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Kansas History - Winter 2011/2012

Kansas History, Winter 2011/2012(Vol. 34, No. 4)

John Monnett, “Reimagining Transitional Kansas Landscapes: Environment and Violence.”

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Human convergence on the Kansas prairies dominated by the Southern Cheyennes during the middle decades of the nineteenth century brought about both gradual and rapid environmental changes to the landscape, which constituted major catalysts for the breakdown of the 1867 treaty of Medicine Lodge. Gradual environmental change restructured Cheyenne society so drastically that by August 1868 the flaws of the treaty provisions and the ineptitude of those bureaucrats who had administered them combined with more rapid changes in the physical landscape of Kansas during the nine months following the Medicine Lodge treaty that the agreement became impossible to enforce, let alone provide solutions to problems in these contested lands. John H. Monnett, an award-winning author of works on Western history and a professor of history at Metropolitan State College of Denver, examines the complex connections between ecological changes and human psychodynamics as triggers for violence between the United States and the Cheyennes in the context of the Kansas grassland geodialectic prior to 1870. Exploring an area neglected by most historians of the American West, Professor Monnett seeks to more fully explain the reasons for sexual violence committed by Indians against whites during the Plains Indian wars. Explanations of this brutally violent aspect of the western frontier experience remain unfinished and studies such as this one seek to expand our understanding of that time and place.

John N. Mack, “Hermaphrodites and Genderless Beings: The Struggle to Transcend Gender Boundaries in Southeast Kansas, 1868–1874.”

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According to the men who penned the many southeast Kansas columns and editorials that serve as the basis for this study, the concepts of masculinity and femininity were static; any attempts therefore to challenge and/or change the basic gender order of the family or of the larger community threatened the stable social order they sought to recreate on their post-Civil War frontier. It also, according to Professor John Mack, threatened the long-term viability of their plans to build orderly, law-abiding communities. Such plans, in the minds of the male settlers, depended on continued immigration, which was contingent upon their ability to demonstrate to would-be settlers that the gender standards of the East were fully implemented in their communities. The image of women banding together, entering saloons and making demands of men while threatening violence if their voices were not heeded, threatened the patriarchal images of society embraced by many male leaders in southeast Kansas. Although united in the desire for good order and social stability and thus concerned about the effects of drunkenness on their local communities, these men did not wish to see the women of their communities abandoning the social boundaries that had been prescribed for them.

Frederick D. Seaton, “Man in the Middle: The Career of Kansas Senator James B. Pearson.”

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The son and grandson of Methodist ministers, James Blackwood Pearson was born and raised in the South and received a degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1950. Almost immediately thereafter Pearson commenced the practice of law in Mission, Kansas, where he subsequently won a variety of local and state offices and early on identified with the progressive wing (the “young Turks”) of his Republican Party. Pearson was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left by the sudden January 1962 death of Senator Andrew F. Schoeppel. Pearson won the special election for that seat in November 1962 and was reelected in 1966 and 1972. Characterized as “a moderate conservative” by author Frederick D. Seaton, a former press secretary and legislative aide to the senator, Pearson had successfully challenged conventional thinking in his party back home and would do the same on Capitol Hill. “This adopted son of Kansas made his mark quietly,” writes Seaton. “He analyzed issues himself. He worked in his deliberate way with people of very different persuasions to reach his goals. As a United States senator from Kansas, Pearson was an effective educator of his constituents, constantly encouraging them to consider complex issues on their merits. He stood for his principles, even when a political price had to be paid.” Pearson’s leadership style put governing ahead of partisan or personal advantage: he was “a man in the middle when the middle was where you could get things done.”

Editor’s Note


Lincoln and Citizens’ Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
by Dennis K. Boman
xii + 356 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by Kenneth J. Winkle, Sorensen Professor of American History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Populist Cartoons: An Illustrated History of the Third-Party Movement in the 1890s
by Worth Robert Miller
x + 198 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2011, paper $34.95.
Reviewed by Ron Briley, assistant head of school and history teacher, Sandia Preparatory School, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s
by Robert Wuthnow
xvi + 258 pages, tables, notes, bibliography, index.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by R. Douglas Hurt, professor of history, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Book Notes

Birds of Kansas. By Max C. Thompson, Charles A. Ely, Bob Gress, Chuck Otte, Sebastian T. Patti, David Seibel, and Eugene A. Young. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011, viii + 528 pages, cloth $39.95.)

“An estimated 46 million birders in the United States spend 30 billion dollars per year while observing, photographing, or feeding birds,” the authors of Birds of Kansas note, and “about one-fourth of Kansans 16 years of age and older participate in activities involving birds” (p. 1). This collection of species accounts for the 473 birds reliably reported in the state, then, should garner real interest, for ornithologists and hobbyists alike. In its full-color pages they will learn of the brightly plumed Purple Gallinule, “an occasional summer visitant in the eastern half of the state” (p. 127), the probably extinct Eskimo Curlew, the masked Cedar Waxwing, and the Feral Pigeon, an “abundant permanent resident” of the state (p. 206).

