Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Wandering Paths of History

Sculptor Belle Kinney's "Confederate Women"
In searching pictures for last week's blog about the $10 and $20 bills, I came across pictures of statues for both Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson, both full length and both in the Capitol.  Like so many adventures on which the research for Isaac B. Werner's manuscript have taken me, the statues of Hamilton and Jackson took me down an unexpected path!

Unfortunately, I did not find an image of Jackson's sculpture free to post, but I did learn about the sculptors, and the picture at top-right of this blog is by one of them.  Jackson was sculpted by Belle Kinney (1890) and Leopold F. Scholz (1877-1946).  The two sculptors were wife and husband, and in her private life Belle went by Belle Kinney Scholz.  However, professionally she retained her maiden name.  She won her first prize for a sculpture when she was 7 years old for a bust of her father.  At 15 she entered the Art Institute of Chicago, and at 17 she received her first commission to sculpt Jere Baxter, the organizer of the Tennessee Central Railroad.  She met her husband Leopold at the Art Institute, and they married in 1921. Leopold, 13 years older than Belle, was born in Austria.  With two exceptions, all of his known sculptures were done with his wife.  Belle is known not only for their joint achievements but also for her individual work, such as her best known sculpture, "Confederate Women."

As interesting to me as the information about Jackson's sculptors was, it was what I discovered about Alexander Hamilton's sculptor that intrigued me most, and although I have wandered a long way to learn more about Dr. Horatio Stone, the sculptor of Hamilton pictured at left, I have not been able to satisfy my search.

Horatio Stone was born in 1808 to Reuben and Nancy Stone in New York State.  He practiced medicine until devoting himself full-time to sculpture in the 1840s.  He moved to Washington, D.C. and helped establish the Washington Art Association, for which he served as President.  During his career he maintained studios in both Washington, D.C. and Carrara, Italy.  He died of "Roman Fever" in 1875 and is interred in Italy.  A close study of details, such as of Hamilton's hands, shows the significance of his medical training to the sculptures he created.

None of that, however, was what so intrigued me.  My husband's second great Grandfather is named Horatio Gates Stone and was born in New York State in 1812.  In doing extensive genealogy research  I have learned that the Stone family repeated names from generation to generation, and one of the names so often repeated was Horatio.  Horatio Stone the sculptor had no descendants, but is it possible that Horatio Gates Stone and Horatio Stone might have common ancestors?  At this point, my "wandering path of history" has not taken me far enough to answer that question.  What I can share is that the repetition of Horatio among my husband's Stone ancestors is so common and confusing that years ago I posted on an attempt to clarify all the repeated uses of the name Horatio, which I titled "Too Many Horatioes!"

In Isaac B. Werner's family, names were also repeated from one generation to another.  Isaac shared the same middle name with his twin brother Henry, their middle name "Beckley" having been their mother's maiden name. As for the name Henry, it was not only Isaac's brother's given name but also the name of his cousin, Henry Werner, with whom he left Wernersville to seek their fortunes in the West, but also the name of his favorite Uncle Henry Werner and other relatives.  Repeated given names in the Werner family have been a challenge to my research.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fresh Off the Presses!

$10 Bill with Hamilton
It must have occurred to many of you as well that the popularity of the Broadway Musical "Hamilton" might have an impact on Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew's decision to replace the image of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with the image of a woman.  We weren't the only ones to regard that was a possibility, and a headline in the April 15, 2016 New York Times read:  "Success of 'Hamilton' May Have Saved Hamilton on the $10 Bill."  The article by Jackie Calmes referred to the careful avoidance by Lew during an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS about whether "...a woman's portrait would be at the center of the $10 bill."

Secretary Lew had set December of 2015 as the deadline for selecting the image for the bill, and the fact that the deadline had come and gone indicated Lew might be having second thoughts.  Lew and his wife attended a performance of "Hamilton" and spoke with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted afterward that Lew had hinted that "Hamilton" fans would be happy with the ultimate decision.  That might leave some outspoken groups advocating the image of a woman for the $10 bill very unhappy.  See "You Can't Please Everybody," 7-9-2015 in the Blog Archives to read what was behind the initial decision to change the image.

A $20 Bill with Jackson

A rumor started that Alexander Hamilton would remain on the $10 bill, and Andrew Jackson would be replaced on the $20 with the image of a woman.  As far back as June 18, 2015, Washington Post writer Steven Mufson had written an article headlined:  "Why the U.S. government needs to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill."  After listing Hamilton's virtues, such as being a founding father, co-authoring the Federalist Papers, serving as a Revolutionary War staff aide to George Washington, serving as the first Treasury Secretary, establishing the first national bank, and advocating a national currency rather than the currencies of the various states, Mufson continued by describing all the reasons why Andrew Jackson should never have appeared on the $20 bill in the first place.  He included the enumeration of Jackson's "disastrous economic policies," including his dismantling of the second Bank of the United States, his restrictions on the use of paper money which contributed to the severe economic Panic of 1837, and his responsibility for appointing Treasury Secretary Roger B. Taney to the Supreme Court (from which position Taney wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case that haunted American race relations for decades).  See "Earliest Currency," 7-3-2015 in the blog archives to read more about this early period.

