Kansas Humanities Speakers


“Women Writers on the Santa Fe Trail"

Wellington –Dr. Leo Oliva, author and former professor of history at Fort Hays State University, is fascinated by 19th century Kansas early settler’s history, Native-American, and military history, and is currently working on a book with Alice Anne Thompson about women who traveled the Santa Fe Trail.

“I’m mostly interested in the 19th century,” Oliva said, “twentieth century seems too recent”

Oliva will present a few of his stories about “Women Writers on the Santa Fe Trail” to members and guests of the Sumner County Historical & Genealogical Society on Saturday, March 18th, at 1:00 p.m. at the Wellington Public Library. Everyone is invited to attend the free program. For information or weather cancellations: President Jane Moore - 620-441-9835 or Vice-President Sherry Kline at 316-833-6161.

Dr. Oliva has been a member of the Kansas Humanities Council Speakers Bureau since 2010. He attended college at Ft. Hays State, received his PhD from the University of Denver, Colorado, and is the author of a dozen books, most about frontier military history (including Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail and six of the eight fort histories in the Kansas Forts Network series).

“We are working to find stories on all the women that we can,” Oliva said, adding that they are continually finding new stories, many coming from the descendants of those women.

Oliva said that the trail was used by a very diverse group of people: African-American slaves and non-slaves, whites, Native Americans, Mexicans, and more.

According to Oliva, Susan Shelby Magoffin, Kentucky, was granddaughter of Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky, and traveled the trail in 1846 with her husband’s wagon train.

“There was an African-American woman who served in the Army for two years,” Oliva said.

“We think that she decided she wanted out of the Army because of the poor treatment of African-Americans in the service,” Oliva said, “even the discharge papers don’t state that she was a woman.”

“Another woman served in the Mexican American war and was discharged without any mention of her being a woman,” Oliva said, “she applied for a land warrant and the soldiers testified in her behalf and she got her land grant.”

Marian Sloan Russell traveled the trail five times from the age of 7 to 17, with her “single” mother. Marian’s mother, Eliza Sloan, was married to an Army officer.

According to Oliva, Marian’s grandsons have located two marriage records for Marian’s mother Eliza, but no divorce records. From all evidence, she traveled the trail with her daughter, married and remarried, and - leaving both husbands behind, though not divorcing either, continued to travel the trail. (Possibly to avoid being in the same area as either of her ex-husbands?) Oliva said that she even ran a boarding house at Ft. Hays for a short time.

Lydia Spencer Lane, who was an Army officer’s wife, traveled the trail at least 7 times, Oliva said, and Katie Bowen traveled the trail in 1851, and suffragist and abolitionist Julia Archibald Holmes, traveled the Santa Fe Trail across Kansas Territory to the Rocky Mountains, where she became the first woman to climb Pike’s Peak.

Dr. Oliva is a founding member of the Santa Fe Trail Association and Fort Larned Old Guard, served as editor of the Santa Fe Trail Association Quarterly, Wagon Tracks, for 25 years and writes a weekly newspaper column titled “Our Kansas Heritage.”

Dr. Oliva and his wife Bonita operate the family farm in north-central Kansas.

This talk is being presented thanks to a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council.

May 23rd, 2016

"Head 'Em Up and Move 'Em Out

"Head 'Em Up and Move 'Em Out" is part of the Kansas Humanities Council's Kansas Stories Speakers bureau.  Jim Gray is a sixth generation Kansan who co-founded the COWBOY (Cockeyed Old West Band of Yahoos) Society to promote and preserve Kansas's cowboy heritage through the bi-monthly newspaper, Kansas Cowboy.  Gray is also the executive director of the National Drovers Hall of Fame and the author of "Desperate Seed: Ellsworth Kansas on the Violent Frontier" and writes the newspaper column "The Way West." 

"Head 'Em Up and Move 'Em Out" will explore early days of ranching and trail driving.

The Monday, May 23rd meeting will be held at the Good Taste Chinese Buffet, 1311 E. 16th St., Wellington, Kansas at 6:30 p.m.  The buffet is available to members and visitors from 5 - 6:30 p.m.


Contact:  Sherry Kline - 316-833-6161 or Jane Moore - 620-447-3266.

2016 - Saturday, April 16th 

Angela Bates
"Children of the Promised Land"

Saturday, April 16, 2016
1:00 p.m.

Wellington Public Library
Lower Level
121 W. 7th
Wellington, KS 67152

Angela Bates is the executive director of the 
Nicodemus Historical Society.

She presents educational programs across the nation 
covering Nicodemus, Exodusters and black towns in the 
West, Buffalo Soldiers, and black women in the West.

2015 - Saturday, September 19th 


          Presentation Explores Multicultural Workforce of Harvey Girls

[Wellington, Kansas] – Sumner County Historical & Genealogical Society in Wellington, Kansas will host “The Harvey Girls’ Multicultural Workforce,” a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay on September 19, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in the meeting room of the Wellington Public Library, 121 W. 7th, Wellington, Kansas. 

Members of the community are invited to attend the free program. Contact the Sumner County Historical & Genealogical Society at 620-447-3266 or the Wellington Public Library at 620-326-2011 for more information. The program is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council.

The Fred Harvey Company not only hired recent immigrants to work in their famous Harvey House restaurants, they actively recruited them. Eventually, African American women became part of the workforce, and during World War II American Indians and Mexican Americans were hired as well. This presentation explores the job duties and working conditions of Harvey Girls from 1876 to the early 1950s.

Michaeline Chance-Reay teaches courses in Women's Studies and Education at Kansas State University. Her current research focuses on the Harvey Girls and historic sites on the K-State campus, especially those related to women.

“Women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who wanted jobs or careers outside of the home had few choices,” said Chance-Reay, “but the Harvey Company offered unique opportunities.  It was demanding work but also offered a decent salary in a protected environment, in addition to travel and adventure.”

“The Harvey Girls’ Multicultural Workforce” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Humanities Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions that examine our shared human experience—our innovations, culture, heritage, and conflicts.
The Kansas Humanities Council conducts and supports community-based programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities.  For more information about KHC programs contact the Kansas Humanities Council at 785/357-0359 or visit online at www.kansashumanities.org.

For more information about “The Harvey Girls’ Multicultural Workforce” in Wellington, Kansas contact the Sumner County Historical & Genealogical Society at 620-447-3266, the Wellington Public Library at 620-326-2011, or visit http://ks-schgs.blogspot.com/p/programs.html


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