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Kansas Memory Blog

Nov 24, 2021 by Megan Rohleder

By: Lauren Gray, Head of Reference

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a holiday to gather, share, and be thankful. The last year has given us few opportunities to gather, and even fewer to share, so we are thankful that this year many of us will be reunited with family, friends, and loved ones to enjoy the holiday. And what better way to celebrate than over an indulgent meal? From our tables to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!



The turkey, a large, flightless bird indigenous to the Americas, is a mainstay of the Thanksgiving table. How or why the turkey became the holiday centerpiece is open to debate, but be it grilled, roasted, smoked or fried, we love Mr. Gobble. Americans ate 5.26 billion pounds of turkey in 2020, and Kansas farmers raise around 1 million turkeys annually - that’s a lot of turkey legs!



Cranberries, whether you love them or hate them, are here to stay on the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes jellied and sometimes mashed, cranberries’ sour tang is a welcome relief to the oft-overbearing richness of the holiday board. Another food indigenous to America, the cranberry has been harvested in this country for thousands of years. Originally used by early American Indians in pemmican, a shelf-stable mix of dried berries, dried meat, and animal fat, the cranberry now appears in many forms. 

Our Government Records Archivist, Ethan Anderson, was kind enough to share his family’s innovative go-to cranberry recipe. The sour berries are made palatable, he says, by the addition of mashed banana. 

Aunt Sally’s Cranberries


2 bags cranberries

4 winesap apples, cored (braeburn or granny smith also work)

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 small bananas, mashed


Grind cranberries and apples (best if you can use a hand meat grinder, but a food processor also works well). Add sugar to the  ground berries & apples.  Refrigerate until shortly before serving, then add mashed bananas and let sit for 15 - 20 minutes so natural sugars can combine. Serve & enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are yet another ingredient native to the Americas (we’re sensing a theme here…). Sweet potatoes were also harvested by early indigenous people long before European colonists arrived. Similar to the West African yam, the sweet potato was an early and necessary ingredient in the diet of enslaved African Americans, who used sweet potatoes to replace their traditional African ingredients after their forced relocation to America. Freed African Americans then brought their culinary traditions with them when they immigrated to Kansas after the Civil War. 



3.14159--oh, sorry, you meant Pie, the custardy, warm, comforting, golden-crusted delight. While there are several contenders for the title, in our opinion, Pumpkin Pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert. Pumpkins (and other squash and gourds) have been harvested for thousands of years around the world. Early indigenous people in Kansas dried pumpkin to preserve it and to use it for trade. The first American cookbook, published by Amelia Simmons in 1796, presents a recipe for pumpkin pie that is very similar to the pie we bake today, using stewed pumpkin, nutmeg, and eggs. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke...That being said, our Senior Archivist, Megan Burton, shared her family’s recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, and may we say, it looks absolutely delightful. 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Pie Crust:

12 Graham Crackers

2Tbsp Sugar

¼ tsp. Salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted


1 envelope unflavored gelatin

¼ cup water

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

3 eggs, separated

½ cup whole milk

14.5 ounces pure pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 325. Pulse graham crackers in food processor to get crumbs. Add sugar and salt to combine. Add butter and mix until consistency of wet sand.Put in a 9 ½ inch baking dish. Press crumbs into bottom and sides of dish. Bake about 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

Dissolve the gelatin in the water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine ½ cup of sugar, salt cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, egg yolks, milk, and pumpkin. Whisk frequently for about 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat. Cook until mixture is hot and thickened slightly, but doesn’t come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and vanilla. Cool to room temp on the counter. When the filling has cooled, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Continue beating while gradually adding the rest of the sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in egg whites to the pumpkin mixture, then pour into the cooled pie shell. Refrigerate at least 4 hours until firm. Serve with whipped cream.


From all of us at the State Archives, we wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!













Oct 29, 2021 by Megan Rohleder

By: Ethan Anderson, Government Records Archivist

Following Quantrill’s bloody raid on Lawrence in August 1863, many Kansans wondered if Border Ruffians would next target Topeka. The capital city was relatively undefended. Companies and detachments of troops were stationed there intermittently throughout the Civil War, but no fortifications existed to help protect the city from a sizeable Confederate force. These defensive shortcomings were discussed in 1863, but it wasn’t until Confederate General Sterling Price’s invasion of Missouri the following year that efforts to improve the city’s defenses began in earnest.

