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.

Undergraduate Research Experience

Six months of research pay off! 

MJ Morgan and students presented to an interested audience at the High Plains Museum on October 18. Attendees represented  Northwest Kansas Technical College, Goodland City Commissioners, Sherman County Commissioners, the Goodland Morning Radio program, Goodland public library, local ranchers and farmers; Goodland business owners, and new arrivals to the town as well as long-time residents.

After the talk, there were requests for the highlights, maps, and photos to be made available in a small publication.  Dr. Morgan’s presentation,  “Goodland, Kansas: A Central Place Phenomenon, 1887-2014,” was funded by a Kansas Humanities Council grant last spring. This has proven a wonderful opportunity for KSU students to become involved in an area of Kansas that has received little attention from universities and researchers.

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The Good Land: Chapman Center Students Visit the High Plains!

The Goodland Identity Project: June –  October, 2014

A western Kansas landscape by Jennifer Milnes

A western Kansas landscape by Jennifer Milnes

An art student with a love of landscape photography, an agricultural business major, a graduate student in women’s studies and public history, and a GIS grad student specialist from the geography department:  these talented students have tackled the far western town of Goodland, county seat of Sherman County.   Since early June, they have worked hard to create materials for a Town Hall Meeting at Goodland on October 18.  Funded by the Kansas Humanities Council, the Town Hall Meeting is a collaboration with the High Plains Museum in Goodland. It will bring townspeople together to learn about Goodland identity, historic and present-day, and to create an action plan for the future. As the humanities representative for the grant, M.J. Morgan, Research Director here, decided to invite talented KSU students to assist over the summer.

Jennifer Milnes and Will Lienberger grew up in western and north-central Kansas. Their feel for rural Kansas — its people, culture, agriculture, and landscape  —  brought a depth and reality to this project. Jennifer created a photo essay of Goodland on June 21, the summer solstice. Her images of the town, bathed in the high, lasting light of a western dusk, celebrate Goodland’s evolving identity, 1887 – 2014. One of the few western Kansas places that is gaining population, Goodland is part of the High Plains culture region, so far west it’s on Mountain Time, just miles from the Colorado border.   Short grass prairie, buffalo, sod houses and homesteaders created the stories of its past: but what of the future?  Imagining the future is part of the Town Hall Meeting as well. Chapman Center is proud to have contributed research and photography to this project.

Jennifer Milnes, Norton County, Kansas

Jennifer Milnes, Norton County, Kansas

“I was born and raised in the community of Norton, Kansas. I’ve been serving in the Kansas Army National Guard since 2002 and am also a non-traditional student at KSU majoring in art. As a first generation Kansan, I thought taking Lost Kansas Communities with Dr. MJ Morgan in the fall of 2013 would be a great way to learn more about my home state! Growing up in western Kansas, I wanted to be involved in the Goodland Project. Because of my love of landscape photography and American history, I thought this internship was the perfect fit.”

Will Lienberger, Jewell County, Kansas

Will Lienberger, Jewell County, Kansas

“I am a senior at Kansas State University, majoring in Agricultural Business. After graduating, I plan on returning to my family’s farm in north central Kansas. I will be the fourth generation to work on our farm, and my family is very involved with it. We farm around 3000 acres, mostly of wheat, but also use corn, soybeans and sorghum. My main emphasis on this project is to assist in the agricultural research on Sherman County tracts of land and property ownership, and also to look at crops, water sources, and soil types. I look forward to traveling to Goodland after studying the terrain and also to be part of the presentation.”

Katie helps the interns settle on a method for the best presentation of Goodland's history.

Katie helps the interns settle on a method for the best presentation of Goodland’s history.

Graduate students Katie Goerl (history), a former Chapman intern, and Tyler Link, a GIS specialist (geography), have also worked with us this fall in imaginative ways. They’ve assisted in image interpretation, caption wording, and map creation.  Here, Katie works with fall interns in designing the photography exhibit. Our new interns also joined in, interested to learn about a place in Kansas they had never been.

All told, eight diverse and talented KSU students worked on the Goodland Town Hall Meeting Project!  They brought their training in art, history, agriculture, public relations, geography, and women’s studies.  Most of all, they brought their curiosity… and a passionate commitment to Kansas.

