Category Archives: Kansas Day

Special Kansas history pieces written to celebrate Kansas Day, January 29.

Today is Kansas Day

156 years ago when the state of Kansas was born, our country was in the middle of tremendous turmoil as we tried to work out who we are and what we value.

I haven’t blogged much this past year, but I have spent time traveling to new locations around the state.

Kansas is beautiful.

Kansans are resilient.

Kansans have a long history of fighting for the rights of those whose voices might not otherwise be heard.

Ad astra per aspera.

Touring the Kansas capitol with my Leadership Franklin County class in spring 2016. John Steuart Curry's murals remind us the road to progress is hard.

Touring the Kansas capitol with my Leadership Franklin County class in spring 2016. John Steuart Curry’s murals remind us the road to progress is hard.

Happy Kansas Day! Quotes about Kansas.

“Kansas is indispensable to the joy, the inspiration, and the improvement of the world.”

John J. Ingalls, U.S. Senator from Kansas, 1873-1891, in “A Collection of the Writings of John J. Ingalls, 1902”

“…What Kansas will be 50 years hence is beyond the comprehension of people now living.”         CHICAGO JOURNAL, May 14, 1889

“Until 1895 the whole history of the state was a series of disaster, and always something new, extreme, bizarre, until the name of Kansas became a byword, a synonym for the impossible and ridiculous, inviting laughter, furnishing occasion for jest and hilarity.”
Carl Becker, 1910, in KANSAS

Happy birthday, Kansas. For better or for worse, you’re the state people watch. Because if it can happen in Kansas, it can happen anywhere.

For more quotes about Kansas, check out this list compiled by Tom Averill at the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies.

A postcard, a burial vault, and the search for Belle: A Kansas building story

Not long after we moved to Ottawa, Jim and I were exploring an antique store that occupies a building that once belonged to the local Coca-Cola bottling facility. I picked up several old postcards featuring local places and then promptly forgot about them until my friend Patsy Terrell, who collects handwriting samples for her blog, Words by Hand, asked for submissions.

A postcard featuring a building at the corner of 1st and Main in Ottawa, Kansas.

A postcard featuring a building at the corner of 1st and Main in Ottawa, Kansas.

I pulled out my favorite new-to-me postcard–a card full of admonishments to the recipient for not writing–and scanned it for her. But then I really looked at what the sender wrote and realized I had something important.

Bella A.'s letter to Mrs. T. E. Kennedy on the back of the postcard.

Belle A.’s letter to Mrs. T. E. Kennedy on the back of the postcard.

This is my new store building how do you like it ask Mr. K. what he thinks of concrete for a building. Solid concrete except ceiling and roof.

And that’s when I realized I was holding a postcard from someone connected to the construction of one of the only buildings built with formed concrete blocks in historic downtown Ottawa.

What is now Franklin County had been settled by Native Americans for a very long time before the Ottawa Town Company plotted out what would become downtown Ottawa. The first official sale of the property that would become 101 North Main Street was sold to E.D. Hall in November of 1865. During the next forty-five years, the land would change hands at least ten times. According to the Sandborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1884, 1888, 1893, 1899, and 1905, the property would house a harness maker, a blacksmith, a few lunch diners, a barber or two, a secondhand store, a coal storage facility and even a hay and feed store.

Charles F. Lamb served as secretary and general manager of the Ottawa Vault & Construction Company.

In 1909, F. E. and Alta Sumstine bought the building from the estate of Curtis S. Glass and then sold it to a new buyer: the Ottawa Cement Burial Vault Company, which had incorporated the year before by J. M. McWharf, a local physician serving as president; C. F. Lamb, whose family was also connected to the undertaker business, served as the secretary and general manager; D. H. McCullough, served as vice president, and C. F. Crain, who was in real estate, served as treasurer. The company would change its name to the Ottawa Vault & Construction Company by 1910, when it was featured in the Ottawa, Kansas Souvenir, a publication that featured area businesses.

The Ottawa Vault and Construction Company, a large plant devoted exclusively to the manufacture of the Stevenson Burial Vault and concrete building material, is located at First and Main streets. They also manufacture concrete blocks, chimneys and porch columns, shingles, fancy hitching posts and they will make anything to order out of cement. This plant employs fifteen skillful mechanics and has a pay roll [sic] of $300.00 a week. This firm manufactured the first air-tight, indestructible burial vault, which has met with public favor and has received universal commendation from all.