Harriet Tubman
Many people assumed there was widespread support for a woman's image on our paper currency.  That did not seem to be true when I asked my blog followers to weigh in on the issue.  Perhaps it is because those who read this blog appreciate knowledge of and respect for history, or perhaps it is because most people are concerned about wasteful government spending, but the followers of this blog who responded were not among those eager to see a woman on the $10 bill!  See "Survey Results for $10 Bill Image," 7-16-2015 and "More Money Comments," 7-23-2015 in the blog archives to read some the those reactions.

As of April 20, 2016 we learned Secretary Lew's decision.  Hamilton is safe!  As rumored, Andrew Jackson is the one to be displaced by a woman, and the woman selected is Harriet Tubman.  The choice of Tubman seems particularly appropriate, as Jackson has received harsh criticism in more recent times for his brutal relocation of Native Americans and his support for slavery.

Fewer rumors about other changes had leaked.  In fact, while Lincoln and Hamilton remain on the $5 bill and the $10 bill respectively, the reverse of those bills will change.  The Lincoln Memorial on the reverse of the $5 bill will remain, but images of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be added.  On the reverse side of the $10 bill the Treasury building will be replaced and a depiction of the 1913 March in Support of Women's Right to Vote will appear, with portraits of suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth.

Don't expect to see these changes any time soon.  The redesigns are not scheduled for unveiling until 2020!  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rap and History

Used only to explain subject of blog.
Do not reproduce. 
May be subject to (c).

Before leaving the topic of teaching history to young people, I must mention Hamilton, the musical currently attracting sold-out crowds on Broadway.  Critics and ticket-buyers love it!
In an appearance on CBS Morning to introduce the new book about Hamilton, the musical, author Lin-Manuel Miranda described a program for young people that the musical is sponsoring, which challenges participants to produce works about Alexander Hamilton which cover events in Hamilton's life that are not included in the musical. 
Miranda has introduced a new way of sharing history with this Broadway production.  He read Ron Chernow's book, Alexander Hamilton, and it inspired him to envision the life of Hamilton as a musical.  In 1917 a play about Hamilton had appeared on Broadway, but Miranda had something different in mind.
He performed his idea at a workshop production in 2013, and the positive reaction encouraged him to continue working until he was ready to open off-Broadway at The Public Theater in early 2015, with such success there that Hamilton moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August of 2015.
For two and a half hours audiences keep up with the rapid-fire lyrics sharing Hamilton's life.  Miranda has reached an audience that might never have otherwise heard of Alexander Hamilton!
The comment from one follower of my blog lamented that he did not believe his knowledge of history was adequate to qualify him as a teacher, (although I believe he is well qualified), yet Miranda admitted during the CBS interview that he had not been a good student of history, and reading Chernow's biography motivated him to do more research.  Surely many of those who saw the musical or heard the Grammy Award winning album were motivated to learn more about Hamilton and the history of that era because of Miranda's work.  It is impossible to know how many people one artist, regardless of his or her medium, may inspire.

G.L.W-T. complimented me for using popular song lyrics and the sports pages to introduce my students to poetry, and W.S. recalled his father's W.W. I letters as the source of his personal interest in that historic period.  Last week in "History & Young People," I described various 'triggers' that lead us to more and more information, and Miranda has used rap music to do exactly that.

There are many ways to make history come alive for young people, if we just open our minds to help us open theirs!

You might enjoy reading my earlier posts about Alexander Hamilton at "You Can't Please Everybody," 7-9-2015 and "Survey Results for $10 Bill Image, 7-16-2015 in the Blog Archives.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

History and Young People

Making history relevant
Last week's blog, "The Historian's Responsibility," (Blog Archives 3-3-2016) dealt with the challenges of competing for attention in a world filled with distractions.  That blog generated some interesting replies from followers.  E.R. from Kansas recommended two books on the subject, Overload Syndrome and Digital Invasion and added from his own experience the value of his parents' having removed the television from their home environment, replacing it with "weekly trips to the library to load up on books."  

J.S., a small town librarian whose wisdom I have referenced in the past, shared a fun dialogue between herself and a young boy who had visited the library to use the computer.

J.S. (scooting a group of computer users out at closing time):  "Does anybody want to check out books before you leave?"
Boy:  "Yeah, but I didn't bring any money."
J.S.:  "You don't need can take home library books for FREE!"
Boy (looking at me like I was Out of My Mind):  "Are you SERIOUS?!"
J.S.:  "Yes--Check them out; take them home; read them; then bring them back and get some more!"
Boy:  "ALRIGHT!!!  Where are the basketball books?!"

While that story might seem a bit discouraging with reference to what children choose "to attend to," she also shared a story about a young girl who asked for "animal books."  The girl explained, "I think I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up..."  J.S. added that the girl left with a dozen or so books about animals.

