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Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

Volume 37
Winter 2014-2015

Tom Ellis, “Uniontown and Plowboy—Potawatomi Ghost Towns: Enigmas of the Oregon–California Trail”

Uniontown is a ghost town on the Oregon–California Trail near Topeka, Kansas. Little physical trace of the town exists today, but author Tom Ellis illuminates the enigmatic history of this ill-fated community founded in 1848. The precursors to the Uniontown story reflect the influence of Kansa Indians, French traders, and ardent missionaries. Uniontown was also the federal government’s last effort to unify separate bands of the Potawatomi people, who it had pushed from place to place, into one community. Uniontown was an artificial unification at a commercially essential location on the Oregon–California Trail, where cholera, corruption, and economic predators plagued the tribe. The Potawatomi Indians never embraced it as a unifying center. Thus, when the federal government changed the course of its Indian policy and commercial activity on the Oregon–California Trail moved to other prospering towns in the area, Uniontown withered.

Katie H. Armitage, “‘Out of the Ashes’: The Rebuilding of Lawrence and the Quest for Quantrill Raid Claims.”

Fred and Amelia Read, along with many survivors of Quantrill’s August 21, 1863 raid on Lawrence, were traumatized by their experiences. In the weeks after the raid, Fred Read, a local businessman, developed such a severe drinking problem that his properties were temporarily placed under his wife’s control. But, according to historian Katie Armitage, Read overcame his drinking problem and rebuilt his business as did dozens of other Lawrence survivors. This determination, the generous aid and credit that flowed into Lawrence, and the arrival of the railroad allowed the town to rapidly rebuild. “Out of the Ashes” examines this process and the continuing ramifications of the raid on survivors even as innovative newcomers and new educational institutions contributed to the revitalization and growth of the city. When two decades passed and no money for raid damages had been paid, Fred Read organized a campaign to persuade the Kansas legislature in 1887 to finally honor the raid claims. A number of claimants had passed away when a portion of the monetary claims were paid over a ten-year period near the end of the nineteenth century.

Virgil W. Dean and Ramon Powers, “‘In No Way a Relief Set Up’: The County Cotton Mattress Program in Kansas, 1940–1941”

The Cotton Mattress Program, which was adopted by the state of Kansas in 1940 and conducted in 79 of the state’s 105 counties, was one of the many federal government programs launched to address the persistent problems of agricultural overproduction and to improve living standards in rural areas. Government programs designed to address agricultural production and commodity prices have been widely acknowledged, studied, and accepted as a permanent feature of the farm economy. But, as Dean and Powers demonstrate, New Deal programs aimed at improving households and homemaking are less understood and little appreciated. This is especially true of the mattress program, enacted when the depression seemed to be coming to an end. The County Cotton Mattress Program of 1940–1941, which briefly but memorably touched the lives and improved the standards of living of many thousands of rural Kansans, was, of course, a relief program. But like so many others it emphasized self-help, as well as family and community, and was sold in such a way as to allow many to insist that it was “in no way a relief set up.”

Book Reviews

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman
424 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2014, cloth, $30.00.
Reviewed by Robert A. Goldberg, professor of history, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

The Rural Midwest since World War II
edited by J. L. Anderson
xiii + 323 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014, paper $28.95.
Reviewed by Daniel T. Gresham, PhD student, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory
by Mary Jane Warde
xi + 404 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2013, paper $34.95.
Reviewed by Fay A. Yarbrough, associate professor of history, Rice University, Houston, Texas.