Tyler's Map

“As a Kansan and history lover, I am so happy to get this opportunity.”
— Tyler Link, geography graduate student, GIS specialist

Changing Seasons

Please join us in welcoming the new and returning interns, as well as new staff to the Chapman Center this fall! In addition to the new interns this fall, we a new Digital Humanities Graduate Teaching Assistant, Kelly Dyer. Our new staff and interns will be bringing new life to our Lost Communities Archive and our K-State webpage, as well as increasing our presence on social media! You can check out the new changes to the archive here. We’re excited to introduce you to our new and returning interns who will be working in the Chapman Center this fall!

Senior, Haley Claxton (Left)

Pictured here (left) with her sister, Courtney, in front of the Claxton Fruitcake company in Claxton, GA, Haley is a senior History major and English minor. Finding out that there was a town that shared her family name was the highlight of her summer whirlwind tour of the South with her family! (Though it was named only after being told that the original name, “Hendricks,” was already taken, and there is much dispute about who “Claxton” may have been, it was still exciting for her to find a personal link to history.) When not spending time traveling this summer, she studied for the Law School Admissions Test. Haley hopes for a future law career that includes following in the footsteps of Indiana Jones (but in a business suit) to ensure historical artifacts can be acquired by museums so they can be more easily shared with the public. Along with reading and studying immense piles of books on presidential assassinations and public memory of historical events, Haley spends time as a member of the KSU Mock Trial Team, Arts and Sciences Ambassadors, and Mortar Board Senior Honorary.Haley can’t wait to get started on a new and exciting internship with the Chapman Center!

Returning Intern Jessica Hermesch, junior in Public Relations.

Jessica Hermesch is a junior in public relations with a minor in history and is returning for a second semester as a Chapman Center Intern. This fall, Hermesch is researching the Underground Railroad through Nemaha County, Kansas. She is also researching the life and military involvement of George Adams Sr., a WWI veteran with multiple descendents who have been involved in both K-State and the US military. Jessica is a member of the K-State chapter of PRSSA, and the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications Ambassadors. She also works as a Tutor Coordinator in K-State’s Writing Center. After graduation, Jessica hopes to work in the public relations field, preferable in event planning.

Michael Spachek is a junior majoring in history. He grew up interested in history specifically the first hundred years of the MichaelUnited States centered on the Revolutionary and Civil War eras and World War II. Michael’s interest in the Civil War took off in high school when he visited Gettysburg and Fords Theater in Washington D.C. Michael is in his first semester as a history major since switching from wildlife biology after taking a course on African American Kansas and being accepted as an intern at the Chapman Center. His research uses his experience with maps, topography, and historic map interpretation. After graduating Michael hopes to go to graduate school for public history and work at a historic site educating the public as well as maintaining and researching public history.

BlakeBlake Latchman, from Chicago, IL, will graduate this May with a BA in History. Blake is currently seeking full time employment after graduation, but with no concrete plans, he is excited to find out where he will land. Blake intends to study urban planning in graduate school, and hopes to become a city planner. Blake has a passion for food, travel, design, and fashion. This photograph with his pal FDR was taken in Washington DC this past summer over the 4th of July weekend.

Join us in welcoming our interns and new staff! You can continue to follow our work here and on Facebook and Twitter!

Public History in Goodland, Kansas

Fall interns Haley, Blake, Michael, Jessica and graduate research assistant Katie examine photographs for a public history exhibit of Goodland, KS.

Fall interns Haley, Blake, Michael, Jessica and graduate research assistant Katie examine photographs for a public history exhibit of Goodland, KS.

Fall interns recently worked with former intern and graduate research assistant Katie Goerl. Katie returned to collaborate with us, helping us to figure out the best presentation of a public history exhibit on Goodland, Kansas. Check our website soon for more about this interesting Kansas Humanities Council Grant. Summer interns Will Lienberger and Jennifer Milnes contributed research and photography for the upcoming October 18 Town Hall Meeting. All told, six undergraduates and two graduate students worked on this project, directed by Dr. Morgan. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details on the Goodland Project!

Intern Blake makes a suggestion for placement of photos in the exhibit.

Intern Blake makes a suggestion for placement of photos in the exhibit.

Our interns and Katie settle on a method for the best presentation of Jennifer Milnes’ photos capturing Goodland’s identity today as a High Plains county seat.