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Homes and businesses in the area near the future site of the Topeka Boulevard bridge in Topeka, Kansas Homes and businesses in the area near the future site of the Topeka Boulevard bridge in Topeka, Kansas

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Curriculum - 7th Grade Standards - Kansas History Standards - 1860s to 1870s (Benchmark 3) - Challenges of settlement (Indicator 7) - Drought and famine

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A. W. Johnson and Isabella Johnson to Robert S. Wickizer

A. W. Johnson and Isabella Johnson to Robert S. Wickizer
Creator: Johnson, A. W.
Date: March 24, 1875
In this letter to his cousin, A. W. Johnson relates news from his homestead near Osage Mission, Neosho County. Johnson describes the grasshopper plague in vivid terms, and also mentions how the recent hard times in Kansas should not discourage emigration into the state. In fact, he goes so far as to state that now is the time to come, since land is cheap and the spring weather is "deliteful[sic]." Johnson also states, however, that the price of corn is high, and that high prices on goods make it difficult for him to support his family.


Appeal for the Kansas sufferers!

Appeal for the Kansas sufferers!
Creator: Foster, Daniel, 1816-1864
Date: 1860
This pamphlet, written by Daniel Foster, general agent of the New England Kansas Relief Committee, attempts to dispel any doubts about the severity of the nine-month drought in Kansas Territory. Many settlers had left Kansas Territory, and those remaining needed relief. Foster calls on people to provide aid to those in Kansas by contributing money or goods. The pamphlet lists names of people serving on a Boston committee who had met to discuss relief efforts in Kansas, including such well-known individuals as John A. Andrew, George Luther Stearns, Samuel Gridley Howe, and Thomas H. Webb.


Drouthy Kansas

Drouthy Kansas
Creator: Worrall, Henry
Date: 1878
This painting by Henry Worrall, completed in 1878, challenges the assumption that Kansas was part of the "Great American Desert." Although there had, indeed, been a severe drought during 1860, Worrall believed that Kansas did not deserve this harsh reputation. In the foreground, his painting depicts the bountiful harvests of grain, watermelon, and potatoes, while the background includes rain showers and a rainbow stretching across the horizon. Although Worrall was a very productive artist, "Drouthy Kansas" quickly became his most famous work.


Home Life in Early Days

Home Life in Early Days
Creator: Valentine, Martha
Date: February 23, 1908
In this reminiscence, Martha Valentine relates her experiences as a Kansas housewife during the early years of white settlement in Kansas. Valentine and her husband Daniel first came to Kansas in 1859 and eventually settled permanently in Peoria, Franklin County, in 1860. She describes how, in that same year, a severe drought hit Kansas and eleven months passed without rain. Her family suffered from the drought, having to subsist mostly on stored corn, small game animals, and wild vegetables. Many people in her neighborhood suffered during this time, sometimes requiring aid sent by Easterners. Copied from the Topeka Capitol, February 23, 1908.


James W. Randall to Thaddeus Hyatt

James W. Randall to Thaddeus Hyatt
Creator: Randall, James W.
Date: September 12, 1860
In this letter, James Randall of Emporia, Kansas, informed Thaddeus Hyatt, president of the National Kansas Committee, of the drought's effect on the neighboring population. Many families were destitute after the failure of the corn crop and were considering leaving their homes altogether. Randall hoped that Hyatt could send aid to the starving settlers.


New York Daily Tribune, "The Drouth and Famine in Kansas"

New York Daily Tribune, "The Drouth and Famine in Kansas"
Creator: New York Daily Tribune
Date: October 10, 1860
This newspaper article, published in the New York Daily Tribune from October 10, 1860, outlined the basic details of the suffering and destitution of settlers in Kansas. It also included reprints of two circulars originating from Kansas Territory. One was from the Presbytery of Highland, and the other was from the Central Relief Committee based in Leavenworth. The first reprinted circular provided information about the dire situation and gave the names of the members of this committee. The second circular requested that the elders and deacons of each church in Kansas ascertain how many families needed immediate assistance in order to present a full report to the Central Relief Committee.


Recollections of early days in Kansas

Recollections of early days in Kansas
Creator: Baker, Orinda S.
Date: November 30, 1905 and December 7, 1905
This reminiscence, published in two parts, details the experiences of Orinda S. Baker and her family, who moved to Centralia, Nemaha County, in 1860. The Bakers, like other Kansas families, suffered from hunger and sickness during the severe drought that struck Kansas that same year. Included at the end of Part I there are two letters regarding the drought and the aid received from the East. Part II begins with a letter from Phil C. Day regarding relief goods sent to Kansas; Baker had written to out-of-state friends about the suffering of Kansans and acted as coordinator of relief supplies. In January 1862 Baker and her family moved to Topeka when her husband, Floyd P. Baker, was elected to the State House of Representatives. The rest of her reminiscence relates her experiences while living in Topeka, with the exception of a selection discussing a particularly fierce snow storm that hit on January 18, 1861.


Thaddeus Hyatt to James Buchanan

Thaddeus Hyatt to James Buchanan
Creator: Hyatt, Thaddeus
Date: October 16, 1860
Thaddeus Hyatt, president of the National Kansas Committee, wrote this letter to the President of the United States in an effort to obtain assistance for the suffering inhabitants of Kansas. He described in detail the needs of the settlers, including their lack of adequate winter clothing and the scarcity of food. According to his personal observations, Hyatt concluded that the only options left to Kansas settlers were exodus or starvation. He also asked that all government lands be removed from the market, especially those in the New York Indian reserve.


The drouth

The drouth
Creator: Junction City Union
Date: August 1, 1874
This brief, unsigned article published in the Junction City Union presents the hardships Kansans faced during times of drought. Settlers looked to the skies for rain but were disappointed. According to the author, there had been storms that seemed likely to bring rain, but only a few scattered drops fell. Settlers' crops also suffered from the plague of grasshoppers that were eating what few crops had survived the drought.


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