J.S. took particular pleasure when a 9-year-old dropped by to see her 5 years after his family had moved and told her "I sure miss coming to this library..."

Conversations like these should make all of us hopeful that children are still curious about ideas to be gained from books.  Unfortunately, L.K. from Missouri thought of an old rhyme as she read the blog:  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  You can give a person information but you can't make him think.

Some of you may have read the comment left at last week's blog from an international follower, which concluded:  "How does one understand history without having read a great deal of it?" 

It seems that much of my own history reading is triggered by something, and I read voraciously about the subject because that random event or bit of information tweaked my curiosity.  Each thing I read prompts me toward further reading.  For example, studying the US Constitution in law school made me want to visit Philadelphia, and although it took me several decades to get there, the visit expanded my reading about the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers, military history, and other issues of the late 1700s.  

Titles Isaac Werner's Library Contained
Isaac's Journal has led me to read and research the early history of his (and my) community, the Progressive Movement of the late 1800s, early farming methods on the prairie, and other subjects that would not otherwise have attracted my attention, many of which I have blogged about.    

Finding the toy W.W. I soldier led to more intense reading about that historic time, including Churchill biographies, W.W. I war poets, soldiers from the English village of my ancestors, the influenza pandemic, and other topics about which I knew little or nothing, information I have also shared in my blog.

If you were to reflect on your own reading habits, you might also recognize triggers of your own.  So, how can a teacher of history create triggers for his or her students that will make history of interest to young people?  An interesting article written by Ann White, a teacher of European history in Washington, D.C. suggests that the key is for teachers to allow their own passions for what they are teaching to be the trigger for their students' interest.  

In her own case, she showed her class how she, as a history writer, proceeds once she has a thesis for a paper.  "...I taught by doing--writing, before their eyes, the same paper they were writing.  Why?  Because I myself write history.  It is my passion.  ...I want to show them how I weigh evidence in my mind and how I weigh words.  Does my tentative thesis genuinely express my understanding...Should I use a more vivid verb?"  White stopped giving tests and began requiring her students to write essays, and she discovered that they responded to her enthusiasm by mirroring her process.  "...they criticize each other's thesis statements.  They recognize statements that describe but do not assert, they find each other's lapses in historical reasoning.  Questions about thesis statements produce more intense classroom conversations than my test preparation ever evoked."

However, she also recognized that other teachers taught history in entirely different ways that also excited their students.  The common factor was "impassioned teachers."  She concluded that the teachers' "passionate involvement with history" is more important that methodology.  (You may read more at "Teaching High School History:  The Power of the Personal, Ann White, May 1998.)

Isaac's Journal
When I was teaching high school English before attending law school, my classes opened their minds to poetry when I used the lyrics of popular songs or assigned the sports section of the newspaper to search for similes, metaphors, and other poetry techniques.  Not by abandoning the text book but by opening their eyes to the poetry around them, I was able to awaken their interest.  Or, as William James said in last week's post, I was able to bring poetry into their own experience.

I hope more of you will share your comments this week about your own triggers for exploring subjects that had not previously been part of your experience, about teachers that shared their passions for subjects in a way that captured your interest, and about reading adventures you took after something triggered your curiosity.  I look forward to hearing from you!     


