KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

The Battle of Kansas November 19, 2009

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.


Atchison, Kansas and the railroad

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyo53 @ 3:13 pm

Without a doubt the implementation of railroads was one of the most successful tools of Western expansion in the late 1800’s.  The railroad’s ability to provide long distance transportation for livestock, materials and personal travel revolutionized how the American West was settled.  Atchison, Kansas was the major hub of railroad activities in Kansas in the late 19th century and played a hugely significant role in developing  the city, Kansas and the West. 

Atchison, Kansas was founded in 1854 by people of Platte City, Missouri who crossed the Missouri River to begin a new townsite in the Kansas Territory.  The next year the Territorial Legislature recognized it as a town.  Atchison owes its much of its success to its convenient placement on the Missouri River.  Long before the rail lines were layed Atchison was a landing point for steamboats and freighters and a major site along many wagon trails leading to the Western states.  The town also became the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service.

It was in the late 1850’s that Atchison turned its eyes upon participating in railroad, and with the help of $150,000 from Atchison investors, the Atchison, Topeka Railroad was chartered in 1859.  The next decade saw the construction and implementation of the railroad westward, and “Santa Fe” was added to the name in 1863.  The railway reached the border of Colorado in 1872 and was extended to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1880. In 1881 the ATSF line connected with the Southern Pacific line in New Mexico, thus making it the second  national transcontinental rail route. 

The city experienced a great economic boom between 1870 and 1890, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the entire region.  Not only a railroad town, Atchison also was one of the first banking centers in Kansas and boasted a large amount industry and agriculture.  Livestock transportion between towns like Wichita and Dodge City also provided the state with a great economic source.  While Atchison and Kansas boomed the railroad technology improved and the miles of rail grew by the thousands.  This growth eventually ended the era of covered wagon trails and made the West far more accessible, not doubt contributing greatly to the further exploration of the frontier and its settlement.  If the railroads had not been as successful as they were in that relatively short amount of time, the settlement of Western state would have been exponentially more difficult and no doubt taken much longer.

While all of this was beneficial across the nation to the government, private business of all kinds and settlement; railroads proved to be another punishing blow to the Indigenous People of the region who were trying desperately to maintain homeland and sovereignty.  This topic will be addressed in my next post.

-Andy White






Atchison, Kansas Website

Rails West


“Bloody Benders”

Filed under: Uncategorized — emosier4 @ 12:33 pm

BenderCabinIn the 1870s a family began to travel to the southeastern corner of Kansas and insights of building a new life.  They settled in Cherryvale, a very small town in Labette County. This family was the Benders. They were comprised of John Sr.; his wife; son, John Jr.; and daughter, Kate.  John Sr. chose a 160 acre section on a western slope of a mound that was directly located on the Osage Mission-Independence Trail, that operated from Independence to Fort Scott.  At the time the southeastern part was very dangerous.  Settlers were very easy prey for robbers and it was not uncommon for people to go missing.

The Benders build a small one-framed house and outfitted it furniture and supplies, which they divided these two rooms up with a huge canvas.  The front half they turned into an inn and a grocery store, where travelers from the nearby trail could stop and get supplies and rest. To all of the travelers and homesteaders the Benders appeared to be simply struggling homesteaders who worked hard for their earnings.

Mrs. Bender claimed that she could speak with the “dead” and declared that she could cast charms and wicked spells. The family members had to fear her for that she ran the household. Daughter Kate was the friendliest out the family and very beautiful. She often proclaimed she was a healer and a psychic.  She gave lectures of spiritualism and conducted séances. Kate and her brother attended Sunday school and were gladly accepted into the community.

In 1871, the Benders opened store and inn.  Many travelers, who were carrying frequently large sums of cash, began to go missing around the same time the Benders first opened their doors. Friends and family members of the missing travelers began to look for them and could only trace them as far as Big Hill Country in southeastern Kansas.

In March 1873, one of the disappearing travelers was William York, who was a well-known local doctor. He was visiting family in Fort Scott and headed home on horseback and was never seen again. When he did not return home, his wife began to contact his brothers. The farthest they could trace his appearance was to the Bender Inn.  The family did admit that Dr. York had stopped in but he soon went on his way.

In early May, a young man noticed that the Bender Inn appeared to be abandoned.  As he examined the homestead he realized that they family had been gone for some time. The only things that remained were three hammers, a knife, a German Bible, and a clock with a compartment containing jewelry.

The local residents began to examine the homestead and discovered a trap door in the home that lead to a cellar whose floor wasBenderPropertyDigging covered with dried pools of blood. They also discovered well-cultivated orchard that contained graves of the Benders’ victims.  The back of the victims’ skulls were smashed and their throats slashed.  In total, the locals discovered eleven bodies.

After an investigation the travelers who were able to escaped described being forced to sit at a table with their back against the canvas curtain.  Investigators assumed that Kate distracted the visitors while one of the family members hit the travelers on the back of the head with a hammer.  The Benders then dropped the body into the cellar and sliced their throat to ensure death, and later buried the body in the orchard.  The Kansas’ governor issued a 2,000 dollar reward for the Benders, but to no avail.  The stories of the “bloody Benders” still live on and even to this day no one knows to what actually happened to the family.

