Abuse and Murder on the Frontier

Bill Bundschu will present his book, Abuse and Murder on the Frontier: the Trials and Travels of Rebecca Hawkins: 1800-1860, at the Westport Public Library on May 10, at 2 pm. A reception with refreshments will be hosted afterwards at the 1855 Harris-Kearney House Museum, located across the street at 40th Street & Baltimore.

Rebecca Hawkins was put on trial in 1838 for the poisoning and murder of her husband, a farmer and grist mill operator on the Little Blue River in Jackson County. The outcome of her trial was significantly influenced by the testimony of her slave.

After nearly two decades of physical abuse at the hand of her husband, Rebecca conspired with her neighbor, Henry Garster, to put a stop to it. She was convicted of poisoning her husband, but only Garster was convicted of the actual murder. Garster was hanged at the Temple Lot in Independence, the first legal hanging in Jackson County. But was Rebecca’s story unique among frontier women? Bill Budnschu’s presentation of her life reveals much about women, slaves, and otherwise unknown persons who led quiet, yet at times desperate lives on the American frontier.

The Westport Public Library is located at 118 Westport Road.

About Bill Bundschu

Bill is a retired attorney who resides in Independence, MO with his wife Betty. He is a member of the Jackson County Historical Society and Heritage League of Greater Kansas City. He became interested in early American history while biking over 53,000 miles through most of the major historic trails in the US, including the Santa Fe Trail, Natchez Trace, the Lewis and Clark Trail, and Route 66. He has published several articles in historic and law journals. In addition to Abuse and Murder on the Frontier, he has also written Karl Gregor Bunschu, To And In America: 1851-1892, and The A. J. Bundschu Company, the Dominant Store in Independence. About the 1855 Harris-Kearney House Museum and the Westport Historical Society

Located at 4000 Baltimore, in Kansas City, MO, the 1855 Harris-Kearney House is the oldest remaining residence in Kansas City. The house was built by the Harris family in 1855, and is now a museum owned and operated by the Westport Historical Society. The WHS was founded in 1956 to promote, preserve, and foster public interest in the significant history of Westport, Missouri, the Town of Kansas, and Missouri, as well as their founders.

The 1855 Harris-Kearney House Museum is open for tours Wednesday-Saturday, from 1-5pm. For more information, visit our website, www.westporthistorical.com. Contact us at 816-561-1821, westporthistorical@gmail.com. Find us on Facebook.

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