and a post office. The path leading to the depot, one-half mile from the tabernacle, was filled with people coming and going. 

Charles Robinson took the stand as president of the meeting and opened his address by thanking the committee for placing him in a position which he regarded as the crowning honor of his life. He was followed by Cyrus K. Holliday, one of the founders of Topeka, and then by Gov. John P. St. John. As the meeting continued it was apparent that this was not so much a gathering of old settlers as it was of Free-State men. 

At the evening meeting several speakers were "called out," one of whom was Sam Wood. His speech, witty, humorous, and sarcastic, kept the assembly not only deeply interested but in most excellent humor. He recalled the excitement which was created when the New England Emigrant Aid Society first began sending men to Kansas and of the rumor that Eli Thayer was coming to Kansas with 40,000 men. He told of his coming to Lawrence from Westport about this time and how, getting close to the Wakarusa river, he got out of his wagon, went to the side of the road, took an axe and blazed the side of a big tree on which he wrote: "Eli Thayer claims forty miles of which this tree is the center." He said this caused an immense excitement among the Proslavery men. [13] 

The first day was but a prelude to the tremendous events of the second. At an early hour the grounds had begun to swarm with people, and soon after 8:00 the tabernacle seats were filled. George W. Julian of Indiana, the first scheduled main speaker for the morning, was received with a volley of artillery and loud applause. He began by expressing regret that he lacked the voice to address such a vast audience and that he could not get up and deliver an old-fashioned, off-hand speech. His speech concerned slavery and America. He said that it was not only the slave that had been set free, but the whole mind of the American people. 

At the afternoon session the most famous speaker was Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man Without A Country. As he came forward to speak he was greeted with tremendous applause. He began by saying, "I know it is not me you want to hear, but the Old Bay State, who is the mother of half of you, the grand-mother, sister, cousin or aunt of the balance of you." [14] Hale's address was termed a masterpiece by the Leavenworth Times of September 17, 1879. It was mainly concerned with the interaction Kansas and New England had upon each other. He spoke of the Emigrant Aid Society and its work in Kansas and other places. He claimed that the company placed $125,000 in the Kansas-Nebraska territory of which no subscriber ever received back one cent of investment. But they had their dividends. They came in the form of a free Kansas, in the home of four million freed men, and in the virtual abolition of slavery in the world. 

At various times during the afternoon Governor Robinson read letters of regret from those not able to attend, among them Jay Gould, Amos Lawrence, and Whittier. Walt Whitman was to have read a poem that afternoon, and loud calls for him by the audience were responded to by T. D. Thacher, who stated that Whitman had been physically unable to compose or deliver a poem. Whitman, with his long beard and gray hair, had attracted much attention on the platform the day before. 

Sometime during the meeting Governor Robinson brought forward the man who, he said, more than any other, deserved the praise for making the occasion a great success. This was Peter B. Groat of the Kansas Pacific railway. It was recommended and adopted unanimously that the old settlers fully appreciated the enterprise of the Kansas Pacific railway in building the Bismarck tabernacle and that all future reunions of old settlers would be held in Bismarck Grove. 

The successful series of meetings in 1879 stimulated the thinking of several individuals. If up to 100,000 people could find means and time to attend a temperance encampment, and if over 25,000 could be gathered into Bismarck Grove on a single day for the old settlers reunion, could not people be induced to attend an agricultural fair at the same site with profitable results? As early as September it was reported that the Kansas Pacific railroad was so well pleased with the results of its Bismarck business that it had decided to make extensive and costly improvements over the winter. The railroad intended to make Bismarck to the West what Long Branch and Saratoga were to the East. [15] 

Taking all this into account, Lawrence took the initiative in asking the railway on what terms the grove could be secured for the purpose of a fair. The Kansas Pacific replied that it would offer it free of rent not only for 1880 but for subsequent years if the fair were made a permanent institution. As a result of the negotiations, articles of incorporation for the Western National Fair Association were filed with the secretary of state in late November. Its purpose was to hold annual fairs for the "encouragement of agriculture, horticulture, mechanic, and fine arts; the improvement of the breed of domestic animals, and the promotion of the general industrial interest of the country." The fair was to be held at Bismarck and the Association was to last 10 years. [16] 

Throughout the spring and summer of 1880, and right up to opening day, the grove was the scene of building activity involving hundreds of men. About $50,000 were expended on the construction of permanent buildings and thousands more on the grounds. A description of the grounds shows it divided into three sections: the west, known as Bismarck Grove proper, comprising about 40 acres; the east section, also about 40 acres, devoted to the race track, stables, cattle stalls, and various buildings; the north section, encompassing 27 acres, which was devoted to camping facilities. This section also contained a lake, though the main lake was in Bismarck Grove proper, where pleasure boats, owned by "Dolly" Graeber of Lawrence, had been placed. Work on the grounds was extensive. New graveled walks had been laid out; shrubbery and flower beds set out; a tight, eight-foot fence of dressed plank cedar posts built all around the grounds; huge, ornamental fountains set in front of the main buildings; and the trees had been trimmed. [17] 

The only major, permanent building in the grove before 1880 was the tabernacle, which was located in the northern-middle part of the grounds at the east edge of the thick timber. Completed in August, 1879, it was 115 feet in diameter with a dome 50 feet high. Immediately to the east was erected Exhibition hall, a two-story building, said to be modeled after the most attractive building of the 1876 centennial exposition held in Philadelphia. It had four wings -- 164 feet in length from north to south and 136 feet from east to west. Each wing was 60 feet wide. The race track to the east of the main building was underdrained and "topped off" with black topsoil, one of the finest tracks in the West. The grandstand, seating over 5,000 with about a third of the seats covered by a roof, was located at the northwest side of the track. To the east of the grandstand were located the cattle stalls and pens for the show animals. At the south side of the race track, two stables containing 104 double stalls were erected. A shed 28 feet by 100 feet was built southeast of the stables, for the exhibition of carriages. Power hall, to the southwest of the stables, 180 feet in length and 50 feet in width, was used for the exhibition of machinery. The County Display building, later called Agricultural hall, was built to the west of the race track and almost due south of the tabernacle. Art hall was located at some distance northwest of the tabernacle. It was 70 feet in length and 40 feet in width. A stone building located at the south side of the grounds near Power hall housed the machinery for the water works. From this well a main pipe ran for a short distance north, then divided into two sections. One led to the grove, the other led to and made the circuit of the stables and stalls where the stock was kept. Several hydrants were placed in the grove. A steam pump was set up to furnish power for the various fountains on the lakes and grounds. One fountain was put in the center of the main building and a bandstand built above it. Numerous smaller buildings were also placed on the grounds, including a telegraph office, a secretary's office, and an office for the press. [18] 

The Leavenworth Times, of August 24, 1880, two weeks before the fair opened, gave several reasons why Bismarck was advertised throughout the country. It was beautiful, accessible from all parts of the state, and seemed to be a more congenial gathering spot than any other. It had become the fashion that a gathering of any size had to be at Bismarck. It was no wonder, according to the Times, that almost every newspaper in the state had called attention to the coming Western National Fair. 

