The Heritage of Kansas: Selected Commentaries on Past Times

The Heritage of Kansas: Selected Commentaries on Past Times

The Heritage of Kansas: Selected Commentaries on Past Times

The Heritage of Kansas: Selected Commentaries on Past Times

Excerpt

If one who lived in the days when Kansas was organized as a territory, a little more than a hundred years ago, could now return and observe the changes, he would discover a world as fantastic as anything in imaginative fiction. These changes, of course, have not been peculiar to Kansas; but in Kansas they receive their own coloring because of the circumstances under which the state was organized, the temperament of its pioneers, their aspirations and their ideals. Today tens of thousands of Kansans have never seen a buffalo outside a park or circus, never seen a covered wagon, to say nothing of a wagon train, would not recognize an Indian if they met one, and, living in the comforts of modern civilization, little realize the hardships and privations that turned the so-called Great American Desert into what is now popularly called the bread basket of the nation.

Yet even today a few men still live who watched the wagon trains wind their way westward, who saw the distant hills darkened as from the shadow of a vast cloud by the roaming herds of buffalo, who hunted deer to provide meat for the family table, and who talked to the wandering Indians in their native habitats. Today in ninety minutes men travel a distance which ninety years ago the average stage could not make in less than a day and night of continuous travel. Today men live in the western half of the state, grow rich or poor according to the seasons, world conditions, and their own judgment by growing wheat in a region which many still thought uninhabitable fifty years ago.

The selections which make up this collection give a panoramic view of Kansas life during the state's formative period. They are written by many different kinds of people. Most of the selections are by persons who in some way participated in the founding of the state, though a great many are by outside observers, and a few are by present-day writers who look back with something like historical perspective. Interpretations, which exist in profusion, have been avoided except for the concluding selection. It is by Carl Becker, a highly respected historian who lived some years within the state, and who looks at Kansas at the end of the period covered by the selections in this volume. In general, however, the spirit that animated the builders of Kansas, that spirit's persistence or lack of persistence . . .

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