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Kansas History - Summer 2005

(Vol. 28, No. 2)

Kansas History, Summer 2005

Claudia J. Keenan, "'Not as an End in Itself': The Development of Debate in Kansas High Schools."

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During the second decade of the twentieth century high school debate came into its own, and "a pattern of small towns achieving debate success" emerged. Rural communities such as the southwest Kansas town of Ashland produced many state champions-"a phenomenon," observes Dr. Claudia J. Keenan, Emory and Henry College, Emory, Virginia, "that reflected in part the bullishness toward academics in Ashland and other Kansas communities that eventually would nurture debate champions." Country high schools, which dominated statewide debate competitions until the 1920s, "emphasized the college preparatory work, which began to flourish in American public high schools after the turn of the twentieth century," and this "program complemented the intensity and competitiveness that became characteristic of debate." Keenan gives much attention to the part played by the University of Kansas's extension division in the popularity and effectiveness of debate programs. Among its other services, the extension division published its first Kansas debate handbook in 1910-the booklet featured an essay on the values of debate and covered such things as self-control, correct habits of speech, organizing of thought, and recognition of sound reasoning.

Fred N. Six, editor, "Eyewitness Reports of Quantrill's Raid: Letters of Sophia Bissell & Sidney Clarke."

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"One thing can be said with absolute confidence about Kansas history," writes the retired Kansas Supreme Court justice and Douglas County resident Fred N. Six in the introduction to his "Eyewitness Reports"-"there is, at least among many, a nearly insatiable appetite and interest in Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War on the border. And if there is one character, besides the abolitionist John Brown, or incident that has continually intrigued amateur historians and scholars alike, it is William Clarke Quantrill and his infamous raid on Lawrence, Kansas." The letters reprinted here add a little more detail to our understanding of that terrible day in August l863; and they do so "through eyes that differ in gender and frontier life style: Bissell, a single woman, living with her family, and Clarke, a husband, father, military officer, and a target of the raid." Bissell's letter-dated September 8, 1863-is typical of survivor accounts of Quantrill's Raid, while Clarke's account-dated August 26, 1863-contains details not found elsewhere and seems to have been written with the historical record in mind.

Thomas Prasch, editor, "Milestones and Touchstones in Kansas and Western Cinema. Film Reviews."

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The third installment of Kansas History's biennial film review series covers some familiar territory, but it also breaks new ground. First William Inge biographer Ralph F. Voss offers up a fiftieth anniversary review of the motion picture version of Kansas playwrite's classic Picnic, which was largely filmed in central Kansas in 1955. This fine retrospective is followed by reviews of documentary films focusing on Topeka and the Brown v. Board of Education case, including a critique of the use of film in the National Park Service's exhibits at their new Monroe School site-historians Bruce Mactavish, Gerald R. Butters, and Dale E. Nimz bring their expertise to bear on these offerings. A review of the HBO series Deadwood by film historian John Tibbetts places this "new work in the context of Westerns of the past," explains series editor, Tom Prasch, and the pervasive popular culture implication of the Wizard of Oz, including Wamego's Oz Museum are examined by Washburn's Tom Averill. Finally, on a more serious note, Khalid M. El-Hassan, of the African Studies Resource Center at the University of Kansas, offers up a nuanced review of The Lost Boys of Sudan, which documents the difficulties faced by recent immigrants who strive to put down new roots in places such as Kansas.

Gary R. Entz, "Religion in Kansas. Review Essay."

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For a variety of reasons historians, with a few notable exceptions, have been reluctant to deal seriously with the religious history of Kansas and the West; and yet religion was and continues to be, perhaps more than ever, a critical factor in the political, social, and cultural life of this place. Gary R. Entz, a professor of history at McPherson College, makes an important and especially timely contribution to our review essay series with this assessment of the state of the state's religious history. "The religious history of Kansas is incomplete," concludes Professor Entz, and it "will be fully understood only after historians examine all of its variegated patterns." His thorough and effective essay, "Religion in Kansas," enhances our understanding of the historiographical issues and makes a significant contribution to the literature in its own right, and it should serve as an effective call to scholars in search of a fertile, vitally important field of study.


Encyclopedia of the Great Plains
edited by David J. Wishart
xviii + 919 pages, photographs, illustrations, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004, cloth $75.00.
Reviewed by Patricia A. Michaelis, director, Library and Archives Division, Kansas Historical Society.

Battle for the B.I.A: G.E.E. Lindquist and the Missionary Crusade against John Collier
by David Daily
x + 217 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 2004, cloth $39.00.
Reviewed by Sharon L. O’Brien, associate professor of political science, University of Kansas.

