2022 ALP Conference - Leavenworth, Kansas

The Association of Lincoln Presenters

The Association of Lincoln Presenters
2022 ALP Conference
April 21-24, 2022
Leavenworth, KS

Leavenworth, Kansas: Looking Back at 2022 Conference

Submitted by Host Murray Cox

As you know, we were finally able to hold the 26th conference of the Association of Lincoln Presenters after two years of postponements. We met in Leavenworth, Kan., to learn of Lincoln’s 1859 visit there, and to hear of the events in “Bleeding Kansas” that preceded the U.S. Civil War. We were a small group compared to past conferences, with nine Mary Lincolns, 14 Abrahams, plus four non-members, as well as a photographer from Reuters News Service and one from The Netherlands. But it was a good group, and not so large that one got overlooked in a crowd.

We were based in a hotel in Leavenworth, which was nearby the Riverfront Conference Center, a beautiful 1800s train station that has been maintained and now serves as a community facility. It was there we had our meals while in town, held our business meeting, and heard from several speakers. Thursday night we met there for some socializing, and were joined by a few folks from the community. Mayor Camalla Lionheart welcomed us, and we heard John Altenbernd, who portrayed John Brown, telling us of his early life and some of his deeds in Kansas.

Friday it was off to Fort Leavenworth, escorted by the retired director of public affairs, who cleared us into the fort without having to stop to verify our IDs. One half of our group stayed on the bus to tour the fort, while others went to the Frontier Army Museum on the grounds. Featured there were civilian and military displays of the past, including the buggy that Abraham Lincoln rode in during a part of his Kansas trip. Later, the bus tour also stopped at the museum for a brief stay and a group photo.

It was then on to the conference center to have lunch, and to hear from Joe Bailey, Fort Leavenworth historian, and from George Pettigrew, who portrayed an ancestor of his who was one of the Buffalo Soldiers (the four regiments of black men organized after the Civil War for frontier service). We then carpooled to the University of St. Mary to view a part of its Lincoln Collection, including a signed original of the 13th Amendment. We departed there to view pictures of the era maintained by a local bank, which sits on the site of Stockton’s Hall, where Lincoln gave his Leavenworth speech. The men stayed there to hear Kevin Wood give his carefully recreated “Lost Speech” of Lincoln’s, while the ladies went back to the hotel for their tea and to hear a local historian speak on women’s suffrage.

Friday night we heard our keynote speech from Carol Ayres, who was actually with us once before, in 2002 at our Ft. Wayne conference, and who wrote a book on Lincoln’s travel and visit to Kansas in December 1859. Following her talk, we were treated to an outstanding presentation by our beardless Lincoln, Joe Woodard, who gave “Lincoln’s First Speech in Leavenworth, Kansas,” which he had carefully recreated based in newspaper reports.

Saturday we boarded a bus and went to nearby Lecompton. We watched (and some took part in) an audience participation production, Bleeding Kansas. Initially, its format consisted of speeches at a public meeting in Kansas, and dealt with the early hostilities in Kansas as it struggled with violence from both the free-state and slave-state sides trying to form a Constitution for Kansas statehood. It then segued into the testimony of the widow of one of John Brown’s victims, then on to John Brown in events after leaving Kansas, and concluded with him on his way to the gallows.

We visited Constitution Hall (the oldest wooden building in Kansas), where the Slave State Lecompton Constitution was drafted, and where we were told of the importance that building played in our country’s history. We also enjoyed a fried chicken and mashed potato lunch prepared by members of the local Methodist Church.

The folks at Lecompton were extremely happy– one might even say ecstatic — that we were there. They received newspaper coverage from nearby Lawrence before we arrived, and received additional coverage on Saturday from Lawrence and Kansas City, which brought them a great deal of attention, not to mention free publicity. It was great that our visit could work so well for them.

Finally, it was a short bus tour through Lawrence to see some points of historical interest, then back to the hotel for some R & R before our annual business meeting. Prior to the meeting, we were entertained at dinner by The Harvey Girls, who told the story of Fred Harvey, who set up feeding sites for early train travelers — a business that extended into the mid-1900s.

With some distance to travel, several of the attendees had to leave to return home early Sunday, while five of the Abrahams attended services at the Leavenworth Presbyterian Church, where they were warmly welcomed.

That’s enough for this year’s event. I hope you will be able to be in Springfield in 2023 for our 27th conference.