Forget ruffled Jayhawk feathers and decades-long rivalries between Missouri and Kansas over football and basketball. During the original Border Wars, back in the 1800s, there was so much more at stake than in the game set for Oct. 22 at Sprint Center between the Jayhawks and Tigers.
Author Gary Jenkins’ latest book, The Immortal 10: A Story from the Kansas Underground Railroad, tells the fascinating story of Dr. John Doy. One of the original settlers of Lawrence, KS, Abolitionist Dr. Doy was on his way north with a group of freedom-seeking slaves and free Negroes when he was ambushed by Border Ruffians and taken into Missouri for trial. This historic fiction includes scenes and dialogue that Jenkins created following some extensive research. The fiction is based solidly and sometimes gruesomely on fact.
The little-known Border War story of Dr. John Doy
Jenkins draws much of his dialogue and storyline from a book John Doy wrote while in a Missouri jail awaiting trial. He recounts the gruesome parts in depictions of how slaves and free Negroes were treated in Missouri prisons when they were captured as suspected runaways. Thankfully, in his epilogue, the author even lets us know what happened to all the individual Immortal 10 who rescued an ailing Dr. Doy from the St. Joseph Jail. The rescue prevented the abolitionist from being transferred to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City.
I’ve been privileged to assist this former Kansas City Police Department detective-turned-lawyer-turned-podcaster with his recently released “Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How the FBI Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos.”
This book was a real eye opener for this editor. Jenkins has turned his fascination with the subject of the Kansas Underground Railroad into a book he hopes will make it into ever Kansas and Missouri school library, at least along our shared border. It certainly brings a sad chapter of local conflict up close and personal, putting names and personalities with formerly dull historic facts. In fact, it made me ashamed to call myself a Missourian.
Digital movie-making spawned his interest in slave history
Jenkins’ foray into historic fiction of the pre-Civil War era began with movie making. When digital movie-making came along, he documented his mother’s life story. He interspersed taped interviews with photos of her, then edited it into a movie.
“I liked that form of storytelling,” admits Jenkins. He later did a volunteer stint with a hospice organization, compiling videos for clients. He honed his skills enough to do a documentary that eventually aired on a public television station. It was about slave riots in Liberty in the 1800s and was titled, “Negroes to Hire.” One of the experts he consulted for that piece suggested he take a look at Kansas Underground Railroad history. Along the way he explored the Quindaro ruins just over the border into Kansas. The foundations of Negro cabins from Kansas City’s early history inspired him to delve deeper into the subject. He was also curious about the attitudes and life of his own Missouri slave-holding ancestors.
John Brown and the Last Train,resulted from his research. It is a wonderfully illustrated book aimed at fifth through seventh graders, with a companion DVD,
Gary Jenkins likes to capture the little-known, almost-lost stories of our past. The Immortal 10 does that in spades. It is currently available on Amazon and has a Kindle version as well.