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Kansas History - Spring 2001

(Vol. 24, No. 1)

Kansas History, Spring 2001

Kevin J. Abing, "Before Bleeding Kansas: Christian Missionaries, Slavery, and the Shawnee Indians in Pre-Territorial Kansas, 1844-1854."

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Dr. Kevin Abing, who previously published "A Holy Battleground: Methodist, Baptist and Quaker Missionaries Among the Shawnee Indians, 1830-1844" with Kansas History (Summer 1998), argues in this thoroughly researched and well-written essay that the "men of God," who labored to "civilize" the Shawnees, unleashed and perpetuated the sectional turmoil among the Indians in their charge. Slavery was a reality and a divisive issue in the region before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and these "men of peace" inadvertently laid the groundwork for Bleeding Kansas. Thomas Johnson, Shawnee Manual Labor School, was especially active "on behalf of the slave interests," according to Dr. Abing, but the Shawnees and Johnson "took different paths with regard to slavery" by 1855. "The tribe closed ranks and muted tribal differences in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to maintain its Kansas lands. Johnson's actions, however, only served to intensify the slavery controversy."

I. E. Quastler, "The People's Railroad: The Leavenworth & Topeka, 1918-1931."

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Community survival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often depended on railroad service, and town and country folk often went to extraordinary lengths to ensure it. In 1918 some residents of northeast Kansas met their threat of discontinued service, according to Professor I. E. Quastler, with "a brave experiment in local ownership." This "'people's railroad' was a product of its time," and Quastler, a professor of geography at San Diego State University who has written much on western railroading, explains how and why the people of Jefferson County in particular fought hard for its survival. For twelve years their efforts were at least arguably successful, but "the revolution in American transportation was underway, and it was becoming increasingly clear that highway transportation often was superior to rail. When the L&T proved highly susceptible to such competition, community support waned, and after a noteworthy struggle the company went out of business in 1931."

A. Kenneth Stern and Janelle L. Wagner, "The First Decade of Educational Governance in Kansas, 1855-1865."

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Common or public school education has long been important in America, but its governance has varied from region to region and state to state. In this article, Oklahoma State University professor Kenneth Stern and graduate student Janelle Wagner explore that issue for the territory and state of Kansas. This issue, like most others, was impacted in early Kansas by the pervasive slave question, but "by 1858 county and territorial governance of a public education system was under way. . . . Kansans wanted an educational system to reflect the best of educational practices and . . . . their constitution embodied those interests, which were reflected in the provisions for state, county, and local governance."

Douglas S. Harvey, "Creating a 'Sea of Galilee': The Rescue of Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, 1927-1930."

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Located in Barton County, the Cheyenne Bottoms is an ancient wetlands of major significance to the Central Plains, and unlike most of its many smaller cousins throughout the region, which were drained for crop production, the Bottoms survives, albeit in a "drastically altered" and intensively managed condition, as a part of the great Central Flyway of North America. Its survival is due in large part to "the diligent efforts of conservationists and environmentalists," allied with sport hunting enthusiasts and other key constituent groups, who successfully opposed the efforts of the Cheyenne Bottoms Drainage District No.1 to bring this land under cultivation. Thus, "the inclination of agricultural interests in the state of Kansas to drain 'swamplands' was somewhat overcome," concludes Doug Harvey, a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, but "ironically perhaps, it was the money-making potential of the area as a wildlife refuge that saved it from drainage."


(The following books and collections are reviewed in full in our print version.)

Oscar Micheaux . . . Dakota Homesteader, Author, Pioneer Film Maker: A Biography by Betti Carol Van Epps-Taylor
x + 184 pages, appendixes, notes, bibliography, index.
Rapid City, S.D.: Dakota West Books, 1999, paper $9.95.

Reviewed by Catherine L. Preston, assistant professor of theatre and film, University of Kansas.

Kit Carson and the Indians
by Tom Dunlay
xx + 525 pages, photographs, notes, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, cloth $45.00.

Reviewed by James T. Carroll, professor, Iona College, New Rochelle, New York.

The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends and Lore
by David Dary
xii + 368 pages, photographs, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, paper, $30.00.

Reviewed by Robert Knecht, head, arrangement and description section, Library and Archives Division, Kansas Historical Society.

Angie Debo: Pioneering Historian
by Shirley A. Leckie
xiv + 242 pages, photographs, bibliographic essay, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000, cloth $26.95.

Reviewed by Daryl Morrison, head of Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library, Stockton, California.

Kate Hansen: The Grandest Mission on Earth, From Kansas to Japan, 1907-1951
by Dane G. and Polly Roth Bales with Calvin Harbin
x + 358 pages, illustrations, photographs, notes, index.
Lawrence: University of Kansas Continuing Education, 2000, cloth $36.00.

Reviewed by William M. Tsutsui, associate professor of history and director, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Kansas.

The Agricultural Revolution of the 20th Century
by Don Paarlberg and Philip Paarlberg
xvi + 154 pages, illustrations, tables, references, index.
Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2000, cloth $54.95.

Reviewed by G. Terry Sharrer, curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

The Wichita Indians: Traders of Texas and the Southern Plains, 1540-1845
by F. Todd Smith
xiii + 206 pages, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000, cloth $40.00, paper $19.95.

Reviewed by David Clapsaddle, historian and author, Larned, Kansas.