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Historian's Responsibility

From my first blog entry to the present, I have written of my belief that so many of our personal and our political mistakes can be avoided if only we learn from history.  (See "I Love History," 1-3-2012 and "Year's End," 12-30-2011 in the Blog Archives.)
I follow a wonderful blog titled "Brain Pickings" that always gives me ideas for reflection when I find time to visit it, and a recent posting inspired this week's blog with ideas taken from Erich Fromm (1900-1980), William James (1842-1910), and contemporary Dominican American writer, Junot Diaz.  A common thread in their writing inspired me to consider the challenge of creating interest in information in a world so filled with competing distractions. 
Artist:  Artero Espinosa
German psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm used the analogy of the development of a rose bush to our own power to direct our lives. He explained that while we have come to understand the impact of soil nutrients, optimal temperatures, sunlight and shade to aid in the growth of a rose bush, that does not prohibit the ability of the rose bush itself to bend its growth in reaching for the sun.  Likewise, each individual can reach for his or her own potential growth, despite external factors.  Fromm wrote:  "The goal of living [is] to grow optimally according to the conditions of human existence and thus to become fully what one potentially is; to let reason or experience guide us to the understanding of what norms are conductive to well-being, given the nature of man that reason enables us to understand."
My desire to tell Isaac's story and share the important history of a region that was the center of the Progressive Movement in the late 1800s is driven by what I see as the importance of knowing that history so that its experience can guide us today.
A contemporary Dominican American writer, Junot Diaz, (born 1968) expresses how art can play a role in educating readers in a rapidly changing world.  In an interview, Diaz said:  "One of the best things about art, as anyone who's studied a Victorian text knows, is that the future comes faster than we imagine, and there is a future coming up, of young artists and young critics and young scholars, who are thinking in ways that make the current conversation about our art look incredibly reductive." 
One important role for writers of history, I believe, is to make what we write relevant to young readers so that their perspective is not limited to their own experiences.  There is a certain arrogance that distances both young and old from each other.  A positive thing about young people is their confidence in themselves, but it tends to blind them to lessons of the past; a positive thing about older people is the wisdom they have gained from experience, but it tends to blind them to the innovation necessary in a changing world.  Writers of history must find a way to bridge both of those chasms in attitude that separate young and old.
William James (1842-1910)
A quote from William James (1842-1910) expresses the challenge of bridging those widely varying daily perceptions of our common world.  "Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience.  Why?  Because they have no interest for me.  My experience is what I agree to attend to.  Only those items which I notice shape my mind--without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos.  Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background and foreground, intelligible perspective, in a word.  It varies in every creature, but without it consciousness of every creature would be a gray chaotic indiscriminateness, impossible for us even to conceive."
Any parent or teacher already knows that the typical teenager only pays attention to what interests him or her.  Likewise, if we are honest, by middle age most adults no longer pay much attention to the culture shaping teenagers. If capturing the attention of differing ages of people living at the same time in order to create a common experience is difficult, it is understandable that writers of history face an even greater challenge to capture the attention of readers about a historic period about which the relevance to their lives is not immediately apparent.
Newsboys (eyeing newsgirl) from the 1800s
To bring this discussion into today's news, I offer two examples from the same day's New York Times.  Nicholas Confessore, writing about how the GOP elite lost its voters to Trump, pointed out that "...faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade [while] the party's donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered" were paying attention to different events. As William James explained, "Only those items which I notice shape my mind..."
In the same day's newspaper, Yamiche Alcondor, who is covering Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, described the world his supporters were experiencing:  "the anger at Wall Street; the indie rock anthems; and the kiwi slices consumed aboard his campaign plane" align Sanders's appeal to the cultural moment "for liberals, young people and union workers."  In short, again quoting James, "Interest alone gives accent and emphasis..."
Whether you are a politician shaping history or a writer sharing history, you will not reach potential voters or potential readers unless you can capture attention in a world so filled with distracting appeals, or as stated by James: "My experience is what I agree to attend to..."  No matter how compelling nor how significant the lessons of history may be, they can only shape the minds of those living today if they are noticed.  Providing a reason for reading history is the responsibility of writers who believe it is important to share that history.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Animal Buddies

Photo credit: Larry D. Fenwick
Within the past few months each time we go to town we have noticed a horse and a goat sharing the same pasture.  At first we didn't think much about it, but gradually we realized that these two animals were friends.

Returning home last week the sun was perfect and the two animals were close enough together and near enough to the road for us to get a nice photograph of them.  My husband turned around and went back, and when the two buddies saw us stop, they came to the fence to pose.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick
 I recalled a video we had seen on television not long ago about an old blind horse and a goat named Jack, who decided on his own to become Charlie Horse's guide.  According to their owner, no one trained Jack or encouraged the relationship, but for 16 years the goat would lead the blind horse to a favorite grazing patch, where the two friends would spend the day together until it was time for Jack to lead Charlie home.  The video may be watched at and you can find it by googling "goat guides blind horse."  After Charlie's death, the owner recognized the rapid decline of Jack, and made plans to bury Jack beside Charlie in the clearing where the two of them loved to spend their days together.

As unusual as it may seem, if you google "animal buddies" you can find other sites with photographs of animal friends you would never expect to see together.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick
Isaac B. Werner staked his claims on the Kansas prairie in 1878, and for six years he managed without a horse.  He acquired the horse he named Dolly Varden (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 12-28-2012 in the Blog Archives), and Isaac named Dolly's first colt Jim.  Two years later Isaac bought Jule, a gray mare with a colt by her side that he named Baldy.  

Baldy's first brush with bad luck happened when he was three.  A neighbor named Frazee was helping Isaac one day in mid-July, and when his dog misbehaved Frazee picked up a rock to throw at the dog.  His aim was poor, and he hit Baldy in the eye.  In Isaac's own words, "Frazee knocked Baldy's right eye out with a stone throwing at his worthless nuisance of a dog, showing hardly as much judgment as an ordinary 15 year old boy..."  Isaac lost sleep worrying about Baldy, and he treated the eye socket with a "linament half Lard and half Turpentine."  Baldy survived the ordeal, but his life seemed ill-fated.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
One morning in early April of the following year, Isaac went out " put [the] colts on rye pasture and found 'Baldy' horse cold dead by fodder stack and 'Jim' keeping him company." About a year apart in ages, Jim and Baldy were buddies, and Jim kept watch over his friend until Isaac arrived.  (According to Isaac, death was the result of eating cane "..after much freezing, too much indigestible stalk shell in it.")

For those of us who have loved special animals in our lives, we know each one has a unique personality and a great capacity for affection.

