KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

Extra Credit-Watkins Musuem December 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — melon19 @ 4:54 pm

The Watkins Museum is a single building with three stories originally built sometime between 1885 and 1888. It was originally a bank owned by Jabez Watkins. It holds quite a bit of valuable information. The museum is interesting because it has small exhibits on many different topics pertaining to Kansas. There is one on John Brown with a small replica of his cabin. There is another on basketball and its origins. There was something very interesting in this small exhibit. It had pictures and descriptions of how Phog Allen endorsed different products for extra income. Many of us have probably seen commercials with Bill Self endorsing different companies. It was funny to me that this is a long-standing tradition. There are also exhibits that are for a limited time. One of these exhibits explained how Kansas played a role in the Underground Railroad.

Aside from the formal exhibits, a lot can be learned about the personality of Jabez Watkins. I know a bit about Jabez’s history; he was a pretty self-involved individual, an alcoholic, and concerned about his assets. As soon as you walk into the Watkins museum you see WATKINS written out in tile on the floor. Along the stairs are his initials in rod iron. The stairs themselves are made of marble. All of these details reinforce the stories I have heard of Jabez. I think the bank was a good choice to house the museum for several reasons. It is a really beautiful building with great detail work. Aside from that, the Watkins family gave so much through land and monetary donations to the Lawrence community. I think it is great to honor them by keeping the building around in this way.

It is interesting to move through the museum and think about the lens that has been put on it. Since in Lawrence we are very proud of our history it is somewhat biased to what we collectively think about our University and the outcome of the Civil War.

I think the museum is very neat and since it is free, it is definitely worth a visit!

Madeline Johnson

Text Sources:

“The Watkins Building,” Watkins Museum,

http://www.watkinsmuseum.org/The_Building.htm (accessed December 1st, 2009).


“Madeline in front of Watkins Museum” taken by unknown

“Watkins” taken by Madeline Johnson

“Jabez Initials” taken by Madeline Johnson


Watkins Community Museum of History (Extra Credit)

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyo53 @ 4:05 pm

The Watkins Museum, located in downtown Lawrence, provides a glimpse into the fascinating past of the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the State of Kansas.  The museum is housed in a beautiful Romanesque style building originally built in the years 1886-1888 by Jabez Watkins.  The building served as a bank, office space, and the location of Watkins’ own business, the Watkins Land Mortgage Company.  The building has been maintained extremely well, and the architecture and marble of the interior is impressive in itself.  The exhibits are housed on the second floor of the building, which used to function as a bank.

The museum is relatively small and can be explored thoroughly in just an hour or two.   A visual timeline dominates the center of the room and provides a nice chronicle of events that deals with Lawrence history as well as the history of Native people who lived in the area.   I found this display extremely beneficial because a visual timeline is always helpful in organizing and understanding the chronological order of events.  Some of the artifacts of the Bleeding Kansas period are on display and are pretty exciting to view.   My favorite exhibit is a hand-stitched American flag that is said to have flown over the Lawrence courthouse during the years of the Civil War.  The “Old Sacramento” cannon captured during the Mexican-American War and used during the Sacking of Lawrence is also on display along with the printing press of the Kansas Free State newspaper and an account of its rough journey over the past 150 years.  It was thrown into the river by Border Ruffians during Sam Jones’ sack of Lawrence in 1856 but recovered by farmer and used for several utilities until it came under the ownership of a man wishing to add it to his collection of artifacts.

While the museum lacks some depth and direction in a complete Lawrence history, it covers a good deal of the founding of Lawrence and the pre-Civil War territorial struggles that the area is so infamous for.  The museum’s strength is its collection of artifacts, ranging from the ones mentioned above to furniture, farming tools, wardrobe and journals from settlers.  Most of the information given is kept short, simple and on the surface which helps visitors fully understand the history laid out before them.  For someone already familiar with the town’s history the best part of the experience is being so near to the relics of Lawrence’s fascinating past.  This museum is a great way to spend some time on an open afternoon.