The fair did not disappoint its numerous backers. The weather was good and some of the greatest crowds ever gathered in the state converged at Bismarck. The district court in Leavenworth adjourned, county offices closed, and foundries were shut down so all of Leavenworth could go to the fair. At Topeka one morning people were left standing on the platform when the train, loaded to the outside step, pulled out for Bismarck. The railroad brought five coal cars onto the track, laid boards across them, and filled this "special" with the passengers who had been left behind. Of course Lawrence residents turned out. Attendance figures for the week obtained from Topeka, Leavenworth, and Lawrence papers were: First day, 5,000-10,000; Second day, 20,000-25,000; Third day, 40,000-45,000; Fourth Day, 30,000; Fifth day, 10,000-15,000. [19] 

Horse racing, band contests, sideshows, county displays, the showing of cattle, horses, swine, and poultry all helped make the fair a magnificent success. One event that did not come off, however, was the most talked about of the week. Over a thousand militia were on band in eight companies to compete for a $500 prize ,offered to the best drilled company. Six of the companies were attached to the First regiment of the state. The Paola Rifles and the Metropolitan Guards of Leavenworth were independent companies. Just before the drill was to take place, Col. H. A. Lewis of the First regiment demanded that the Paola Rifles join the regiment or give up their guns, which were owned by the state. The Rifles refused and surrendered their weapons. The Metropolitans, who owned their rifles, offered to lend them to Paola for the drill, whereupon Colonel Lewis ordered his companies from the field. Since, according to the rules, at least five teams must compete, there was no drill exhibition. 

The newspapers were full of charges and countercharges concerning the incident, but the Atchison Champion of September 18, 1880, gave the best summary: 

There is something up with the Kansas Militia. If we had a navy as well as an army the state would go crazy. Wrath is painted on the sky at Bismarck Grove. Colonel Lewis ... disarmed the Paola Rifles, marched his own troops off, and broke up the show, in order it is said, to prevent the Paola Rifles from winning the prize. The bulletins which reach us from the field are so covered with blood and dirt that it is impossible to make out the whole story. 

It was universally agreed that the first fair was a definite success. One aspect especially commented upon was the extreme good order which prevailed. Much credit for this was given to the temperance people of Lawrence, who prevented the sale of a liquor privilege although the managers were reportedly offered $5,000 for one. [20] 

The Chautauqua was the first of the big encampments to use Bismarck in the late summer of 1880. The program was similar to that of the year before, with the Rev. J. E. Gilbert again in charge. There was, however, an almost completely new faculty at the "summer college." Twenty-one instructors, many from Eastern states, conducted the course of study, at the completion of which diplomas were given the persons passing the required examination. 

Two of the best-known teachers were Dr. D. S. Gregory, president of Lake Forest Seminary in Illinois, and William Blackburn, professor of history in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Chicago. In charge of the music was Prof. C. E. Leslie, his wife, and some of his assistants from Chicago. Leslie did such outstanding work in leading the congregational singing, teaching music classes and singing in the "Chicago Choir," that he and his staff were asked to perform during the temperance encampment which followed. 

     The 1880 regulations on Sabbath observance were more strict than the year before. Taking note of an article in the Topeka Commonwealth of August 14, 1880, that an excursion train would come from Topeka to the exercises the next Sunday, a group of 14 men, including six Topeka pastors, protested this act of what they deemed "a desecration of the Lord's Day." This they had published in the paper, besides requesting the railroad company to withdraw the train. They drew a response from a workingman who wrote to the paper with a question it would seem hard for the clergy to answer. He said clergymen, who can at any time enjoy outdoor amusements, should not condemn as Sabbath-breaking those who have no other time available. When a man worked 10 to 15 hours a day, six days a week, did he not have a "right to spend Sunday on a health-giving excursion?!" [21] The Union Pacific did not run the train and the Commonwealth reporter on the grounds felt it "just" to note that many workers and members of the encampment regretted the action taken by the management. 

Prior to Sunday the meetings were poorly attended because of the intense heat, but at an early hour that morning the short trains from Lawrence and the hacks and carriages brought people over in large numbers. At the same time farmers began to arrive in wagons and on foot. It was especially noticeable to the Capital of August 16, 1880, that although some 3,000 were present, the sacredness of the day was strictly observed. Even along "newspaper row," a row of tents housing reporters, the press representatives sat and wrote in silence. The assembly closed with E. W. Schaffer, a physician from Kansas City, replacing Gilbert as president for the next encampment. 

This was it -- the last temperance camp meeting before the people went to the polls November 2, 1880, to vote on the prohibition amendment. Enthusiasm was high, for it was felt that temperance would score a great victory and Kansas would lead the way for other states. For the third consecutive year the leader of the meeting was Gov. John P. St. John. 

