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!

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Old Mills in Kansas

On April 6, Research Director M.J. Morgan gave a Kansas Speaker’s Bureau talk (Kansas Humanities Council) on the culture of early settlers and food production to a historical museum in Fredonia, Wilson County. Wilson County is threaded with the streams and creeks of three major river watersheds: the Neosho, the Verdigris, and the Fall Rivers. In 1880, the area had over 12 working grist and merchant mills, built predominantly by settlers from Indiana and New York.

One left standing on the Fall River below Fredonia is still beautiful, despite age and wear.

The Old Fredonia Mill, Present Day.

The Old Fredonia Mill, Present Day.

Though old, the Fredonia mill is still functioning today.

The Fredonia Mill once served a thriving community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Iron Club is vitalized through volunteer efforts of community members who celebrate the diverse heritage of their southeastern county. Leanne Githens, Secretary-Treasurer of The Old Iron Club, explains,

Quotation“In the fall, the Iron Club holds the Wilson County Old Iron Days for 4 days and we are host to around 2,000 school children from southeast Kansas. The children visit about 30 exhibits and working demonstrations of rural ways of the past, both farming and domestic arts. We love doing it and teaching children, and our response is very positive. As an organization, we are committed to finding ways to preserve the knowledge of the past and how things work.”

For more information about the Wilson County Old Iron Days, go to their website: http://www.oldironclub.org/Wilson_County_Old_Iron_Club/Home.html.

Advertising the Old Iron Club in Fredonia, Kansas.

Advertising the Old Iron Club in Fredonia, Kansas.

Chapman Center is proud to have contributed to this striking effort to preserve the history of Kansas!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The new Spring 2014 Interns have had nearly two months to get acquainted with the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, a program they were already familiar with through classes taught by Dr. Bonnie Lynn-Sherow and Dr. MJ Morgan. It was almost like deja vu to see the two faces and hear their names, which had already been floating around from time to time.

Griffin Page, Senior in History, and Jessica Hermesch, Sophomore in History.

Griffin Page, Senior, and Jessica Hermesch, Sophomore.

During their classes the two of them were able to get their Lost Towns paper published to the Lost Kansas Communities Digital Archive. Griffin and Jessica both wrote about towns close to where they grew up. Griffin was able to capture the struggle Stanley, Kansas (currently part of Overland Park, KS) went through during the process of being annexed by a nearby town. Jessica chose to write about Goff, Kansas and how the town beat all statistical odds based on the survival rate of other towns in similar situations.

The really exciting research is still-to-come, however, with Griffin working on CIS maps started by previous interns and Chapman Center staff that illustrate, for example, bootlegging and crime rates in Clay County, Kansas during the 19th century. Jessica will be working on interviewing a fellow classmate about her Lost Town paper about the home she grew up in – which had previously been a one-room school house! We’re very excited about the wonderful work Griffin and Jessica have already done and we can’t wait to see what they’ll produce next!

For a more information about Griffin and Jessica, go to our Staff page on our website: http://www.k-state.edu/history/chapman.

Once More on Main Street…

The semester always ends in Lost Communities class with a field trip to the old Broughton townsite. It was a COLD but sunny Tuesday, December 10!

  Patricia McCollum, Jessica Hermesch, and Jennifer Milnes standing at the Broughton Townsite sign.

Patricia McCollum, Jessica Hermesch, and Jennifer Milnes standing at the Broughton Townsite sign.

Despite the cold temperatures, students walked most of the town on a snow-packed Tompkins (Main) Street, using old plat maps to locate businesses, the site of the grain elevator, and the railway lines that once defined the town. They enjoyed looking WAY up to the top of the two remaining cottonwoods, the last of the nine planted in 1890.

Nine cottonwoods were planted in 1890 and the only two remaining in 2013 are certainly a sight for HIST533 students who have never been to the Broughton townsite before.

Nine cottonwoods were planted in 1890 and the only two remaining in 2013 are certainly a sight for HIST533 students who have never been to the Broughton townsite before.

We also went to Broughton Cemetery. Here, history major Griffin Page tries to decipher a gravestone to the wife of one of the first Broughton settlers and Union war veteran, Thomas Ingersoll. Anna Ingersoll died within the first year of arrival, in 1870.

Griffin Page studying one of the oldest tombstones in Broughton Cemetery.

Griffin Page, deep in thought while studying one of the oldest tombstones in Broughton Cemetery.

It never fails that the students find something of interest in such a historic place, even if it’s just the fact that the students know how long this once-inhabited place has been left alone.

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 (Photograph courtesy of student and photographer, Jennifer Milnes)

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Dr. MJ Morgan leads the way across the Broughton Town Site. (Photography courtesy of student and photographer, Jennifer Milnes)

Yet while some aspects of Broughton townsite seem to be lasting memories, seemingly eternal without the traffic and changes in Manhattan or another bustling town, no matter how many times we take this field trip to old Broughton, there always seems to be something new to find!

This furry guy was definitely a first for the Broughton Field trip. Maybe we have a new mascot?

This furry guy was definitely a first for the Broughton Field trip. Maybe we have a new mascot? (Photograph courtesy of student and photographer, Jennifer Milnes)

History on the Ground

Glove check! It was important to keep the integrity of the historical materials, many of which were hundreds of years old. Gloves helped protect the materials against the oils of the students' hands - not to mention they made everyone look so dashing!

Glove check! It was important to keep the integrity of the historical materials, some of which was over one hundred years old. Gloves helped protect the materials against the oils of the students’ hands – not to mention they made everyone look so dashing!

