Monday, October 25, 2010

Kansas Railroad History

The plow and the rail were two important tools employed in developing the early economy of Kansas. The plow opened up the rich prairie soil to new possibilities for thousands of land-hungry settlers while the laying of rails across Kansas opened up these lands for the establishment of farms, ranches and towns.

Our state's history is in many ways the history of the railroad in settling and developing the Great Plains. Lacking major highways or deep rivers much of Kansas' commerce depended heavily on the presence of nearby railway transportation. This made railroad companies a powerful force in Kansas politics, economic development and daily life. Communities thrived or died depending on access to railway traffic.

The links below are a small sampling of resources available on the history of railroads in the Sunflower State.

Railroads in Kansas
(Articles on the history of railroads in Kansas from

History of Kansas Railroads
(A time line provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The Department also has a page on railroad terms as well as a listing of current railroads in Kansas)

Digitized Kansas Maps
(Provided by Special Collections at Wichita State University. This page is a search result display showing historic Kansas maps which include railroad routes)

Railroads of Kansas, compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser
(From the Legends of Kansas website)

List of Kansas Railroads
(Wikipedia article listing past and present railroads in Kansas)

Territorial Kansas website
(Digitized items pertaining to the early development of railroads in Kansas, 1854-1861)
Immigration and railroads
Railroad companies
Railroad conventions
Railroad land grants
Railroad legislation
Railroad promotion
Railroads design and construction
Railroads economic aspects
Railroads finance

Kansas Memory website
(Kansas primary sources from the Kansas State Historical Society. The categories below bring up huge numbers of hits but check out the menu on the left side for subcategories)
Business and Industry -- Railroad
Transportation - Railroads
Transportation -- Railroads -- Depots

A Few Online Articles on Kansas Railroad History

"The Birth of The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad," by Joseph W. Snell and Don W. Wilson
Kansas Historical Quarterly
Summer, 1968 (Vol. 34, No. 2), pages 113 to 142.
Autumn, 1968 (Vol. 34, No. 3), pages 325 to 356

"The Building of the First Kansas Railroad South of the Kaw River," by Harold J. Henderson
Kansas Historical Quarterly
August 1947 (Vol. 15, No. 3), pages 225-239

"Thomas Ewing, Jr., and the Origins of the Kansas Pacific Railway Company," by David G. Taylor
Kansas Historical Quarterly
Summer 1976 (Vol. 42, No. 2), pages 155 to 179

"Trains," by Elfriede Fischer Rowe
Lawrence Journal-World, December 16, 1970
(One of a series of articles titled "Wonderful Old Lawrence," originally published in the Lawrence Journal-World)

Titles found in the Topeka Libraries ATLAS Catalog
(Subject search results)
Railroads -- Kansas
Railroads -- Kansas -- History
Street Railroads -- Kansas

Museums, Associations, Depots, Historic Sites

(This is a very short list of railroad-related locations in Kansas today)

Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad
(Abilene, Kansas)

Ellis Railroad Museum
(Ellis, Kansas)

Great Overland Station
(Topeka, Kansas)

Great Plains Transportation Museum
(Wichita, Kansas)

Halstead Heritage Musem & Depot
(Halstead, Kansas)

Heart of the Heartlands, Inc.
(Scammon, Kansas)

Historic Downs Depot
(Downs, Kansas)

Midland Railway Historic Association
(Baldwin City, Kansas)

National Orphan Train Complex
(Former Union Pacific Railroad Depot in Concordia, Kansas)

Rock Island Depot
(Liberal, Kansas)
Take a YouTube Video Tour of the building
Depot Jubilee Article

Santa Fe Depot Foundation
(Kingman, Kansas)

Union Station, Kansas City Mo

Article by: Bill Sowers
Please use the "Comments" link/box below for questions and comments.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Home On The Range

In 1947 the Kansas State Legislature adopted "Home On The Range" as the official state song of Kansas. Known around the world the song had become popular as a "cowboy ballad" promoting a simpler life in the American West. Its mention of Kansas place names, Beaver Creek and the Solomon River Valley, made it a good choice as music representing the Sunflower State.

The words, written by Dr. Brewster Higley in 1872 as a poem titled "My Western Home," described a land of blue skies and natural beauty set out on the banks of Beaver Creek in Smith County, Kansas, where Higley was living at the time. The poem had been set to music by Higley's neighbor, Dan Kelley, and within several years become popular in the West. The words had often been changed to reflect the locale wherein the song was sung but retained their original intent of a peaceful life where "the sky is not clouded all day."

There had been some controversy over the song's origins in the 1930s but the text, discovered in an 1876 issue of The Kirwin (Kansas) Chief determined that the words were Higley's. Though the words, home on the range, never appeared in Higley's original poem that title stuck and has remained as the song's official name.

Below are resources on "Home on the Range" including links to different audio versions of the song and the official words of the Kansas state version.


Home on the Range
(Provided by National Public Radio, this web page offers a short history of the song and different audio versions. Some broken links)

Roam Is Where The Heart Is
(From Kansas History Online)

Home On The Range
(KTWU public television Sunflower Journeys program transcript)

An Anthem
(Provided by Discovering Lewis & Clark)

The History of the State Song
(Kansas State Historical Society)

"State Song of Kansas..."
(A short article appearing on the Kansas State University's Media Relations website)

The Off-Key Story of a Song
(The controversy continues for some on the origins of the song)


Tales Out of School
(Center for Great Plains Studies)

Read Kansas! - Fourth Grade
(Provided by the Kansas State Historical Society's Read Kansas! Program. This lesson teaches the history of the state song, “Home on the Range,” through expository text and a time line)


Brewster Higley VI
(Wikipedia article)

Brewster Higley Historical Marker, Rutland, Ohio

Historical Background of “Home on the Range”
(Written by Russell K. Hickman. Contains a lot of biographical information on Brewster Higley)

Brewster Higley's Gravesite
(Provided at Find A Grave)

Daniel E. Kelley

(Wikipedia article)


The Official Kansas State Song
(Quoted from the 1947 Session Law)

Home on the Range: Classic Cowboy Poetry
(The original poem, the first version of the song and Lomax versions)

Three versions of the text on Wikipedia
(Higley, Goodwin and Lomax)


Nomination Form for "Home On The Range" cabin
(Kansas State Historical Society)

Kansas US Hwy 281
(General information on Smith County which is also the location of the center of the 48 contiguous states)

Smith County KSGenweb
(Provided by the Kansas Genweb Project)

Smith County at Blue Skways
(Provided by the State Library of Kansas)

YouTube Video

View a YouTube audio of "Home on the Range" featuring versions by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry:

Article by: Bill Sowers
Please use the "Comments" link/box below for questions and comments.