The tabernacle was filled, while a large crowd stood around the outside to listen to St. John on Sunday afternoon, August 22, 1880. He spoke of the opposition he had aroused and the contemptuous treatment he had received for engaging in temperance work. He had been warned that he would dig his political grave if he continued. This was ironic to him, for he remembered when it was not beneath the dignity of a governor of Kansas to get drunk. He added that if he were "buried" he wanted the banner of prohibition wrapped around him. He thought the license system only put life in the liquor traffic in the west and that people had about outgrown the idea that the licensing of any sort of evil ever surpressed [sic] it. He drew a parallel between the growth of antislavery sentiment and that of prohibition, and spoke earnestly of the necessity of legislation to enforce the amendment when carried. [22] 

J. B. Finch of Lincoln, Neb., followed St. John with a speech described as a "rouser." Finch was an emotional speaker and he "laid it on" those who would oppose the amendment. After he was through he was met just outside the tabernacle by former Gov. Charles Robinson and an animated discussion took place. People poured out of the tabernacle and a crowd larger than could hear either speaker gathered. Finch offered Robinson a chance to air his views from the platform, an invitation which the latter declined. Robinson was in "enemy territory" with his views and the Topeka Daily Capital reported him gliding quietly away after his sideshow encounter. Robinson, however, wrote a letter to the management stating that he had been personally attacked in speeches and he wished to reply in kind. The management arranged for a debate between Finch and Robinson to be held the next Sunday afternoon and the daily papers played this up so much during the week that the people looked forward to a warm time. [23] 

Although it rained that last Sunday morning 10,000 people were on the grounds. They had been led to expect something more than the ordinary, and long before the appointed hour of the Robinson-Finch debate the tabernacle was packed. On the outside there were 2,000 people also waiting to hear it. Gen. John H. Rice of Fort Scott introduced Robinson. The Capital reported Robinson ill at ease and as he began it was with difficulty that he could collect his thoughts and form them into words. He denied that he was paid by the whiskey ring to make speeches and to take the position on the amendment that he did. He spoke of his own record for temperance and of the practical temperance of his life and said that this ought to ensure freedom for him from the attacks of the temperance people. He was against prohibition because he thought it could not be enforced. He thought the exceptions in the amendment would make the liquor traffic free and he believed the local option law to be the best prevention against drunkenness.

National Temperance camp at Bismarck Grove, 1878

A National Temperance camp meeting was held at Bismarck Grove
in September, 1878. Nearly 50,000 people appeared during the
eight-day "week," in which evangelists pled for total abstinence.

General view of Bismarck Grove grounds in 1882 (left section)

A general view of the Bismarck Grove grounds as shown in an 1882 lithograph.
For the overall effect, the two sections should be visualized as joined together --
UPPER on the left, and LOWER on the right.

General view of Bismarck Grove grounds in 1882 (right section)
Riley county exhibit at Western National Fair in Bismarck Grove, 1880

The Riley county prize exhibit at the Western National Fair, Bismarck Grove,
in September 1880. From a sketch by Henry Worrall in

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, October 9, 1880.

Finch began by expressing regret that he should have to speak against the ex-governor and then proceeded to tear down every position taken by his opponent. He answered the remarks to the satisfaction of the audience and when he finished his argument, calls for St. John brought the governor to the front. He made a short speech in which he spoke of Robinson's record in scathing terms. The Commonwealth judged the speech injudicious and more fit for a stump harangue than Sunday exercises. The Capital quoted the remark of one who heard the discussions: "When Finch and St. John got through with him there was not a piece left of Robinson big enough to choke a dog." [24] The temperance meeting was closed by General Rice who spoke of the assuredness of victory at the polls that fall, if the women would pray and the men vote as they had resolved. 

The Liberals also returned to the grove in 1880 and enlarged their scope from the previous year, when they invited all ministers of Evangelical churches to participate. It was promised that time would be equally divided. The question of holding evening sessions was discussed. It was said that a great many would come at night, who would be ashamed to be seen in the day time, and evening sessions were decided upon. 

The first Sunday session was opened by J. A. Remsburg of Atchison, who read his paper on the "Four Great Infidels of America" -- Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln. He described Washington as a nominal Christian believer, as a man who never said a word in favor of the Christian religion. The story of the cherry tree had about as much historical authority as the one about his praying at Valley Forge. Franklin was represented as a confirmed deist, who believed in the creator of the universe but denied the divinity of Christ. Jefferson, he said, scoffed at Christians and was one who could not believe in the suspension of the laws of nature nor in the mystical birth of the Saviour. Lincoln, he related, declared that the Bible was not the book of God and that Jesus was an illegitimate child. He gave Mrs. Lincoln's testimony that Lincoln had no hope of a future life and no faith in Christianity. [25] 

Several speakers, including Materialists, Spiritualists, and Unitarians, gave talks during the week but the most exciting meeting was on the last Sunday, September 5, 1880. It was described as a gala day for the Freethinkers with approximately 1,000 present, according to one report, and thousands present according to another. The brass band was reported especially good, as it rendered only secular tunes for this Sabbath such as "My Grandfather's Clock," "Baby Mine," and "Yankee Doodle." 

Although several speeches were given both before and after dinner, the reporters slighted these to concentrate on two events that took place. One was the Coffin affair and the other the Phelps speech. 

The Coffin affair went back to the previous Friday evening when Col. W. G. Coffin of Leavenworth, upset at the insults and taunts thrown at the Bible, rose from the audience and challenged some of the assertions made. This dumbfounded the Liberals for a moment. In the torrent of words that followed, someone -- evidently not by the authority of the management -- told him if he came back to discuss the question they would pay his expenses. In response to this, on Sunday morning Colonel Coffin stood and announced that he was ready to talk. The chairman, G. W. Brown, said that he could not be heard as the program was made out and could not be interrupted. At this, a scene of confusion followed and everything was lively for a time. Coffin became very excited and so did Brown. Brown called Coffin "a puppy" and a fanatic. Coffin, not to be outdone, called the chairman a "knock-kneed monkey." The Kansas City Times reported that prospects for a row were good when the meeting was hurriedly adjourned. [26] 

Reporters agreed that the low point of the afternoon was the two-hour lecture on the "Scheme of Redemption," by O. A. Phelps. The Lawrence Tribune of September 6, 1880, reported the following: 

On the platform was a ranting, red headed imbecile, pounding the air and prancing around on the platform as if he had got into a bumble bee's nest. This lunatic succeeded in his efforts for fame in gaining the disgust of every sane person within hearing of his demonian voice. His rantings and blasphemies were horrible, and had he got his deserts he would have been hooted from the grove. We failed to find ... an infidel, liberal, or spiritualist or any one else who approved his course.

     ... [he] calls himself a professor, red hair, red eyes, and a particularly red nose ... hails from Kansas City in general and according to his own statement, when interogated by your reporter, Hell's Half Acre in Particular. 

