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Kansas History - Spring 1998

(Vol. 21, No. 1)

Kansas History, Spring 1998

James E. Sherow and William S. Reeder, Jr. "A Richly Textured Community: Fort Riley, Kansas, and American Indians, 1853-1911."

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Although the U.S. Army and the American Indians did have clashes of arms on the western plains during the late nineteenth century, this certainly was not the limit or extent of their relationship. Indeed, as Sherow and Reeder demonstrate, Fort Riley was "more than a staging site for warfare and police action;" it "served as a place for Indian peoples to socialize and to engage in commerce. It was a human community, a richly textured community, and a place where soldiers, diverse civilians, and scores of Indian cultures mingled."

Eugene D. Fleharty. "'Apply Salt, Gunpowder, and the Yellow of an Egg': The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bites by the Western Kansas Settler."

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For a variety of reasons, Kansans of the 1870s had much more frequent contact with the dreaded rattlesnake than do their late twentieth-century descendants. Professor Fleharty, a biologist at Fort Hays State University and the author of Wild Animals and Settlers on the Great Plains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), chronicles the many ways in which western Kansas settlers sought to keep these encounters from becoming fatal.

Dale E. Watts. "Plows and Bibles, Rifles and Revolvers: Guns in Kansas Territory."

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Firearms were among the "important tools" used by white Americans to settle the western frontier, and in Kansas, writes historian Dale Watts, "guns also carried a special symbolic meaning in the turmoil of Bleeding Kansas." Nevertheless, "violence played a relatively small role in this turmoil," and settlers were not nearly as well armed as popular mythology would have us believe. Both sides did use their guns in the struggle to make Kansas free or slave, but, Watts concludes, "for every man who shouldered his 'musket' and marched into battle, a thousand used their guns in less stirring, yet absolutely vital, pursuits."

Virgil W. Dean, editor. "The Great Flood of 1951: A Letter from Catharine Wright Menninger."

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Cay Menninger, the wife of Dr. Will Menninger, had been actively involved in a variety of civic activities in Topeka from the time she moved to the capital city in 1925. So, not surprisingly, when the Great Flood of 1951 put the city in a crisis situation, Mrs. Menninger was among the hundreds of volunteers who work to alleviate the suffering of those hardest hit by the deluge. As chair of Volunteer Services for the Shawnee County Chapter of the American Red Cross, she had something of an insiders view of local relief efforts, and in this letter written to "Relatives and Friends" on July 19, 1951, she provides some interesting and very human insight into the way the community faced this very real challenge.