Missouri town still hates Jayhawks

Today in Midwestern news, the Missouri town of Osceola has passed a resolution asking that the University of Kansas retire the Jayhawk from being the school's official mascot.

To understand why, you have to know a little about 19th-century U.S. history. Thanks to congressional compromises that allowed some new states and territories to vote on whether or not they'd allow slavery, Kansas and Missouri started fighting the Civil War about a decade before the rest of the country. Missouri was a slave state. Kansas' status was up in the air. The result was a series of cross-border battles and raids aimed at destroying free-state strongholds, retaliating against slave-state strongholds, and generally intimidating people on both sides of the fence. For a while, Kansas even had dueling free-state and slave-state capital cities, which drafted their own unilateral state constitutions and, occasionally, raided each other for official state documents.

While the "Jayhawks" are today represented by a large, imaginary bird (and/or an alt-country band), they were, originally, the free-state militia. In September of 1861, this militia raided Osceola, killing at least a dozen men and burning a good chunk of the town. And the citizens of Osceola, it seems, are still pretty pissed about this and consider the mascot Jayhawk to be an example of Kansans rubbing salt in the wound.

Along with suggesting that KU change its team name, the resolution calls on the University of Missouri to make sure the full story of the Border War is told and not just the story of William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kan., in August 1863. That attack featured many guerrillas shouting “Remember Osceola.”

And the resolution calls on Missourians to stop spelling Kansas or KU with a capital letter, as “neither is a proper name or a proper place.”

“I don’t expect them to do anything,” Rick Reed of Osceola, who brought the resolution to the aldermen, said of KU. “They are so arrogant and uppity.”

Now, an arrogant and uppity KU alum might take this moment to remind the good citizens of Osceola that the attack on their city did not happen in a vacuum. Free-staters in Kansas, including in Lawrence, had been defending themselves against attack from within and without the state for several years before the Osceola raid. And that it is generally accepted that pro-slavery forces started the violence. She also might wonder aloud what the heck any of this has to do with Kansas being a proper noun.

Or, your know, we could just acknowledge that a good deal of random violence happened on both sides. And it happened a long time ago. And neither Kansans nor Missourians are currently oppressing one another, nor particularly suffering from long-term fallout of that past violence. Nor does the name "Jayhawk" degrade any living people. So, maybe, this whole thing is just a bit silly.

Thanks to Sarah and Justin Henning!


  1. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

    I enjoy our little rivalry with the folks to the east (although ‘rivalry’ implies some degree of competition, and given that Missouri has never been to a Final 4 or a BCS football bowl game, it’s hardly much of a rivalry, at least on athletic terms).

    I would add that of course, this originates in the Civil War, and Kansas was fighting for freedom, whereas Missouri was fighting for the right to…own slaves.

    In the end, Abe SImpson said it best:

    Lisa: Grandpa, your flag only has 49 stars
    Abe: I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missouri!

    1. I would add that of course, this originates in the Civil War, and Kansas was fighting for freedom, whereas Missouri was fighting for the right to…own slaves.

      Which is, I think, why we tend to win these arguments. And also why I find Mr. Rick Reed’s anger more than a little creepy. 

    2. Now, I admit that KU has consistently had one of the best basketball teams of ANY junior college in these United States, but to try and bust Mizzou over football?  I’m guessing you haven’t watched much KU football in the past century.

      /Happily living on State Line Road…

      1. Now I will freely admit this year’s Missouri football team might be slightly better then the Kansas version – but in any rivalry that extends back to the Civil War we must look at history and Mizzou’s history is bereft of any BCS bowl victories although they have plenty of fifth down and miracle kick losses to make up for it!

  2. Using “Uppity” when describing a name that has its history steeped in the fight to free black slaves?  Oh, Mr. Reed, could you be any more transparent??

  3. “And neither Kansans nor Missourians are currently oppressing one another”

    Haven’t seen any Mizzou and KU games lately, huh?  Just wear your crimson and blue into Columbia and see what happens!

    Rock Chalk!

  4. In The Outlaw Josey Wales, Clint Eastwood’s family farm was attacked by ‘Red Legs,’ or a Union militia formed from Jayhawkers.

  5. This is silly to the point of being preposterous. How many generations have gone by since Reconstruction? This can only happen by people continuing to fill their kids’ heads up with hateful spite and sore-losership. It’s long past time to let it go.

  6. I can understand why Kansans cling so much to the Jayhawks, as they and the Wildcats (er, make that Eco-cats) are the only sports teams you have to root for. Three professional sports teams play within two miles of where I now sit (downtown St. Louis), which is three more than play in the whole state of Kansas. And there are more on the other side of the state. We think about Kansas about as much as we think about South Dakota.

    1. “We think about Kansas about as much as we think about South Dakota.”

      The entirety of this article and the actions it covers seem to thoroughly debunk your claim.  If Missourans don’t spend their days and nights thinking about Kansas, then why are they whining about a name in Kansas?

      1. The people in this article are from some place that obviously does think a lot about Kansas, but they are not representative of the majority of the state.

    2. To be fair, Sporting KC (Once the Kansas City Wizards) are now based out of Kansas City, Kansas.  The T-Bones play in KCK as well, and maybe they’re not MLB, but it was a fair bit more fun to watch than a Royals game. 

      They are even getting another chance to watch cars drive fast in a circle!