Stevenson Burial Vault, patented in 1906.

Stevenson Burial Vault, patented in 1906.

It would make sense that a company specializing in the formation of cement into useful objects would choose to build its building out of the stuff. Unlike many modern buildings made of concrete blocks, the building at 101 North Main Street is constructed from blocks shaped like rough-hewn limestone, not unlike most of the building foundations being constructed at the time.  It is only their uniform roughness that gives them away.

Only the uniformity of the rough-hewn stone gives away the fact that the stones are formed concrete.

Only the uniformity of the rough-hewn stone gives away the fact that the stones are formed concrete.

What becomes of the Ottawa Vault & Construction Company is not clear. At the Franklin County Register of Deeds, I found that by 1911, the building became the property of William Berg, whose family was also in the undertaker/funeral director business. The building would be sold twice more until it belong to John Scott, who ran Ottawa Transfer & Storage Company out of it until the 1960s while renting out parts of the building to barbers, taxi services, eateries, a distributor of the Kansas City Star newspaper, and various shops. My personal favorite pair of businesses were run by Adelbert F. and Elizabeth Hay: they ran both Top Hat Taxi company and City Cab Co. and Wake-Up Service.

Ad from the 1936 Polk Directory for Ottawa, Kansas.

Ad from the 1936 Polk Directory for Ottawa, Kansas.

In 1966, the building sat vacant for the first time.

In 1975, Charles Underwood would purchase the building from the Scott family and the building would become the storefront for Underwood Plumbing. The Underwood family would own the building for the next three-and-a-half decades. Today, the building is owned by Timothy Harris and houses a branch of Edward Jones.

The structure has undergone modifications during the past 102 years, but the basic concrete stonework remains.

The structure has undergone modifications during the past 102 years, but the basic concrete stonework remains.

And now we return to the postcard.

Determining the identity of Mrs. T. E. Kennedy was the easy part. The 1903-1904 Polk Directory for Ottawa lists a Kennedy, Thomas E and Mrs. Roeina [sic] R. at 124 South Maple in Ottawa. Thomas Kennedy was an employee with the AT&SF railroad. According to Rowena Kennedy’s obituary (which ran in the Amarillo Daily News on October 30, 1950, Rowena Ross was born in 1865 along an old San Antonio Cattle Trail to parents from Tennessee and Louisiana. She made her way to Kansas, where she met Thomas E. Kennedy, whose Irish/English family settled in Wellsville. Sometime between 1905 and 1910, they made their way to Belton, Texas, where they show up in the 1910 U.S. Census. In 1912, they would move to Amarillo, where they would stay for the rest of their lives.

But who was Belle A.? That is a bigger mystery. The postcard was mailed in 1910. None of the men listed in the Ottawa, Kansas Souvenir had wives or daughters named Belle, Isabella, or anything similar who would have been of an age to be friends with Rowena Kennedy.

Connected to C. F. Crain are two possibilities. His own wife was named Nellie A., and could have gone by Belle. Another possibility is a woman who appears only in the 1907 in the Polk Directory–Belle Crain, a boarder at 623 West 5th who is employed by the Martin Post Card company, which was owned by William H. “Dad” Martin, who was famous for his exaggerated postcards. However, Belle Crain never appears in the directory again, and it is unclear if she moved, married, passed away, or was actually a typo in the directory..

Another interesting possibility comes from the original deed for the Ottawa Cement Burial Vault Company, which lists a man named F. C. Dobson as secretary. Dobson would go on to run Ottawa Milling, but at one point, he was married to a woman named Isabella, who is mysteriously named his widow (though I wonder if the Polk Directory didn’t actually mean his divorcee) in the 1903-1904 directory, and who is sometimes called Bella in newspaper articles. Isabella Sinclair Dobson Knowlton was a fascinating woman. The daughter of a Civil War hero who settled in Lawrence, she married Dobson in 1893, but would end up remarrying a newspaper man named Phil Knowlton, who ran a paper in Newton after the original editor lost it when a local judge sued him for libel. Phil Knowlton was full of scandal himself, having moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado, where he nearly died of mushroom poisoning and was sued by a woman for garnering her affections and then alienating her. Phil and Isabella were apparently meant to be; they lived out their lives together in the Denver area.

I was not able to find any other viable options for Belle A.’s identity, nor for the hardware store she ran out of the 101 North Main Street building. Maybe she married; maybe she moved away. But perhaps if Rowena Kennedy had written Belle A. back, we’d have a postcard addressed to Belle, as well.

