Kansas History - Winter 2009/2010
(Vol. 32, No. 4)
Fred E. Woods, "The 1854 Mormon Emigration at the Missouri-Kansas Border."
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Nineteenth-century "Mormons emphasized the doctrine of gathering to Zion," explains Fred E. Woods of Brigham Young University, and during the antebellum years church leaders established several different gathering points on the eastern edge of America's westward moving frontier. Thus, in the spring of 1854 thousands of "Saints" congregated in western Missouri near its border with Kansas just weeks before that new territory was organized. Their wagon trains were outfitted at Westport and the City of Kansas (Kansas City) for the long journey to their new American Zion in the Salt Lake Valley. Unlike their previous experience in Jackson County some two decades earlier, which was marred by violence and expulsion, these westbound Mormon emigrants were generally well received and an economic boon to area merchants. "The journey to these points and from them west to Utah was arduous for a number of reasons, most especially the outbreaks of cholera that infected Mormon emigrants at all stages of their pilgrimage," writes Professor Woods. Indeed, "hundreds of emigrants lost their lives along the way," but "the sacrifice for most Latter-day Saints resulted in deep fulfillment. Thousands of converts from Europe and the eastern states crossed over a modern-day Mesopotamia between the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers and reached a desert haven in the West, which they made blossom through their continued hard work and perseverance."
R. Alton Lee, "Joseph R. Burton and the 'Ill-Fated' Senate Seat of Kansas."
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Abilene's Joseph Ralph Burton, a dapper attorney and silver-tongued orator of some renown, had a great deal going for him when he first moved into his United States Senate office early in 1901. Burton was a Republican Party leader, who had done well in business and on the stump before capturing the long-sought senate seat. Within five years he had fallen hopelessly out of favor with a popular Republican administration and resigned from office in disgrace, the first U.S. senator to do so after having been tried and convicted of a criminal offense in the federal courts. R. Alton Lee, professor emeritus at the University of South Dakota, tells a fascinating story of the rise and early twentieth-century fall of the tenth man in James H. Lane's "ill-fated" line of succession. Burton blamed his bad fortune on his Republican Party rivals in Kansas and on one of America's most popular presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, and he did all he could to discredit Roosevelt's administration after he left the Senate. Burton's story sheds light on early twentieth-century, Progressive Era politics in the state and nation, and it is worthy of serious consideration in the twenty-first century.
Mark Chapin Scott, editor, "Insured Against Train Robbers: A Kansas Christmas Tale."
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Luther Chapin Bailey, a Topeka insurance executive and real estate developer who was also known as something of a man of letters, was used to traveling the rails for business. In "Insured Against Train Robbers: A Kansas Christmas Tale," written by Bailey sometime in the 1930s and originally titled "The Last of the Daltons," the insurance man recalls an eventful overnight train trip he took through central Kansas. According to the hand-written manuscript, which was never published, the events Bailey witnessed took place shortly before Christmas 1904, though subsequent research by the editor-Baileys' great-grandson-proves this date and some other details of the account incorrect. Although Bailey did publish monographs on history, in this instance-and in a move common among writers of historical fiction-he seems to have combined several stories into one to make for a more interesting tale. By doing so, he transformed an account of a train robbery into a Christmas story. Newspaper reports of the incident, one of which offers an interview with Bailey himself, document the historical event and help to establish the facts that stand behind the insurance man's tale.
Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
by Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel
xi + 198 pages, illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009, cloth $32.50.
Reviewed by Nicole Etcheson, Alexander M. Bracken Professor of History, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
Before Earth Day: The Origins of American Environmental Law
by Karl Boyd Brooks
xxii + 266 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by James Pritchard, adjunct assistant professor, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames.
Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier, Second Edition
edited by Paul Andrew Hutton and Durwood Ball
xii + 404 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Bryan M. Jack, assistant professor of history, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina.
More Than a Farmer's Wife: Voices of American Farm Women, 1910-1960
by Amy Mattson Lauters
xii+ 192 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Sara E. Morris, librarian for American history, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence.
Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians, Traders, and Soldiers, 1682-1862
edited by William E. Whittaker
288 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009, paper $29.95.
Reviewed by Leo E. Oliva, frontier military historian, Woodston, Kansas.
Broken Treaties: United States and Canadian Relations with the Lakotas and the Plains Cree, 1868-1885
by Jill St. Germain
xxiv + 450 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009, cloth $60.00.
Reviewed by Kerry Wynn, assistant professor of history, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.
Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading in the American West
by Brian Q. Cannon
vii + 307 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor, Kansas State University, Manhattan.
Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory
by Jonathan Zimmerman
xi + 256 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, Icons of America Series, 2009, cloth $26.00.
Reviewed by Jon Lauck, historian and author, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
America's Main Street Hotels: Transiency and Community in the Early Auto Age. By John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009, xxi + 217 pages, paper $29.95.)