Isaac loved his horses, his cats, even his favorite chickens, and he certainly loved and protected the wild birds on his property.  (See "Isaac and His 'Pet' Game Birds," 8-8-2013.)  As for the hogs...not so much!  (See "Isaac's Bad Luck with Hogs," 9-11-2014) 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Occupying My Time

Those of you who follow my blog already know what a fan of Willa Cather I am.  My husband and I enjoy attending Cather conferences and seminars, although most of the attendees are professors who teach Cather and have studied her more thoroughly than I have.  However, as with any addiction, I have expanded my reading beyond Cather's novels, short stories, and poems to dip my toe into some of the scholarly writing.  It was exciting to all Cather fans when her letters were finally made available to scholars, resulting in the wonderful book, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout.  Having met and visited with both of the editors made the book even more special for me, and their depth of knowledge goes much further than just the letters they selected for the book.

Becoming acquainted with other attendees at the conferences and seminars is a huge part of the fun in attending.  Over the years, several of them have asked why I did not submit a proposal for presenting a paper.  My answer was always, "Because I don't want to appear foolish because of my shallow depth of knowledge about Cather."  Honestly, these people must have read everything she has written, including newspaper articles when she was just a young girl!  Not only that, they are on a first name basis with all of Cather's acquaintances.  They know all of the real people from Red Cloud, NE that Cather transformed into her characters.  It was (and is) very intimidating to imagine becoming well enough informed to write a paper to be read before this group.

However, that is exactly what I have committed to do.  My focus is on comparing Cather's writing in her World War I novel, One of Ours, with the writing of W.W. I poets.  You may remember that the discovery of the W.W. I toy soldier by construction workers during the remodeling of our home launched my reading about W.W. I.  (See "My Steadfast Tin Soldier," 9/25/2014, and "My Steadfast Tin Soldier, a Sequel," 10/2/2014, in the Blog Archives.)  Among the books I read (and continue to read) were poems by soldier poets.  I can't pretend to have the depth of knowledge about Cather that other presenters at the conference will have, but I hope to share interesting comparisons of scenes from Cather's novel with the W.W. I war poems.

Of course, Isaac B. Werner died in 1895, before the start of W.W. I in 1914, and although this blog is about Isaac and his times, I thought you might enjoy reading about what is diverting me from working on the revisions to my manuscript about Isaac and his community.  I am busy doing research and writing--but for now I am taking a little history detour to W.W. I! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beecher Bibles and Rifles

The Beecher Bible & Rifle Church
Henry Ward Beecher has been the subject of several posts in this blog, including his influence on Isaac B. Werner's journal ("Finding Isaac's Journal," 10-23-2011; "Historic Diaries," 5-14-2015), his broader influence ("Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12-7-2012), and his position among wealthy men and women of the Gilded Age ("Turmoil in the Gilded Age," 1-14-2016).  However, this post relates to his very direct role in the history of Kansas.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854 focused the spotlight during the prelude to the Civil War directly on Kansas by allowing its residents to determine whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state.  While allowing voters to determine the nature of their own state may have seemed to be a reasonable solution, the result was a competition to populate the state with voters sympathetic to one side or the other.  In effect, both sides set out not to stuff the ballot box with bogus ballots but rather to stuff the state with sympathetic voters.  Some of these new-comers to the region were genuine settlers; others came solely to establish temporary residences to serve their side of the issue.
New England was home to many people opposed to slavery, and some of them decided to leave New England and settle in Kansas.  New Haven, CT not only raised money for the resettlement but also some of their most prominent men joined the group willing to leave comfortable homes and established reputations for the uncertainties of Kansas.  When a meeting was held to raise money for the Connecticut-Kansas Company established for this venture, Henry Ward Beecher prompted others in the crowd to make their own pledges after making his pledge for money to buy 25 rifles if others in the crowd would meet that number with their pledges.  They did, with a total of 27.  Rev. Beecher's congregation in Brooklyn, NY honored their minister's pledge, sending not only $625 to buy the rifles but also 25 Bibles given by one of Beecher's parishioners.

This group of settlers from New Haven settled south of the Kaw River in a place called Wabaunsee.  Not all of them were prepared for the hardships of settlement in this remote place, which they referred to as "The New Haven of the West," and some returned to New England. Others were committed, and they organized "The Prairie Guard" in response to calls for men to defend Lawrence and spent 6 weeks fighting border ruffians harassing other Free State settlers there.

Their faith was an important part of their Free State mission, and they organized worship services immediately upon their arrival.  It was not until 1862, however, that their stone church was dedicated.  By then most of their men were away fighting in the Civil War, except for the old and the young.  Eventually, most of these settlers returned to live out their lives in the area from which they had come, but the few that remained influenced the region's development.

