Elkhart’s Work Stories

It’s been a labor of love for the Morton County Historical Society Museum in Elkhart as they prepared to host The Way We Worked in Morton County, opening October 27. The museum enlisted the help of Elkhart High School’s College Speech Class to interview area residents who worked within six fields of work: agriculture, education, government, medical, oil/gas, and retail/business. The results have been impressive. The high school students’ interviews paint a rich portrait of working life in the southwest Kansas community: from a nurse who worked during the polio epidemic to a surgeon who came to Elkhart by way of the Philippines to a real-life rodeo queen. The interviews have been published in the Elkhart Tri-State newspaper.

That’s not all. Visitors to the Morton County Historical Society Museum can also see an exhibition about the area’s oil and gas industry through December 9 and participate in public programs on October 27 and November 1.

As one of 16 The Way We Worked in Kansas partner sites, the Morton County Historical Society Museum’s local stories are contributing to the statewide conversation about work and working in Kansas and how these stories define us: our way of life, our sense of who we are, and the values we hold important.

Contact the museum for details, locations, and times.

Hugoton: Gas Capital of the Southwest

On December 21, 1929, Governor Clyde M. Reed lit a gas flame atop a forty-foot pipe on the Hugoton High School football field and officially proclaimed Hugoton as the Gas Capital of the Southwest. A few years earlier, the discovery of gas in southwest Kansas had brought unprecedented jobs and economic opportunity to the region. The stories of work and working in Kansas’ gas industry are on display in Fueling the Way We Work,  the Stevens County Library’s companion exhibition to The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. Both exhibitions are on display at the Stevens County Library in Hugoton October 27 through December 9, 2012.

In 1926, wildcatter Walter L. Sidwell discovered one of the nation’s largest gas fields while seeking oil in southwest Kansas. The discovery was made official in 1927 and that year, the Hugoton Hermes newspaper reported $100,000 in town improvements, including 15 new homes and a new newspaper building. Along with the newfound prosperity came job opportunities in the gas industry and with contractors who built sewer systems and disposal plants for the region’s growing cities. By 1930, oil and gas leases had resulted in $3.5 million for southwest Kansas counties.

“Walter Sidwell’s discovery of the Hugoton Field changed the way we worked in southwest Kansas,” observed Eunice Schroeder, Stevens County Library director. “We are pleased to share his story in Fueling the Way We Work, the companion exhibition to The Way We Worked, developed in partnership with the Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum.”

Find more historic photographs of southwest Kansas’ gas industry on the Stevens County Library’s Facebook page. Visit the library’s website for events, dates, times, and locations.

5-Minute Films: Part Two

In recognition of KHC’s 40th anniversary, KHC produced a collection of five short films featuring signature programs’ impact in Kansas. The third and fourth films in the series look at the story behind “Strugglers Hill: A People, A Community,” a short film supported by KHC Humanities Grants and the Stafford County Historical Museum’s preservation of thousands of glass plate negatives through a KHC Heritage Grant.

Be sure to watch KHC’s other 5-Minute films about “The Way We Worked” and TALK book discussions. There are more 5-Minute films yet to come. Stay tuned!

History is Calling

Abilene entrepreneur and philanthropist C.L. Brown is the subject of a new short film produced by the Dickinson County Historical Society with the support of a KHC Humanities grant.

“C.L. Brown and Kansas Independent Telephony” follows the Brown Telephone Company over the course of the 20th century, from its founding in Abilene in the early 1900s to becoming Sprint in 1989. The film also examines Brown’s investment in the Abilene community, including the Brown Memorial Park and the Brown Memorial Home, a retirement community still in operation today. Brown’s legacy of local philanthropy lives on in Kansas’ over 30 independent telecommunications companies who follow his example of giving back to their communities.