Another great post on Wyandotte County history from our local history librarian Anne Lacey!
Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley is best known as the woman who saved the Huron Cemetery (now known as the Wyandot National Burying Ground). One of the few female graduates of the Kansas City School of Law and the first woman admitted to the Kansas bar, she was also the first Native American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In 1906, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to sell the cemetery for commercial development. To protect their ancestors’ gravesite, Lyda and her sister, Lena, moved into a lean-to on the cemetery grounds (often referred to as “Fort Conley”) and filed a petition to stop the sale. It went before the Supreme Court, where Lyda argued the case. Though the case was dismissed, she inspired Kansas Sen. Charles Curtis to introduce a bill making the land a national park. The bill passed in 1916, and the cemetery was preserved. In December 2016, the Wyandot National Burying Ground was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Kansas Room is home to a small collection of Lyda Conley’s personal papers, including her law school graduation program, her voter registration application, newspaper clippings about her battle to protect the cemetery, and correspondence with her clients.
To learn more about Lyda Conley, visit the Kansas Room page.
And for more on Wyandot history, the following books are available:
The Wyandot Indians, 1843-1876 by Robert Emmett Smith, Jr.
Wyandot Folk-Lore by William Elsey Connelley(on Hoopla)
The 18th Century Wyandot by John L. Steckley (on Hoopla)