Freedom's Frontier luncheon in Excelsior Springs, MO, honors award-winners, donors, Partners and friends

Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area News Release

Contact: Sonia Smith, Marketing Manager (785) 856-5304

Julie McPike, Managing Director(785) 856-5283

Jim Ogle, Executive Director (785) 856-3635

Freedom's Frontier luncheon in Excelsior Springs, MO, honors award-winners, donors, Partners and friends

The fourth annual Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area Awards Luncheon was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Thursday, November 10, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, at the historic Elms Hotel, 401 Regent Street. The annual event recognizes partners, friends, donors and trustees of the heritage area. Awards are given to the MVP (Most Valuable Partner) and high school students who undertake a project showcasing Freedom's Frontier themes.

This year's Billings MVP Award was presented to a Kansas partner, Michael Stubbs, and Peggy Buhr, a Missouri partner. The award was named to honor the first executive director of the heritage area, Judy Billings, who also was the director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitor's Bureau until her retirement in 2012. 

Stubbs, President of Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards and an active member of the Wabaunsee County Historical Society, has been a dedicated partner of Freedom's Frontier since the 1990s. He helped assemble the Underground Railroad brochure, researching previously unknown information about the feeder branch of the Lane Freedom Trail that ran from Rev. John Stewart's farm on the Wakarusa through Douglas, Shawnee, and Wabaunsee counties.

In addition to promoting the Heritage Area, Stubbs was a driving force in the creation of the Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie, a Freedom's Frontier Star attraction and National Park Service Network to Freedom site. In 2002 he began the research and paperwork to list the Henry and Ann Harvey Farmstead, the Captain William Mitchell Farmstead and the Wabaunsee Cemetery as officially recognized Underground Railroad sites in the NPS Network to Freedom Program. Site status was granted in 2006, and the Mount Mitchell/Topeka/Fort Riley Road was added in 2012. Stubbs incorporated the themes of the heritage area into the Native Stone Scenic Byway Management Plan, and in 2011, while serving as the Education Chair for Symphony in the Flint Hills. he selected Freedom's Frontier in the Flint Hills and arranged for the participation of Heritage Area partners and staff in the event.

Most recently, Michael produced an exhibit for the Wabaunsee County Historical Society entitled Freedom's Frontier: Stories from the Western Border, which is an exhibition of photographs, maps, and images introducing the public to the themes of the heritage area and how the Wabaunsee County region's history and stories are tied to those of national importance. Michael also named all of the county roads in Wabaunsee County. With overwhelming support from the community, he convinced the Commissioners to allow him to research and assign names to all of the county's three hundred and nineteen roads.

Inspiring future generations is also an important part of Michael's work. In 2010 he assisted Nate McAlister and his students in their efforts to convince the Kansas Legislature to recognize the Lane Freedom Trail. He's also been a mentor to graduate students from the Chapman Center for Rural Studies. Michael has also been involved and supportive of the Freedom's Frontier Youth programs; leading tours for our Youth Camps and working with the Freedom Corps, a group of high school students employed by the heritage area to assist partner sites with maintenance and programming during the summer months.

Buhr, Museum Director of the Bates County Museum in Butler, Missouri, has also been working with Freedom's Frontier since before President Bush signed the Legislation in 2006. In 2008, Peggy and Freedom's Frontier Board of Trustees Member Kay Caskey worked together on a committee to complete the fundraising efforts for and dedication of the life-sized bronze statue of a 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantryman that now stands on the lawn of the Bates County Courthouse.

With the help of Dr. Ann Raab, Buhr and the Bates County Museum hosted several Archaeological Field Schools for university students at UMKC and other institutions. For 4 years the museum served as a base of operations for weeks at a time while students and volunteers documented artifacts found at a dig-site near the historical border town of West Point. In conjunction with the field school, UMKC Professor Dr. Diane Mutti-Burke chose to include a day in Bates County for teachers across the nation to learn about the Battle of Island Mound and General Order No. 11.

Buhr worked in partnership with Missouri State Parks in 2012 to plan the Dedication and 150th Commemoration of the Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site, located 7 miles southwest of Butler. She assisted Jim Rehard, Northern Missouri Historic District Supervisor, and others in the Department of Natural Resources. General Donald Scott, also current FFNHA Board of Trustees member, was a guest speaker along with several other dignitaries and descendants.

In 2013/2014, the Bates County Museum received a grant from Enbridge Pipeline to design and install a bronze plaque to commemorate the 1863 General Order No. 11 evacuation and burning of Bates County. Buhr wrote the text for the marker.

Buhr serves as the Missouri Partner's Liaison to the Freedom's Frontier Board of Trustees and is a member of the Advisory Committee. She has been instrumental in building partnerships with officials in Bates County and in the City of Butler for the Freedom's Frontier Pilot Signage Program and has contributed to the program's initiation and implementation.

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Heritage Area Fast Facts

Mission: Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area (FFNHA) is dedicated to building awareness of the struggles for freedom in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. These diverse, interwoven, and nationally important stories grew from a unique physical and cultural landscape. FFNHA inspires respect for multiple perspectives and empowers residents to preserve and share these stories. We achieve our goals through interpretation, preservation, conservation, and education for all residents and visitors.

Kansas Counties: Allen · Anderson · Atchison · Bourbon · Chautauqua · Cherokee · Clay · Coffey · Crawford· Douglas · Franklin · Geary · Jackson · Jefferson · Johnson · Labette · Leavenworth · Linn · Miami · Montgomery · Neosho · Osage · Pottawatomie · Riley · Shawnee · Wabaunsee · Wilson · Woodson · Wyandotte

Missouri Counties: Barton · Bates · Buchanan · Cass · Clay · Jackson · Johnson · Lafayette · Platte · Ray · St. Clair · Vernon

Established: October 12, 2006

Web site: www.freedomsfrontier.org

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