“Bloody Benders” presentation on Th Oct 27

From Pittsburg State University

Kansas historians will gather to present a talk about the “Bloody Benders” on Oct. 27 at Axe Library at Pittsburg State University for this year’s Gene DeGruson Memorial Lecture. 

The event, called “The Bender Family Crimes: 150 Years Later,” is open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. in the basement of the library. 

The annual memorial lecture is an event sponsored by the Friends of the Leonard H. Axe Library to honor the memory of DeGruson, a Southeast Kansas scholar, writer, editor, and pioneering archivist and curator of Special Collections at Axe Library, who died in 1997.  

DeGruson founded Special Collections in 1968 and spent 29 years building it into a rich treasure trove of knowledge on local history as well as an archive for Pittsburg State University. He also wrote and edited books and journals of poetry, history and biography. 

For this year’s memorial lecture, historians will discuss the horrific crimes committed by a strange family by the name of Bender that set up an inn in remote Labette County.

The Benders murdered nearly a dozen travelers over several years who stopped by their inn. These crimes were not discovered until after the family fled the area. They were never caught, and their fate remains a mystery. 

Panelists will include Max McCoy, a former Pittsburg journalist and PSU faculty member who is now an historian and professor at Emporia State University; Carol Staton and Mike Wood, curators at the Cherryvale Museum (which houses some Bender family artifacts); and Bob Miller, current owner of the Bender property. 

After the discussion, the panelists will take questions and answers from the audience. 

Funding for this program is provided by Humanities Kansas, a nonprofit cultural organization connecting communities with history, traditions, and ideas to strengthen civic life.   

For more information, contact Steve Cox, curator of the Special Collections & University Archives at 620-235-4883 or spcox@pittstate.edu.  

— Pitt —