Sunday, October 13, 2013

Guest Blogger, Charlotte Hinger: Bleeding Kansas

If when you hear “Kansas” you think Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, think again.   After all, this is Murder is Everywhere, and tossing water on a witch doesn’t cut it here.  We’re talking prime time bloody murder and mayhem and no state in the US can lay better claim to that sort of a past than “Bleeding Kansas.”

Charlotte Hinger is a Kansas historian, novelist, and friend who has won awards for both fiction and non-fiction writing.  She believes historical investigation and solving mysteries go hand in hand, applying her research skills to academic sleuthing and her depraved imagination to murder most foul.

Her first novel, “Come Spring,” a historical novel published by Simon & Schuster, won the Western Writers of America Medicine Pipe Award and was a finalist for the Spur award. Her first mystery in the Lottie Albright series, “Deadly Descent,” won the Arizona book publisher award for best mystery and earned a starred Kirkus review.

Charlotte’s third book in that series, “Hidden Heritage” will be out in November and has received another starred review from Kirkus Reviews stating that “the third case for Lottie is filled with surprising historical information, social commentary, romance and a strong mystery.”  The series is published by Poisoned Pen Press.

Seriously? Am I suggesting that Kansas is a separate country? Actually, yes. My beloved Kansas has a unique history. The nickname, “Bleeding Kansas” originated before Kansas was a state. It started when we were Kansas Territory. At one time we had four constitutions. Simultaneously, because there were four warring factions.

The groundwork for the Civil War was laid in Kansas because the United States changed the rules regarding slavery. The citizens of each new state admitted to the union could decide whether to be pro-slavery or a slave free state.

All hell broke loose. Over 200 people were killed before the Civil War ever began. Towns were burned. Missouri bushwackers (pro-slave) crossed the state line to skew elections.

Kansas was in the forefront of other civil rights. We were one of the first states to allow women to sit on juries, own property, divorce their husbands, and vote. This was largely due to the influence of the magnificent governor John Pierce St. John.

Fugitive from slavery.

Free-state guerillas (Jayhawkers) retaliated. Both sides raided, pillaged and burned.

John Brown--our favorite abolitionist--his portrait is in the state capital

The state became a beacon of hope for southern African Americans. After the failure of Reconstruction ex-slaves flocked to Kansas. The flood of “Exodusters” pouring into the state so depleted the supply of labor in the Southern states that in 1880 the United States Senate formed a committee to investigate the “Causes of the Movement of the Negro from the Southern States to the Northern States.” 

John Pierce St. John

The Latin motto on our Great Seal, Ad Astra Per Aspera means To the Stars Through Difficulties. With wry humor, Kansans developed the mentality that if it wasn’t hard, it didn’t count. Early settlers had no choice but to pull themselves together and figure out how to survive. But in short order they transformed the Great American Desert into the Breadbasket of the World.

As a writer, I find there’s no place like the prairie for thinking. In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay, “the world stands out on either side, no wider than the heart is wide.” It’s easier to stretch one’s heart when the earth meets the blue sky in a perfect circle.

Charlotte Hinger—Guest Posting Sunday


  1. Fool that I am, I thought Kansas was only known for great basketball and Glen Campbell's mega-hit (Jimmy Webb's timeless) "Wichita Lineman." I learn something new from you everyday, Charlotte. Thanks.

  2. Where there's people there's mayhem, it seems. You heard it here first. (And yes, Jeff, I'm including your little piece of paradise many degrees around the globe.)

    Thanks for the column, Charlotte! Very enlightening.

  3. Jeff, as my favorite lawyer, you'll appreciate the fact the Kansas was the state with the famous lawsuit that ended segregation. It's the oddest mixture of liberalism and conservatism of any of the states.

  4. Great history has Kansas! Thanks for blogging.
    This proves it: I've only come across great people from Kansas.
    I will add Lottie Albright to my list of TBR detectives.

  5. Everett, my murders usually originate through family tensions and what's going on the state adds to the mix. Instead of "money. Always follow the money" out here it's "the land. Always follow the land.".

  6. Kathy--that's so kind of you. I have a blazing loyalty to the state--warts and all. Thanks for your curiosity about my series.