Andy White


Extra Credit- Fort Scott National Historic Site November 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emosier4 @ 9:39 pm

From 1842 to 1873, Fort Scott protected and served as a significant part in the expansion of the west by protecting many of the settlers traveling the Santa Fe Trail. They controlled the peace between white settlers and native Indians.   From 1846 to 1848, many of the soldiers located in Fort Scott fought in the Mexican American War. Fort Scott played a crucial role in controlling the peace during the time of Bleeding Kansas and was a strategic strong hold during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, Fort Scott protected the expanding railroads from squatters and many other groups who opposed the expansion.   Fort Scott played a significant role in the transformation of the United States from a young divided republic into a united and powerful nation.

Within the 31 years of operation, there were many times were the fort was closed down for a year and opened to the public.  During one of these times and the Bleeding Kansas era two of the infantry barracks were transformed into hotels. One became the Fort Scott Hotel, nicknamed the “Free State” Hotel due to the political leanings of many of the quests.  The other hotel directly across the square became the Western Hotel, a headquarters for proslavery men.  The hotels faced each other and were separated by a 100 yard courtyard.  This close proximity lead to, many brawls, mass killings, raids, and attempts by abolitionists from both sides to burn the hotels down.

In 1978, Fort Scott became a national historic site. Archaeological investigations determined the locations of many missing buildings along with the everyday life of a soldier who was based at the fort. Surprisingly many of the structures were still standing which were restored or reconstructed.

The history of Fort Scott reinforces the teachings from HIST 348.  It provides information of the importance of Forts in the mid to late 18th century.  It also provides a glimpse into the life of a soldier stationed on a fort.  Fort Scott is not one of the popular forts in U.S. history, but it does play a critical role in a key location for controlling the peace during the hard times in Kansas.

Eric Mosier


Prisoner of War Camps November 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — melon19 @ 4:47 pm

When I was twelve my grandfather took me to a former WWII Prisoner of War camp. Some of the old buildings were still standing and there were many old pictures of the men in the camps. The camp we went to was in Nebraska and so it’s activities were quite similar to those in Kansas.

There were many places in Kansas that housed prisoner’s of war (POW); Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, Camp Concordia and Camp Philips are just a few. There was even an overflow prisoner of war camp from Fort Riley to Lawrence. A building was constructed on 11th St and Haskell and then it open April 30th of 1945. Around 100 POW’s were housed there. It was only open until November of the same year.

While here, the men worked on various construction projects. As it was mentioned briefly in class, one of the projects was to build Danforth Chapel. Another project was to plant hundreds of crab apple trees on campus. Citizens of Lawrence remembered the men as being friendly. The feelings were apparently mutual as one former POW wrote a letter saying, “With this letter I want to express my thanks to all the Americans who were kind to us, who didn’t treat us as enemies or Nazi criminals but as human beings.”

This is what interests me, that sentence written by a POW. While I was at the camp with my grandfather he pointed out all the activities that the men did while imprisoned. Not only did they do hard manual labor, they also enjoyed other things. They had an acting troupe that the prisoners formed and they would put on plays periodically. Some of the men were taught how to be chefs, some of them made beautiful pieces of artwork. My grandfather told me how upset he had been he had first gotten back from the war and learned about the POW camps in the United States. While he was on the beaches of Normandy, German soldiers learned about the arts and about cooking. He told me years later his attitude changed. He realized that by treating the German soldiers with kindness, the United States was showing true humanity.

Having this experience with my grandfather taught me a lot about the scope of human emotion and reaction. To me, that letter written by a former German soldier speaks leagues.

Madeline Johnson

Text Sources:

“Good Afternoon Mrs E,” University Daily Kansan,

http://www.kansan.com/news/2007/feb/01/good_afternoon_mrs_e/ (accessed Novemeber 19, 2009).

“Lawrence was Site of POW Camp,” Lawrence Journal World,

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/oct/16/lawrence_was_site_pow_camp/ (accessed November 19, 2009).

“POW Camps in Kansas,” Gen Tracer,

http://www.gentracer.org/powcampsKS.html (accessed November 19,2009).

Photograph Sources:

“Danforth Chapel.” Photo. Danforth Chapel 19 November 2009. <http://tv.ku.edu/media/news/images/2007/09/danforth.jpg&gt;


The Cost of Expansion

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyo53 @ 4:46 pm

In my last blog I covered the importance railroads played in the exploration and expansion of Kansas, the Great Plains, and subsequently, the American West.  The thousands of miles of rail laid in the late 1800’s proved to be extremely useful to those intent on spreading West and facilated the rapid conquest, settlement and exploitation of the land.  While all of this is extremely benefitial for the growing United States, it came at a great cost to the many tribes of Native People living in Kansas and the Great Plains.