His speech was described as "basely rough and ungentlemanly" and "especially outrageous and demoralizing." The Freethinkers, believing the speech all too liberal, presented a resolution at its close which stated: "Resolved, that we the liberals repudiate O. A. Phelps as a liberal and have no sympathy with the matter and manner of his utterances." Because of the large number of people present who were not liberals, the chairman did not want a vote taken for fear the resolution would fail, and it was accordingly withdrawn. This, with the Coffin trouble of the forenoon, served to make a lively and very "liberal"observance of Sunday. [27] 

The Sunday School encampment opened at Bismarck for the third and last time on July 5, 1881. Lawrence and Topeka papers did their best in "booming" the coming event. The Tribune explained that the assembly's lecture course was one which would cost any lyceum thousands of dollars to secure. The Capital assured its readers that every promise of the management would be fulfilled and every person announced on the program would positively be "on hand." Some readers might well doubt the authenticity of the latter statement, for the faculty was staffed by men who surpassed in prestige those of previous encampments. E. G. Robinson, president of Brown University; Dr. Howard Crosby, chancellor of the University of New York; Dr. Robert A. Young, president of Vanderbilt University; and Dr. B. T. Vincent, brother of one of Chautauquau's founders, headlined the staff. Dr. James Marvin, Dr. Richard Cordley, and A. O. Van Lennep, a native of Smyrna in Asia Minor, were other outstanding speakers. [28] 

Although the setting was beautiful and the speakers "magnificent," the people did not attend in great numbers. The highest attendance figure for a meeting was 2,000, and most estimates were far lower. J. W. Clock, a Capital reporter, counted exactly 99 persons in the tabernacle during one morning exercise. Lawrence and Topeka papers attempted to diagnose the problem. The Commonwealth of July 8, 1881, noted that nearly all in attendance were either from the neighboring country or had come from a distance and that the people of Lawrence seemingly did not take much interest in the meetings. The Journal of July 9, 1881, admitted that attendance was very light from Lawrence; that the lecturers were good and deserved better audiences. The Tribune of July 9, 1881, took the position that Lawrence people were not sufficiently awake to the intellectual feast available at the grove and it also sounded a warning: "Lawrence will be derelict to her well-earned reputation if she should fail to honor the distinguished speakers now at Bismarck with a full hearing." 

Clock, who often represented the Capital at Bismarck meetings, believed the enterprise too expensive for Kansans at this time. "We are as yet too poor to be able ... to drop everything and spend ten days and nights at Sunday school, and foot all the bills." [29] 

Railroad excursions were again not allowed for the Sunday exercises, a fact the Journal decried since it could not see the difference between this and selling ice cream, lemonade, candy, and newspapers on the grounds. Attendance at this and other meetings caused a great many to be discouraged, but most were in favor of holding one more assembly before giving it up entirely. Doctor Schauffler was again elected president and the new board of directors fixed the next meeting to be held sometime in July, of 1882, at Bismarck Grove. [30] 

The heat was oppressive at the annual temperance meeting opened on August 10, 1881. The prohibition amendment had passed the previous fall but there were problems with its enforcement. The cities of Atchison, Topeka, and Leavenworth were mentioned as officially opposing the law. The encampment attendants believed that the law was good and the principle involved was correct. The task of temperance believers was to strengthen public sentiment in favor of its enforcement. [31] 

The enthusiasm of this encampment was equal to those of former camp meetings but the crowds were not present. However, the 1881 meeting was the most unusual and hectic of the four held in the grove. Hundreds of workmen swarmed the grounds filling the day with sounds of hammer and saw as they built dining halls, fences, and other improvements for the coming fair. Most of the meetings had to be held in Exhibition hall as the tabernacle's seats were being changed in preparation for C. E. Leslie's jubilee. The last scheduled meeting could not be held at all for the thousands of young singers swarming the grounds. 

John P. St. John was again present. As he called the first evening meeting to order, the cheering of the audience gave evidence that the governor had lost little of his power as a leader in the cause of temperance. He replied to the assertion that the liquor law was a hindrance to the prosperity of the state and showed that in many respects the state had never been as prosperous. The law, however, had in one instance caused a decrease in population and that was in the penitentiary. He thought Kansas could stand the loss. [32] 

The annoyance caused by the carpenters was tolerated as good-naturedly as possible. However, on Sunday morning, August 14, when the workmen began work as usual, the thousands present for the services were astounded. Efforts were made by the officers of the Temperance Union and by the superintendent of the grove to get them to stop work, but they absolutely refused. Telegrams were sent to the superintendent of the Union Pacific railroad asking for orders to stop the work. The reply was slow and the people became more indignant and demanded the proper observance of the Sabbath. 

Groups of citizens went to Lawrence and swore out warrants for the arrest of the principal contractors, which were placed in the sheriff's hands. About noon the telegram came ordering the contractors to stop work. When the announcement came, the crowd rose and sang the "Doxology" with the zeal of a revival meeting. [33] 

The temperance people were almost as upset by the final day's proceedings. Only a small number remained for the last sessions and they were moved out of the tabernacle and into the main hall. The tabernacle needed some more work before the practice session of the jubilee to be held that evening. The main hall was divided up into apartments by the hanging of screens and was a poor place for a meeting. It was noisy throughout the building. There were people marching in at all doors and the noise of hammers resounded as did the hum of voices. This was the state of things when John Sobieski took the stand to make a speech. He began by referring to the case of Demosthenes practicing amid the tumult of the waves on the seashore to prepare himself to speak amid tumultuous people. He spoke on and the streams of jubilee people kept pouring in. After about half an hour the noise subsided and he was able to finish. [34] 

A resolution was passed before Sobieski spoke recommending another place of meeting for the next year's encampment. Professor Stearns expressed a hope that this action would not be final and that the committee might obtain assurances which would justify using Bismarck again. Despite his statement, the next year's encampment was held elsewhere, and a one-day temperance rally in 1883 was the last held at Bismarck Grove. The temperance movement, which had put Bismarck on the map as a synonym for temperance and morality, was being overshadowed by other meetings in 1881. Bismarck, however, was not through with the problem of temperance, as deputies on duty there in the 1890's -- during picnics and excursions -- had trouble enforcing the laws espoused by the temperance movement. Although many encampments and meetings were later held in the tabernacle at Bismarck, the small rise of ground on which the tabernacle stood was, from the early 1880's on, referred to as "Prohibition Ridge." [35] 

The Kansas State Musical jubilee that followed on the heels of the temperance encampment was the brain child of C. E. Leslie of Chicago. Although skeptics believed the project too visionary, it proved to be the grandest exhibition of music in the history of Kansas and was acclaimed by numerous Kansas newspapers. The project was a masterpiece of planning. Leslie, with his wife and 28 assistants, created the 6,000-member chorus in 14 weeks. The work of organizing auxiliary choruses was begun at Salina on May 1, when a chorus of over 200 was formed. The plan called for one-week musical conventions in several towns. There were to be sessions for beginners, advanced teaching, voice culture, musical elocution, and practice of the choruses to be used at the jubilee concerts. [36] 

Seventy-three towns or cities were visited and over 10,000 were enrolled. The largest organization was in Lawrence, where the chorus numbered 630. Leslie declared that more towns in the state requested instruction than he was able to fit into the schedule. [37] This intense activity culminated in a two-day program featuring four concerts, in which all the choruses were brought together at the Bismarck tabernacle. 

