Friday, January 29, 2016

Happy 155th Birthday, Kansas!

A Kansas sunrise is like a fingerprint. No two are exactly the same. But this morning, I thought about sunrise on January 29, 1861. On this day 155 years ago, were the settlers even aware that January 29 would become a momentous day for their ancestors?

The trees I often use as silhouettes in my sunrise photos likely weren't there. Many of them were probably planted as part of the timber claims by Kansas settlers. But as men and women left their humble houses on a vast Kansas prairie and ventured out to feed or milk cattle on a brisk January morning, did they watch the clouds illuminated as the sun made its way toward the horizon?  Did they appreciate the beauty of a new day, a day that would become an important part of their heritage?
This day, I thought about my family members who packed up their families and moved across the nation to Kansas for new opportunities for themselves and their families.

On my Dad's side, Kentuckian James T. Moore (my dad's great-grandfather) came to Kansas in the late 1860s, spending a brief time as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that "the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse."

In 1876, he and Chalista brought their family to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December of 1876 in Sodtown, Kansas, later known as Stafford. (And isn't it ironic that his great-great-granddaughter ended up later calling Stafford home!)

A hotel proprietor there mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County. And so he did, 15 years after Kansas became a state.
The Moores filed a claim which lay 3 miles east and a half mile north of what is now Byers in northern Pratt County. They began living on the claim in the spring of 1877. They later filed a timber claim which originally gave them a total of 320 acres of land.
My mom's grandfather, Charley James Neelly, came to Pratt County from his native Missouri in 1898. Charley went to work for a farmer. In 1900, he married Ethel Denton, and they had 10 children, including my grandfather, Shelby Neelly, the second oldest.
So, on this Kansas Day 2016, I thought about these pioneers, the people in my family who saw opportunity in the Central Plains. As a jet stream pierced the canvas of Kansas sky, I thought how incredulous they'd be at the changes to this place they called home. And I was thankful for the vision that brought them to this state I love so much.


  1. So wonderful to read of your amazing heritage. The sunrise photos are so emotive,especially the windmill and jet stream. I'm sure your Great, Great Grandfather would be very proud of you.

    1. Thank you, Helen, for your kind words. I love finding the beauty in my native Kansas.

  2. I love thinking about what our ancestors thought of the Flint Hills and the sunrises and sunsets, too. Love the pictures of your past. Chalista-- what a pretty name.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. E! Her husband called her "Kay." Maybe Chalista was too much of a mouth full?