Columbia: A Kansas Ghost Town Story

“Do you think this might be it?” I asked my husband, Jim, as we drove down Road M. We were in search of the remnants of Columbia, a ghost town documented in Daniel C. Fitzgerald’s Ghost Towns of Kansas: 6. Other than the wooded area along the Cottonwood River, which we were about to cross, we were surrounded by nothing but acres and acres of farmland. But if we had correctly interpreted the various descriptions from early Lyon County residents, then we were about to drive past the ghost of one of the county’s oldest towns.

The area circled in red indicates the likely location of the Columbia town site. Map excerpt taken from the General Highway Map for Lyon County Kansas, by the Kansas Department of Transportation, September 2007.


“Traveling over the prairie without a road, save a dim wagon track in the grass, through a county as yet unnamed and over the divide between two nameless creeks, we were all watching to see the Neosho timber.” — John Van Gundy, Reminiscences of Frontier Life on the Upper Neosho in 1855 and 1856

In the mid-1800s, the only White residents in this part of the country were (supposed to be) missionaries and government-licensed traders along the wagon trails. Lyon County’s earliest settlers were no different. The first official U.S. citizen to find his way to the area was Charles Withington, who in 1854 set up shop at what would become the town of Allen on the Santa Fe Trail, which rolled through the northern portion of the county.  The next major stop along the trail was Council Grove, where an entire government settlement of shops and services existed as a last stop for travelers on their way to New Mexico. The rest of the area’s inhabitants lived on the Kaw or Sac and Fox reservations.

Then the Kansas-Nebraska Act changed everything.

As the Kansas border was opened up to White settlers, Withington and some of Council Grove’s merchants and missionaries–T.S. Huffaker, Seth Hays, Goodson Simcock, and Christopher Columbia (and some sources say William T. Harris)–saw an opportunity to claim their own land and set up shop in present-day Lyon County, which was then two counties: Breckenridge County to the north, and Madison County to the south. (The dividing line for anyone familiar with Emporia was Logan Avenue, just a block north of the David Traylor zoo.)

In 1855, these men set up a little cluster of buildings that included lodgings, supplies, and a blacksmith near a river crossing at what is now Section 23 in Township 19S, Range 11E. Only the the sections weren’t so clearly marked back then because they were not officially surveyed until 1857. Columbia was officially in Madison County, which would only exist for a few more years.

“The best that one could do then was to guess off a quarter section of land in a desirable spot and mark it out large enough to be sure of a good portion of the land embraced in the description. Even then, it would be likely to happen that the claimant’s cabin would finally be in one section and his well in another; or, there might be two or three cabins in the same quarter section.” — John Van Gundy, Reminiscences of Frontier Life on the Upper Neosho in 1855 and 1856

Most of us native Kansans were programmed early on to associate Kansas’ origins with an anti-slavery mentality.  But 1855 Kansas was more complicated than that, and Lyon County even more so. The people moving in to the area represented a variety of political beliefs.  The majority of the Council Grove men who set up shop in the settlement of Columbia were pro-slavery; Seth Hays was himself a slave owner. Others, like David Van Gundy (father of John Van Gundy) was a Constitutionalist who believed that states and territories had the right to make their own decisions about such things. Still others were Free-staters or Free-Soilers, who believed that there was no need to extend slavery rights to new territories, and still others like Joel Haworth, whose home was part of the underground railroad a few miles up the Cottonwood River from Columbia, were abolitionists who believed slavery should be eliminated from all U.S. states and territories.

Now imagine all of these different people homesteading next to each other, depending on each other, out on the open prairie.

1855 was also the year of the Bogus Legislature, when Pro-Slavery Missourians sneaked into Kansas to cast their votes to make the Kansas territory slavery-friendly. At this time, Columbia was the county seat for Madison County, and a Pro-Slavery leadership was elected for the county and its representation to Topeka.

Breckenridge and Madison County residents maintained this uneasy, unsettled existence, which finally came to a head September 14, 1856, when abolitionists–including John E. Cook, who would hang alongside John Brown at Harper’s Ferry–launched an attack on settlements along the Neosho River. Mrs. Sarah Van Gundy Carver, daughter of one of the area’s earliest settlers, died that night, and several stores, including Withington’s, were robbed and looted. Many of Neosho Rapids’s residents–78 families, according to the documentary A History of North Lyon County–headed east for safety. Only five families returned and found that new settlers had already jumped their claims.