In October 1864, while most of the 2nd Regiment of the Kansas State Militia was sent east to stop Sterling’s advance, a portion of the regiment remained in Topeka. This home battalion consisted of 292 men, 65 of whom were Black recruits. These men constructed two sets of trenches on the east side of town as well as a stockade at the intersection of Sixth and Kansas Avenues. This stockade or fort was made of split cottonwood logs and measured 10 feet high and 40 feet in diameter. A flagpole marked its center. The fort’s lone entrance was on the west side, with an opening in all four cardinal directions for its lone cannon. Two rifle ports were cut between each log, allowing one man to shoot while standing and another to fire while kneeling.[1] 

The wide streets and ridgetop location of the fort would have given soldiers inside an excellent view of any approaching Confederate troops. The below drawing shows a Union regiment marching up Sixth Avenue in 1862, two years before the fort’s construction.

After its completion, the fort never received an official name. Some called it Fort Stark in honor of Major Andrew Stark, the officer in charge of its construction. Others labeled it Fort Folly for the seeming impossibility of such a small, poorly equipped stockade successfully repelling a Confederate invasion. In the end, the fort largely went unnamed until after the war, when someone named it Fort Simple after its unimposing nature.[2]

Henry Worrall did not immigrate to Kansas until 1868, so he never saw Fort Simple firsthand. He therefore took some liberties with this sketch, such as the arrangement of the gunports and the location of the fort on the edge of town rather than in the middle of two of its biggest thoroughfares.  

For two weeks in the fall of 1864, with Price’s Confederates still roving through Missouri, the fort and trenches guarding Topeka were manned each night. Security must have been relatively lax, however. One night, two women disguised themselves as men and helped defend the fort until their true identities were discovered the next morning. On October 23rd, panic swept the capital city when reports came in that Price’s men had defeated Union forces at the Battle of Big Blue near Kansas City. An attack on Topeka seemed imminent. Tensions were relieved the following day when a rider arrived reporting a Union victory rather than defeat.[3]


Once the Confederate threat to Topeka abated, residents quickly tired of Fort Simple. In the months following the end of the Civil War, the city council ordered that the fort’s walls be shortened, and trees planted inside. In April 1867, the fort, which was denounced as an “eye-sore” by The Topeka Weekly Leader, was dismantled, with the exception of its flagpole. The flagpole too was cut down in August of the same year and the Topeka Tribune reported “nothing remains of this historic Fort save the bloodless ground on which it stood.” In 1929, the Shawnee County Old Settlers’ Association erected a bronze tablet on the corner of Sixth and Kansas Avenues to mark where the fort once stood. The tablet was removed during construction in 1995 and was unfortunately lost.[4]


It is believed that the pole in the left of this photograph is the flagpole from Fort Simple. If so, this photograph was taken between April and August of 1867, when only the flagpole remained of the fort.


[1] William C. Pollard, Jr. “Forts and Military Posts in Kansas, 1854-1865” (Ph.D. diss., Faith Baptist College and Seminary, 1997), 66; F. W. Giles, Thirty Years in Topeka: A Historical Sketch (Topeka: George W. Crane & Company, 1886), 301-302. One set of trenches was located near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Madison Streets, while the other was at Sixth Avenue and Jefferson Street.

[2] “Old Settlers’ Meeting,” Topeka Daily Capital (December 6, 1902), 4; George A. Root, “Fort Simple—Fort Folly Topeka,” Shawnee County Clippings 31 (Topeka: Kansas Historical Society, n.d.) 87.

[3] Root, “Fort Simple,” Clippings, 87; Pollard, “Forts and Military Posts,” 118-119.

[4] Root, “Fort Simple,” Clippings, 88; Topeka Weekly Leader, April 18, 1867, 3; Topeka Tribune, August 16, 1867, 3; Pollard, “Forts and Military Posts,” 119. 

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