Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kansas 150 - The Kickoff!

Friday Morning, January 28th ~
On the Steps of the Capitol Building

This celebration of Kansas statehood was far more subdued than that first one 150 years ago. Although times are difficult, life in Kansas is far easier than on that turbulent day in 1861 when James Buchanan scratched his name on a document making Kansas a state. A state free of slavery. The bloody battles previously limited to the border between Missouri and Kansas Territory would soon engulf the entire nation.  

I imagine the first statehood celebration to have been a wild, raucous affair, - shouting in the streets, guns fired into the air, lusty singing, and perhaps a jug or two of whiskey - in stark contrast to this day.  Kansas Day 2011 is a day for the politicians and dignitaries. A day for pomp and ceremony - marches by a military band, a 19-gun salute, and as one wag in period costume snorted, "much speechifyin'". The rest of the year is set aside for the grassroots celebrations, the peoples' parties. From here on out, it will be town bands in  gazebos, fiddles and banjos in the park, and barbershop quartets in the civic auditoriums. I'm looking forward to this year's rodeos, parades, tractor pulls and watermelon feeds with gusto. Let the festivities commence!

Eugene Williams, general manager of KTWU, the public television station in Topeka, served as Master of Ceremonies.

The colors were posted by the Wa-Ta-Se American Legion Post of Mayetta, Kansas, located near the reservation of the Potawatomi Nation.

Governor Sam Brownback. He reminded those present of the difficult times of the past 150 years, how the struggles of our ancestral settlers were overcome by their strength, courage and steadfastness - traits we will need to show as we wrestle with our own difficult times.

Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas, read Celebrate This Kansas depicting what it means to “live where the earth and stars converge.” Read the poem in its entirety at:

The highlight? Easy. Rep. Barbara Ballard led those assembled in a singing of our state song, Home on the Range, accompanied by the 35th Infantry Division Band, followed by Ruffles and Flourishes* and the firing of a 19-gun salute. I believe the Ruffles and (two) Flourishes was played because there was a two-star general in attendance, but why 19 guns? If any of my readers know the answer to that question, I'd like to hear from them. My understanding is that 19 is usually reserved for vice-presidents, five star generals, cabinet members, and the like. 

A video of the singing:

Governor Brownback spoke at some length with a number of the seventh grade students from a Topeka middle school who were in attendance. He appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself.

Friday Afternoon ~
At the Kansas Museum of History

Kansas 150 - the sesquicentennial - promises to be a busy year for the state's history museum. A special exhibit, 150 Things I Love About Kansas, is on display through the end of the year. I went to the museum to view the exhibit, but seeing the numbers of school children visiting that day, and the activities planned for them, decided it might be more fun to watch that, as I could came back another day for the "150 Things" showing.

Dorothy and her friends from that wonderful world over the rainbow were there, and the youngsters loved it!

This witch doesn't look so wicked to me, and these little cuties are anything but frightened.

From the 150 Things I Love exhibit, a display dedicated to - wheat of course!

Movie posters from an earlier time - advertising the horse operas of my childhood and before.

These children are learning about quilt making. I wondered how many of them had even seen a sewing machine before.

Still lookin' for a brain, scarecrow?

A classy and handsome couple show off the finery of another era:

Saturday Morning ~
At the Shawnee Indian Mission, Fairway

It was January 29 - Kansas Day. There was a granddaughter's birthday party at noon and a KU-K-State basketball game to be viewed at six. But that still left time to visit this important state historical site in the morning.

Operated by the Methodist Episcopal Church, this mission gave manual training and schooling to Indian children, mostly Shawnees and Delawares, from 1839 to 1862. The building also served briefly as a state capitol, as claimed by one pro-slavery contingent intent on founding a state government.

A pro-slavery group known as the Bogus Legislature drafted a constitution** (The Bogus Constitution) here. The document was based on that of Missouri, the state from which most of them had immigrated. The room pictured below now houses historic artifacts, but was the site of the penning of the constitution.

Those of us assembled listened to the (controversial) Reverend Thomas Johnson, who served for many years as the leader of this mission, and for whom Johnson County is named, and his wife Sarah.

They spoke as if today were January 29, 1861, and they had just learned that President James Buchanan had signed the bill granting statehood to the Free State of Kansas. We heard Sarah talk of their years on the frontier, teaching life skills (white man's life skills, that is) to Indian youngsters, and of the difficulties of surviva in this unsettled land.

When the Reverend Johnson arrived, the talk became more political and more passionate, as we learned of his role in the Bogus Legislature, of his own pro-slavery leanings, that he himself owned slaves. [For many years I have wondered why the county in which I live is named for a member of the pro-slavery faction who seemed to hold Indians in low regard. I now know, but still find it regrettable that we honor this man in such a way.]

Skilled reenactors George and Diane Bernheimer portrayed the Johnsons. The previous day, I had seen them appearing at the statehouse ceremony in roles as Kansas first governor and wife, Charles and Sara Robinson.

Birthday celebrations call for birthday cake and punch. Anita Faddis, Site Administrator at the Shawnee Indian Mission, cut the cake.


*     Ruffles and flourishes: something I remembered from my four-plus years as a musician in the Air Force; a    set of brief fanfares for people of rank. For instance, the President of the United States receives four ruffles and flourishes prior to the playing of Hail to the Chief.

**   It is my understanding that four different factions set up provisional governments, complete with a constitution, prior to Kansas' entry into the Union. In addition to the Bogus Constitution mentioned here, those were at Lecompton (pro-slavery), Lawrence (abolitionist), and Wyandot (abolitionist). The Wyandot version became the state's official constitution.

Helpful  Related Links:

Sesquicentennial Events (an exhaustive listing):
Kansas Museum of History:

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