Luncheon in St. JO, MO, honors award-winners, donors, Heritage Area friends and Partners

Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area News Release

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


Julie McPike, Managing Director
(785) 856-5283



Note:  To see photos from the awards luncheon, visit the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area Facebook page.

Freedom's Frontier luncheon in St. Joseph, MO, honors 
award-winners, donors, Partners and Heritage Area friends

The second Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area Awards Luncheon was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Thursday, September 25, in St. Joseph, MO, at the Paradox Theatre, 107 N 6th St. 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. Waddell and Reed, Financial Advisors, and Kevin Wood, a Waddell and Reed Financial Advisor, provided underwriting for the luncheon.

The Billings MVP Award, named in honor of 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, was presented to Deborah Barker
this year. Barker is the director of the Franklin County Historical Society, the Old Depot Museum and the Dietrich Cabin in Ottawa, KS.

Barker was nominated for her enthusiasm in support of the development and mission of Freedom's Frontier since its inception. She has reached across the Missouri-Kansas border to establish partnerships that strengthen the heritage area.

Barker has brought to the heritage area and its partners a background of historical, anthropological and curatorial expertise, and has proven her willingness to share her skills. For example, she developed a method to create exhibit panels on a tight budget working with affordable software. She used this method to enrich exhibits at the Old Depot Museum and has presented a workshop to Freedom's Frontier partners and to the Missouri Kansas Border War Network to help partners develop those skills.

Early in the development of Freedom's Frontier, Deborah developed a Freedom's Frontier class for friends of Franklin County Historical Society to learn about the history of surrounding areas and their connections to Franklin County. This class included a tour to Cass County, Missouri to learn the effects of the Civil War on the Missouri border. Cass County Historical Society reciprocated this tour and visited several Franklin County historic sites. These field trips led to the uncovering of a wealth of shared stories of people who lived in both Franklin and Cass Counties during the border unrest, enriching the understanding and interpretation of both areas.

Barker partnered with Carol Bohl to present these connections made through Freedom's Frontier at the 2013 Kansas Museum Association Conference. Bohl, who recently retired from her role as director of the Cass County (MO) Historical Society, was one of the first recipients of the MVP Award. It debuted in 2013, with two winners. The other was Eileen Robertson, of Humboldt, KS. 

As a member of the Freedom's Frontier Steering Committee, Advisory Committee and Board of Directors, Barker has invested hundreds of volunteer hours in supporting the work of Freedom's Frontier. Her ideas, depth of knowledge, and acceptance of diverse points of view have proved invaluable to the development of the heritage area.

Barker epitomizes the strength of Freedom's Frontier as a grassroots supporter who promotes the heritage area's mission as a positive ambassador to the many groups of which she is a member.

This year's Tacha Freedom Award will be presented to the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry muralists, students from the Royal Valley school district in Mayetta, Kansas. Not only did these students research, plan and paint the mural, they also have appeared at multiple Freedom's Frontier partner sites to give presentations about the history of the First Kansas Colored Infantry and their mural project. 

Students (listed in the order pictured below) Kyle Stithem, Kyle Meyer, Samantha Rupnick, Connor Grossoehme, and Noah McAlister, all sophomores at Royal Valley High School, were on hand to receive the award on behalf of all of the muralists. Rupnick read a short essay about their experiences in creating the mural.

Retired Judge Deanell Tacha, for whom the award is named, presented the award. The Tacha Freedom Award is presented to a student (or group of students) who reside and attend school within the 41-county, bi-state heritage area, for a project that draws on one of Freedom's Frontier's three overarching themes: the shaping of the frontier, the Missouri-Kansas Border War, and the enduring struggle for freedom. The muralists have chosen to direct their award to the Royal Valley Foundations John Rundle Scholarship fund.

The keynote speaker for the luncheon was historian and author James Muehlberger. His presentation was titled "The Lawyer Who Took on Jesse James... and Won. It focuses on frontier lawyer Henry Clay McDougal's showdown with Jesse James, and how Muehlberger's successful search for a missing court case helped set straight the crooked tale of Frank and Jesse James.

Muehlberger is a partner at the law firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City, MO, and a frequent author and speaker on litigation and legal history. His articles have appeared in a number of publications, including The National Law Journal, for the Defense, and Wild West Magazine. His first book, The Lost Cause: the Trials of Frank and Jesse James, was published last year. The Kansas City Star named it one of the best 100 books of 2013, and the New York Times Book Review credited Jim for creating a story that's "equal parts violent melodrama and meticulous procedural, wrapped in vivid packages with enough bloody action to engage readers enthralled by tales of good versus evil." The book is also currently a finalist for the Thorpe Menn award for the best book of 2013.

Next year, the annual luncheon will be held in Olathe, KS. 

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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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