Special preparations had to be made at Bismarck for the participants and the audience. The tabernacle seats were removed and amphitheater tiers extending into the eaves were built. The audience seats were placed in the area just north of the building and where there were gaps in the trees great tarpaulins were used as sunshades. The north end of the tabernacle was torn away to enable the two groups to hear and see each other to better advantage. Fifteen electric lights were placed on the grounds, six of them in the tabernacle. 

There was a large audience to witness the evening rehearsal August 18, 1881, but a larger group of singers. The chorus contained approximately 1,200 tenors, 1,800 sopranos, 1,600 altos, and 1,400 basses. The electric lights were lit and made a beautiful sight for about 10 minutes and then they went out suddenly. Lanterns were brought which provided only dim light. During the interval of darkness Leslie started familiar hymns, which the assemblage joined in singing, applauding themselves boisterously at the close of each chorus. As soon as sufficient light was provided Leslie began to drill his class. The rehearsal changed the minds of some skeptics and there were predictions that the jubilee would be a grand success. Seven soloists, most with opera and concert reputations, were headline attractions. 

There was a last rehearsal the next morning in preparation for the main concert, to begin at 2:00 P. M. Promptly at that time the chorus began to Me into the huge pavilion. Nearly every important town in the state was represented by a chorus, each of which marched to its position carrying an elaborate silk banner identifying the organization. 

C. E. Leslie, tall, erect, and full-bearded, came forth and the concert opened with the 6,000 voices singing "Let the Hills and Vales Resound." The Topeka Daily Capital of August 19, 1881, reported that it was the largest number of singers ever gathered together in the state, and their singing showed the result of careful drill. 

Each of the four concerts was divided into two parts of 10 musical numbers each. The chorus sang only three of each 10 numbers while the featured soloists, pianists, and Julia Mantey, the violinist, provided the other entertainment. Marie Litta and George H. Broderick were particular favorites of the crowd. 

At the evening concert Broderick had scarcely begun his solo, "Honor and Arms," when the electric lights, to the infinite disgust of everyone, went out again. He took a position near a lantern and began again, singing it through, but circumstances were against him and he failed to do himself justice. 

Every tier of seats from the stage to the roof of the tabernacle was full of singers. Also, there was a larger number in the audience than at the afternoon performance. An observer standing upon the singers' platform could see nothing but faces in every direction. The soloists received so many encores that the last three numbers on the program were omitted because of the lateness of the hour. [38] 

Rain in the night and the next morning did not stop the rush to the grove. One estimate placed 15,000-20,000 on the grounds, while another put attendance at 25,000-30,000. 

The last evening's concert was delayed 30 minutes to accommodate the people arriving on special trains from Kansas City and Leavenworth. The audience was larger than at any previous concert and the entertainment was better than any before. The Tribune, which was so upset over the failure of the lights the night before, was happy to note that they burned constantly and kept up a beautiful light during the whole evening. [39] 

Clifford Nowlin, a Kansas music teacher, stated that choral singing throughout the state improved as a result of the jubilee. During the jubilee, a state musical association was formed to hold a festival or musical jubilee yearly. It was agreed that the individual choruses would meet in their respective towns for the purpose of organizing into permanent musical societies. Many of these met and continued the musical and social relationships which had begun in preparation for the united chorus at Bismarck. [40] 

About $20,000 was expended in 1881 for improvements and additions to the buildings and grounds in preparation for the fair. A covered platform 200 feet long was erected at the depot, an engine installed to provide electric lights on the ground, two dining halls built, and the race track area improved. The track itself was graded, rolled, and regraded until it had a smooth, firm surface. In the center of the grandstand a judges' stand and a reporters' stand were built. A track, fenced on both sides, was built inside the racing track so stock could be shown without interfering with the races. At the center of this track or show ring, a judges' stand and a bandstand were erected. In place of the single entrance into the grove, the fence was set back and two gates substituted, one for the entrance and the other for exit. [41] 

In 1881 almost $12,000 was offered in livestock division prize money. Purses for the speed ring amounted to $10,000. Besides this, there was one event for which the winner would receive a reported $10,000, a 20-mile equestrian race between Cricket Still, 15, of Beloit, and Nell Archer, 16, of Sedalia, Mo. Each girl would have eight horses and would change mounts "pony express" style. Although both girls were experienced riders neither had raced before. They practiced for weeks before the race, and during fair week they worked out at sunrise each morning. Popular judgment seemed to be that Still was the better rider, while Archer had the better horses. 

Twelve thousand people were on hand Friday, September 9, 1881, for the Still-Archer race. However, heavy showers the night before had made the track so dangerous that the race was postponed until the next day. The Leavenworth Times of September 10, 1881, reported a heart-broken wail of profanity went rippling through the grandstand at the announcement that the great race was called off. The crowd was disgusted, but bore the disappointment as good humoredly as possible. The management announced that Saturday's admission would be half-price because of the postponement. 

The race was held Saturday afternoon with both girls wearing jockey caps and riding habits of black velvet. On a half-mile track, 40 laps were necessary for the 20-mile race. Miss Still made her changes opposite the grandstand; Miss Archer at the quarter pole. In the excitement the girls' managers did not keep a correct count of the laps. The Still girl made a change of horses with but one quarter of a mile to go, when leading by several yards. During the change the Archer girl crossed the finish line the winner, but no one in the crowd realized it and after 21-1/2 miles, Still thought she had won. She went to her tent while Archer, bravely bearing the defeat, walked with friends. In the judges' and reporters' stands there was a different scene. The reporters had kept a careful record of the race and believed that Archer had won. The judges were also agreed that Archer was the winner, but there was trouble with the timekeepers, which prevented the decision for some time. Finally, the time of the race was announced as 46 minutes and the decision given to Archer. When the news was taken to Still, the Kansas girl nearly fainted, and for an hour was kept in her tent. Friends later raised $50 for a purse to compensate her for not taking the race. The crowd and Still's father were highly displeased. Despite its overall success the 1881 fair closed with thousands of disgruntled people leaving the gates. [42] 

The Liberal encampment in 1881 was held in Ottawa but was practically ignored by the Kansas press. The 1882 annual meeting returned to Bismarck Grove. If they hoped for a better press in Lawrence they were somewhat gratified since the Lawrence Daily Journal did place a reporter on the grounds. This was the only paper to be represented, however, and no other paper gave any indication that such a meeting took place. 