Wabaunsee's population decreased but the church was maintained well enough for the structure to survive, with a particular effort made on the Church's Centennial in 1957 to renovate the building.  The pictures taken for this blog show the church as of January 2016.  In a park nearby, the Kansas State Historical Society erected a monument reading:  "In Memory of The Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony, Which Settled This Area in 1856 And Helped Make Kansas A Free State.  May Future Generations Forever Pay Them Tribute."  R.S.C., 1969

In 1856 Henry Ward Beecher spoke not only in opposition to slavery but in favor of using lethal force to oppose slavery, specifically recommending the Sharps rifle.  On February 8, 1856, the following quote appeared in the New York Tribune:  "He (Henry W. Beecher) believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles.  You might just as the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows...but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle." 

Sharps 1863 Carbine .50-70 Calibre Antique Original
It is reported that shipment of rifles were transported in cases marked "Books" or "Bibles," and Sharp's Rifles acquired the common name of Beecher Bibles as a result.  Because shipments were often made in secret, the exact number of rifles is uncertain, but it is estimated that about 900 to 1,000 Sharps rifles were purchased for the border conflict in Kansas.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wamego's Attractions

The main street of Wamego
The city of Wamego, Kansas is not only a wonderful place to live.  It also has many reasons for visitors to be attracted to the city.  (See "Yellow Brick Road in KS," 1-28-2016; "A Visit to the World's Fair Inspires a Theater," 2-14-2016; "A Theater for Wamego," 2-21-2016 in the Blog Archives.)  The photograph at left shows the busy downtown and some of the store fronts that welcome visitors.

Hyeon jung Kim
The paintings of Sienna Clark wrap around one corner
Last week's blog mentioned the gallary located on the main floor of The Columbian Theatre.  When we visited, the paintings of Sienna Clark and Hyeon jung Kim were on display.  The mission statement of The Columbian Artist Group is "an organization of creative like-minded individuals dedicated to fostering the artistic growth and evolution of its members and promoting their talents."  The Columbian Theatre provides a large, well-lit environment to display a rotating gallery of members' work.  You may visit to read more.

Friendship House
We visited Wamego on Monday, not the best day, since some attractions and restaurants are closed on that day.  However, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch at the Friendship House Restaurant and Bakery pictured at left.  If you look closely, you can see the Yellow Brick Road that led us from the main street to the restaurant.

The Oregon Trail cuts across the northeast corner of Kansas, and deep ruts from the wagon wheels of settlers headed from the eastern part of the United States to California and states in between can still be found just northeast of Wamego.

Fortunately, we noticed the Wamego City Park, a beautiful park with an impressive train, lots of room, a mini prairie town with restored buildings, and most impressive of all, the Old Dutch Mill.

Wamego's Old Dutch Mill

The Mill was built in 1879 about 12 miles north of Wamego by a Dutch immigrant.  It took 35 teams and wagons when it was moved into Wamego in 1925 after first being dismantled--every stone numbered to enable it to be rebuilt just as it had been originally.  It is 25 feet in diameter and 40 feet high, and over the window of the mill is a bust of Ceres, the Goddess of Grain.

As this blog is being written in 2016, plans are underway for the celebration of Wamego's 150th Anniversary!  Also, Wamego is known for having one of the best 4th of July displays around.  Last year's display may be seen on youtube at

I know that many of you who follow Kansas State Football in Manhattan, as well as those of you who follow Kansas University basketball in Lawrence, drive I-70 regularly, and a side-trip to Wamego would make a delightful break in your trip.  For those of you who aren't often in that part of Kansas, maybe you should consider visiting some of the attractions I have described in recent posts.

This is our last blog about Wamego, and next week we travel down the road to a surprising historic site that is off the busy highway but definitely worth reading about.  You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Theater for Wamego

The Government Building at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition
In earlier blogs I have shared the importance of theaters and opera houses to the early settlers.  (See "Saving the Old Opera Houses of the Plains," 12-11-2014; "Stafford (KS) Opera House," 8-7-2014; "St. John (KS) Convention Hall & Opera House," 6-26-2014 in the Blog archives.)  Many towns on the prairie, imagining continued growth as well as filling the early settlers' longing for the culture of cities they had left behind to homestead, built theaters larger and more grand than might have been expected of communities where surrounding farmers were still living in dugouts and soddys.  The desire for education for their children and culture for their communities was strong.

West: Agriculture, South: Agriculture, North: The Shipping Trade
The Panic of 1893 crushed the dreams of many Kansas homesteaders, as well as many wealthy men in the nation's Eastern cities.  But it did not crush the dreams of Wamego banker, J.C. Rogers!  (See last week's blog, "A Visit to the 1893 World's Fair Inspires a Theater," at 2-18-2016 in the archives.)  Among the treasures he bought at The Columbian Exposition and World's Fair in Chicago were objects to be used in building a theater in his hometown that would rival the theaters and opera houses of the great cities.

