Thursday, February 18, 2010


Written by August Disselhofff over 150 years ago Nun Ade, Du Mein Lieb' Heimatland epitomized the sorrow and hope of German speaking Europeans who emigrated from their homelands seeking a better life overseas.

They did not all come from what is now the country we call Germany. They did not share the same religious or political beliefs. Their literature, music, cuisine and customs differed. But although a diverse people they shared a common language, though many might have disputed that as well with the many dialects of German spoken! Within this article the word, German, will be used loosely to describe German speaking European immigrants as a whole.

Germans immigrants settled throughout Kansas. They built churches, colleges, hospitals, schools, farms, businesses, homes and meeting halls. They founded newspapers, socials organizations, societies and established themselves as a vital part of Kansas society. They left their language scattered across the landscape with names like Humboldt, Stuttgart, Windthorst, Olpe, Marienthal and Schoenchen.

The links below offer up basic resources via the Internet, microforms and in paper. We also provide information on organizations, societies and institutions which have researched the history of German settlement and life in Kansas.


The German Heritage of Kansas: An Introduction
(William D. Keel, University of Kansas. From Swiss Mennonite Cultural & Historical Association website)

Max Kade Center for German-American Studies
(Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas)

Deitsch, Däätsch, Düütsch, and Dietsch: The Varieties of Kansas German Dialects after 150 Years of German Group Settlement in Kansas
(By William Keel, Department of Germanic Languages, University of Kansas)

Linguistic Atlas of Kansas German Dialects
(From the Department of Germanic Languages, University of Kansas)

Germans in Kansas. Review Essay
(Article by Eleanor L. Turk. Kansas History, Spring, 2005 (Vol. 28, pages 44-71). From Kansas State Historical Society website)

Kansas Memory
(The Kansas State Historical Society provides a wealth of information on all things Kansas at this excellent website. Below are four categories that take in Germans in Kansas)
People - European Americans - Germans - Volga-Germans
People - European Americans - German Russians
People - European Americans - Germans
Community Life - Religion - Christianity - Mennonite

Many Europeans immigrated in groups. These groups often shared a common belief system, ethnic heritage, came from the same community in Europe or all of the above. Most Kansans are familiar with some of these groups, which sometimes overlap: Mennonites, Germans from Russia and Low Germans (Plattdeutsch):

Germans from Russia (Volga Germans)

Germans and German-Russians
(A bibliography Provided by the Kansas State Historical Society)

(A bibliography provided by the Kansas State Historical Society)

The Bukovina Germans
(You might ask just what is a Bukovina German? Find out here!)

From Far Away Russia: Russian-Germans in Kansas
(A virtual exhibit provided by the Kansas State Historical Society)

The Migration of the Russian-Germans to Kansas
(By Norman E. Saul, Kansas Historical Quarterly, Spring, 1974 (Vol. 40, No. 1),
pages 38-62. From the Kansas Collection website)

American Historical Society of Germans From Russia
Northeastern Kansas Chapter

The Golden Jubilee of German-Russian Settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas
(A transcription of the 1926 book at the Kansas GenWeb website)

Low German Language and Heritage Revitalization Project of Washington and Marshall Counties, Kansas
(From the Department of Germanic Languages, University of Kansas)

Mennonites in Kansas
(From The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online)

Mob Violence and Kansas Mennonites in 1918
(Violence against German Americans was common during World War I. This article is one of many different resources on the ugliness of prejudice. Kansas Historical Quartery, Autumn, 1977 (Vol. 43, No. 3), pages 334 to 350, from the Kansas Collection website)

Swiss Mennonite Cultural and Historical Association
Monthly Features
(Articles from the Association, many of which have to do with Kansas and Kansans)

Settlement of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren at Gnadenau, Marion County
(Article by Alberta Pantle. Kansas Historical Quarterly, February, 1945 (Vol. 13 No. 5), pages 259 to 285. From Kansas State Historical Society website)

Volga German Immigrants in Kansas Traveling Resource Trunk
(From the KSHS website: The Kansas Historical Society offers an exciting series of educational resource trunks. Trunks are based on a specific theme and include hands-on activities to help students better understand the history of Kansas. Each trunk is aimed at a specific age level, but the information within the trunks can be adapted for use with all ages. Complete instructional information is included with each trunk.)

Chihuahua, Mexico Low German Dialects in Kansas
(Low German-speaking immigrants from Mexico to Kansas started arriving in the 1990's. Research from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas)

German communities within larger towns were very active among themselves as well as business and benevolent activities that benefited all those around them.