For years Kansas had been regarded as a baron desert, incapable of producing worth.  Yet, Native tribes had flourished in the region for centuries.  There was some contact between Native tribes and settlers in the mid- 1800’s as many passed through the area on a handful of wagon trails leading West, but it was only a glimpse of what was to come.  With increased interest in westward expansion and fulfilling Manifest Destiny, travel over Kansas increased.  The tribes that had survived in the region for generations depended wholly on the ecosystem of the Plains– an ecosystem that was quickly being altered by white settlers.  The dozens of tribes that lived on the plains had developed a lifestyle that revolved around the use of buffalo.  The buffalo these people harvested was put to over 50 uses, from food, to tools and shelter.  In contrast to this white hunters were hired to kill buffalo for their hides, to provide food for rail workers, and for mere sport.  It is estimated that 15-60 million buffalo populated the Great Plains before the arrival of whites.  Around the turn of the 20th century, that number had been decreased to only 1,000.

Along with the huge blow to the ecosystem (and Native tribes) that the near extinction of buffalo brought, it was further exploited by railroad and lumber companies.  The land of Plains Indian tribes was a hot commodity for railroad companies and land speculators in the 19th century. A region once viewed as a worthless “American Desert” was now given value by the lucrative possibility of creating railroads to link the East and the West.  All too often the treaties that allowed the companies to obtain this land were wrought with fraud.  Treaties with the Deleware, Kickapoo and Osage in the 1850’s and ’60s were were all accomplished by some form of deceite or distortion.  Even Kansas Senators James Lane and Samuel Pomeroy were involved in this period of land swindling.  As land was continually taken from its Native inhabitants the rails of the East ventured farther and farther across Kansas.

All of these factors added up to be another crippling blow that white culture exacted on Native People.  This loss of homeland and natural resources further changed the culture of Native Americans, forcing them further into the white world and the realization that their way of life would never be the same.  With even more land gone and now surrounded by white Euro-Americans, Natives had to fight to maintain their soveriegnty and culture even harder.

Could all of this been avoided?  Could the United States and its citizens have continued to expand West while co-existing with Native People in a more peaceful way?  Most believe the answer to be “no.”   The American dream and Manifest Destiny ran too deeply for Americans to choose to co-exist.  With a huge number of white’s coming to the region bent on the spread of “freedom”, Christianity and the search of prosperity and wealth the attitude of colonialism ran too deep.  Historian Thomas Le Duc was eloquently quoted in the book The End of Indian Kansas, “Americans seem to felt a greater need for ritualistic declaration of a moral code than for achieving even minimal adherence to it.”

-Andrew White

Craig Miner and William E. Unrau. The End of Indian Kansas: A Study of Cultural Revolution, 1854-71. Lawrence, Ks: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

PBS. “Transcontinental Railroad: Native Americans.” Interview with Donald Fixico, PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tcrr/sfeature/sf_interview.html. (accessed November 18, 2009).

Reed, Louis. “Early Railroad History in Kansas.” Kansas Heritage. http://www.kansasheritage.org/research/rr/rrhistory.html.(accessed November 18, 2009).


Council Grove, Kansas

Filed under: Uncategorized — mselby13 @ 4:15 pm

A mere hour and a half down the road lies one of the more important historic sites of the Sante Fe Trail – a sleepy, little town called Council Grove.

While Council Grove is often historically referenced for the Kaw Mission Building or Council Oak (where settlers signed a peace treaty with the Kaw Indians) the town also boast 11 other sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many dealing with the town’s background as a trading community.

As one of the last stop’s on the way to Santa Fe, travelers used this small Kansas town as a spot to load up on supplies before making the last push towards New Mexico. This prompted the opening of “Last Chance” supply stores, indicating that this was the last town on the trail to attain a certain good. The town was even chosen as the cite for the “Madonna of the Trail” statue, erected in remembrance of the mothers and children who bravely made the trip to Santa Fe. Much of the town’s success as a trading post is accredited to Seth Hays, the first American settler to arrive, in 1847. His restaurant “The Hays House” is still in operation (opened in 1857) and is said to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. 