The meeting apparently featured a series of lectures in which the audience was instructed in the Liberal thought instead of the "shouting-speaker" so prevalent two years before. Mrs. M. P. Krekle of Kansas City stated that Liberalism was not satisfied to rest with merely tearing down and quarreling with the superstitions and religious dogmas of the times. They also aimed to do reformatory and educational work. [43] 

The Journal's daily account of the encampment gave the impression of a rather small number of people earnestly seeking to educate and strengthen the beliefs of the members of the group. There was a determination to make Liberalism constructive. Except for a Reverend Swartz, a former Methodist minister, who related his experience away from orthodoxy, Christianity was not attacked. 

With the close of the meeting the Liberals never again used the grove. They held their next annual meeting at Valley Falls and in the 1890's Forest Park, in Ottawa, was the scene of most, if not all, of the Liberal meetings. 

The summer of 1882 saw a decline in the large encampments at Bismarck. Picnics, revivals, reunions, and the Western National Fair provided the excitement. The most unusual attraction that summer was a regatta on the Kaw river as part of the fair's entertainment. Frank E. Holmes, the champion single oarsman of the United States for 1882 and captain of the rowing crew of Pawtucket, R. I., was engaged by the management to superintend the regatta. He surveyed the course which was laid out above the dam at Lawrence. A grandstand and judges' stand were erected. Besides the Pawtucket crew, teams were on hand from St. Louis, Detroit, Hillsdale, Mich., and Burlington, Ia. Ice houses on the north bank of the river were placed at the crew's disposal, for use as boat houses. Great interest was shown in Lawrence and the river banks were lined with 8,000 to 10,000 people on the day of the race. Several races were held before the main event, including a tub race, a swimming race, a double scull race, and then a single scull exhibition by Holmes. The four-oared race was won by the Centennials of Detroit, in 13 minutes and 41 seconds for the mile. The first regatta held west of the Mississippi river was considered a great success. [44] 

For a while in the summer of 1883, it looked as though the 1882 exposition had been the last of the Western National Fairs. The directors met in June and decided not to have a fair because of the railroad's announced rate of two cents per mile on passenger traffic instead of the one-cent fare charge in the past. Two weeks later the committee met and resolved that if the railroads would lower their rate to one and one-half cents per mile and the city of Lawrence raise $1,000 to help with expenses, a fair would be held. Arrangements were made, but the fair seemed to suffer from the lack of early preparation. [45] 

The fair's novelty attraction was the performance of Louise Armaindo, the "champion bicyclist of the world." Miss Armaindo was a 22-year-old, black-eyed French-Canadian brunette. She had recently won a six-day distance contest in Chicago, in which she raced W. J. Morgan, "champion of Canada," and W. M. Woodside, "champion of Ireland," for 12 hours a day, at the end of which she had ridden 843 miles -- beating Morgan by 23 miles and Woodside by 123. At Bismarck, her five-mile race with a Mr. Eck for a purse of $300 attracted much attention. It was not much of a race (won by Armaindo), and according to the Leavenworth Times of September 7, 1883, would not have attracted any notice at all "had it not been for the scanty attire worn by Miss Armaindo." 

A great recovery was made by the fair in 1884. Since the year marked the 30th anniversary of the settlement of Kansas, the old settlers held their reunion at the grove during fair week. The fair brought back memories of the original one in 1880, with its tremendous crowds. All sleeping accommodations on the grounds were filled and many people had to go to Lawrence where beds rented for one dollar per night. 

The 1884 reunion was planned to be a copy of the very successful 25th one, but nationally known speakers did not appear this time. William T. Sherman wrote that he had other appointments, while Ulysses S. Grant said that because of an injury received the winter before, he could not travel and thus would not address the group. Amos Lawrence once again wrote that it had been his greatest hope and desire to see the old settlers, but his health was unequal to the task. 

The 30th reunion then turned out to be primarily a state function, with former governors as the principal speakers. Gov. George W. Glick, ex-governors Charles Robinson, Thomas Carney, and James M. Harvey, and two of the territorial governors, Frederick P. Stanton and James W. Denver, were the chief honored guests. The secretary of war did order a battery of United States artillery from Fort Leavenworth to be present and fire salutes in honor of the occasion. 

Hard rains on the first day of the sixth annual fair, of 1885, caused much discouragement. The second day of the fair, September 8, opened cool and muddy. There was no need for a sprinkler in 1885. Things began to stir on the second afternoon with about 5,000 on the grounds. For a novelty feature this year a horse was given away to the one guessing closest his correct weight. Twenty thousand were there on Thursday and if a big crowd came on Friday (Lawrence day) the fair might "make it" financially. There was heavy rain Thursday night, lowering skies and muddy grounds on Friday, and the crowds stayed home. 

When the judges weighed the $175 prize horse they found that 20 people had guessed his exact weight. It was decided to give each person a 1/20 share of the horse. It is not known what ultimately happened to the animal but some men were buying up shares. [46] 

The Leavenworth Daily Times in 1885 and 1886 refused to advertise the fairs. Its complaint was that although Bismarck was truly beautiful and the only place for a state fair, the management was corrupt, dishonest, and would not pay its debts. Apparently a Times bill was not paid at the end of the 1884 season. The Times contented itself with calling the 1885 fair a "six-day failure" but in 1886 it was called "The Bismarck Fizzle." [47] 

To these negative comments must be added the glowing reports, of the Lawrence Journal and the Topeka Commonwealth, September 10, 1886. The Journal, as it had for years, urged its people to sustain and patronize the fair. It reminded its readers that Lawrence had lost the Chautauqua because proper appreciation was not shown and they should be careful to lose nothing more by their indifference. 