John Jakle, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Illinois, and Keith Sculle, head of research and education for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, have written a handful of books together on various aspects of the history of highway travel in America. In their most recent collaboration, the two examine the role America's Main Street hotels have played in the development and sometimes decline of the nation's cities and towns. They discuss both the particulars, including building types and layouts, financing, management, and amenities such as food service, and the culture that sprung up around these central stopovers. They also explore the assorted ways in which these structures are used today.
Deadly Dozen: Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, Volume 1. By Robert K. DeArment. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009, x + 351 pages, paper $24.95.)
First published in 2003, Deadly Dozen offers twelve well-documented biographical essays about western gunfighters who, as the title indicates, have been all but lost in the shadow of their notorious contemporaries, such as Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid. DeArment uncovered these forgotten "shootists" in the pages of "frontier newspapers" and "handwritten records stored in dusty courthouse cellars." Kansas, of course, plays an important role in the life stories of most of these twelve gunmen, who "are little known today" but who "led exciting lives during stirring times in a fascinating region" (p. 5). As Joseph G. Rosa wrote in his spring 2008 Kansas History review of volume two, it is "fascinating history" that will appeal to "students and buffs alike" (p. 76).
A Kansas Year. By Mike Blair. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009, 270 pages, paper $24.95.)
From January through December, winter back to winter, naturalist Mike Blair, who lives in Pratt and works for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, illustrates and describes A Kansas Year using numerous beautiful color photographs of plants, animals, and landscapes (taken over a period of "many years") and ten "journal entries" for each month of that "generic" year. Four distinct, changing seasons-so well depicted here-and extreme weather swings always keep one guessing and make life in the Sunflower State interesting, even for the native. "The beauty of a Kansas year is found in its diversity," writes Blair, "and that's why it's [and the book's] a compelling journey" (preface).
Irish Settlers of Kansas: Memories of the Pioneer Life. By Patricia Callahan Walkenhorst, with Father P. John Lahey and Ellen Cregan Anderton. (Coffeyville, Kans.: Tanos Books Publishing, 2009, xxiv + 210 pages, paper $18.95.)
As the authors conclude, "we thrive" as a nation and state because of "our differences," derived from various indigenous and immigrant peoples who have and continue to call this land home. The Irish have contributed to the diverse and evolving Kansas culture for at least a century and a half, and Irish Settlers of Kansas, which is divided into three parts ("Stories Handed Down," "The Church . . . ," and "The Chapman Irish"), offers a wealth of information about this important segment of the population; especially interesting is part one, which includes more than a dozen separate essay by various authors who focus on different Irish families, such as the Devanes and Cogans of Chapman, the Malones of Tully, and the Croughs and Berrigans of Herrington.
The Indians of Iowa. By Lance M. Foster. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009, xvi + 145 pages, paper $16.95.)
Billed as "the only book written for the general reader" on the many different Indian tribes of Iowa, Lance Foster, an anthropologist and member of the Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, looks at the Ioways, the Otoes, the Pawnees, and the Potawatomis, among other tribes who "have lived in Iowa throughout time" but have their own unique "history, culture, language, and traditions" (p. xiii). In addition to his examination of more than a dozen tribes, Foster takes "A Closer Look" at several important topics, such as Indian women, spirituality, archaeology, native arts and crafts, and the powwow. An annotated list of places to visit associated with American Indian history and some recommended readings and websites further enhance this little volume's appeal and usefulness.
Deaths on Pleasant Street: The Ghastly Enigma of Colonel Swope and Doctor Hyde. By Giles Fowler. (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2009, paper $22.95.)
"The object," in Giles Fowler's new study of the strange deaths that took place in 1909 at one of the grandest homes in Independence, Missouri, "wasn't to solve the mystery but to reproduce it" (p. ix). To accomplish his task, Fowler used the investigative skills he learned as a long-time Kansas City journalist, bringing together newspaper accounts, court testimony, and memoirs to reconstruct the crimes and guess at their motivations. Did an in-law to the wealthy and influential Swope family murder those who stood in the way of his wife's full inheritance, poisoning some and infecting others with typhoid? "The stories of exactly what happened . . . don't just diverge-they turn on each other and collide" (p. 35), and they make for engaging reading.
Seth Bullock: Black Hills Lawman. By David A. Wolff. (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, South Dakota Biography Series, 2009, x + 206 pages, paper $12.95.)
This third volume in the South Dakota Biography Series, put out by that state's historical society, recounts the life of Seth Bullock, who "served as sheriff, started a hardware store, developed a ranch, acted as a town promoter, ran a mining company, volunteered for the Spanish-American War, supervised a national forest, and befriended a president" (p. 1), all along developing a reputation that makes him still one of the best remembered early residents of the rough and tumble Deadwood. Author David Wolff concludes that there were others who "probably contributed more to Deadwood's long-term viability than Bullock did. But Bullock did more for the Black Hills in general than any other person" (p. 1).