Thursday, May 31, 2012

Harvey County Harvest

South central Kansas and Harvey County are in the midst of wheat harvest! That time of year when the fields along K-15 are golden and there is a line of trucks waiting their turn at the elevators.

Looking east on Broadway, Newton
May 2012

Agriculture, and especially the production of wheat, has been a major part of Harvey County's history since the 1870s.

It is fun to think about the ways that wheat harvest has changed over the years, yet remained much the same.
Wheat Harvest near Burrton, 1899
A.R. Challender, R.T. Challender, Mr. Billings
 Farmers are still in a race against the weather to get the wheat in,

Wheat Harvest, 2012

someone still needs to bring lunch to the field,
Lunch break, 1918
Linscheid family

and the harvested grain still needs to get to the grain elevator.
Hesston, ca. 1915

Newton, 1953

So, drive carefully around those old wheat trucks, enjoy Kansas at it's best.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Celebrating Decoration Day

Celebrating Decoration Day

The exhibit, "Harvey County On the Homefront" opened at the museum in 2011.  To add to understanding about what was happening in Harvey County during WWI (1917-1919), several blog articles will focus on this time period in the coming year.  

This coming weekend we will celebrate Memorial Day - for many this is the start of summer and involves a trip to the lake.   However, Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it was first called, started as a day of remembrance of those who have died in our nation's service specifically Union soldiers during the Civil War.  Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  

Parade, Newton Kansas,
ca. 1918

With the start of America's involvement in the Great War in 1917, Decoration Day/Memorial Day took on a new meaning in Harvey County.  In 1917, Registration Day on June 5 closely followed Decoration Day on May 30. Businesses were closed and patriotic parades planned on both days. Registration Day was the day that all young men 21 through 31 years old "regardless of any circumstance" in the county were required to register for the draft.  The June 6, 1917 Evening Kansan Republican reported that 1807 men registered for conscription.

By Decoration Day 1918, many Harvey County families had young men in France with the AFE, and concern was evident in newspapers. People were eager to show their patriotism and support.  The Evening Kansan Republican noted that businesses would be closed on May 30 and that the "Memorial Day Program is filled with Patriotic Interest."  The day included a morning parade and afternoon parade.  

The W.R. C. (Women's Relief Corp) met at the courthouse in the morning to make wreaths for the graves.  People had been asked to bring their flowers to the courthouse in advance so that they would be available for the decoration squads to use.  There were 8 groups consisting of 8 women and girls that decorated the roughly 220 graves in Newton.   

The day's activities also included singing by various groups, reading of the Gettysburg Address and the Hon. Robert Stone as a speaker.  The May 31, 1918 Evening Kansan Republican provided a detailed report of the festivities, including Stone's full speech. 
Charles Riley, 1918

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

How do you celebrate the holiday today?

To learn more about Harvey County during the Great War, visit our exhibit, Harvey County on the Homefront."

The Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives is one of seven local attractions participating in the Blue Star Program which invites all active duty military personnel and their families to visit free of charge from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  In its' third year, Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment of the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and over 1,500 museums across America.  For a complete list of participants visit

Thursday, May 17, 2012

50 Years on a Harvey County Homestead

The August 22, 1922 Anniversary Edition of the Newton Kansan celebrated 50 years of Harvey County history and 50 years of publication for the Kansan (1st issue August 1872). This 140+ page booklet is a wonderful resource for the history of Harvey County.  All the important people, businesses, clubs and organizations are mentioned.  To me, however, the little stories that are included in the margins, the stories of the ordinary people, the farmers and their wives, are far more interesting.  

Anna Godfrey on her farm in 1922.

In 1922, one of the oldest citizens in Harvey County was Anna Godfrey.  At the age of 92, Mrs. Godfrey was living on her farm located in the Walton Township in Section 18.  The same farm she and her husband, Micheal, had homesteaded in 1871.

Further research revealed that Anna McCormack Godfrey was born in Tipperary County, Ireland in 1830.  She married Micheal Godfrey and they immigrated, first to Canada, then to New York, before finally coming to Harvey County, Kansas, in 1871, with their 6 sons and one daughter.  Micheal died July 2, 1915, but Anna continued on the farm.  Daughter, Ida, graduated from Newton High in 1904. At least two of her sons were living on the farm with Anna  in 1922.

The 1922 article noted that Anna did "not frequently leave her home . . . she enjoys good health, exceptional memory and is loved for her kindly disposition and genuine goodness and faithful adherence to the loftiest of principles of living."

One can imagine that Anna worked hard her entire life caring for children, doing housework and helping with farm work.  The photograph used by the Kansan shows Anna on her farm, surrounded by chickens, and illustrates a life of hard work and perseverance common to many pioneer women. 

Anna McCormack Godfrey died in 1927 at the age of 97 and is buried at the Walton Cemetery.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A beginning . . .

Even historical organizations need to take the plunge into the current century, so the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives is joining the world of blogging.

The Harvey County Historical Museum is located in Newton, Kansas.  Our Mission Statement says, "we celebrate a common history and culturally diverse community by sharing stories of the past, experiences of the present and possibilities for the future through the creative and dynamic exploration of objects, documents and photographs." 

Whew! or in other words, we enjoy sharing the stories, objects, documents and photographs from the past with people today.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight aspects of Harvey County history through the funny and unique stories that we come across as we research, and to share bits and pieces of what happens at the museum day to day.   

Usually the author will be the curator, but occasionally other members of our small staff will write a guest blog post.

Right now we are in the thick of a gallery renovation in preparation for a new exhibit, The Way We Worked:  Serving Harvey County".  Our  exhibit will open in connection with the Smithsonian Traveling exhibit, The Way We Worked", at the Coronado-Quivera Museum in Lyons, Kansas in September.  I am finding lots of fun stories and photos to highlight the way south-central Kansans served their communities and will share them here.

I'm looking forward to sharing the stories and photos that I have found!