Small Town Germans: The Germans of Lawrence, Kansas, from 1854 to 1918
(By Katja Rampelmann. Maters Thesis, University of Kansas, 1993. From Lawrence
Community Connections' History of Lawrence website)

The Germans of Atchison, 1854-1859: Development of an Ethnic Community
(Article by Eleanor L. Turk. Kansas History, August 1979 (Vol. 2), pages 146-156. From Kansas State Historical Society website)

A Nod to a Shared History
(Volga Germans in Topeka. An article by Paul Eakins, Topeka Capital Journal, August 4, 2002)

St Joseph Catholic Church (Topeka, Kansas) Records, 1887-2002
(A detailed list of records held at the Kansas State Historical Society which chronicle the history of the Volga German Catholic community in Topeka. Many microfilmed records can be borrowed from the Society via interlibrary loan)

A Tale of Two Counties: German Speakers in Kansas
(An interesting article comparing the German communities of Ellis and Marshall counties)

One of the best sources of information on the rich history of German language newspapers in Kansas is the article, "The German Newspapers of Kansas" by Eleanor Turk, (Kansas History, vol. 6 Spring 1983, pages 46+.) Many libraries subscribe to Kansas History. If you can't find it locally you should be able to get a copy via interlibary loan at your local library)

Here's a googled list of Some Kansas counties with German language newspapers You'll have to bring up each county and then do a word search for "German." You can also search the Kansas State Historical Society's Newspaper Database at The database does not have a language qualifier but common words like Zeit, Blatt, Sonntag, Herold, Anzeiger, used in a title search will bring up some newspapers. Newspapers on microfilm can be borrowed from the Society via interlibrary loan.

On a lighter side, or darker depending on the choice of beer, Germans in Kansas have contributed to the celebration of life with their food, drink and special events. Below are links to some of these activities that speak, taste and sing to us of all that is German in Kansas:

Kansas Breweries
(By Cindy Higgins. Beer brewing history in Kansas is closely tied to German
immigrants. From the Free State Brewing Company website)

(An annual day-long competition for high schoolers studying German in Kansas will
take place on March 6, starting at 9:00 a.m., in Wescoe Hall)

Bieroch Recipe
(A bieroch, can be a meal unto itself. This is just one recipe sample. There are as many ways to make a beiroch as there are to spell the word!)

Volga German Food
(Includes recipes!)

Find a Local German Food Store
(Search by Kansas)

Some Recipes from Kansas Food Journal
(Recipes from Kansas State University students)

Archival Recipe Index Search
(Wow! An amazing search tool for recipes, cookbooks and other culinary resources)

Volga German Foods
(A document from the Kansas State Historical Society's

Hays (Midwest Deutsche celebration)
Hays (held in conjunction with FHSU Homecoming weekend)
Topeka (OK... it's in June and it's called Germanfest!)
(Shawnee and Abilene have Oktoberfest celebrations as well)

Article contact: Bill Sowers

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

People of the Wind

"The fretful wind,
the whimpering wind,

The wind that is never still
Comes lustily into his own at last
On this far, high hill."
(From: "The Wind" by Esther M. (Clark) Hill)

Sometimes friend, sometimes foe, the wind has played an integral part in Kansas history and continues to be an important influence on our economy, culture, literature and persona.

We are "The People of the South Wind" according to most translations of the word Kansa, the Native American tribe for which our state was named. Whether a true translation or not it fits us. Most Kansans constantly have an eye and/or an ear to the skies and to the wind. The wind's turn can mean a sudden change to rain, snow, or extreme cold. It can drive devastating tornadoes, dust, blizzards, or be a source of power to drive an economy. It speaks to us in roaring gales or soft murmuring breezes. Songs, poems and stories reflect the power of the Kansas wind while photographs show vistas of windblown prairies resembling ocean waves flowing up and down across the landscape. We are most assuredly a people of the wind.

So let's take a look at the wind as it has shaped Kansas through the years. The links below will touch on the wind as a force in general covering many topics. Specific topics such as tornadoes and dust storms will be covered more in-depth later in this series.

Kansas Wind Resource Map
(Enlarge the map using the percentage drop down box at the top. The colored graphics in the legend on the right hand side indicate average wind speeds around the state)

And the windiest winner is......
According to the National Climatic Data Center's list of annual average wind speeds, the windiest U.S. city is Dodge City, Kansas, with an average speed of 13.9 mph. Other windy cities include Amarillo, Texas (13.5 mph) and Rochester, Minnesota (13.1 mph.). The windiest "big" cities are New York City (LaGuardia Airport) and Oklahoma City, which both have an average annual wind speed of 12.2 mph.

When Kansas Winds Blow, by Gail Lee Martin
(Personal reminiscences and observances of the wind in Kansas)

Thunderstorm in Hamilton County, 2009 (YouTube video)
(Wind and rain lash across Hamilton County, Kansas)

Dust, fire
and snow driven by the Kansas wind can wreak havoc on anything in its path.

