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Posted on: May 22, 2020

The Story Begins

The story begins

Imagine that the walls around us dissolve. All the bricks and lumber fall away. The buildings outside melt and disappear. There are no streets, no cars, no campus. 

A breeze ruffles your hair. Above you is sky, blue with fat white clouds. All around tall grass sways, brushing against your legs. Blue stem, switch grass: tall clumps and shorter, denser stalks as far as you can see. Wild flowers nod their heads, and off in the distance where the creek runs, tall green-leafed trees throw down lacy blankets of shade.  

You hear the buoyant call of a meadowlark. A prairie chicken pops up above the grass, nipping at a fly. You hear rustling in the grass, some small animal hunting or taking cover. This ground beneath you is also padded by larger hooves and paws. Elk, black bears, mountain lions, wolves. And if the time is right you may see brown herds of bison dotting the landscape. 

Look to the south, where plumes of smoke rise, creeping closer and closer until you see red and orange flames. Fires are part of the the cycle of life here. They start in the south, sparked by lightning, then the wind carries the fire to us, the flames eating the vegetation as they come, leaving swaths of flat black ash in their wake. New, fresh stalks and tiny leaves erupt from the ashes like a fine green carpet in the spring, a lush buffet for bison to feed on. 

Moving and flowing with all this life are communities of people who have lived in and around this place for centuries. They are called Kaw...and Osage, Delaware, Kickapoo, Shawnee.

Change is coming. And like the prairie fires it will consume; it will change this place into something new. To the east, a trail is forming. Lines of wagons jostle and bounce their way west, following the high ridge of the land we sit on. They follow the high ground to avoid the mud that can eat wagon wheels and sink dreams. 

A path is cut into the prairie. A path that will become a trail. A trail that will feed a town. This is the beginning of the story that grows and expands and continues on until you find your way here, to this site, where you can learn a little about how it all came to be. 

Welcome to the story of Baldwin City.

- by Wendy Conover, Library Director

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