While Council Grove may appear to be a small, diminishing town, it is still rich with the stories and historical records left by those headed West, and serves as a constant reminder that the everyday communities we pass by were once crucial to America’s development.


Mexican American Labor in Kansas

Filed under: Uncategorized — tfern24 @ 3:49 pm

Learning about Mexican American Labor, brought a question to mind, what sort of things did they do here in Kansas? Some of the things include meat packing plants, sugar factories, and even railroad systems. Being of Mexican descent and having a family who grew up in Salina, Kansas brought somewhat of a personal interest to this matter.

Many people may not recognize the kind of effect Mexican Labor had on Kansas, and how it helped to aide in the production and even industrialization of Kansas.  One could go as far to say that Kansas would not be the way it is without Mexican labor even today, especially in relation to the meatpacking plants in southwest Kansas. Even though they built some of the railroad tracks in Kansas, the tracks themselves were used to attract European Emigrants to come and settle in Kansas and create an agricultural empire.

The image description on Kansas memory says that these are Mexican American workers on the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe railroad section. This image was taken near Pauline, Kansas. In the image description is also says, the men are standing next to a little girl dress in all white. The significance of that is not fully clear to me, but it comes off as a racial distinction between two races/ethnicity, the Hispanics and whites. The interpretation one can draw from this picture is that the Mexican American men were building this for the white men of Kansas. It is not as though they were building it for themselves.

In relation to the reading for this week out of the course pack, it was obvious that Mexican workers were not treated fairly and were even blamed for economic issues.  The image could almost be placed in our reading for this week because it depicts the Mexican community as workers, but also puts them at a status below whites.  The perspective that immigrant labor is mainly Mexican Americans relates both to this photo and the in class reading. Question to the readers of this blog, did you know how much of an impact Mexican American labor had in Kansas before this week’s reading and this blog on the railroads?

Here is another image that was presented on the site related to this subject matter.

(crew consisting of Mexican American labor)

Image 1:  Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Section Crew, Pauline, Kansas . Kansas Memory. http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/214380 (Accessed November 19, 2009)

Image 2: Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railroad Crew. Kansas Memory.  http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/210147 (Accessed November 19, 2009).

By : Tracy Fernandez


The Battle of Kansas

Filed under: Uncategorized — emosier4 @ 2:17 pm

During World War II the Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas was in full steam in producing all sorts of aircrafts. Their factories completed 25,865 airplanes during the war, and enough equivalent airplanes in spare parts to bring the number above 30,000.  Boeing employed as many as 30,000 workers.  The B-29, nicknamed the Superfortress, was the heaviest four-engine propeller-driven bomber used in World War II. It was an aircraft ahead of its time. The B-29 contained guns that could be fired by remote control, and pressurized crew areas. It increased the bomb load, could fly at high altitudes, and ability to fly longer distances.  The majority of the B-29s were produced in the Boeing’s manufacturing plants in Wichita, Kansas.  By the fall of 1943, the first bombers were rushed into production before the “bugs” could be eliminated.

On January 12, 1944, General Hap H. Arnold, chief of the air forces, arrived at the Boeing plants and asked how many bombers could leave the next day for India. Due to the alterations and the “bugs” the answer was “none.”  Arnold exploded in rage sending impossible orders that set phones ringing all over the country. This lead to the uproar famed as the Battle of Kansas.  That same night G.I. mechanics flew in from numerous states and Boeing sent 600 civilian experts. Hangers were very scarce due to the immense wing span of the B-29.  Workers had to work outdoors in a wintery gale.  Gasoline heaters were flown in and many of the workers wore a high-altitude flying suit.

Two months later the Army Air Force bombed the Japanese homeland. The planes were delivered a full month ahead of schedule. Boeing-Wichita produced 4.2 Superfortresses per day for an average of 100 months. Of the 3,888 B-29s that were built, 1,644 were built in Wichita and an additional 125 in spare parts. The Boeing workers in Kansas made it possible for the Army Air Force to make their bombing raids on the islands of Japan and the Pacific islands. The fast production of the B-29 saved many of the American lives and paved the way for the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Boeing-Wichita workers were given a job and finish the job and exceeded the AAF expectations.