By the end of 1856, the men of Columbia were ready to go back to Council Grove, where Hays operated a saloon known as The Hays House and jointly operated The Last Chance store with Simcock. The stores at Columbia were turned over to Dr. Stiggers. John Van Gundy described his first impression of Columbia at that time: “We traveled in a westerly direction until we came to a wagon road turning south and soon came in sight of a log house with a lean-to on the south.” According to Van Gundy, Stiggers was operating a dry goods store, a drug store, a grocery, and a liquor store all under the same roof just north of the river ford. As one of only a few doctors in the area, he was also busy giving medical attention to patients. Food was cooked in the lean-to.

The Cottonwood River today, near the site of the original Columbia settlement. The river has shifted many times since Columbia’s town site was established in 1855.

As the population of Breckenridge and Madison counties grew, so did the demand for the U.S. Postal Service. Columbia served as an official post office. By 1857, Jefferson S. Pigman, who took over the store at Columbia after his own store in Neosho Rapids was looted during the abolitionist raid a few months before, was dispersing mail that came from Westport, Missouri, down the Santa Fe Trail to Council Grove, and was finally delivered to Columbia. These routes could be dangerous. In her Early History of Lyon County, Kansas, Lucinda Jones writes about freighter Tom Evans and his brother, who saw “gruesome sights,” including a “group of eight men hanging to a little oak tree, horse thieves.”

I can’t help but wonder if this tree once stood on land that is now someone’s front yard.

Despite there being an established mail system, the city of Emporia, with its decisively anti-slavery leanings, did not approve. “This would not do the wide-awake Emporians at all,” Jacob Stotler wrote in his Annals of Emporia and Lyon County. “They hated everything pro-slavery and instead of patronizing this route they took steps to have their mail sent by way of Lawrence. They had box five hundred in Lawrence from whence the mail was brought by private hands. A weekly hack line to that city was established, leaving here every Monday and returning every Friday. It took four full days to make the round trip, and one day to rest at Lawrence.”

Pigman moved on, and John Fowler, whose lands were near the Columbia settlement, served as postmaster until the official post office was moved to Emporia. Fowler went back to farming and H.W. Fink became Emporia’s first postmaster.


Around the time that the post office at Columbia was facing its demise, John Street, a surveyor for the General Land Office, made his way through Township 19S Range 11E, completing the survey between March 17 and April 1, 1857. His painstakingly detailed notes record the land, the vegetation, and the settlements he encountered as he and his crew moved up and down each section line.  Of Columbia, he wrote: “The Cottonwood runs through the southern part of this Township, is very winding in its curves…the town of Columbia was laid out about one year ago on [the] left bank of [the] Cottonwood River. I could not find any of the corners, therefore did not take any notice of the…lines with the town…it now contains several buildings, a store, black smith, and dwellings, a good ford at this place.”

Section 23, from John Street’s 1857 GLO Survey Map. Notice the only roads going through Columbia are the trail road to Council Grove (the upper road moving northwest) and the road to Diamond Springs (the lower road moving northeast-east). Yes, those are little teepees indicating the remains of an Indian Village. The Cottonwood River (actually labled a creek on this map) and its channel run immediately south of Columbia.


 According to J.S. Pigman’s obituary, which ran in the Emporia Gazette on February 9, 1911, “the town never grew beyond the proportions of a log store and post office combined, a double log dwelling house, a blacksmith shop and perhaps one or two other buildings. A family named Whitaker lived in half of the dwelling house part of the time, and the other half was occupied by its owner and his family, the late Reason Snow, a pioneer known to most of the early settlers in this community.”

Daniel C. Fitzgerald, ghost town historian, argued that this was the end of Columbia. “By late summer 1857, what was left of the town had moved to the present location of Emporia,” he wrote in Ghost Towns of Kansas: 6. While the cluster of shops may not have continued on, a new rural community did grow in this area. Historians have implied that by 1858, there was nothing left of Columbia, but new settlers were moving in to the area. In 1868, shortly after their marriage, William and Jane Willis claimed their 80 acres, most of which was situated immediately south of the Cottonwood River and the Columbia Bridge, formerly the Columbia ford. It also included a pinch of land across the river: the former Columbia townsite.