Book Notes

Massacre at Baxter Springs: A Civil War Novel. By Thomas G. Smith. (Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2004. xvi + 251 pages, paper $14.50.)
The year 1863 was an especially violent and bloody one on the Kansas–Missouri border and proved to be the high point for the infamous activities of William Clarke Quantrill. In August he succeeded in taking Lawrence by surprise, burning the town and killing nearly two hundred of its unarmed denizens; the following October he decimated Kansas General James G. Blunt’s command near the site of present Baxter Springs. Readers who prefer a novelist’s take on this historic event may find Tom Smith’s Massacre at Baxter Springs, which “chronicles the true-life adventures of Billy Clark, an eighteen-year-old Wisconsin cavalry trooper who finds himself in the middle of a bloody guerrilla war,” a pleasant way to learn more about the nature of the Civil War in Kansas.

Territorial Kansas Reader. Edited by Virgil W. Dean. (Topeka: Kansas Historical Society and the Kansas Territorial Sesquicentennial Commission, 2005. ix + 421 pages, paper $9.95.)
Although the editor of Kansas History is admittedly biased in this regard, he is pleased to recommend to the journal’s readers this collection of previously published essays on the tumultuous Bleeding Kansas era. We believe it pulls together twenty-two of the most important essays and edited documents on this vitally important period in our history—included are articles first published in our special, sesquicentennial issue by younger scholars such as Nicole Etcheson, whose highly regarded book Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era was published by the University Press of Kansas in 2004, and “classics” by the likes of historians James C. Malin and Paul Wallace Gates.

A Bibliography of American County Histories. Compiled by P. William Filby. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2005. xiv + 449 pages, paper $35.00.)
A place to start for historians and genealogists, Filby’s bibliography “provides a state-by-state listing of all published county histories of any significance.” But only by applying an extremely narrow definition of what constitutes “county histories” can one accept this single volume’s bold claim—Kansas, for example, is covered in twelve pages with about 125 entries; Kansas History: An Annotated Bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1992) required nearly one hundred pages and one thousand entries for its “Local and County History” section.

Native American Creation Myths. By Jeremiah Curtin. (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2004. xxviii + 345 pages, paper $14.95.)
First published as Creation Myths of Primitive America in Relation to the Religious History and Mental Development of Mankind by Little, Brown in 1898, Dover’s Native American Creation Myths is an unabridged republication of Curtin’s important, original collection of Indian folklore. The Wisconsin born, Harvard educated Curtin, a leading linguist and ethnographer of his era who studied mythological systems throughout the world, focused this one on the Wintu and Yanas Indians of Northern California; clearly tainted by popular ideas of cultural superiority and inferiority, the stories and information he collected are nevertheless of significant interest.

Beyond the Reach of Time and Change: Native American Reflections on the Frank A. Rinehart Photograph Collection. Edited by Simon J. Ortiz. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2005. xii + 172 pages, cloth $24.95.)
Featuring one hundred wonderful images (all from the collection housed at Haskell Indian Nations University) made at the turn of the twentieth century and fourteen brief essays by modern American Indians writers, artists, and educators, as well as an introduction by Haskell’s Bobbi Rahder, Ortiz’s volume truly “provides an unusual perspective on the Rinehart collection.” Rinehart’s images, which have “become the centerpiece of Haskell’s archival collections,” were mostly made at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898. The sampling presented here includes portraits of Arapaho, Cheyenne, Iowa, Sac and Fox, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Wichita Indians, among others.

Before Lewis and Clark: The Story of the Chouteaus, the French Dynasty that Ruled America’s Frontier. By Shirley Christian. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. ix + 509 pages, cloth $27.00.)
Well established in the village they founded a generation before, the Chouteaus were on their way to becoming a fur-trading dynasty by the time Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached St. Louis late in 1803. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Shirley Christian, who lives in Overland Park and received her bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University, offers here an important family history, “fleshing out a nuanced portrait [which, of course, included numerous mixed-blood Chouteaus] using a wealth of unpublished sources, including the Chouteau family papers and those of their contemporaries.” An important published source, that might be of special interest to Kansas readers, was Cher Oncle, Cher Papa: The Letters of Francois and Berenice Chouteau (Western Historical Manuscript Collections–Kansas City, 2001).

The Dominguez Family: A Mexican–American Journey: One Family’s Struggle to Find Its Place in America. By Donna S. Morales and John P. Schmal. (Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, Inc., 2005. xviii + 276 pages, paper $28.50.)
A family history told to author John Schmal by family member Donna Morales, One Family’s Struggle to Find Its Place in America takes the form of a collection of short vignettes on diverse subjects from “The Journey North,” which took place for the Moraleses in 1909, to “The Value of Citizenship.” The latter is especially poignant in light of the fact that for “the first decades of [their] stay in Kansas,” beginning in 1918, the family “endured discrimination, humiliation, and segregation at the hands of our own countrymen. We could not eat at certain restaurants, could not attend certain church services, were not allowed in some movie theaters and could not send our children to certain schools.” But the Dominguez family “made the best of it and decided to fight for [their] piece of the pie.”