The weather and crowds were good for the seventh fair in 1886. If the Topeka Commonwealth, September 10, can be believed, the people of Kansas City and Leavenworth still knew Bismarck fairs were held in September. On one day Leavenworth sent 18 coachloads of passengers, and Kansas City 16. 

When the fair closed, the Lawrence Journal expressed the hope, that it would continue in the future. Although the Journal declared the fair a financial success, later reports of premiums not yet paid gave indications of trouble. The Atchison Champion probably summed up the true condition by proclaiming the fair "a financial failure." [48] 

The highest attendance day reported at the fair in 1887 was 10,000. This lack of audience did not keep "Patsy Clinker" from running the fastest race recorded to date in Kansas with a 2:14-3/4 mile. The Bismarck record had been set the year before when "Tommy Lynn" had a 2:20 time. 

It was ironic that the Topeka Daily Capital of August 8, 1888, would carry the following concerning the coming 1888 fair. The fair was described as being just as historical as Lawrence and the Grove: 

Year after year it had been held and has attracted. Even when other fair meetings in the state were disastrous, because of the failure of crops, bad seasons, etc., "The Bismarck Fair" has been held and has never been a failure. Its success of course, has been greater at some times than at others, but on the whole the average outcome has been such as to have made this particular fair famed in the state, and with but few rivals in the west.

This, however, was the last year of the historic fair. There was no indication that this was to be, in the advance build-up or in the preparations, but many would look back at "Democratic Day" as the last straw of a fair struggling financially. In an effort to promote attendance, political "days" were designated in which different political clubs held meetings in the tabernacle. Republican day was a success, with some 20,000 on the grounds, as Gov. John A. Martin spoke. 

The day set aside for the meeting of the State League of Democratic Clubs was a day of gloom not only for the Democrats and the fair management, which had given $200 to them in advance to help secure a good attendance, but also to those in charge of lunch stands and dining halls, who had on hand a large supply of food for the expected crowd. The speakers, except for one, were present. The time advertised for the speaking to begin was 10:00, but it was 11:45 before anyone brave enough could call the meeting to order and invite a speaker to address an audience of 57-25 Democrats, 20 Republicans, five ladies, and seven children. 

The probable causes of the failure to open in 1889 were numerous. For years the association operated on shaky financial grounds and one or two rainy days during fair week could mean disaster. "Democratic Day" in 1888 was a disaster. It is presumed that the Union Pacific railroad helped make up the deficit in bad years at first, and when they withdrew financial support the fairs ended. The company's first responsibility was to run a railroad. There were accusations of mismanagement and dishonest dealings which alienated exhibitors and patrons. Competition with Kansas City, which was concerned that the Bismarck fair not overshadow its own, and with the Topeka state fair, tended to wear it down. Lawrence probably did not give the fair the support it deserved. Bismarck, however, was at the northeast edge of Lawrence, separated from most of Lawrence's population by the Kansas river. Many people of Lawrence tended to think of the grove as "over there." It is possible that Lawrence came to take the fair for granted. Several reports, many in Lawrence papers, expressed the opinion that Lawrence merchants did not do all they could do to have exhibits or displays at the fairs. [49] 

The 1890's were not booming years for Bismarck, but rather a period of gradual decline with a burst of activity close to the end of the decade. One new event was the October 1-8, 1890, National Guard encampment with units from Olathe, Kansas City, Fort Scott, Topeka, Lawrence, Howard, Burlingame, and Emporia coming to perform their drills with the famous Seventh U. S. cavalry. Six troops of 45 men each rode five days to reach Bismarck from Fort Riley. They camped on the east part of the grounds with the militia assigned the western half. 

During the week it seemed hard for the militia to become accustomed to army discipline and also to camp food. The regular issue was beef, beans, bacon,, bread, and coffee, with cabbage occasionally. Some of the soldiers supplemented their rations from local sources. This prompted a tongue-in-cheek report from a resident near the grove: 

The roar of cannon and the report of muskets during the sham battles at Bismarck Grove, was the cause perhaps of several dozen chickens and quite a number of young pigs leaving their roosts and pens around the Grove. No traces of the fowls and pigs can be found. [50]

Another series of meetings which used the grove for the first time in the 1890's were the encampments of the Kansas Gospel Union, an offspring of the Young Men's Christian Association. It was organized in the early 1890's with the purpose of training missionaries for service in foreign lands. It held its first encampment the last 10 days of July in 1892, when over 200 Bible students pitched their tents near the old Art ball. The meetings were held for four consecutive years. [51] 

Some events of the 1890's were recapitulations of the 1880's. The emancipation celebrations fell in this category. Emancipation meetings were held in Bismarck in the 1880's, but the largest ones were in the 1890's. The date celebrated predated Lincoln's emancipation proclamation by 30 years. The Negroes observed August 1, 1834, the day the British freed slaves in the West Indies. Sometimes the celebration featured speakers while in other years, picnics, games, and dancing formed the entertainment. 

Picnics in the grove and excursions to it from neighboring cities continued throughout the 1890's. The first big picnic of the decade was on August 12, 1890, when a large number of farmers held a "Grand Alliance Celebration." Between five and ten thousand came to hear political speakers, including Mary E. Lease, who urged the farmers to forget the Republican and Democratic parties in favor of the People's party. [52] 

The Fraternal Aid Society, an insurance order founded in Lawrence in 1890, celebrated its seventh anniversary on October 14, 1897, with a large free picnic in the grove which featured a football game between Haskell Indian Institute and the University of Kansas. An estimated 5,000 were on the grounds to witness Haskell defeat Kansas 6-0. [53] 

The 1890's featured three fairs at the grove, all local in nature. The first was held in 1894 because of the initiative of one man, A. E. Ashbrook of Kansas City. It was his proposition to fix up the grove, meet all the expenses of running a fair and pay the race track speed ring purses. He asked only that the Lawrence people raise enough money to pay the catalog premiums on displays. 

It was a good local fair with displays, horse and bicycle racing, and "Political days." It is not known whether Ashbrook made money on the enterprise but he did not again attempt a fair at Bismarck. 

During the middle 1890s fairs were held in Lawrence under the sponsorship of the Kaw Valley Fair Association. In September, 1897, it held a successful fair at the "driving park" in south Lawrence. This success encouraged the association to consider buying Bismarck Grove from the new owners of the Union Pacific railroad, which had been sold in the late fall of 1897. The deal was made in July 15, 1898, and notices were sent to all stockholders notifying them of its purchase. The grove would have to pay its way and the directors seemed assured that it would. 