Massacre at Cheyenne Hole: Lieutenant Austin Henely and the Sappa Creek Controversy
By John H. Monnett
xviii + 163 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2000, cloth $32.95.

Reviewed by Bradley J. Birzer, assistant professor of history, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan.

Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy
edited by Robert Brent Toplin, with commentary by Oliver Stone.
335 pages, photographs, tables, notes, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000, cloth $34.95.

Reviewed by Thomas Prasch, assistant professor of history, Washburn University.

The Sidney Clarke Collection
University of Oklahoma

Reviewed by Todd J. Kosmerick, assistant curator, Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.


Happy as a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880

by Rolf Johnson; edited by Richard E. Jenson
xxxii + 270 pages. Paper $15.00.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000

The diaries of Rolf Johnson (1856-1922), a Swedish teenager in 1876 when his family took a homestead claim in Phelps County, Nebraska, in 1876, are published here in their entirety for the first time as Happy as a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880, with a useful introduction and helpful notes by the editor, Richard E. Jenson, a research anthropologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society. The first three years of the diary tell of the Johnsons' frontier farming experience, reminiscent in many ways of Howard Ruede's Sod-House Days: Letters From a Kansas Homesteader, 1877-78 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1983). Then, somewhat mysteriously, the young Johnson moves farther west, first to the Black Hills, then the Colorado Rockies, and finally Cubero, New Mexico, where the journal ends on November 25, 1880.

Federal Planning and Historic Places: The Section 106 Process

by Thomas F. King
195 pages. Paper $23.95.
Walnut Creek, Calif.: Alta Mira Press, 2000.

Anyone interested in historic preservation may well be interested in Thomas F. King's analysis of section 106 of the National Preservation Act, which has been used to save thousands of historic sites, archeological sites, buildings, and neighborhoods across the country from destruction by federal projects. And it has let even more be destroyed, or damaged, or somehow changed. The volume serves as a companion to the author's introductory text on cultural resource management, Cultural Resource Laws and Practices: An Introductory Guide.

En Aquel Entonces: Readings in Mexican-American History

edited by Manuel G. Gonzales and Cynthia M. Gonzales. xvii + 287 pages. Paper $19.95.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

This collection of previously published essays by scholars of Chicano/a history covers a wide range of subjects and regions but includes several articles of interest to students of Kansas history, most notably David Sandoval's Gnats, Goods, and Greasers: Mexican Merchants on the Santa Fe Trail and Dennis Nodin Valdes's Settlers, Sojourners, and Proletarians: Social Formatio in the Great Plains Sugar Beet Industry, 1890-1940.

The Civil War on the Lower Kansas-Missouri Border

by Larry E. Wood
212 pages. Paper $16.95.
Joplin, Mo.:Hickory Press, 2000.

As Fred R. Pfister, editor, The Ozark Mountaineer, writes in the foreword to this little volume, the people of the Ozark border region for the most part just wanted to be left alone, but they were caught squarely in the middle of an especially bitter and cruel conflict. The Civil War on the Lower Kansas-Missouri Border, which may be of interest to the general reader, focuses on these people and this small, narrow geographic area and in the process describes some obscure and some better-known incidents (e.g., the Osceola raid and the burning of Humbolt, the Baxter Springs massacre, and the Battle of Mine Creek) in an effort to make the big picture clearer.

Educating the U.S. Army: Arthur L. Wagner and Reform, 1875-1905

by T. R. Brereton
xviii + 173 pages. Cloth $45.00.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

Here the author, a visiting assistant professor of history at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, offers a relatively brief but thoughtful biography of an influential army officer who tirelessly advocated professionalization, helped bring the American military into the twentieth century, and was "undoubtedly the army's premier intellectual and educator during the late Gilded Age and early Progressive years." Readers of Kansas History will be especially interested in Wagner's involvement with the educational mission of Fort Leavenworth, where he "designed much of the curriculum . . . and wrote the [infantry and cavalry] school's two principal texts . . . which combined military history, tactical theory, and directions for the conduct of battle into a systematic whole."

For Wood and Water: Steamboating on the Missouri River from Saint Louis to Fort Union, Dakota Territory, 1841-1846. A Collection of Journals

by Captain Joseph A. Sire
presented by Mark H. Bettis.
xiv + 161 pages. Paper $12.95.
Hermann, Mo.: Wein Press, 2000.

Joseph A. Sire, who wrote the original journals in his native French, captained the steamboat Trapper in 1841 and 1842, the Omega in 1843, the Nimrod in 1844, and the General Brooke in 1845 and 1846. These yearly accounts make up the bulk of this volume, which also includes a brief biographical sketch of Captain Sire, revered as one of the two foremost men in the history of steamboat navigation on the Missouri River, and notes on the ships' cargo and stores.

The American West: A New Interpretive History

by Robert V. Hine and John Mack Faragher
x + 616 pages. Paper $19.95.
New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000.

This important volume, by two of western history's most notable scholars, should be of interest to all students of the American West. It contains many fine illustrations, notes, and a short list of further readings with each chapter, good coverage of many nineteenth-century themes, a chapter on myth and the West, and a fair amount on twentieth-century themes; it closes with some thoughts on why we should care about this frontier story. Although it is now a different, more complex story, the frontier story is our common past, conclude the authors, and it binds us all together, like a continental warming blanket. The frontier is also our common future. The struggle to build a humane and equitable society out of the legacies of colonialism continues, and we must continue struggling to resolve the dilemma of development.