Eric Mosier




Camp Concordia November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — janae25 @ 7:44 pm

I have visited Concordia, KS more times than I can possibly recall. It is where both of my parents grew up, and is currently called home to most of my extended family. I still remember from my youth visiting my grandparents and listening to their childhood stories. My grandfather, Tim, has lived in Concordia his whole life. One of the most memorable stories he would explain occurred during 1944. My grandfather was a young boy, probably no older than six years old. He and his family would travel around the town in their cars after church on Sunday. During his family drives, he saw men in the farm fields dressed in matching uniforms. His parents would explain to him that those men were bad. As my grandfather grew older, he started to realize that the men he saw in the farm fields were fighting with the Nazi’s, and were called prisoners of war (POWs).

Camp Concordia was a POW camp outside of Concordia, KS. Located off of Highway 81, this camp was built in February 1943 and turned over to the United States Army on May 1st, 1943. Although it was a quick build (3 months), the camp cost $1,808,860 to construct. Running $40,000 over budget, the camp was quick to fill and start operating. This POW camp was built upon 160 acres with 304 buildings that included 177-bed hospital, fire department, warehouses, cold storage, an officer’s club, barracks, mess halls, and administrative buildings for both the German POWs and American soldiers. The POW camp also offered up some new employment positions for the American public, hiring and employed around 180 civilians.

The majority of POWs found within the walls of Camp Concordia were members of the German Army. Most were captured in Africa and brought to Kansas POW camps to be put to work on farms. Although some assume that prisoners of war are treated like slaves, the prisoners at Camp Concordia were not. Farmers, railroad companies, and even some ice plants employed the POWs. They were paid a normal salary for their labor and could buy items form the post exchange. They also were allowed to have their own band and newspaper in the camp.

At the camp’s peak, there were 4,027 POWs, 880 soldiers, and 179 civilian employees. Camp Concordia closed on November 8th, 1945. Most of the buildings and original structures have been torn down. There are weeds growing between the concrete foundations existed, and most of the land returned back to farmland. The guard tower and Guardhouse 20 still exist.

Many people do not realize that there were POW camps located in Kansas. I am curious to know if there were other reasons why the US Army decided to place POW camps in Kansas. It makes sense that the camp prisoners were here to help farm, and thus in a ironic way help feed their enemies across seas. But could it also be because Kansas is in the middle of nowhere?!? It would be difficult for the POWs to escape and return to Germany. Any thoughts?!?

Information & Pictures found from:

“Concordia.” Concordia POW Camp. http://www.kansasphototour.com/concordia.htm (accessed November 18, 2009).

Stokes, Keith. “Camp Concordia.” Camp Concordia WWII POW Camp. http://www.kansastravel.org/campconcordia.htm (accessed November 18, 2009).


The Great American Desert October 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mselby13 @ 3:41 pm

After the monumental Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States government sought to expand the country westward, sending various explorers and surveyors to make sense of the enormous, uncharted territory. While names like Lewis, Clark and Pike are generally the first to come to mind, one particular surveyor had an important stake in the lasting perception of Kansas.

Despite the numerous accounts of “treeless wastelands” or plains showing “not a stick of timber,” Stephen Long’s 1823 map labeling Kansas and it’s surroundings ‘The Great American Desert’ had far more drastic implications. Although the term desert could sometimes simply mean a region unfit for agriculture, much of the population took this claim far more literally. With settlers seeking sustainable living situations in the west, maps and reports like Stephen Long’s shape dthe reputation of Kansas during crucial immigration years, implying that what was actually fertile ground (largely due to one of the world’s largest underground aquifers, the Ogallala Aquifer) reeling with wild buffalo was somehow a sandy, desert comparable to the Sahara.

As the reports and rumors spread that Kansas was inhabitable, settlers responded overwhelmingly. Settlers heading westward often attempted to pass through the region as quickly as possible en route to better land farther west. Railroads benefitted from the belief that the land was commercially valueless. Also, the area became one of the last strongholds of independent American Indians.

Despite the reputation, people began settling the region by the mid 19th century and soon came to realize its agricultural possibilities. Still, the implications of Kansas being labeled ‘The Great American Desert’ will always bring up the question of how differently our state would look today had settlers known of it’s fertility.