Thank You to Our Local Historical Societies

History 200 student researchers exploring the Broughton, Kansas, town site (Spring 2015)

History 200 student researchers exploring the Broughton, Kansas, town site (Spring 2015)

As we look towards a busy and exciting fall semester, more field trips are going up on the calendar — and most of them are to our affiliate research partners. Our students visit and work in five historical societies most consistently:  Clay County Museum and Historical Society in Clay Center; Geary County Historical Society in Junction City; Wabaunsee County Museum and Historical Society in Alma; Rock Creek Valley Museum and Historical Society in Westmoreland; and our own Riley County Historical Society here in Manhattan.

At these welcoming venues, curators and museum volunteers answer questions ranging from, “How can I find out who owns the land at the corner of Sycamore Creek Road and Cedar Bluff Road?” to  “How does this thing work?” or, “When was that schoolhouse built?”  Volunteers put students in touch with local people and land owners; they provide telephone numbers, help them read old maps, and suggest sources to try. The work our students undertake, recovering obscure histories for (often) overgrown and abandoned acreage, really does depend so much on just talking to knowledgeable residents.

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Nola Wilkerson, Curator, Rock Creek Valley Historical Society, speaks with MJ Morgan, Chapman Center Research & Curriculum Director, and History 200 student researcher (Spring 2015)

This month we are thanking two historical societies in particular for their assistance last year. Rock Creek Valley Historical Society in Westmoreland is one of our oldest research partners, going back to 2008 when Chapman Center was founded. Curator Nola Wilkerson, shown in this spring 2015 photograph, has been a wonderful help, as have board members over the years. This historical society was organized in 1976; its first site as a museum was in an old stone Evangelical Lutheran church. By 2001, the museum had grown, moving to land donated by Farmer’s State Bank in Westmoreland. Today it includes a modern and spacious museum building, an annex filled with old printing equipment from the Westmoreland newspapers, and an original 1850s log cabin moved in from Nemaha County.  Students can go into the cabin; they marvel at the tiny space where a large family endured harsh nineteenth-century winters.

Chapman Center students have worked in this historical society on many projects:  rural crime, lost towns, African-American settlement, artifact histories (such as those on cider presses and box telephones); and they have analyzed the early history of German settlers whose cabins dotted the prairies around Rock Creek. The field trip to Rock Creek Valley Historical Society is one students love, as they are permitted to look through old volumes of the Westmoreland newspapers (wearing white gloves, of course)!  They also have access to wonderful illustrated atlases, scrapbooks, and photographs.  This museum graciously opens especially for student researchers, a benefit we truly appreciate. Thank you to Nola Wilkerson, board members, and volunteers in Westmoreland!

This summer we will be posting to our digital archives a collection of outstanding work on African-American history in north-central Kansas.  Our research interns worked long hours between September and May on five very challenging projects. One of those in particular, Blake Hall-Latchman’s project on the Manhattan Bottoms, depended greatly on the assistance provided by Riley County Historical Society. Archivist Linda Glasgow often worked with Blake as he searched out the elusive history of this transient African-American neighborhood along Wildcat Creek and the Kansas River just south of Manhattan.  Linda provided maps, collections of newspaper clippings, and most important, the Manhattan City Ordinances, which Blake used extensively in his project.

Linda Glasgow, Archivist for the Riley County Historical Society, assists Chapman Center intern, Blake Hall-Latchman, with his research (Spring 2015)

Linda Glasgow, Archivist for the Riley County Historical Society, assists Chapman Center intern, Blake Hall-Latchman, with his research (Spring 2015)

Thank you to Linda, and also, to Cheryl Collins, director, for the hours of help and ideas they have provided. A local study like Blake’s depends on a “then and now” comparative approach, because the geography of Manhattan Township has changed so much between the 1880s and today. Blake studied at least six different maps of Manhattan and the township to determine the exact location of The Bottoms relative to the city.