      OK, so maybe this wouldn’t be possible without the population on the MO side of the border to support it as well…

  7. Is this why there is a confusingly named Kansas City in Missouri?  Fraid I don’t know much about the history.

    1. The city of Kansas City (which of course was once simply the Town of Kansas) incorporated in 1853, in the already existing state of Missouri.  The state of Kansas became a state in 1861, 8 years later. 

      Also keep in mind that this is where the Kansas River meets with and empties into the Missouri, and the Kansas River is where both Town/City and State take the name Kansas from.  The river in turn pulled it’s name from the Kanza people, also known as the Kaw.

      Why yes, I have answered this question a few times, why do you ask?

  8. When I lived in St. Louis, I thought the big chip on native Missourian’s shoulders was with Indiana (“Hoosier” is not a term of endearment there.) Looks like I missed the bigger story. Of course most of Missouri would gladly trade St. Louis to Indiana or even Kansas so the remainder of Missouri could go about setting up their Randite, Christian utopia.

    1. Halfway through my formative years growing up in Indiana, my family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, around here, if the word Hoosier means anything more than “another good basketball school”, “a brand of tire” or “a movie starring Gene Hackman” to someone, chances are you’ve found another Indiana transplant.

      It’s always seemed to me that the bias against Hoosier is more of a St Louis or Illinois thing.

  9. I’m sorry to all the college sports fans, but I think the much more interesting story is the grammatical one. How the heck is “Kansas” not a proper noun? I want to hear that argument! 

      1. Maggie, it wasn’t in the article. I did a Google search for details on the Osceola raid and learned about the freeing of the slaves that way. On a side note, my wife and I adopted a dog from the Osceola animal shelter a couple years ago and the people there were as nice as can be. One lady in particular named Letichia works tirelessly to find homes for dogs that come from puppy mills that have been raided. She has her hands full as 30% of the nation’s puppy mills are in Missouri and she has almost no budget to work with. When the lady doing our paperwork saw that we were from Lawrence, she looked at our dog and said with a smile “It looks like you’re going to be a Jayhawk.” I disagree with their resolution to ban the Jayhawk, but I have nothing but good things to say about the people we met that day in Osceola.

  10. They weren’t freeing slaves because they liked black people. The first Kansas constitution not only outlawed slavery, it also banned all African Americans from the state – whether they were slave or free. Freeing slaves was a military tactic intended to deprive the enemy of labor power.

    1. And the fact that Missouri was “the enemy” in the first place had nothing to do with slavery, huh?

      And apparently the militia that conducted the raid were the same people at the constitutional convention, because they were both Kansans.

      This line of reasoning seems far from ironclad.

    2. That’s only a partial truth.  That constitution was one of four proposed constitutions.  Another proposed constitution had a bill of rights that made no distinction between white men and black men, as well as provided basic civil rights for women.  Because of its reputation as a free state, many African Americans moved to Kansas, especially Lawrence, KS.  Many communities had integrated schools even in the nineteenth century.  KU had its first African American graduate in 1885. 

  11. Where I come from (a hypothermic, cyanotic, ergo blue state), I’m ill-accustomed to seeing Kansas under attack from conservatives.

    1. Hey respect the Osceola Cheese! Stop and eat some it is delish…. enjoying the comments though. I am from Wichita and went to MU in Columbia…lol.

  12. I was understanding this to be typical Southern/pro-Confederate blather at first, but then it threw me when he all of a sudden went completely certifiable:

    And the resolution calls on Missourians to stop spelling Kansas or KU with a capital letter, as “neither is a proper name or a proper place.”

    Can anyone even describe what’s going through his head there? You don’t have to sympathise with him, just… any clue at all as to what he’s saying?Maybe it’s a pun on “proper place,” like, it’s not a place where people are proper?

  13. Where do you think “John Brown” came from?  Sometimes referred  to as John Brown of Kansas.
    (Just look at a few of the band “Kansas” album covers).  These politically correct idiots that want teams to drop mascots because they “offend” someone is just a bunch of BS.  I wish some school would adopt a mascot of the middle finger, just to piss someone off.

  14. Hey, I’m all for the right to fly the Confederate flag. If you really want to advertise that you feel some attachment to the side that wanted to own people, you go right ahead. But fair’s fair. You don’t get to say a word against those who want to fly a symbol that says, “Our forebears fought for the rights of oppressed people of another race.” Now that’s a past worth hanging on to, a tradition worth upholding.

    Jayhawks, Fuck Yeah!

  15. Note that September of 1861 (the raid on Osceola) was late enough in the Missouri-Kansas border war that it was actually after it. It was during the Civil War itself.

  16. I’m from Lawrence, myself.

    Tell those racist, slave-owning Bushwhackers from Osceola that we will gladly raid their little den of iniquity town again if they didn’t get the point the first time.

    Kansas has always been proud to be a Free State and willing to fight for it.

  17. Argh – I had the perfect smart assed response and don’t think I hit ‘post’.  So it’s now too late but:

    Osceola is now known for its cheese, which goes perfect with their whine.

    ETA – oops – I guess I did post it earlier. Had my ‘find’ set to ‘match case’. Sorries.

  18. Offense garbage. Only in America do you have people celebrating genocide that was committed long ago. Choosing to still celebrate the icon and symbol means you are the enemy and not my friend.

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