After writing, researching, editing and publishing the current issue (May-June 2019) of Digging History Magazine, swinging back to a bit of ancestry research for clients (and start a family history chart or two), I’m back to “W-R-E-P” mode again. I originally intended the May-June issue to feature articles about two great (neighboring) states: Colorado and Kansas. As it turned out Colorado stories just kept coming (until that issue grew to 100+ pages!), so I decided the next issue would be devoted to Kansas.
The current lineup, with more than one tongue-in-cheek homage to Kansas as the “Land of Oz”, includes:
- Drought-Earthquakes-Locusts (Oh My!) – Perhaps no state has a more appropriate motto than Kansas: Ad Astra per Aspera (“To the stars through difficulties”, or more loosely translated “a rough road leads to the stars”). By the time the state adopted its motto in 1876, fifteen years post-statehood, it had experienced not only a brutal, bloody beginning (“Bloody Kansas”) but had endured (and continued to struggle with) extreme pestilence, preceded by severe drought and even an earthquake in April 1867. In the early days being Kansan was not for the faint of heart.
- Home Sweet Soddie – Millions of acres were up for grabs after Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862 into law. Southerners in Congress had opposed the idea for years, but following secession those obstacles had been temporarily removed. Lincoln truly believed expansion onto public lands with an opportunity to own something would alleviate poverty, while strengthening and growing the country (and benefit the Republican Party). He ran on the idea and signed the legislation into law on May 20, 1862. Weeks later the Pacific Railroad Act was signed into law on July 1. The stage was set for the United States to expand – while fighting to stay together.
For years The Great Plains had been a vast expanse to be endured on the way to California and Oregon. Now the United States government was making 270 million acres available for settlement – practically free if, after five years, all criteria had been met. The criteria, referred to as “proving up” meant improvements must be made (and proof provided) by cultivating the land and building a home. For a “sod buster” selecting a good site was paramount. Much of the Great Plains was near-treeless . .
- Kansas Ghost Towns – A look at two or three ghost towns, which in their heyday held special significance in Kansas history.
- The Land of Odds: Kwirky Kansas – A little tongue-in-cheek reference to Kansas and the Wizard of Oz. A look at the famous and the infamous characters and unique events which shaped Kansas history and more.
- Wholesale Murder at Newton – It’s called “The Gunfight at Hyde Park” or the “Newton Massacre”. One newspaper headlined it as “Wholesale Murder at Newton”, another called it an “affray” and another a “riot”. Whatever, it was bloody, and one of the biggest gunfights in the history of the Wild West, more deadly than the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral. In 1871 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had extended its line past Abilene, Kansas and established a terminal at Newton. In a pattern repeated numerous times throughout the West during that era – discover gold or silver or put in a railroad line, and towns would quickly go from bucolic to rambunctious. . .
- Mining Kansas Genealogical Gold – A look at some unique records which will help researchers uncover more about their Kansas ancestors, especially those who were European immigrants.
- Ways to (Fashionably) Go in Days of Old: Part 2 – The May-June issue featured an article on some of the “fashionable” ways the fairer sex met their demise in days of old. The article concludes with a look at the gents. Wondering what fashion had to do with someone’s death? Subscribe (the best deal) or purchase by single issue.
- American Self-Portrait: The Federal Writers Project – A look at one part of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program known as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) — from travel guides to slave narratives — writers were recruited in an effort to get the country back on its feet and working again during the Great Depression. We’ll explore what these projects were and how to find the records (and use them in your research).
- Chautauqua: The Poor Man’s Educational Opportunity – A look back at a unique piece of Americana which began in the late nineteenth and carried through well into the twentieth century — when summertime meant Chautauqua and a chance for rural Americans to afford themselves of some of the same educational opportunities as city-dwelling citizens enjoyed.
- Research tips, book reviews and more.
These are just a few highlights. Issues tend to expand as I go along — like peeling an onion, uncovering history one story at a time. The issue should be out on or before July 15. Thanks for stopping by — if you’d like to sample an issue of the magazine, subscribe to the blog and a free issue will be on its way to your inbox. Or, if already a blog subscriber, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and request a free issue.
Sharon Hall, Publisher and Editor, Digging History Magazine