Whether it is on class field trips or for year-long individual projects, our students benefit so much from the research venues opened to them at county historical societies.  They profit most of all from working with highly-trained and astute local people who are interested in their work and in them. In the end, it is always about people. A hundred year old map reveals some interesting things… but it is the people we talk to who give us the stories we preserve and remember.

Check out the student-researchers’ work on the recently-updated Lost Kansas Communities online archive!

Do you remember Bodaville, in northern Riley County, Kansas?

bodaville sign and skyDo you remember Bodaville, in northern Riley County, Kansas?

All that’s left of this little town on the prairie are two signs at a quiet crossroads.

Lost Communities researcher, Kevin McKeon, is hunting for Bodaville‘s history. He is especially eager to find descendants of the original Boda family, homesteaders in Riley County from Germany and Sweden.

bodaville tombstone crop and clean

Rural Kansas is filled with these mysteries…such as this small group of stones found along the back fence in a cemetery not far from Bodaville.

bodaville limestone sign curving gravel road in background

Their Memory Lives

Leo Chapman, the father of Mark Chapman, contributor to the Chapman Center, passed away peacefully on April 10th in Clay Center, Kansas.

Irene and Leo Chapman

Irene and Leo Chapman

Leo was born June 4, 1919 to Chris and O’Tillie (Dietrich) Chapman. He attended Hannibal Grade School and graduated from Clay Center High School. He attended Kansas State University for 2 years where he earned a letter in wrestling.

He married Irene Elizabeth McCully on October 19, 1940. They were married for 72 years.

Leo was an entrepreneur. He was a farmer, cattleman, developer, general contractor, real estate and stock broker, appraiser of farmland and property, antique dealer, and held many auctions.

While in his 70’s and 80’s, he competed in Senior Olympics, even taking 3rd place in the shot put at the National Senior Olympic Meet.

Leo was a member of the United Methodist Church and served as a member of the Trustees Committee. He was one of the originators of the Good Friday Men’s Breakfast. He served on the boards of: Broughton School District, Broughton Telephone, Broughton Watershed, Clay Center Coop, and Clay Center Utilities Committee. He was a member of the Lion’s Club and the Chamber of Commerce.

His hobbies were many. Refurbishing old upright pianos and pump organs, collecting & selling R S Prussia china, Vaseline glass and quilts. He also was a craftsman of fine wood furniture, giving many pieces to his children and grandchildren.

He went big game hunting in Colorado for years and was an avid hand fisherman.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Irene, son, Mark Allan, and baby daughter, Rena Lee.

Survivors include daughter-in-law Cheryl Mellenthin, Cat Spring, TX, son, Christopher (Edee Medley) Chapman of Richland, WA, daughter Julie (Dennis) Rice of Winfield, KS. Sister, Beulah (Chapman) Avery, Raytown, MO.

Grandchildren Amy (Frank) Burns, Lexi (Todd) Giblin, Carter Chapman, Jesse (Jeri) Chapman, and Carl (Louise) Chapman. And 5 great grandchildren.

Meet Chapman Center Interns at K-State Open House

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Have you wondered what Chapman Center interns really do?

Got a lead on a Lost Town you’d like to share?

Curious about what K-State has to offer you?

Now’s your chance to meet our fantastic four interns and learn more about all things PURPLE at K-State’s Open House this Saturday, April 11, 8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.!

You’ll find the Chapman Center for Rural Studies booth in the Student Union and on the same floor as the BookStore. Ask about current research, view the Chapman Center highlight reel, and look through some of the Chapman Center publications.

Don’t miss it!

Check out the Open House promo video. Get inspired.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YNEipJ_u_g

A Rediscovered Legacy

Michael surveys the land once owned by African Americans near the turn of the 20th century.

Michael surveys the land once owned by African Americans near the turn of the 20th century.

Thanks to diligent research by Chapman Center Intern Michael Spachek, the once forgotten history of a substantial group of black farm families has been brought to life. Michael conducted research on African American land ownership in Wabaunsee County this past fall, discovering the complex stories of success and failure surrounding these remote tracks of land in the Flint Hills.