Steel & Industrial Arts
Construction began on The Columbian Theatre in March of 1892, even before he had traveled to the Chicago World's Fair, so he must have kept his eyes open at the fair for objects he could use in the spectacular theater he had begun.  Imagine his excitement when he entered the rotunda of The Government Building and saw eight massive paintings measuring 11 feet by 16 feet on display.  The paintings had been commissioned by the U.S. Treasury specifically for the fair, and when the fair closed, J.C. Rogers had bought six of them to bring home to Wamego.

Architecture & Building Trades
Whether he preferred to display them within a square frame to appear more like traditional art or whether the space he was working with seemed to require the alteration of the original shape, for about a century the art took an altered shape.  In addition, one of the pieces had a hole cut through it for a stove pipe!

In February of 1993, one hundred years after the Chicago World's Fair for which the paintings were created, the paintings were taken down from the walls of Mr. Roger's theater to begin the painstaking process of restoration.  Only then did the generation of Wamego citizens supporting the restoration discover that about a foot on each side of the canvas paintings had been folded under to create the shape and size Rogers had wanted!  At least the paintings had not been cut, but the folding exacerbated the fragile process of restoration.  The cost of saving the six paintings was $155,000 and necessitated cutting an enlargement in the height of a door to bring the restored paintings, now mounted for preservation, back into the second floor of the theater.

World's Fair Souvenirs 
While the paintings may be the primary showpieces of the Wamego Columbian Theater, they are not the only reason to visit this wonderful historic building!  There are many other interesting objects on display, including the original silent film projector used when the theater opened in 1896, an antique ticket window, documents from the early years, and more.  The theater isn't just a beautiful restoration of Kansas history.
World's Fair souviners

Rather it remains a vital part of the Northeast Kansas community, in use for live performances, a Summer Theatre Academy for kids, and rentals for wedding receptions and other events.  One specific group makes special use of the main floor gallery.  More about the Columbian Artist Group, and other interesting sites in Wamego next week!

Visit to read more.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Visit to the 1893 World's Fair inspires a Theater

Thomas Moran, Brooklyn Museum Collection
The city of Wamego, Kansas was founded in 1866, but a visit to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago inspired what may be the most incredible addition to this city.  Wamego banker, J.C. Rogers joined other citizens from that area to travel by train to Chicago to see what the newspapers were describing as a magical place.

The Fair was advertised in Isaac B. Werner's home town newspapers too, and how much he must have wanted to attend.  However, by 1893 his health had continued to decline and such a long trip may have been impossible for him by then.  He had lived frugally, and he was beginning to pay off his debts, so the expense of the trip may also have kept him from going.  Like the people in Wamego, Isaac must have been thrilled reading about the wonders of the fair, like the amazing invention of the Ferris wheel  (See "If Isaac Could Only Imagine," in the blog archives at 7-11-2013).  

Advertising postcard for the Agricultural Building
The scope of the fair was amazing, with over 600 acres and a large lagoon and waterways intended to symbolize the journey of Columbus.  Offically called "The Columbian Exposition and World's Fair," it was and is generally known as the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.  It was an opportunity for Chicago to showcase both itself and the achievements of our young nation. 

Most of the public buildings were only intended to be temporary.  They were constructed of a mixture of plaster, cement, and jute, but when painted white they were dazzling in both sunlight and under electrical lights beneath the dark sky.  The use of electricity at the World's Fair was such a new invention that fair goers were amazed.

Not all of the buildings were of a temporary nature.  Many were intended to be sold after the fair to buyers who would dismantled them to be shipped to new locations and rebuilt.  Buildings represented each state, 4 U.S. territories, and 46 countries.   The picture at left offers some idea of the dense collection of structures on the 600 acres of the fair grounds.

Among the purchasers of more permanent structures was Wamego's own J.C. Rogers! He bought the Wisconsin House and The Building of Great Britain--Victoria House. 

Wisconsin House
Wisconsin House was built of brown stone, brick, and hardwood, all from the state of Wisconsin.  A striking stained glass window for the house was presented by the city of West Superior.  Although what Mr. Rogers paid for the house is unknown, fair records report that its original construction costs were $30,000, a remarkable sum in 1893 when the nation was in a depression.  

Yet pictures of other state houses show impressive structures as well.  Despite the economic condition at that time, states obviously wanted to put forward their best impressions.

The Victorian House was built in the traditional English half timber style.  The interior was beautifully furnished, and it was used during the fair primarily by English officials and their guests.

After the fair ended J. C. Rogers returned to purchase not only these two buildings but also decorative parts and artifacts from other buildings.  Rogers was a banker, and considering that the depression that followed the Panic of 1893 ruined many successful men, his buying spree at the close of the fair is rather remarkable.  He loaded a boxcar to bring his acquisitions back to Wamego. The two buildings were reassembled elsewhere and sold, but for his own town he had quite a surprise!  Next week's blog will share what else J.C. Rogers bought at the fair and brought back to Wamego!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yellow Brick Road in Kansas

Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Isaac B. Werner may have died before L. Frank Baum began publishing his Oz books, but both men were impacted by the Progressive Movement, and certainly Kansas is an important part of both men's stories.  (See "Isaac and the Wizard of Oz," in the blog archives at 12-15-2011.)

