From Hogback Ridge to Mt. Oread
On August 1, 1854, twenty-nine free-state settlers of the New England Emigrant Aid Company arrived at the
spot below Hogback Ridge, the site chosen for settlement of the group by Dr. Charles Robinson and Charles Branscomb. This group of men had high aspirations for the city- Promote the entry of Kansas into the Union as a free state, and establish a site for education of settlers in the region.
The New England Emigrant Aid Company was the brainchild of educator Eli Thayer. Thayer operated the Oread Institute in Worcester, MA, a school for girls. He approached Amos Lawrence (the city’s namesake) for funding of the journey west to the Kansas Territory. As early as 1855 the settlers were attempting to establish a university on top of Hogback Ridge, now known as Mount Oread in honor of Eli Thayer.
But with funding in short supply, and hostilities in the region robbing the citizens of Lawrence with the means to establish a school, plans were discarded, and new plans made. Sheriff Jones and about 800 southern sympathizers led a rampage on Lawrence in 1856, destroying many important areas of the new city including the Free State Hotel and the newspaper presses.
In 1859 another attempt to start “Lawrence University” began. But again, the lack of funding held the city back and all that was constructed on Mt. Oread was the foundation for a building. In 1863, After Blue Mont Central College in Manhattan became the land-grant school known as Kansas State Agricultural College, the state University would go to either Emporia or Lawrence. With land already secured on Mt. Oread, and with $10,000 from financial backer Amos Lawrence, the city of Lawrence was chosen by the Kansas Legislature to become the home of Kansas State University (now the University of Kansas) and Emporia would host the Kansas Normal School.
Then more hostilities in Lawrence set the city back again as William Quantrill and his band of about 400 raiders murdered up to 200 men and boys and burned much of the City of Lawrence on August 21, 1863. It would take the city until 1866 to finally get the state university open. A small three-story building, known as North College, was constructed on top of the foundation originally built for Lawrence University. With the building still under construction, three faculty members and fifty-five students gathered in North College during the week of September 12, 1866 for the beginning of the University of Kansas. The dream of the original settlers had finally been realized.