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Esther M. Clark Hill

Esther M. Clark HillPoet.  Born: December 3, 1876 near Shaw, Neosho County, Kansas.  Married: Joseph Edmund Hill, October 2, 1918, Edgemont, S.D.  Died:  March 21, 1932, Topeka, Kansas.

Esther Mary Clark grew up in Neosho County. As a child she loved poetry. After graduating from Chanute high school she attended the University of Kansas where she studied journalism. As a student she wrote for the Lawrence Journal.

Clark spent the spring and summer of 1907 in Long Beach, California. She became homesick for the prairies of Kansas and she wrote the poem, "Call of Kansas." Clark submitted the poem to the Lawrence Journal, since she knew some of the editors. The newspaper published the poem in 1907. In addition to working for the Coffeyville Journal, other Kansas newspapers, and a St. Joseph newspaper,  Clark worked in the extension department at the University of Kansas.

The authorship of the poem was called into question when former Hutchinson resident Emma Clark Karr claimed she had written and published the poem in a Hutchinson newspaper in 1899. The Kansas Authors Club conducted an investigation and determined in 1915 that Clark and not Karr was the true author of "Call of Kansas." The poem was copyrighted by Esther Clark in 1916 and printed in a collection of the same title by Crane & Company Printers, Topeka.

While Clark was working for the Edgement (South Dakota) Express, she married Joseph Edmund Hill, a newspaper reporter from Coffeyville. The couple lived in Kansas, where he died December 25, 1919.

Hill was a charter member of the Midland Authors club and she published three volumes of poetry during her life.  She called her home in Chanute "The Small Place." Because of  financial issues, she was at risk of losing the house. The Kansas Club Women rallied to help and provided her with a check of $400 in 1931. Hill began work at the Kansas Historical Society where she wrote articles for its publication, Kansas Historical Quarterly.

Hill died in Topeka at the age of 55 from a short illness.


"Call of Kansas"

Lawrence Journal
May 14, 1907

Surfeited here with beauty, and the sensuous-sweet perfume,
Borne in from a thousand gardens and orchards of orange-bloom;
Awed by the silent mountains, stunned by the breakers' roar---
I lie on the warm sand beach and hear, above the cry of the sea,
The voice of the prairie calling,
                                   Calling me.

Sweeter, to me than the salt sea spray, the fragrance of summer rains;
Nearer my heart than these mighty hills are the wind-swept Kansas plains.
Dearer the sight of a shy, wild rose by the roadside's dusty way,
Than all the splendor of poppy-fields, ablaze in the sun of May.
Gay as the bold poinsettia is, and the burden of pepper trees,
The sunflower, tawny and gold and brown, is richer to me than these.
And rising ever above the song of the hoarse, insistent sea,
The voice of the prairie calling,
                                   Calling me.

Kansas, beloved Mother, today in an alien land,
Yours is the name I have idly traced with a bit of wood in the sand.
The name that, flung from a scornful lip, will make my hot blood start;
The name that is graven, hard and deep, on the core of my loyal heart.
O, higher, clearer and stronger yet, than the boom of the savage sea,
The voice of the prairie calling,
                                   Calling me.

Entry: Hill, Esther M. Clark

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2011

Date Modified: April 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.