Our interest in all things Ozian motivated us to stop in Wamego to see the Oz Museum located there.  It was a great decision.


We were greeted warmly and encouraged to take photographs as we toured the museum.  While we may be kids at heart, I can only imagine how excited children must be to see the full-sized main characters in dioramas.  

We learned that most of the objects in the museum were accumulated by a collector who now lives in New York City.  He collected for many years and has acquired enough objects that the collections on display can be changed regularly.  Visitors are encouraged to return so they can see the new items.

Oz monkey from the movie
Since I am a stickler for accuracy according to the book, rather than the movie, I immediately mentioned Dorothy's "silver" slippers vs. the ruby slippers used in the movie.  Of course I like the alliterative sound of silver slippers, although I understand that the ruby slippers were more beautiful in the technicolor movie.  We were told that the collector acquired Baum's books and advertising materials and other objects that incorporate the silver slippers, but he also collected movie-related objects with the ruby slippers.

One of my favorite objects was this small flying monkey from the movie.  Many monkeys were created and used in the film for the flying monkeys scenes.  Most disappeared after the filming, so this surviving model is fairly rare.

One of many display cases
Of course, the Baum books and the movie have generated many objects--puzzles, figures, sheet music, games to name a few.  There are many cases in the museum filled with interesting objects.

Letter written by Margaret Hamilton
Another object that I enjoyed was a hand-written letter from Margaret Hamilton, the actress that played the wicked witch.  The type-written transcription is displayed in the foreground, but the hand-written letter is also displayed behind it.  I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the actress to reply by hand with such a long letter to a fan.

Contract signed by Baum

My husband spotted a 3-page typed contract signed by H. Frank Baum.  Dating from the era of hand-typed documents, before copy machines and computers, the contract with its less than even margin, visible correction, and signatures that appear to have been written with each signers' own fountain pen is quite a historic document.

Oz Quilt
Another unique object was the quilt designed by a lady in Kansas City and given to the museum.  

Tin Man

When we lived in different regions of the country and people we met learned that we were raised in Kansas, they nearly always mentioned The Wizard of Oz.  While more people have seen the movie rather than having read the books, everyone seems to know about Oz.  Dorothy may be our best ambassador for the state of Kansas.  

I can't imagine anyone who would not enjoy going out of their way to stop in Wamego for a stroll through the land of Oz at the museum!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

First Capital of Kansas?

Most people know that Topeka is the state capitol of Kansas.  (See "A Kansas Treasure," 10-15-2015 in the blog archives.)  However, they may not know that other places made their own claims to that title.  The first territorial capitol was designated in 1855 by  Governor Andrew Reeder, who selected a site away from the pro-slavery influence of Missouri.  The legislature, having been elected with the help of Missourians who crossed the border to vote, expelled the antislavery members and passed their own bill to move the government to Shawnee Mission,  near the Missouri border.  The maneuvering between the anti-slavery governor and the pro-slavery legislators resulted in a confusing history, but the site near Fort Riley military reservation that was selected by the Governor is now regarded as the First Territorial Capitol Historic Site. 

Lecompton Constitution Hall
Also in 1857, a free-state constitution was drafted, but it was never given serious consideration by Congress.  Next came a second constitution written at Lecompton, which sought admission of Kansas as a slave state with Lecompton as the capitol.  Free-state legislators refused to vote on that constitution, which was followed by a second election in which pro-slavery legislators refused to participate.  While that confusion was being considered, a third constitution was drafted in Leavenworth in 1858, which also failed to get congressional approval.  By 1859 the free-state faction was in control, and they drafted a document that barred slavery and fixed the present boundaries of the state.

Lecompton Jail
This fourth constitution ultimately was accepted, but not without difficulty.  The House of Representatives voted to admit Kansas as a state, but pro-slavery power in the Senate caused refusal of the constitution that had been sent by the people of Kansas to Congress.  The Republican platform of 1860, under which Lincoln was elected, had a plank for immediate statehood for Kansas.  The secession of Southern states from congress removed the opposition to admission of Kansas as a free state, and Kansas became the 34th state admitted to the union on January 29, 1861.

For a brief time, during all of that turmoil, the town of Lecompton claimed the title of the Kansas Territorial Capitol.  Their moment in history is evidenced by Constitution Hall and the Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton. The history of this period is contained in the Territorial Museum known as Lane University & Territorial Capital Museum, dedicated to Kansas history before the Civil War.

Lane University & Territorial Capital Museum
The University was founded in 1865 by Rev. Solomon Weaver and named after U.S. Senator James H. Lane, a free-state leader.  Having been first located in the former Rowena Hotel, the university was given 13 acres that included the foundation of what was initially intended to be the Territorial Capital building when the pro-slavery faction had controlled Lecompton.  The university built on the south half of that foundation in 1882 after the property was donated to them by the state.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower's parents met at Lane University when they were both students there.  The university merged with Campbell College in 1902.