Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Winter 2008/2009

(Vol. 31, No. 4)

Winter 2008/2009 issue

James Beatty, "Interpreting the Shawnee Sun: Literacy and Cultural Persistence in Indian Territory, 1833-1841."

Read this article online

In the fall of 1833, Jotham Meeker, a twenty-eight-year-old Baptist missionary from Cincinnati, arrived in Indian Country with a printing press and a sincere desire to translate native languages into script. While working with removed Shawnee Indians in present-day Kansas, Meeker used a unique writing system to print texts in the Shawnee language-one was a monthly periodical titled Siwinowe Kesibwi, or Shawnee Sun. It was the first periodical to be printed in what is now Kansas, explains author James Beatty, and, if classified as a newspaper, the first in the United States to be written solely in an American Indian language. Although some historians have noted the existence of two pages of the November 1841 issue of the Shawnee Sun, they have been unable to decipher Meeker's esoteric orthography. Now, thanks to George Blanchard, a respected elder of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the outdated version of written Shawnee has been translated. And contrary to some early assumptions, we learn that the paper is not a report of secular happenings on the Shawnee reservation, but instead a highly didactic publication, aimed at transforming American Indian culture and instilling Baptist theology within the predominately non-Christian Shawnee community.

Brent M. S. Campney, "W. B. Townsend and the Struggle against Racist Violence in Leavenworth."

Read this article online

Born into slavery in 1854, William Bolden Townsend found his way to Leavenworth, Kansas, with his mother about 1860. During his second Kansas decade, Townsend emerged as a formidable leader and a champion of equality and justice for his African American community. He was, according to the Colored Citizen, "among the truest men in the State of Kansas," and "if he is spared to be a few years older," the newspaper predicted, "he will be known as one of the leading colored men of the nation." Although Townsend's black contemporaries continued to express such conviction throughout his life and predicted that Townsend's works would long outlive him, as the historian Brent Campney indicates, this extraordinary Kansan has been largely forgotten. Campney's fine study begins to remedy that historical oversight, focusing on Townsend's struggle against racist violence around the turn of the twentieth century. Drawing primarily on newspaper accounts, this essay addresses Townsend's efforts to obtain justice for victims of racist violence, a campaign that drew upon his skills as journalist, politician, and attorney, and thrust him into the role of militant.

Fred W. Brinkerhoff, "The Kansas Tour of Lincoln the Candidate."

Read this article online

Read this account of Lincoln's visit

Read this 100th anniversary article

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's one and only trip to Kansas and the bicentennial of the Great Emancipator's birth, Kansas History has edited and reprinted the Kansas State Historical Society's presidential address delivered by Fred W. Brinkerhoff on October 17, 1944, and first published in the February 1945 issue of the Kansas Historical Quarterly. Lincoln, who was essentially in training for the 1860 presidential campaign, spoke in Elwood, Doniphan, Troy, Atchison, and Leavenworth. The address focuses on Lincoln's Kansas itinerary and message, which, according to Brinkerhoff, "showed up later" in the more famous speech Lincoln gave at Cooper Union in New York City on February 27, 1860. "Lincoln in Kansas tested out that speech," said Brinkerhoff. "He wanted to try out his ideas on Kansans. He wanted to see how the things he planned to say would sound. He wanted to see what the reaction of the Kansas audiences would be. . . . He was a candidate for the presidency. He was skilled in politics. He was a careful candidate. He was glad to have the opportunity the [Kansas] trip offered."

"Abraham Lincoln Speaks at Stockton's Hall: Leavenworth, December 3, 1859." Brinkerhoff's discussion of the Lincoln tour is followed by a synopsis of his first Leavenworth speech, which was originally published in Leavenworth's Kansas Daily State Register, most likely on December 4, 1859, and reprinted in the Illinois State Journal, December 12, 1859. Introduced by Mark W. Delahay of Leavenworth, Lincoln addressed "one of the largest political assemblies that ever met in Kansas," touching on many familiar but profoundly important issues of the day.

In Memoriam

Editor's Note


The St. Louis African American Community and the Exodusters
by Bryan M. Jack
xi + 178 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Charlotte Hinger, western Kansas historian and novelist.

Rights in the Balance: Free Press, Fair Trial, & Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart
by Mark R Scherer
xxii + 242 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2008, cloth $40.00.
Reviewed by Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. and John M. Kane Professor of Law, University of Kansas School of Law, Lawrence.

Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture
by Anita Clair Fellman
xi + 343 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Marilyn Irvin Holt, independent researcher, Abilene, Kansas.

Navigating the Missouri: Steamboating on Nature's Highway, 1819-1935
by William E. Lass
416 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark Company, 2007, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by Fred E. Woods, professor of church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

The Fall of a Black Army Officer: Racism and the Myth of Henry O. Flipper
by Charles M. Robinson, III
xviii + 197 pages, illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Roger D. Cunningham, retired Army officer, Fairfax County, Virginia.