“There were no improvements on the land, so they found and moved into an abandoned log cabin on this [the north] side of the river, on the old Columbia town site. This cabin had no doors or windows or floor, and had been used to house cattle. When the elder Mrs. Willis saw this abode, she broke down and cried, for the comfortable, cozy house she left in Ohio was dear to her.” –from “The Willis Golden Anniversary” announcement, Emporia Gazette, January 23, 1918

This is also not the end of Columbia’s story, which is astonishing considering how many times the area has flooded. According to Laura French’s History of Emporia and Lyon County, “Beginning with 1857, engineers in 1926 making a survey…found record of forty-seven more or less destructive floods in Lyon County.” In 1904, an especially severe flood tore the 150-foot three-span iron Columbia bridge from its abutment, causing it to roll into the water.

The Cottonwood River has shifted its course many times since Columbia was first settled in 1855. Just a few hundred yards north of where the Cottonwood River flows, timber fills in an older river bed. This may have been part of the active river at the time Columbia was still populated.

And yet the ghost of Columbia persisted. Farmers and county commissioners alike recognized the need for this bridge, a lifeline between Emporia and the rural community. The bridge was rebuilt and reopened the following year and continued to be referred to as the Columbia bridge, and the newspaper, in its weekly updates of local communities, continued to refer to the area as the Columbia community for decades more.

At last, the name Columbia began to fade. During the late 1940s, the Emporia Gazette began to refer to the water crossing as Flat Rocks Bridge. The weekly roundup of community happenings no longer included a listing for Columbia. By the 1960s, the only mention of old Columbia and the Columbia bridge occurred in the obituaries of old-timers who themselves faded away one by one.

In 1972, Flat Rocks Bridge was declared unsound and closed. The old 1905 bridge was never meant to handle the heavy equipment that had been crossing it for nearly seven decades. It was replaced with the current structure in 1989.

The current “Flat Rocks” bridge crossing the Cottonwood River was completed in 1989.


Unfortunately, despite all of the information available,  it is still not entirely clear where Columbia’s settlement was constructed. Several early maps of Kansas, like this 1856 map drawn by General Land Agents out of Lawrence, Kansas, mistakenly locate Columbia at the confluence of the Cottonwood and Neosho rivers, which is where Neosho Rapids (well, depending on the year, it could have been listed as Florence, Italia, or Neosho City) was and is located. In addition, the ever shifting Cottonwood River has, with tremendous persistence,  carved its way farther south with each flood, of which we know there have been many.  The first official plat map used by Lyon County beginning in 1874 shows the river in a totally different location from John Street’s GLO survey map.

Section 23, as depicted in Lyon County’s first official plat map that was certified in Topeka in 1874. Notice how wide the riverbed appears, and that the river is in a very different place when compared to John Street’s GLO map from 1857. The squiggles immediately south of the river indicate a swamp.

Because John Street’s task was to survey the section lines and not to mark every single tree, rock, and water source between the lines, where the river flowed between the section lines is not necessary exact. Was the town drawn in at its exact location, or only in respect to the river?

Land records were also not helpful. Although we know U.S. citizens have settled in Section 23 since 1855, the county’s land records begin in 1860, when the land was patented. Most of the early land records do use the section lines as official boundaries–except in relation to the river. All too often, the river is cited as the boundary, but an ever-shifting river means ever-shifting boundaries. The 1878 Lyon County Atlas, the 1918 Atlas, and Google Maps, show even more movement with regards to the Cottonwood River.

After days of studying maps, anecdotal notes, and aerial satellite images, it became apparent that the most likely location of one of the county’s first towns and first fords on the Cottonwood River is now a big, empty field just north of the trees that have filled in the old, abandoned river channel.

The most likely location for the old settlement of Columbia.

So ends the story of Columbia. A town that once had the potential to influence the land, its people, and the law is now an empty field without even a whisper of acknowledgement on modern maps. And yet, without Columbia, Lyon County’s history would be different; Lyon County would be different. Despite its short lifespan, it is an important part of the story of Kansas.

Happy birthday, Kansas!

January 29 marks the beginning of Kansas’ sesquicentennial year, a milestone that will be celebrated all over the state.  The State Library of Kansas is maintaining a fantastic blog of Kansas history and facts and other towns are using the occasion to remind Kansans of their state’s sometimes uncertain and sometimes violent beginnings.

