KanColl: The Kansas  Historical Quarterlies

Kansas Historical Notes

August, 1944(Vol. 13, No. 3), pages 206 to 208.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

     Fred W. Brinkerhoff of Pittsburg, president ofthe Kansas State Historical Society, was honor guest at a meeting of the CrawfordCounty Historical Society at Pittsburg June 7, 1944, and spoke briefly of theorganization and work of the State Historical Society.

     Dr. Ralph H. Smith, president of the Crawfordcounty society, announced the following chairmen of committees for the work ofthe county society: Mrs. Lena Martin Smith, Pittsburg-Catalogue articles ofhistorical interest and keep file of items or information gathered by variouscommittees; Mrs. Clark M. Paris, PittsburgKeep a clipping record of historicevents and file in archives; Frank Dorsey, Pittsburg-Secure rolls and rosters ofservice men and arrange for present selective service records when local boardsare through with them; Dr. Elizabeth Cochran, Pittsburg-Letter collection; C. C.Wheeler, Pittsburg-Locate important genealogy in Crawford county and make recordwith location; Mrs. F. A. Gerken, Girard-List War Dads, Navy Mothers, D. A. R.,American Legion and auxiliary and any other patriotic and historical group, andenlist their interest in building collection; Mrs. O. P. Dellinger,Pittsburg-Gather pioneer stories of county; George F. Beezley, Girard-Make recordof historic buildings and sites in Crawford county; Ralph J. Shideler,Girard-Collect and record writing, painting, sculpture, design and musiccomposition for creative artists' "Who's who"; H. A. Holzer, Pittsburg-Make listwith brief sketch of each of the leaders in Crawford county for industrial andprofessional "Who's who"; Mrs. Harry Price, Cherokee-Locate and list homes,furniture, costumes and collections of art and books of historical significance;J. E. Needham, Girard-Make sketches of pioneer churches and schools in thecounty, and R. E. Mangrum, Pittsburg-Civic war activities.

     Gov. Andrew F. Schoeppel has announced theappointment of Harry C. Blaker and Donald F. Ellis of Pleasanton to the board oftrustees of the Marais des Cygnes Massacre Memorial Park. Members reappointedwere E. A. Hoag, Pleasanton, chairman; James Martin, of Boicourt, and KirkeMechem, of Topeka. Historical Societies in the United States and Canada isthe title of a 261-page handbook edited by Christopher Crittenden and issued thissummer by the American Association for State and Local His



ory of Washington, D. C. Names of the president and secretary of ach society,the date of its organization, number on staff, memberhip, dues, total income,kind of collections, and the hours each is open, were printed. The booklet gavedetailed information on twenty-four active historical societies in Kansas, andnamed twelve others for which there was insufficient record to list among theactive organizations.

     Dr. James C. Malin's articles on the "Beginningsof Winter Wheat Production in the Upper Kansas and Lower Smoky Hill RiverValleys," printed in The Kansas Historical Quarterly of August, 1941, and"The Soft Winter Wheat Boom and the Agricultural Development of the Upper KansasRiver Valley," in three parts in the Quarterly of November, 1942, andFebruary and May, 1943, have been revised and republished with a new section,"The Emergence of the Hard Winter Wheat Regime, 1883-1902," in a book, WinterWheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas, issued in August, 1944, from theUniversity of Kansas Press.

     Dr. Malin's well-documented book carries theraising of wheat in Kansas through its spring and soft winter eras to the 1900'swhen several varieties of hard winter wheat, through constant development andimprovement, were beginning to make Kansas the banner wheat state of thenation.

     The introduction of hard winter wheat to thestate was not in itself an event that gave cause for immediate rejoicing. Evenafter it was established here new varieties were necessary before Kansans couldpartially overcome major obstacles provided by insects, weather and milling. Dr.Malin has emphasized the part played by improved machinery, and particularly theadaptation of lister tillage, in the raising of wheat.

     In years of extensive study of documents,letters and newspaper files Dr. Malin was unable to locate contemporaneousrecords which would fully substantiate the tradition that the Mennonites, in themiddle 1870's, were the first to introduce Turkey red hard winter wheat toKansas. They brought winter wheat, he agrees, but there is a question that theywere the first and only ones to introduce it. To him, "the strangest aspect ofthe whole situation is . . . the absence of any [contemporary] reference toRussian wheat during the first years of this [Mennonite] migration." Herecognizes, however, "that there must be a substantial volume of contemporarycorrespondence in the hands of Mennonite families that should


clarify the role of that sect in the introductions made by them," but to datethe beginnings remain clouded.

     "According to recent Mennonite historians it was. . . [the Gnadenau, Marion county] colony of twenty-four families, of whom[Jacob A.] Wiebe was one, that is credited with the introduction of Turkey hardwinter wheat, each family of whom had brought about a peck of it, planting it inthe fall of 1874 and harvesting it in 1875." However, in an autobiographicalstatement, Wiebe's only reference to wheat preparations for the first fall of1874 was to the purchase of some American seed for the first crop.

     "If the Wiebe group brought a remarkable newwheat," Malin continued, "and no other Mennonites did, he did not realize itssignificance. . . . In view of the extensiveness of the migration, it would seemmore probable that many families brought wheat with them from Russia.Furthermore, it is probable that more than one variety or strain of Russian wheatwas included in the impedimenta of these German Mennonites in their transit toAmerica. . . ."

     In summing up the Mennonite contribution Dr.Malin believes it "falls largely into the category of the accidents of historyand there is no evidence yet available to demonstrate that they understood evenremotely at the time the significance of what they were doing, and it was yearsafterwards before they knew anything unusual had been done. Beyond the fact ofbringing hard winter wheat from Russia, their positive contribution lies largelyin the high quality of their farming and their shrewdness in adjustingsuccessfully their traditional agricultural system to the new American crops,machinery and environment. The spread of the hard winter wheat throughout Kansaswas almost entirely, if not altogether, a folk phenomenon, the common peoplefollowing their instincts even against the advice of experts in agriculture andthe discriminations of technicians of the milling and baking trades. . . ."

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