An old farm road bisects the land in Wabaunsee County once belonging to African American farmers.

An old farm road bisects the land in Wabaunsee County once belonging to African American farmers.

Michael’s research uncovered the stories of twenty-six landowning African American families in Wabaunsee County near the turn of the 20th century. Michael recently traveled to these remote farmsteads with Dr. Morgan to photograph the land and gather more information. Through his research, Michael learned how to work effectively with large databases of census records and deed records. Much like finding a needle in a haystack, Michael discovered small pieces of information and skillfully turned it into an accurate narrative of these landowners’ lives.

I was drawn to the topic because of the chance to discover stories about a group of people that disappeared and with little published work on them.

The farmsteads owned by African American men nearly one hundred years ago.

The farmsteads owned by African American men nearly one hundred years ago.

Michael’s research was previously presented at our first annual Chapman Center Open House. We are also excited to congratulate him on the acceptance of his research to the Flint Hills History Conference, “Culture and Conflict,” where he will present his research in March!

Undergraduate Research on Display

Dr. Morgan introduces the interns and describes the work they each did before their presentations

Dr. Morgan introduces the interns and describes the work they each did before their presentations

This past December, after a intense semester of research, our interns presented their research findings to a room full of eager listeners. Individuals from around Kansas traveled to the Chapman Center to attend the open house and hear about undergraduate research. The focus of intern research was the discovery of an obscured Kansas history, the history of African-Americans in rural Kansas. Each intern met with differing degrees of success in their research, but they each succeeded in peeling back the layers of history to discover diverse and untold stories.

Haley Claxton talks about the difficulties she faced conducting her research

Haley Claxton talks about the difficulties she faced conducting her research

Fall intern Haley presented her research on the founding of Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Junction City. She encountered obstacles at multiple layers of local and regional government, making her grass roots research incredibly difficult. Ultimately, her research into the park is ongoing as she discovers the challenges of rural research. Her main research project explored the life of Orchid Ramsey Jordan in Clay Center. Haley searched for brief references to Orchid in historic records and books. Haley discovered Orchid’s rich story, which included membership in the Missouri state legislature. Haley has also been selected to present her research in Topeka at the Undergraduate Research Conference!

Blake presents the body of research that he worked with to discover the history of The Bottoms

Blake presents the body of research that he worked with to discover the history of The Bottoms

Blake Latchman presented his research on the Manhattan Bottoms, tracing the history of the African-American community that rose up in the Bottoms between 1880 and 1920. Blake accessed historic maps of Manhattan to discover the geographic dispersal of this community, circa 1909. Blake explored why the African-American population rose so sharply in 1890 and dropped off in the following decades. Blake traveled several times to the Bottoms in southern Manhattan to discover the story of this historic community.

Jessica points to sections of the Underground Railroad and The Manhattan Spur, highlighted on a map of Kansas

Jessica points to sections of the Underground Railroad and The Manhattan Spur, highlighted on a map of Kansas

Jessica Hermesch presented her research on one of the western routes of the Underground Railroad, which snaked its way through Kansas, including a section called ‘The Manhattan Spur.’ Jessica set out discover just how far west the trails ventured into Kansas, tracing their routes through historic maps and old records. Jessica discovered that several ‘conductors’ had to take their trails out west of the main avenue, the “Lane Trial to Freedom.” These ‘spurs’ went through Manhattan, Wabunsee, and Nemaha County before rejoining the Lane Trail further north.

Michael points out the plots of land owned by African-Americans in Wabunsee County

Michael points out the plots of land owned by African-Americans in Wabunsee County

Fall intern Michael used a number of old plot and township maps and land records to present the history of African-American land ownership in Wabunsee county. Michael traced the history of five land-owning African-American men in the Mission Creek township. Michael was able to generate maps locating the specific plots of land owned by these men. Michael’s research has also been accepted at the Flint Hills History Conference, “Culture and Conflict,” this coming March!