Eric Mosier

Biographical information drawn from:

McDowell, J.E. “Bender Knife.” Kansas State Historical Society . Unavailable. http://www.kshs.org/cool2/benderknife.htm (accessed 10 21, 2009).

Weiser, Kathy. “The Bloody Benders of Labette County.” Legends of America. September 2006. http://www.legendsofamerica.com/OZ-Benders.html (accessed 10 21, 2009).


Annie Diggs October 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — tfern24 @ 11:43 pm

Annie (Le Porte) Diggs

Annie Diggs

Annie Diggs, Kansas Memory

Annie Diggs was born in 1848 in Canada. While young she moved to New Jersey and later to Lawrence Kansas, where she married Alvin Diggs. Her nickname was “Little Annie,” here in Kansas. Annie Diggs is known for her involvement in the temperance and women’s suffrage movement. Her involvement in the Unitarian Church in Lawrence sparked a feeling of responsibility to this movement.

In 1882, Her and her husband began a newspaper called the “Kansas Liberal.” By 1890 she became an associate editor of the Alliance Advocate, which was a leading reformist paper at that time. In relation to our topic this week, we know her most from joining the Farmer’s Alliance that we all know led to the Populist Party. She later served on the Populist National Committee. Diggs believed that the Democratic Party and the Populist Party should merge. A quote from Annie Diggs about the Kansas Farmers’ Alliance meetings where populists arrived, she claimed they were, “more like religious revivals than like unto any ever before known in the realm of politics.”

All the while Diggs was still juggling her involvement for women’s suffrage, and wanted women’s voting rights. She did this by serving in the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. Diggs was appointed state librarian of Kansas in 1898 as well as the president of Kansas Press Women in 1905. Although Diggs did not stay in Kansas, she still had a lasting impact.

Example of Poster for Women's Suffrage Meetings

Example of Poster for Women's Suffrage Meetings

Bouncing off the lecture of the Populist movement, I chose to focus on Annie Diggs. She interested me because of her involvement in the populist movement and at the same time women’s rights. The two together are both extremely valuable things in History, and for one woman to balance the both of those shows her strength and knowledge in politics relating to men and women. It brings back the idea that Kansas,  the movements, and people involved were valuable to the entire nation. Although voting for women did not occur until the 1920s, the motion started way earlier on, and Annie Diggs was involved in such a powerful movement.  It is nice to know that women such as Annie Diggs had a role in Kansas History, and especially in the politics of Kansas.

-Tracy Fernandez

Biographical information drawn from:


Info on Annie Diggs and the Essay of Populism



Lady Bountiful

Filed under: Uncategorized — melon19 @ 6:04 pm

KU has been lucky to receive gifts of money and land since its early days. To date, no donation can match the one from Elizabeth Miller Watkins.

eliza picture Elizabeth was born in the year Kansas became a state. She moved to Lawrence when she was eleven. Though she dreamed of being able to attend classes in Old Fraser Hall, this did not happen. Her father grew ill and at age 15 she dropped out of school to work at Watkins Bank (now the Watkins Museum on 11th and Mass). There she met, and eventually wed, Jabez Watkins. Jabez was considered one of the wealthiest men in the West.

Twelve years after being married, Jabez passed away and Elizabeth inherited an estate around $2.4 million. She deeply believed in the education of women. Since she herself had been denied the opportunity due to poverty, she decided to help others. In 1926 Watkins Scholarship Hall opened. In the beginning it was a place where forty-nine women could live and eat for free. Elizabeth’s desire for the women who lived there was that they would never need to pay more than a few dollars per month. To help ensure this, a trust fund was set up. Today it totals well over $3 million.

KUWatkinsScholHallMarch2006With Watkins Hall so successful, Elizabeth decided to open Miller Hall in 1936. The two halls were for the women who “walk up the hill.”  In addition, Elizabeth also funded the building of the Watkins Health Center (now Twente Hall). She left a trust fund for its upkeep as well.

When she passed away in 1939, she left the majority of her remaining possessions to KU. Her home, known as the Outlook, was donated and is currently used as the Chancellor’s residence. To the Endowment Association, Elizabeth left 25,000 acres of land that even today is bringing money in for the University.

It is incredible to sit back and reflect on everything that Elizabeth has given all KU students. Her gifts doubled the size of the Lawrence and Kansas City campuses, provided the chimes in the campanille, built Danforth Chapel, funded research grants and much more.

I do not believe it is too big of a statement to say that we are all in at least some debt to Elizabeth Miller Watkins. I, for one, am very grateful.

–Madeline Johnson

Text Sources:

“History of Watkins Memorial Health Center,” Student Health, http://www.studenthealth.ku.edu/information/history_wmhc.shtml (accessed October 21, 2009).

“Elizabeth Miller Watkins Memorial Scholarship,” Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, http://www.gkccf.org/…/NEW_EMWScholAppOcto8for2009AppFnl.pdf (accessed October 21, 2009).

Photograph Sources:

“Elizabeth Miller Watkins.” Photo. Elizabeth Miller Watkins 21 Oct. 2009. <groups.ku.edu/~miller/website/eliza.htm>.

“Watkins Scholarship Hall.” Photo. Watkins ScholHall March 2006 21 Oct. 2009. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KUWatkinsScholHallMarch2006.jpg>