Thursday, January 28, 2021

Kansas Day: Happy 160th Birthday!


She's looking pretty good for 160 years old.

Everybody knows you need to add a little color and sparkle to your outfit for a special celebration. And Kansas has one of those this Friday: She'll turn the big 1-6-0! 

Between 1541 and 1739, the first European explorers from Spain and France arrived in modern day Kansas looking for gold, trade and knowledge. The land was included as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. After 51 years, Kansas became an official territory on May 30, 1854. Kansas was admitted as the 34th state of the Union on January 29, 1861. 

The explorers were likely disappointed they didn't find gold. But Russian immigrants brought gold of another kind to the Kansas Plains. In 1874, Russian Mennonites planted the first crops of Turkey Red Wheat. 
June 2020
Thanks to favorable weather conditions for this wheat variety, wheat became the "gold" of Kansas and even the nation, as the state quickly became the leading wheat producer in the U.S. Railroads and cattle, along with crops, became the "trade" for the fledgling state. It was not what Coronado was looking for as he came to the Plains looking for treasures, but my ancestors and Randy's saw these Plains in a different way.
Under the Homestead Act, any person 21 or older could choose 160 acres of land on which to farm and ranch. If the homesteader could live and farm on this land for five years, they could own it. Randy and I are the fifth generation in our families to live and work the Kansas plains. We credit those adventurous forefathers who dreamed big dreams under a big Kansas sky. 
January 2021

 Here in Central Kansas in January, we're five months away from those golden waves of grain. 

Currently, I'm feeling more like Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House on the Prairie books were childhood favorites. I remember one in which Pa had to tie a rope from the house to the barn to find his way back in a blizzard. 

It wasn't quite so dramatic for Randy and me on a late-night stroll earlier this week. We had a couple of inches of freshly-fallen snow. Randy found a new baby calf on his patrol of the heifer lot around 11 PM. He carried the baby to the calving shed, while I made my way from the nice, warm house to help him get the mother in with the baby.

Our "lantern" was a flashlight and the moon. A little while and a few tries later, mission accomplished! And I got to go back into a house powered by electricity and heated by a furnace, instead of needing to chop wood, carry it in the house and keep the fire stoked.

My Moore ancestors came to Kansas in 1876, 15 years after Kansas became a state. My Neelly ancestors were a little later, in 1898. I'm sure all of them would be amazed at the changes in Kansas, and especially, in farming. 

As we fed on Tuesday, I saw the ice shimmering off the trees in the shelterbelts and thought about the pioneers to this area. Settlers likely planted some of those trees as part of Timber Claims. 
After we fed yesterday, I asked Randy to drive over to the bridge over Peace Creek on the Zenith Road. And I thought about his ancestors coming to Stafford County. 
His family pioneers found the value of Peace Creek and Rattlesnake Creek for establishing their farms. And our cattle still benefit today.

Too often, we Kansans have an inferiority complex. We apologize and somehow buy into the outsiders' image that ours is a flyover state. We know that Oz was in technicolor while Kansas was boring black and white.

But people who believe that have never really opened their eyes ...

... to the beauty of sunrise ...
... and sunset ...
... and the color and variety in between.
 Even in the more sepia tones of wintertime in Kansas, there is beauty.

I'm thankful that both sides of my family saw beauty and opportunity here. (Click on the links to read more about how the Moores and the Neellys came to Kansas.) Randy, who is a fifth-generation farmer in his family, still owns a pasture that's been in his family more than 100 years.

If you're looking for a great pamphlet on Kansas for your grade school kids or grandkids (or even yourself), I found a one to download from the Kansas Secretary of State's office. Click here to view it. 

And if you want to celebrate with sunflower cookies, here's my tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe. A couple of years ago, I shared them with Kinley's first grade class, and I got to tell them about farming in our great state. 

Kansas Day celebrations will look different across elementary schools this year. But I'm glad to hear they are still celebrating.  

Happy Birthday, Kansas! 160 looks good on you!


  1. Happy birthday Kansas State!
    Beautiful images telling of your love for your heritage, Kim. ❤️
    My walking group went looking for sunflowers in the Scenic Rim [2 hours from home] on Wednesday. Had you posted earlier I could have taken sunflower cookies for our morning tea. Never mind, I'll use the recipe to make hearts for a pre-Valentine's get together.

    1. It's a good recipe that always turns out well. Hope they enjoy it!