A caretaker was employed by the association and under his direction the work of putting the buildings in repair begun. Street cars in Lawrence began carrying signs saying that Bismarck was open to the public, that cars made regular trips to the grove on Sunday and that picnic cars could be secured for any occasion. [54] To the Lawrence Journal it sounded like old times to hear people talking about going to Bismarck Grove. For about six years before the association bought the grove, it had taken special permission to be admitted. According to the Journal of August 30, 1898, Lawrence people had come to look back upon Bismarck days as of the long-lost past, and now that everyone was talking and thinking Bismarck, it seemed to the old residents as though their youth was being renewed. 

The fair held as Bismarck in 1898 did not pay expenses because of cold, wet weather and in 1899 the fair consisted chiefly of horse racing and little else. 

The association was not able to make Bismarck pay financially and in the spring of 1900, Capt. W. S. Tough of Kansas City bought the grounds for $10,000. He was well acquainted with the grove, having raced his horses there during the 1880's. The grove was then turned into a supply station for his horse and mule market in Kansas City. When picnickers from Vermont school were refused entrance into Bismarck Grove in early June, 1900, because it was occupied by wild horses, an era of history came to an end. [55]

Notes

Jim L. Lewis, a graduate of William Jewell College and the University of Kansas and formerly a teacher of American history at Lawrence High School, is a field representative with the Bureau of Lecture and Concert Artists, Lawrence. 

1. Daily Republican Journal, Lawrence, October 28, December 7, 1870, hereafter cited as Journal; Kansas Daily Tribune, Lawrence, December 7, 1870, hereafter cited as Tribune.
2. Journal, September 3, 1878.
3. Journal, September 8, 10, 1878.
4. Leavenworth Times, August 19,1879.
5. Ibid., August 21, 1879.
6. Ibid., August 22,1879.
7. Ibid., August 27,1879.
8. John Vincent, The Chautauqua Movement (Boston, 1888) P. 292; Daily Commonwealth, Topeka, August 5, 16, 1879, hereafter cited as Commonwealth.
9. Topeka Daily Capital, September 4, 5, 1879, hereafter cited as Capital.
10. Ibid., September 5, 1879.
11. Ibid., September 9, 11, 1879.
12. Commonwealth, September 11, 1879.
13. Journal, September 16, 1879; Lawrence Evening Standard, September 16, 1879; Leavenworth Times, September 16, 1879; Tribune, September 16, 1879.
14. Journal, September 17, 1879; Tribune, September 17, 1879.
15. Ibid., September 22, 1879.
16. The Western Home Journal, Lawrence, December 4, 1879.
17. Leavenworth Times, August 24, 1880; Kansas City (Mo.) Times, September 12, 1880; Journal, August 1, 1880.
18. Leavenworth Times, August 13, 1879, August 24, 1880; Commonwealth, September 5, 14, 1880; Tribune, July 6, 1880; Kansas City (Mo.) Times, September 12, 1880; Journal, August 1, 1880.
19. Journal, September 14, 16-19, 1880; Leavenworth Times, September 16, 18, 1880; Commonwealth, September 12, 1880.
20. Ibid., September 19, 1880; Daily Capital, September 18, 1880.
21. Ibid., August 14, 15, 1880.
22. Capital, August 24, 1880; Commonwealth, August 24, 1880; Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, August 24, 1880.
23. Journal, August 26, 1880; Capital, August 25, 1880.
24. Ibid., August 30, 1880; Commonwealth, August 31, 1880; Journal, August 31, 1880.
25. Ibid., September 5, 1880.
26. Kansas City Times, September 6, 1880; Tribune, September 6, 1880.
27. Kansas City Times, September 7, 1880; Tribune, September 6, 1880; Capital, September 7, 1880.
28. Journal, July 7, 9, 10, 12, 1881; Commonwealth, July 13, 1881.
29. Capital, July 12, 1881.
30. Sometime later, probably hoping a change in location would boost attendance, the board made plans for the meeting to be he in Hartzell's Park (now Garfield) in Topeka. The park accommodations were primitive in comparison to Bismarck's and the assembly did not pay expenses. In 1883, with a citizen of Ottawa as its president, the encampment was moved to Forest Park where it found a home. It was a financial success for the first time in 1883 and gained fame as the "Ottawa Chautauqua."
31. Kansas City Times, August 11, 1881; Capital, August 12, 1881.
32. Ibid., August 12, 1881; Commonwealth, August 12, 1881; Journal, August 12, 1881.
33. Capital, August 16, 1881; Commonwealth, August 16, 1881.
34. Capital, August 18, 1881.
35. Journal, August 13, 1895.
36. C. E. Leslie, Kansas State Musical Jubilee (Chicago, 1881), preface; Clifford Nowlin, "Kansas State Musical Jubilee," Kansas Magazine, Manhattan, 1948, pp. 1, 7, 8. Journal, August 21, 1881.
37. Leslie, Kansas State Musical Jubilee, preface.
38. Tribune, August 19, 1881; Journal, August 19, 1881.
39. Kansas City Times, August 20, 1881; Leavenworth Times, August 20, 1881; Tribune, August 20, 1881.
40. Nowlin, "Musical Jubilee," pp. 19, 20; Journal, August 21, 1881.
41. Capital, August 19, 25, 1881.
42. Journal, September 11, 1881.
43. Ibid., September 5, 1882.
44. Commonwealth, September 20, 1882; Journal, September 20, 1882; Capital, September 20, 1882; Leavenworth Times, September 21, 1882; Kansas City Star, September 21, 1882.
45. Journal, June 27, July 15, 1883.
46. Ibid., September 12, 13, 1885.
47. Leavenworth Times, September 14, 1885, September 11, 1886.
48. Journal, September 12, 25, 1886; Atchison Champion, September 25, 1886.
49. Journal, September 8, 10, 1885; August 15, September 10 1886; August 31, September 6, 1887; Commonwealth, September 12, 1885; September 6, 1987; Tribune, September 9, 1885.
50. Lawrence Daily Record, October 7, 1890.
51. Journal, July 20, 1892; July 24, 1894.
52. Lawrence Journal-Tribune, August 12,1890; Kansas City (Mo.) Star, August 12, 1890.
53. Journal, October 14, 15, 1897.
54. Ibid., August 9, 11, 1898.
55. Ibid., April 18, June 7, 1900.