Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum

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The Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum has a small but rich collection of local memorabilia including exhibits on the original African-American settlements in the area, the “Border Wars” and the Underground Railroad that passed through the area.

Other temporary exhibits focus on local transportation, agriculture and veterinary medicine. The Museum houses a variety of historical records and objects as well as genealogical records and welcomes research requests.

MUSEUM HISTORY:rnWhen plans for damming the Wakarusa River south of Lawrence by the Corps of Engineers started fruition in the 1960s, of special interest was a red brick house located high on a hill above and east of the town of Clinton. It was acquired by the Corps in February of 1972 and scheduled for demolition.

A tremendous amount of research found the house of Col. J.C. Stelle to be of ‘historic’ interest, and furthermore, the valley was a minefield of history from the Bloomington Guards, the Underground Railroad, The First Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and the home of Free State abolitionist, mostly Quakers, who paid with their lives to make Kansas free.

The Historical Society was incorporated in 1979, and the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans were made for developing the house and that the Corps had agreed “to renovate the historical J.C. Steele house” and make it available to the public as a museum. It would become “one of the highlights of Clinton Lake.” “Promises made and promise broken!” The house was dismantled in 1981. The Clinton Lake Historical Society opened their museum in restored milk shed in 1983.

After 25 years, the board of directors made the decision that a new modern museum must be built to collect and interpret the history of the 10 communities affected by the construction of Clinton Lake.

Representative Sculpture – The idea of the “guiding light” has an architectural form tied to the river symbol and to local history. Members of the society and friends from afar hope that “Freedom Rings” will become the virtual anchor for telling the valley history that has been theirs for generations.

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