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Kansas History - Autumn 2010

(Vol. 33, No. 3)

Kansas History, Autumn 2010

Marilyn S. Blackwell, “‘Nobody out here knows anything about wimin’s rights’: Clarina Howard Nichols, Woman’s Rights, and Abolitionism in Kansas Territory.”

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In recent years, scholars have given more, well-deserved attention to Clarina I. H. Nichols, one of the nineteenth century’s most notable woman’s rights activists. Her most recent biographer, Marilyn Blackwell, here examines an interesting and telling episode from Nichols’s early Kansas years—her letters to the editor of the Herald of Freedom as Deborah Van Winkle, a pseudonym she had used successfully in the late 1840s to advocate for married women’s property rights and to satirize partisan politics in her native Vermont. “She resurrected Van Winkle in Kansas Territory,” writes Dr. Blackwell, “to alert antislavery men that they were neglecting their female partners in the rush to defend their homes and liberties against proslavery forces. . . . The parallel she drew between the wives, mothers, and sisters of free-state men and enslaved women connected woman’s rights to the contest over slavery and was designed to provoke free-state men into honoring the women in their own households.”

Durwood Ball, “Scapegoat? Colonel Edwin V. Sumner and the Topeka Dispersal.”

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After having rejected the federally recognized territorial government as “bogus,” free-state men in Kansas launched the Topeka movement in the summer and fall of 1855. Forty-seven free-state delegates assembled in Topeka’s “Constitution Hall” in October 1855 and drafted what became known as the Topeka Constitution. Free-state voters ratified it at the polls in December and an election of state officers under the document was conducted on January 15, 1856. The U.S. Congress refused to admit Kansas as a free state under the Topeka instrument, and the Pierce administration considered continued efforts on its behalf in the territory illegal, but nevertheless the “first-state legislature,” which met briefly in March, decided to reconvene as scheduled on July 4, 1856, only to be “dispersed” by Colonel Edwin V. “Bull” Sumner. Durwood Ball, associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico and editor of the New Mexico Historical Review, describes this event in detail and carefully analyzes its implications for the territory and nation. The colonel’s “controversial act intensified the heated congressional and public debate over federal policy, particularly the application of popular sovereignty,” writes Professor Ball, and over “the propriety and legality of Sumner’s dispersal operation executed in Topeka.”

Emory Lindquist. “Kansas: A Centennial Portrait, Part Two.”

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Kansas History will offer its readers a special “Kansas at 150” issue next spring. In the meantime, as we look forward to our state's rapidly approaching sesquicentennial year, we thought it might be interesting to look back fifty years. What were Kansans saying about their state as they reflected on the first one hundred years of statehood? To help us answer this question and ponder where we are today, Kansas History published the first part of the late Professor Emory Lindquist’s 1961 essay, “Kansas: A Centennial Portrait,” in its summer issue. We conclude this look back in the autumn issue with the publication of part two. As previously mentioned, due to the passage of time, a few of Professor Lindquist’s comments are dated, but for better, and occasionally worse, most remain remarkably prescient, giving us not only a portrait of where Kansas was in 1960, but also where it is in 2010.


Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan, and the Remarkable Election of 1896
by R. Hal Williams
x iv + 250 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliographic essay, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Greg Cantrell, professor of history, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.

The Nature Study Movement: The Forgotten Popularizer of America’s Conservation Ethic
by Kevin C. Armitage
x + 291 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Mark Harvey, professor of history, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Prairie Republic: The Political Culture of Dakota Territory, 1879-1889
by Jon K. Lauck
xx + 281 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth $32.95.
Reviewed by R. Alton Lee, professor emeritus, University of South Dakato, Vermillion.

Henry Roe Cloud: A Biography
by David W. Messer
xii + 127, notes, bibliography, index.
Lanham, M.D.: Hamilton Books, 2010, paper $25.00.
Reviewed by Martha K. Robinson, assistant professor of history, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion.

Here Your Have My Story: Eyewitness Accounts of the Nineteenth-Century Central Plains
edited by Richard E. Jensen
xii + 387 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008, paper $30.00.
Reviewed by Suzzanne Kelley, managing editor, New Rivers Press, Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Yankee Warhorse: A Biography of Major General Peter Osterhaus
by Mary Bobbitt Townsend
xvi + 270 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009, paper $39.95.
Reviewed by Rusty Bouseman, teaching associate, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.

So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812-1848
by Will Bagley
xii + 458 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by Richard G. Ewig, associate director, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie.

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West
by Stephen Fried
xix + 521 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Bantam Books, 2010, cloth $27.00.
Reviewed by H. Roger Grant, professor of history, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina.

America’s School for War: Fort Leavenworth, Officer Education, and Victory in World War II
by Peter J. Schifferle
x iv + 295 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliographic essay, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Carlo D'Este, historian and biographer, Mashpee, Massachusetts.

A Rough Ride to Redemption: The Ben Daniels Story
by Robert K. DeArment and Jack DeMattos
xvi + 248 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Michael J. Brodhead, historian, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alexandria, Virginia.

Patrick Connor’s War: The 1865 Powder River Indian Expedition
by David E. Wagner
296 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark Company, 2010, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Jeff Wells, Department of History, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.

Book Notes

Best of Covered Wagon Women, Volume 2: Emigrant Girls on the Overland Trails. Edited by Kenneth L. Holmes, introduced by Melody M. Miyamoto. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 253 pages, paper $19.95.)

