Wild Jim Lane

A portrait of James H. Lane has been restored and displayed at the Lecompton Historical Society.

Jim Lane’s infamy cooled a bit with the onset of the war, but he contributed much misery to Bleeding Kansas (and Ruffian Missouri) with his Jayhawker activities in the 1850s. I’ve read a bit about him, none of it pleasant. To make matters worse, he had a cadaverous look in all of his photos, and committed suicide post-war after falling into derangement. We can easily label him as Not A Nice Man.

The derangement seems to have been heriditary, given his descendants’ choice of child’s-room décor:

The portrait was donated by Lane’s direct descendent James Shaler, of Billerica, Mass., whose childhood bedroom was its home for more than 50 years. After his mother’s death, Shaler and his sisters decided it deserved a grander location. They first contacted the U.S. Senate’s historical portrait gallery but eventually found the Lecompton Historical Society, whose building, like Shaler, is named for Lane.

“I had this dark, glowering, supposedly kinda nuts guy, and I woke up looking at that every morning. I thought, ‘So I really want that every day of my life?’” Shaler said.

My guess is, he won’t be pulling a Dan Sickles, and stopping by regularly to visit.


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