On October 24, HIST533 Lost Kansas Communities students, under the direction of Dr. MJ Morgan, traveled to Rock Creek Valley Historical Society in Westmoreland, Pottawatomie County. This museum generously allows students to browse original newspaper volumes — wearing white gloves, of course. Class members evaluated the weekly reports from tiny, lost Kansas towns and aggregate communities in order to write about small town values between 1910 and 1930. They also enjoyed the advertisements, in which patent medicines play a large role!

Digging into history with iconic advertisements in the background. Students were able to do more than just read about what they were studying in class at the Rock Creek Valley Historical Society on Thursday, October 24, 2013.

Digging into history with iconic advertisements in the background. Students were able to do more than just read about what they were studying in class at the Rock Creek Valley Historical Society on Thursday, October 24, 2013.

Student inspect the sides of the Summerhill Cabin, built in 1867 and was moved to Wabaunsee County from Nemaha County.

Student inspect the sides of the Summerhill Cabin, built in 1867 and was moved to Wabaunsee County from Nemaha County.

On the grounds of the museum is the Summerhill Cabin, built in 1867 in Nemaha County and moved later to Westmoreland. It was occupied until 1952! Students were able to study log cabin architecture and apply material learned in class about the origins of the log cabin — appearing by 1623 along the Delaware River south of what would one day be Philadelphia. The log cabin has become iconic in American frontier history — but it was not invented in North America! To learn who did create it…ask a student in History 533!

Many thanks to Nola Wilkerson, curator of the museum and historical society, for her open door policy.

Interns in the Field – October 11

When is a metal detector part of historical research?

Matthew Leverich surveys land lying south of Horseshoe Road. It is possible there were auto campgrounds near the Kansas River in the 1920s.

Matthew Leverich surveys land lying south of Horseshoe Road. It is possible there were auto campgrounds near the Kansas River in the 1920s.

The interns find an abandoned bridge and discernible "road" in the middle of overgrown woodlands. The road runs parallel to the Union Pacific Railway line, both on the floodplain.

The interns find an abandoned bridge and discernible “road” in the middle of overgrown woodlands. The road runs parallel to the Union Pacific Railway line, both on the floodplain.

Matthew Cantril uses a metal detector near a possible campground site.

Matthew Cantril uses a metal detector near a possible campground site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interns Matt Cantril and Matt Leverich discovered its use (and drawbacks) when working in southern Pottawatomie County Friday, October 11. After much analysis of old maps and newspapers, they think they may have located a portion of the Roosevelt Midland Trail passing through Pottawatomie County, Kansas around 1914. The Midland Trail was a major transcontinental auto route in the early days of Model T travel. Working in Riley County as well, the interns think this early route had many names. It may actually have been originally part of the Military Trail connecting Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley in the 1850s.

Matt and Matt begin work around the old bridge. The metal detector turned up several clues, including a possible 1922 pill bottle and telephone pole insulator glass (telephone poles were used as markers for early routes).

Matt and Matt begin work around the old bridge. The metal detector turned up several clues, including a possible 1922 pill bottle and telephone pole insulator glass (telephone poles were used as markers for early routes).

The Midland Trail Project Continues to Unfold! Check Here for Updates!

Mining Memories, a How To by Dr. MJ Morgan

Dr. MJ Morgan giving a presentation on Oral History at the Manhattan Public Library to commemorate the Rile County's Genealogical Society's 50th Anniversary.

Dr. MJ Morgan giving a presentation on Oral History at the Manhattan Public Library to commemorate the Rile County’s Genealogical Society’s 50th Anniversary.

Chapman Center Research Director MJ Morgan spoke Sunday afternoon, October 13, 2013, at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Riley County Genealogical Society. Her talk, “Reliability in Oral History,” was based on at least forty interviews she and undergraduates did to collect material for our 2010 book, Portrait of a Lost Town: Broughton, Kansas:  1869-1966.

The Riley County Genealogical Society’s History:

For fifty years, the library has been a major genealogical research facility located in Manhattan, Kansas. [Their] research resources include over five thousand volumes in its holdings with a comprehensive collection of family histories, books, and records, representative of every U.S. State and most European countries, census, marriage, deed, school and cemetery records, a Kansas collection for each of the 105 counties, a large holding of information on microfilm and microfiche, internet access to the worldwide community, plus its own website. The Society continues to publish genealogical boos, a quarterly journal and a member newsletter. [The Society is] a non-profit organization, serviced by volunteers who provide thousands of hours annually to maintain research resources for the public. The research library is open to the public five days a week, twelve months a year.

During the presentation Dr. Morgan debunked popular misconceptions about the reliability of oral history. She gave valuable tips on how to use and verify oral history, including showing a clip of a recorded interview, given by Dr. Morgan herself, of an elderly woman from Clay Center.

Here, former Undergraduate Research Assistant Angela Schnee talks with an audience member after the presentation. Angela, who graduated last spring, came to help Dr. Morgan with the talk. She assisted Chapman Center students for over two years with their research. She is missed!

Here, former Undergraduate Research Assistant Angela Schnee talks with an audience member after the presentation.

Angela Schnee, who graduated last spring, came to help Dr. Morgan with the talk. She assisted Chapman Center students for over two years with their research. She is missed! Also indispensable: Office Manager Amanda Dempster, who helped to create Power Point images and also edited a film clip of an interview in Clay Center. Thank you to Angela and Amanda!