This follow-up to Kenneth Holmes’s 2008 compilation of the best accounts from his eleven-volume series, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840–1890, focuses on the experiences of young women making their way west. The volume contains remembrances from eleven girls and women, ranging in age from eleven to nineteen, all unmarried and without children, who demonstrate different concerns than the older, more heavily burdened women with whom they traveled. Included are accounts from Mae Stone, a 12-year-old Kansas native, and Harriet Hitchcock, who recorded, while camping along a Kansas stream, “I found a birds nest, with five blue eggs in it looking for all the world just as birds eggs look at home” (p. 210).

Roadside Kansas: A Traveler’s Guide to Its Geology and Landmarks. Second Edition, Revised and Updated. By Rex C. Buchanan and James R. McCauley. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, xvi + 376 pages, paper $14.95.)

First published in 1987, Roadside Kansas, revised and updated by Rex Buchanan, with photographs for this edition by John R. Charlton and Bill Johnson, remains the one essential take-along volume for the Kansas traveler. The authors, both with the Kansas Geological Survey (McCauley, now retired), guide the inquisitive motorist via nine highways—U.S. Highway 36, 56, 69, 83, and 160; Interstate 35, 70, and 135 (U.S. 81); and the Kansas Turnpike—over historic trails and by remarkable geological formations, from the strip pits and Missouri River in the east to Mount Sunflower and Cimarron National Grassland on the High Plains in the west. As Buchanan wrote for the second edition, “many aspects of the Kansas landscape” have changed in the last twenty-three years (p. xi); so it is time to replace your old guide with the new.

Kansas Geology: An Introduction to Landscapes, Rocks, Minerals, and Fossils. Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Edited by Rex C. Buchanan. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, xii + 227 pages, paper $19.95.)

Like the original edition, which was published more than twenty-five years ago, the second edition of Rex Buchanan’s Kansas Geology is nicely illustrated and includes an all-new section of beautiful color photographs and drawings. Five revised chapters, reflecting the efforts of six different experts, make up the bulk of the volume, covering landscapes, rocks, minerals and sedimentary structures, fossils, and the geology along Interstate 70. They become a travel guide of sorts that uses mileposts to take the reader from Kanorado in the west to the Kansas/Missouri state line in the east. The volume also includes a short list of “additional readings” and a useful glossary for those of us who have forgotten or are unfamiliar with the terminology of this subject.

Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer. By Milton S. Katz. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007, xxii + 257 pages, paper $19.95.)

Born in 1915 in Hiawatha, Kansas, John B. McLendon, Jr., who died in 1999, was by all accounts a legendary African American basketball coach and quality individual. “He was,” writes Professor Katz of the Kansas City Art Institute, “a pioneer, supreme innovator, activist, historian, thinker, poet, and gentleman, whose remarkable courage, determination, and moral strength in the pursuit of human rights and social justice brought democracy in America a step closer to reality” (p. xxii). A protégé of the game’s inventor, James Naismith, McLendon graduated from the University of Kansas in 1936 and commenced his legendary coaching career at Topeka’s Kansas Vocational School, before moving to North Carolina College and later Tennessee A&I. Moreover, through his work with the National Athletic Steering Committee, he was instrumental in the integration of the NCAA and NAIA’s postseason basketball tournaments.

Charlie Russell and Friends. By Peter H. Hassrick, Brian W. Dippie, Tomas Brent Smith, and Mark Andrew White. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, 72 pages, paper $10.95.)

Beautifully illustrated with Russell paintings and historical photographs, Charlie Russell and Friends, an issue of Western Passages, contains essays by four noted scholars. Brian Dippie opens with “Russell’s Community of Peers”; followed by Peter Hassrick’s “Goodwin and Russell”; Mark White’s “Charles M. Russell, Joe De Yong, and the Pictoria Value of Hand-Talk”; and Tomas Brent Smith’s “Charles M. Russell and Maynard Dixon: Interpreters of Different American Wests.” As Joan Carpenter Troccoli, senior scholar at the Petrie Institute of Western Art, writes in the introduction, the focus here is on “one group among Russell’s diverse tribe of comrades: the painters, sculptors, and illustrators who served as Russell’s private academy of art as well as his creative community” (p. 7).

The Price of the Prairie: A Story of Kansas. By Margaret Hill McCarter. (Osborne, Kans.: Ad Astra Publishing, Kansas Classic Series, 2009, xxviii + 576 pages, paper $27.00.)

This opening title in Ad Astra Publishing’s new Kansas Classic Series is the first reprint of Margaret Hill McCarter’s 1910 critically acclaimed national bestseller since the multiple editions put out just after its initial publication. The “historical romance” recounts, in McCarter’s historically accurate style, the struggles between early Kansas settlers and the Native Americans who already called the territory home, and records accounts of Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence and the Battle of Beecher Island in Colorado Territory. This edition contains a foreword describing McCarter’s career as the first Kansas woman to gain national prominence as a writer—William Allen White recognized her as “the foremost woman in the Middle West. She is bigger than Kansas” (p. xvii)—and discusses the various reasons she is still the best selling author in Kansas history.

The Santa Fe Trail in Missouri. By Mary Collins Barile. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, Missouri Heritage Readers, 2010, xii + 144 pages, paper $16.95.)

The two hundred and fifty miles of the Santa Fe Trail that stretched across Missouri, from St. Louis on the Mississippi River to Westport on the Missouri, came to be known as the “Missouri Trail,” a necessary route for any easterner wishing to reach Santa Fe until the appearance of the railroad. In this volume Mary Collins Barile, of the Center for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Missouri, offers a well-written history of the Missouri Trail for general readers, with an emphasis on the history and cultural significance of the route. She stresses that there was not one trail experience, but that “those who went down the trail” were “authors, illiterates, military officers, ne’er-do-wells, adventurers, debtors, and businessmen” (p. 1). Included are a glossary of contemporary trail vocabulary and suggestions for further reading.