Although Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, Kansas Day was not celebrated until 1877. After two weeks of gathering information on the geography, history and resources of Kansas, Paola public school students spent the afternoon of Jan. 29, 1877, making presentations and sharing maps and drawings with parents, friends and residents of their community. Alexander Le Grande Copley, was the teacher at Paola that year. In 1879 he became superintendent of the Wichita schools, and Kansas Day was then observed there. Copley attended county teachers’ institutes and state teachers’ association meetings and encouraged the teachers to celebrate Kansas Day. In 1882 at the first meeting of the Northwestern Teachers Association, it was decided that a small pamphlet should be published including information about Kansas, its songs and sample speeches suitable for the observance of Kansas Day. The 32-page booklet was simply called, “Kansas Day.” At the next State Teachers Association meeting in Topeka, every teacher took home one or more copies. Purchased copies went to 65 Kansas counties, and for a short time the booklet was used as a textbook in the state normal school at Emporia. The popularity of Kansas Day continued to grow and is celebrated by teachers and students across the state today.
Last Friday, Lakin second graders visited the museum to celebrate Kansas Day. They learned about the history of Kansas Day, some of the first inhabitants of this part of the state, the Santa Fe Trail, how Lakin got its start, how the pioneers lived, the schools they attended and the first businesses here. In conjunction with the event, the museum sponsored a coloring contest for the second graders and awarded one child from each class with a special gift. Congratulations to our winners: Desi White, Claire Barnhardt, and Idaly Martinez! All of the second graders’ coloring pages will be displayed at the museum during the month of February.
Kearny Countians Fred and Billie Urie were avid collectors of Native American artifacts. Sunday afternoons were spent exploring Kearny County with their children: Harold, Sandra, Norman, Dennis and Margaret. They discovered many Indian campsites while on their adventures. Fred passed away in 1993, and upon Billie’s death in 2005, the Urie’s children graciously donated many of the family’s Native American artifacts. Recently Chad Myers, a Wichita State University graduate student in archeology, offered his services to sort and date the many Indian artifacts. He identified arrowheads, blades, drills, scrapers and knives and determined some artifacts date back to the Clovis Culture which is often thought to be the first civilization in North America. Those particular artifacts are between 13,800 to 10,000 years old. An additional case was needed to house the vast collection. We are happy to report that the Urie Collection is back on display for the enjoyment of our visitors. Please stop in to the Museum and check it out!
The Museum Annex is temporarily closed to the public as work is in progress on a much anticipated improvement. For years, museum staff and board have longed for air conditioning to be installed in the annex. In the summer months, being in the annex can be unbearable for our guests. Temperatures in the balcony reach well over 100 degrees. The extreme temperature is not only uncomfortable, but extremely hard on our artifacts. Museum professionals advise that fluctuating temperatures and humidity cause the most stress on artifacts, particularly textiles. In 2010, the American Institution of Conservation established that most cultural institutions should strive for a set point in the range of 45-55% relative humidity and a temperature range of 59-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Ramos Heating and Air Conditioning began work this week removing the old tube heater (which we hope to utilize in the depot) and installing a new AC/heating system. Next week Danny Crist will be here to plumb for natural gas, and we also anticipate the electricians to be here updating our system to handle the heavier load. We ask that you be patient during this process. We are very excited that this dream is coming to fruition for our visitors AND for the precious artifacts that we have been entrusted with.
When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson and most Americans favored neutrality. That soon changed when several American ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by Germans in an attempt to cut off trade to Britain (one of America’s closest trading parties). In February 1915, the German government announced that they would strike against all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain. Germany sunk a private American vessel just one month later.
On May 7, 1915, 128 Americans were killed when the British-owned LUSITANIA ocean liner was torpedoed without warning off the coast of Ireland. In all, 1,198 passengers were killed. Then in November an Italian liner was sunk, killing 272 people. Twenty-seven were Americans. President Wilson demanded that the German Government immediately abandon its methods of warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels or the U.S. would sever diplomatic relations with Germany. On May 4, 1916, agreed to limit its submarine warfare.
In early 1917, President Wilson attempted to negotiate peace terms between Germany and the Allied Forces. The attempt failed, resulting in the United States breaking diplomatic relations with Germany in February. Just hours later, the American liner HOUSATONI was sunk by a German U-boat. Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations billed on Feb. 22 to ready the U.S. for war. In late March, Germany sunk four more American merchant ships.
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. On December 7, 1917, the United States declared war on German ally Austria-Hungary.
At the time of World War I, the U.S. Army was small compared with the mobilized armies of the European powers. While President Wilson at first wished to use only volunteers to supply the troops needed to fight, it soon became clear that this would be impossible. The Selective Service Act was enacted May 18, 1917, requiring all males ages 21 to 30 to register for military service. The law was amended in August 1918 to expand the age range to include all men 18 to 45.
The first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops landed in France to begin training for combat on June 26. Most of the servicemen from Kansas were sent through training at Camp Funston in Fort Riley. It wasn’t until February of 1918 that there was a report of the first Kearny county men to arrive on French soil.
Patriotic meetings became popular in the states. With the declaration of war, every person in the nation was affected. Farmers were urged to increase their acreage of all grains and vegetables to meet war demands. It was patriotic to have meatless days, and white wheat flour disappeared from this part of the country. War bonds were offered to finance the war, and new and additional taxes were imposed to finance the war. Postage rates increased. Donations to the Red Cross for medical and surgical needs of men in battle were sought. It was estimated that it would take no fewer than 15 million members of the American Red Cross to take care of the sick and wounded soldiers, look after their families and relieve the sufferings of the women and children and men of war-trodden land. The children of the nation joined the Junior Red Cross to do their part to help in the war effort. In the cities and towns they were planting thrift gardens, knitting, investing the returns in thrift stamps, and turning old paper, rubber metals and bottles into cash.
In 1918, the Spanish influenza epidemic not only swept through the country but also through military training camps. Many young soldiers boys fell victim to the disease, among them Kearny Countians James Noell Tate, Carl W. Kurz, and George Earl McConaughey.
After four years of stalemating along the western front, the entry of American forces into the conflict marked a major turning point in the war. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, more than two million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe. There were 53,402 killed in action, 63,114 deaths from disease and other causes, and about 205,000 wounded. Ralph E. Shepherd of Deerfield died September 28, 1918, and is buried in the Deerfield Cemetery. George F. Moore, son of Charley Moore and brother of Lewis Moore and Goldie Moore Brooks, was killed in action in France July 28, 1918. Kearny County American Legion Post No. 2808, Shepherd-Moore Post, was named for these two men.