A room full of attendees await intern research presentations

A room full of attendees await intern research presentations

We look forward to watching the continued success of our interns and eagerly await what the future holds for these bright young historians!

Adams’ Collection Research Honors Family of Veterans

Chapman Center Intern Jessica Hermesch with the collection donated by General Adams

Chapman Center Intern Jessica Hermesch with the collection donated by General Adams

Thanks to a generous donation from Brigadier General Bruce Adams (Ret.), Hale Library Special Collections at Kansas State University is now home to a collection of military records, letters, and documents that trace the military and family history of George Adams, Sr., George Adams, Jr., and Bruce Adams.

With the death of his own father, General Bruce Adams saw that the passing of family members creates an impassable barrier, and he believes it is critical to begin the recording process of a complex story while the memories are still accessible. As part of that process, early this year Chapman Center Director Dr. Bonnie Lynn-Sherow interviewed General Adams about the collection and his rich family history.

This past summer, returning intern, Jessica Hermesch, began working with the collection in the University archives to build a narrative of the family history, beginning with the service of George Adams, Sr., in World War I. Jessica has sorted through dozens of documents chronicling George Sr.’s career as a Corporal in K Company, with the 140th Infantry Regiment in World War I. The 140th, as a part of the 35th Infantry Division, took part in combat operations in the Muese-Argonne offensive. George Sr. also trained with the 353rd Infantry Regiment at Camp Funston, a garrison at Fort Riley.

The contents of George Adams, Sr.'s wallet that he carried in France, 1917, which includes French currency, Army registration card, and a deck of cards that George passed down to his son.

The contents of George Adams, Sr.’s wallet that he carried in France, 1917.

Jessica’s research focuses on the patriotism passed from Adams father to son. She hopes to construct a narrative chronicling how values were passed from George Sr. to George Jr., who flew as a reconnaissance pilot in World War II. Her work prepares for future research on George Jr.’s record in WWII as well as General Adams’ military service. Both George Adams Jr. and General Adams attended Kansas State University and have deep connections to the University, including an Army ROTC scholarship.

Jessica pulls out the deck of cards. George carried this deck through France during World War I.

Jessica pulls out the deck of cards. George carried this deck through France during World War I.

One of the special items featured in the Adams Collection is the wallet that George Adams Sr. carried through France during World War I. The contents include currency, both French (Un Franc) and German (Eine Rentenmark).

At the top of the photo (left) is George Sr.’s Army registration card and a miniature deck of cards. George Sr. passed the cards to his son, George Jr., who then passed them to his son, General Bruce Adams. George Sr. received the cards in 1917 before he left for Europe. General Bruce Adams was presented with the cards in 1998.

Jessica sorts through the contents of George's wallet, examining his registration card.

Jessica sorts through the contents of George’s wallet, examining his registration card.

Jessica, whose family has its own military record, is interested in comparing how different families experienced the military. Jessica’s great uncle served in World War II and his father before him in World War I.

“The Adams Collection fascinates me because most of what I’ve learned about military history is the big picture and strategic story, but this has given me a chance to examine the individual lives of soldiers.”
– Jessica Hermesch, Chapman Center Intern

The Adams also resided for a period in Seneca, Kansas, Jessica’s hometown. According to Jessica, this shared location makes the connection to the Adams Collection even more interesting for her.

Jessica examines documents containing George Sr.'s promotion to Corporal and his Honorable Discharge forms

Jessica examines documents containing George Sr.’s promotion to Corporal and his Honorable Discharge forms

Michael Spachek, Jessica’s colleague, contributed a war diary belonging to his great-grandfather from his own family collection. She uses the diary to offer context for her work on World War I and to learn more about the life of soldiers in Europe. Jessica’s research, planned for completion in early 2015, and the Adams Collection both seek to honor this country’s veterans, past and present.