Fishes of the Central United States. Second, revised, and expanded edition. By Joseph R. Tomelleri and Mark E. Eberle, illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011, xii + 192 pages, cloth $39.95, paper $24.95.)

Simply put this volume “is an introduction to the inland (typically freshwater) fishes that inhabit the vast region from the Rocky Mountains and Rio Grande in the West to the Mississippi River and Upper Great Lakes in the East” (p. 1). The authors, fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri and aquatic biologist at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, Mark Eberle, have as their main objective “to enlighten and entertain, whether the reader is a scientist, an angler, or a casual student of natural history” (p. 1). They go a long way toward that with Tomelleri’s beautifully detailed illustrations and the use of anecdotes and folklore to enliven their species accounts. Fascinating Kansas fish found in the volume include the Brook Silverside, which seems to “go crazy” on moonlit nights (p. 108), and the threatened Neosho Madtom, which sports dorsal and pectoral spines laced with toxic venom.

Always Plenty To Do: Growing Up on a Farm in the Long Ago. By Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2011, xi + 137 pages, cloth $21.95.)

“If you stepped back in time and visited a farm in 1900,” Pamela Riney-Kehrberg tells her young readers, “you would see a very different world from the one you live in” (p. 12). Always Plenty to Do catalogs, in engaging narrative peppered with the remembrances of children who grew up on America’s farms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the details of everyday life from what farm families ate and wore to how they filled their busy days to how they managed to live on so little. The photographs of children working and playing add much to this readable volume. Although written for and of sure interest to young people, it provides a picture of rural life in “the long ago” that will win over oldsters as well.

Tales of a Town Named Bull City. Compiled by Orville Grant Guttery, edited by Von Rothenberger. Hall of Fame Series. (Lucas, Kans.: Ad Astra Publishing, 2011, xiii + 253 pages, paper $20.00.)

A name change was perhaps inevitable after Hiram C. Bull named the town he cofounded in late 1870 “Bull City.” Initially residents tried to work around what was then a vulgar term with the variation “Bull’s City,” but by the mid-1880s a petition was circulating to change the town’s name to Alton. When it failed, signatures from a more popular road-construction petition were cut off, affixed to the name-change petition, and sent the U.S. Postal Department, which designated the town Alton in February 1885. These antics are just one piece of the town’s history, retold in Tales of a Town Named Bull City through letters, journal entries, and biographies of the people who called the place home, complied by Alton native and local amateur historian Orville Grant Guttery (1886¬–1959).

Captain Osborn’s Legacy. By Patsy L. Redden. (Lucas, Kans.: Ad Astra Publishing, 2011, xviii + 521 pages, paper $27.00.)

New York native Russell Scott Osborn came to Osborne County, Kansas, in July 1872 to begin a homestead near Alton with his wife and six children. He had been discharged from service in the Civil War in March 1863 due to “imperfect recovery from an attack of pneumonia” (p. 157). He rejoined and served another five months before being discharged a final time in 1864 at the rank of captain. The family then spent six years in Ames, Iowa, where, amongst other endeavors, Osborn began serving as a pastor for the Congregational Church. He continued that work, as his great-great-granddaughter details in this family and social history, in Kansas, where he also became involved in Populist politics and served as secretary of state from 1893 until 1895.

Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West. By David M. Wrobel. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011, xviii + 322 pages, paper $19.95.)

First published in 2002, Promised Lands by David Wrobel, who is now the Merrick Chair in Western American History at the University of Oklahoma, examines many different types of promotional literature and memoirs and their impact on the settlement of the American West as well as on the region’s legacy. “Wrobel suggests that before the Wild West of Hollywood came to dominate the West’s image there was an earlier battle between two opposing perspectives,” observed historian Jay Price in his spring 2003 review for Kansas History. One was the booster’s, the other was the actual settler’s. Promised Lands continues to remind us “that the conflicting views of earlier eras linger on into the present, suggesting that today’s discussion of regional identity is itself as complex and constructed as those of earlier generations” (26:68).

Desperadoes of the Ozarks. By Larry Wood. (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Company, 2011, 224 pages, paper $15.95.)

Twenty-two essays, one of which is set in Baxter Springs, Kansas, the “First Kansas Cow Town,” make up this book of desperado tales, stories of murder and vengeance, lynchings and legal hangings, shootouts and bank robberies over much of the century that followed the Civil War. According to the author, whose previous book, Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents, highlighted twenty-five different events on “the subject of outlawry in the Ozarks,” there exists plenty of subject matter from which to choose: “I have picked only the most infamous—the ones that have a sensational or at least an unusual element to them” (p. 7). Southeast Kansas figures into several of the stories.