The town of Quindaro, in what is now Kansas City, Kansas was founded in 1856 as a port of entry for free soil immigrants into Kansas. The principal founder was Abelard Guthrie, who named the town for his Wyandot Indian wife, Nancy Quindaro Brown. The town site stretched from 17th to 42nd Street and from Parallel to the Missouri River. The Missouri River was then west of the present location, exposing a rock ledge that formed a natural levee for steamboat landings. The main street of the town was intended to be Kansas Avenue, but is now 27th Street and was never cut through to the river.
Quindaro became an important station on the Underground railway, with slaves escaping from Platte county crossing the river in small boats and secret runs of the Parkville-Quindaro Ferry. The runaways hid with local farmers before traveling to Nebraska and freedom. With the outbreak of Civil War the town was abandoned by most of the inhabitants. The young men enlisted and their families moved to other communities for safety. The town's incorporation was revoked by the Kansas State legislature in 1862 and the site never fully revitalized.
Western University began as the Quindaro Freedman's School which was founded in the 1860s by the Presbyterian Minister, Eben Blachley. The Freedman's School educated the children of escaped slaves and black families that had begun to settle in the area. The school became inactive following the death of Reverend Blachley in 1877, but was reopened in 1882 under the sponsorship of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1891 the school was renamed Western University and moved from the valley to Ward Hall, which was erected near 27th and Sewell. It was the earliest school for African Americans west of the Mississippi River and the only one ever to operate in the state of Kansas. By 1910, there was a flourishing campus with many fine buildings. Western University was severely affected by the Great Depression, and finally closed in the 1940s.
Today, the only physical remains of Western University are some cornerstones and the statue of the famous Kansas abolitionist, John Brown, which was erected in 1911.
The ruins of Quindaro now belong to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the City of Kansas City, Kansas. There is a stone platform overlooking the ruins, but the ruins themselves may only be visited by tour arranged at (913) 573-5100.
You may also visit the two Quindaro Cemeteries. On is located at 38th and Parallel and has become a part of the Mount Hope Cemetery. The second Quindaro Cemetery is located at 34th and Sewell Avenue.
A small museum was started nearby in 2009 - Old Quindaro Museum & Information Center at 3432 North 29th Street, Kansas City, Kansas 66104. The sign at the museum says that you may call (913) 244-8207 and someone will come to the museum to meet you in 5 minutes. I hope you have better luck than I did. I made an appointment in advance to visit the museum, but no one was there when I arrived. I called the number again at that time, but got only an answering machine and my call was never returned.
copyright 2006-2011 by Keith Stokes