In December 2014, 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.
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 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 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.
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 Wabaunsee 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!
We look forward to watching the continued success of our interns and eagerly await what the future holds for these bright young historians!