August 13 program examines Chautauqua’s love/hate relationship with the river

From 1883 to 1914, thousands of people hungry for intellectual and spiritual growth camped in Forest Park during the annual Chautauqua Assembly, a multi-day event that brought renowned speakers from all over the country. However, even the most carefully planned event could be ruined by one element the Assembly could not control: the river.

On Sunday, August 13, Franklin County Historical Society Executive Director Deborah Barker will present “Deep Water in the Tabernacle,” a free program examining the Chautauqua Assembly’s uneasy relationship with the Marais des Cygnes River.  The 2 p.m. program will be held at the Old Depot Museum, 135 West Tecumseh, in Ottawa, Kansas. Admission to the museum will be free that day.

At times, the Marais des Cygnes River was part of the festivities. It provided a scenic backdrop for lectures, choirs, and parades. Gertie the Steamer ferried passengers from Elm Street to Forest Park. However, there were many years when the Assemblies were delayed, postponed, or canceled because the river was flooding.

“Postponements, evacuations, cancellations and soggy grounds were the results of floods on the Marais des Cygnes River either before or during the annual summer events,” said Barker.

“Deep Water in the Tabernacle” is offered in conjunction with the Old Depot Museum’s current exhibit, “Crossings: Getting Over, Around, and Through Water in Franklin County,” which will be on display through August 20. The exhibit is made possible thanks in part to a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council.

For more information, contact the Old Depot Museum at (785) 242-1250.

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