Picture of a Family in a Wind Storm
(An 1874 graphic from Harpers Weekly shows a family in a covered wagon being buffeted by a Kansas gale. From: Kansas Memory)

Dust Storms, by James C. Malin
Part I, 1850-1860
Part II, 1861-1880
Part III, 1881-1900
(Dust in the wind is not limited to popular music and the 1930s. Dust storms have been a part of the Great Plains ecology for many years. From issues of the Kansas Historical Quarterly transcribed at the Kansas Collection website)

Kansas in the 1930s, by Clifford R. Hope, Sr.
Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring 1970)
(The ill winds of the economic collapse of 1929 were magnified by the winds that brought dust storms to much of Kansas during the 1930s. From: KSHS)

U.S. Dust Bowl of the 1930's
(A short YouTube oral history of an approaching dust storm's effects)

Curbing the Wind, by L.C. Archer
(The dust storms of the early 1930s awakened a greater understanding of wind erosion and the need for preventive measures in agriculture. From: Kansas Memory)

Kansas Dust Storm 2004

2004 Kansas Dust Storm
(Dry top soil and high winds combine to give an eerie 1930s flashback in 21st century western Kansas)


With the power of the wind behind it a fire on the prairie can sweep over farms, livestock, towns and people in a matter of minutes

The Prairie Fires in Kansas
(An 1893 article from The New York Times of devastating prairie fires in Kansas.)

Lincoln County, Kansas, remembers the prairie fires of 1890
(Transcribed articles from local papers at the Lincoln County KSGenweb site)

Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours)

Blizzards in Comanche County, Kansas
(Reminiscences of wind-driven, blinding snow storms in Comanche County)

The Blizzard of 1886
(Historic information from the Ellsworth Independent Reporter)

Late March Blizzard, 2009


Wind erosion in Dickinson CountySoil erosion can be a “slow death” for fields in Kansas robbing farms of valuable topsoil. The graphic to the left, from the US Department of Agriculture, shows wind erosion next to a wheat field in Dickinson County.

Three Wind Erosion Videos (YouTube)
(Turn your sound down for these though it does give you an auditory wind experience. It may look like dull viewing, but imagine the tons of topsoil at risk across the state)

Principles of Wind Erosion and its Control
(Pamphlet from Kansas State University Dept of Agronomy giving information on wind erosion and how to retain soil on land)


Wind turbines in Ellsworth CountyKansans have been taking advantage of the wind since territorial days in providing water and now energy resources. The graphic to the left shows wind turbines along I-70 in Ellsworth County.

The Farm Windmill
(Kansas Memory gives us views of windmills across the state through the years. Harnessing the power of the wind, farm windmills provided household water needs, irrigated some crops and watered livestock)

(From: “Reflections From the Prairie” at the Kansas Collection)

Kansas Wind and Prairie Task Force
(The Wind and Prairie Task Force (WPTF) was established by the State Energy Resources Coordination Council (SERCC), at the request of then Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The Task Force was charged to develop principles, guidelines, and tools that local entities can use as they address the issues concerning wind-energy development in the Flint Hills and other environmentally sensitive areas)

Wind Energy in Reno County
(Wind turbines provide energy to power homes, farms, public buildings and businesses. A promotional video about the development of wind power in Kansas)

Setting up the Greenbush Wind Turbine
(YouTube video from the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush, Kansas)

Construction of Spearville Industrial Wind Turbine Power Plant
(This video has no sound but it gives a detailed look at the construction of a large "wind farm" site near "The City of Windmills," Spearville, Kansas)

Concern Expressed about Wind Power Development
(Audobon of Kansas, among others, expresses concern about wildlife, land ecology and the conservation of areas such as the Flint Hills in regards to construction of wind turbines across the land)

Kansas Wind Energy Projects
(From the Kansas Energy Information Network)

Wind Turbines and Amber Waves of Grain (YouTube video)
(A calming look at two Kansas bumper crops: wheat and wind)

Kansans have described the wind in many different ways in song, story and verse. Here are a few samplings of verbal visions of the wind:

The Song Of The Wind And The Leaves - Ed. Blair
Meadow Lark and Prairie Wind - Ann Reece Pugh
Wind In The Treetops - Louisa Cooke Don-Carlos
The South Wind - C. P. Slane
Prairie Wind - Thomas E. Moore
Song Of The Four Winds - Esther M. (Clark) Hill
Song - May William Ward
Winds at Night - May William Ward
The Prairie Pioneers - Willard Wattles
The Wanderer - Esther M. (Clark) Hill

Poems from the Kansas Poets website
Bluestem Breeze - Phillip Albert King
Seasonal Dichromatic - Ellen Drake
Gift - Lois Virginia Walker

The Kansas Poems of Kenneth Wiggins Porter
(From: Center for Kansas Studies, Washburn University. Take note of the selection from Porter's poem, "The Ghosts of the Buffalo," which speaks to the misguided concept of "conquering" the land rather than living with it)

And what look at the Kansas wind would not be complete without the story which has defined us for decades? Love her or hate her, Dorothy Gale means Kansas to people around the world... and her little dog too!
“The Cyclone” from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
(The first chapter of the book, later adapted in various film versions, that has defined the Kansas persona. From The Kansas Collection)

Article contact: Bill Sowers