For me, the interesting part of Kansas history is why non-native people chose to come here in the first place, giving up the relatively comfortable Victorian lifestyle (read: accessible food, clothing, shelter, a community support system) to trudge out to the wild, beautiful and often unforgiving prairie with little more than prayers and what little they could haul by horseback and wagon.


A few years ago, while at a university function, a professor and I were discussing the frustration of not knowing much about the backgrounds of ancestors who immigrated to the United States. “I wish I knew more about the lives of my great-grandparents,” I said to him, “but we just don’t talk about those things much.” Thoughtful, the professor said, “People don’t leave their homeland, give up family and friends and everything they know, because their lives are wonderful. If everything had been perfect, they would not have had a reason to leave. Sometimes those reasons are painful. Sometimes they want or need something more. But they leave for a chance to have something better.”

I’ve thought about what that professor said often, and especially when I am wandering through an older cemetery with settler’s graves. What was in Kansas that they couldn’t find at home?

Not everyone who came to Kansas would be famous. Not everyone would even live out their lives here. Yet, in those early years, those settlers, homesteaders, rebels — whatever you want to call them — brought their hopes and dreams to a harsh land that offered no guarantees.


My husband and I have now visited twenty-two of the nearly forty cemeteries in Lyon County, Kansas. Each cemetery, whether large or small, speaks volumes of the earliest people who came to Kansas. Evergreen and Greenwood Cemeteries boast many beautiful and substantial monuments in Welsh, proclaiming a successful ethnic community within the county. On the other hand, the Mennonite-Musselman burial ground, whose graves primarily belong to children, speaks of untold hardship in a community that would ultimately move on to the next county. The stones show wealth, hardship, family connections, religion, social membership, allegiance to causes, and even cause of death. The cemetery is the community that lives on long after its inhabitants have passed on.

Sometimes, those old headstones tell the story of settlers who discovered that Kansas was exactly the right place for them to be.


Cyrus R. Rice had an adventurous spirit. Born in Tennessee in 1833, he was the son of a physician and surgeon, and even graduated with a degree in medicine from Lebanon College in 1852 before realizing his destiny was to heal souls instead of bodies. In 1854, he because a licensed minister and was a circuit preacher in Missouri until he was sent to Kansas as a missionary  for the Methodist Episcopal Church a year later. During a brief trip back to Missouri, he met and married Louisa “Lucy” Ann McCormick.

They came to Kansas on their wedding trip, covering the entire 600 miles on horseback.

Lucy must have had a yen for adventure, too.

Rev. Rice organized community churches all over the state, sometimes holding services in school houses, other times under the shade of a big tree. When the Civil War broke out, he took his family to his wife’s parents home and enlisted in the Union army as a Scout. Whether or not he was a good Scout is questionable; he was captured many times; but luck was on his side and he always escaped unharmed, bringing spiritual comfort to soldiers along the way.

After the war, he established the Methodist Episcopal Church in Emporia in 1866.

Some people would have felt like they’d already achieved a lifetime of success at this point. But Rev. Rice went on to organize and serve as pastor for churches in Eureka, Independence, El Dorado, Augusta, Marton, Chetopa, Baldwin, Hartford, Americus, Pleasanton, Burlington, Ottawa, Douglas, and Burlingame. All this at a time when the distance between Emporia and Topeka was still two days by horseback. The “Pioneer Preacher,” as the Emporia Weekly Gazette called him, retired after delivering his final sermon in Baldwin in 1904, with fifty years of preaching behind him.

And yet he and Lucy still didn’t settle down.

In fact, they moved again, this time to Hartford, which became home base for their broader travels.  Their children, it turned out, were also adventurers, and the Rices traveled frequently to New York City, Detroit, and Spokane to visit them. In 1914, the Rices moved again, this time to live with their son, Rev. E.M. Rice, in Eureka.

Cyrus and Lucy Rice are not likely to appear in any broad academic books about the history of Kansas. And yet they played an integral part in establishing social bonds in more than a dozen fledgling communities, something they probably could not have done had Cyrus taken over his father’s medical practice in Tennessee, or on Lucy’s family farm in Missouri.

The legacy of the Rice family lives on in each of the communities they touched, even if the current residents of those cities and towns have no idea who Cyrus and Lucy Rice were. But in Emporia, were several members of the Rice family are buried, there is a monument with just enough information to let passersby know that if nothing else, their time in Kansas brought them a measure of success.

The headstone honoring Rev. and Lucy Rice, a pair of Emporia's earliest citizens, photographed in the summer of 2010.