by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FML
Out in my neck o’ the woods, nestled between two iconic presidential libraries – Truman’s in Independence and Eisenhower’s in Abilene – is a third presidential library you may not be familiar with. It is the world’s smallest presidential library.
As you, the reader, skim through your mental database of American presidents and come up empty, let me suggest you may have overlooked the presidential term and accomplishments of Brother David Rice Atchison. That's right. President David Rice Atchison; the man for whom Atchison, Kansas and the Atchison-Topeka-Santa Fe railroad are named.
To commemorate this auspicious event, Atchison, Kansas, his namesake, has established the "world's smallest presidential library" in his honor. Located in a former AT&SF terminal, the Atchison Library shares space with another Atchison historical figure, Amelia Earhart. Also featured in the museum are Brothers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who set up a base camp in the area.
Upon entering the museum a visitor first encounters a model of a statue commemorating Lewis and Clark's 1804 Voyage of Discovery. The full-size statue sits on the banks of the Missouri River down in Kansas City.
Regrettably, Atchison was a supporter of slavery and, in fact, a slave owner himself. When Kansas came into the Union as a free state, Atchison led a pro-slavery militia into the state and was present at a battle that resulted in the burning of the Free State Hotel. A display in the museum offers both sides of the story speculating on Atchison's role in the uprising, showing conflicting accounts and wondering if he was an instigator or a peacemaker.
A gargantuan Atchison-Topeka-Santa Fe locomotive sits outside the museum.
David Rice Atchison was a member of Platte Lodge 56, now defunct, and his grave marker in Plattsburg proclaims his status as president. Most historians agree Atchison was not President of the United States. Perhaps agreeing he was the ex-officio president can serve as a compromise as to his status.
Or, perhaps, given today's growing sentiment against those who supported the United States' ghastly "original sin" – slavery, it is best to mark Atchison's auspicious day as an interesting story and otherwise let sleeping dogs lie.