The Great Plains during World War II
by R. Douglas Hurt
xii + 507 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2008, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by David Danbom, professor of history, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Enduring Nations: Native Americans in the Midwest
edited by R. David Edmunds
xii + 284 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008, paper $25.00.
Reviewed by Tai S. Edwards, doctoral candidate in history, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Book Notes

Uniforms, Arms, and Equipment: The U.S. Army on the Western Frontier, 1880-1892. Volume 1: Headgear, Clothing, and Footwear.
By Douglas C. McChristian.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, xiv + 330 pages.)
Uniforms, Arms, and Equipment: The U.S. Army on the Western Frontier, 1880-1892. Volume 2: Weapons and Accouterments.
By Douglas C. McChristian.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, xiv + 297 pages, cloth $95.00.)
These two handsome, nicely illustrated volumes contain numerous appropriately selected historic photographs and illustrations, as well as contemporary pictures of military clothing and accouterments, from museum and archival collections throughout the American West. Together they demonstrate the many ways in which military dress and equipment evolved, reflecting American Indian and European influences, as well as those "from the officers and enlisted men within the army establishment" (p. ix). As historian Jerome A. Greene also observes in the foreword to volume one, McChristian, who has worked as a historian at military sites for the National Park Service in Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, and Montana, "is well suited to present such a definitive work" (p. x).

When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Western United States.
By Joseph P. Schwieterman.
(Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2004, xxxii + 333 pages, paper $24.95.)
Focusing on the impact of late-nineteenth-century rail line abandonment on small towns from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to Nome, Alaska, Schwieterman provides a brief historical sketch of each of the fifty-eight towns featured and reports on local efforts to cope with the loss of a vital piece of their transportation infrastructure. His lone Kansas entry is Valley Falls, which ultimately lost its battle against abandonment in May 1993, gave up on efforts to create an excursion railway a couple years later, and witnessed an unsuccessful effort to convert the old right-of-way into a recreational hiking trail.

Documents on the Status of Native Americans in the Late Nineteenth Century: Book 1.
Compiled and edited by Leonard Schlup and Mary Ann Blochowiak.
Documents on the Status of Native Americans in the Late Nineteenth Century: Book 2.
Compiled and edited by Leonard Schlup and Mary Ann Blochowiak.
(Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 742 pages, cloth $159.95.)
In two, consecutively paged volumes, Documents on the Status of Native Americans in the Late Nineteenth Century offers the student of American Indian history and culture a trove of primary sources reflecting on such issues as uprisings, treaties, court cases, Christian missions, and federal legislation. Documents specifically related to Kansas include, but are not limited to, the Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek, October 21, 28, 1867; the Report of the Indian Peace Commission, January 7, 1868; the Peace Policy, Ulysses S. Grant, June 8, 1871; and the Hegira of Dull Knife from the Ford County Globe, October 29, 1878.

The Nez Perces in the Indian Territory: Nimiipuu Survival.
By J. Diane Pearson.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, xxiv + 383 pages, cloth $34.95.)
The storied plight of the Nez Perces and their Chief Joseph of the Pacific Northwest is well known to students of the American West, but perhaps less familiar is the story of the captivity and deportation of the chief and his Nimiipuu followers, which took them into temporary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Their eight-year exile to reservations in Indian Territory was marked by much hardship, but according to author J. Diane Pearson, "the captives took control of their lives whenever they could" (p. 5). They were sustained, she argues, by an "unremitting desire to return to their homelands" (p. 5).

By Faith Alone: One Family's Epic Journey Through 400 Years of American Protestantism.
By Bill Griffeth.
(New York: Harmony Books, 2007, xi + 288 pages, cloth $24.00.)
This volume, written by veteran television news anchor Bill Griffeth, traces four hundred years of one family's religious roots, stretching from Great Yarmouth, England, through the Netherlands and New England, to Washington, Kansas. The history of Griffeth's clan, comprised of Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists, offers a microcosmic view of the development of Protestantism in America. Along the way Griffeth also considers the progress of one small Kansas town and, as he stands at the prairie graves of his paternal grandparents, reflects that their headstones "marked the intersection of ancient bloodlines that extended back to England in the 1500s, when this whole journey began" (p. 253).

Waiting for Coyote's Call: An Eco-memoir from the Missouri River Bluff.
By Jerry Wilson.
(Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2008, 292 pages, cloth $24.95.)
In 1981 Jerry and Norma Wilson purchased forty acres on a Missouri River bluff in Clay County, South Dakota. Wilson's new eco-memoir chronicles the twenty-five years they have lived on the land in the geo-solar home they built with the help of countless friends and neighbors. The Wilson's efforts at "rehomesteading" the prairie echo those of the first white settlers in the area, a juxtaposition underscored by the Wilsons' preservation of a log home built in 1869 that still stands on their property. Wilson also takes inspiration from that famous resident of Walden, though he notes that "perhaps modern life involves more compromise than Thoreau would have been willing to make" (p. 4).

The Ioway in Missouri. By Greg Olson.
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, Missouri Heritage Reader, 2008, xiv + 141 pages, paper $14.95.)
The Ioway (or Iowa), native to the land between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in present-day Iowa, were forcibly removed in 1837 to the Great Nemaha Reservation in what would become Kansas. Separated from their homeland, "now lost to land-hungry white settlers" (p. 2), the tribe struggled to survive. In his new study of this struggle, Greg Olson explores the "many forces [that] shaped the extreme challenges the Ioway people experienced in the face of white settlement" and concludes that the tribe "did not always agree among themselves on the direction they should take" (pp. 3, 4).

Volume 31 Index