The Kansas City Bulldogs were midway through a 57-3 shellacking of the Missouri Valley Pitbulls a couple weeks back when America Patton, a former player and history enthusiast, approached team owner Tyrone Groves with a proposition.
Patton played for the city’s semi-pro football team in 2014, and he regularly attends the club’s home games, so the two were familiar with each other. This time, though, Patton had an idea for Groves.
Since the Bulldogs had just wrapped up an 8-1 regular season and had an off-day Saturday before embarking on the Midwest Football Alliance playoffs, come tour the Quindaro Ruins, which commemorate history of the town of Quindaro (which is now a part of Kansas City, Kansas). Quindaro was founded by abolitionists in the 1850s and served as a port of entry for free-soil immigrants into Kansas.
Tucked in a dead-end road a few blocks north of 27th Street and Quindaro Boulevard, the site is rich with history as Quindaro was a key cog in the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. The community served as a haven for slaves escaping from Platte County, Missouri, and who were headed ultimately for freedom in Nebraska.
Groves liked the idea, so he invited Patton to a football practice a couple days later. The club agreed to take the trip.
The Bulldogs did just that Saturday afternoon, as Patton led the way, along with Marvin S. Robinson II, an independent volunteer researcher with Freedom’s Frontier, through the site.
The squad toured the old Quindaro Freedman’s School, which started in the 1860s and now houses artifacts, a statue of abolitionist John Brown, and a scenic overlook of the same Missouri River that slaves once crossed to freedom and the site that was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Earlier this year, Quindaro earned designation as a National Commemorative Site.
“This is a huge honor to the site’s history,” Robinson said, “What I hope they take away is that this won’t be their last visit, and that they’ll see the site as it exists now, and as it proceeds with restoration and preservation as a new National Commemorative Site.”
Rookie linebacker Greg Sloan, who said he visited the site several years ago as part of a family reunion, liked the visit, especially because he grew up around the area.
“I enjoyed it because it’s history,” Sloan said. “I feel like it’s good because it’s where I am from. I live, literally, four minutes from here. So I feel like it’s good to have some history on my heritage and where I’m from, and have people actually doing stuff to move it forward and to get it better.”
For Groves’ part, the motivation for taking the team to Quindaro on Saturday had a lot to do with football.
Let him explain.
“A lot of football, I think, is that you take pride in your team, what you’re doing and everything,” Groves said. “I think this has the same effect. You have to take some pride in things that happen.
“We’re a majority African-American team, but we also have guys that are Caucasian, so I wanted to make sure I got those guys out, too, and I knew about John Brown and his stuff, so I knew we would probably see some stuff like that, so I wanted to make sure they come down, too.”
There’s something resembling a full circle about the whole experience, at least football-wise for the Bulldogs. When Patton informed Groves of his idea for the trip to the Quindaro historical site, it was during Kansas City’s game against Missouri Valley at Shawnee Mission North. The Bulldogs will face Missouri Valley again at Shawnee Mission North on July 20 in the semifinals of the playoffs. The Bulldogs are trying to repeat as Midwest Football Alliance champs.
Maybe that’s part of why Groves, Sloan and the entire team plan to remember the trip to Quindaro in a positive way.
“It’s just to help us bond,” Groves said. “You have a common goal, common history, common everything, and it helps bond the team.”