Kansas Day is Jan. 29, the date when we commemorate the 1861 admission of Kansas into the United States. It is also an opportunity to celebrate our state’s beauty, our people and our heritage. The Sunflower State has a rich history and I recently found this list of facts worth sharing.
- Dodge City is officially the windiest city in the United States.
- The first woman mayor in the U.S. was Susan Madora Salter who was elected to office in Argonia in 1887.
- Kansas inventors include Almon Stowger of El Dorado who invented the dial telephone in 1889; and William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland who invented the helicopter in 1909.
- Silent comedian Buster Keaton, of early film success, was from Piqua.
- Fort Riley was the cradle of the U.S. Cavalry for 83 years. George Custer formed the famed 7th Cavalry there in 1866. Ten years later, at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the 7th Calvary was virtually wiped out. The only cavalry survivor was a horse named Comanche.
- Handel’s Messiah has been presented in Lindsborg each Easter since 1889.
- Barton County is the only Kansas county named for a woman; the famous volunteer Civil War nurse Clara Barton.
- The Rock Island Bridge south of Ashland is the longest railroad bridge of its kind.
- Kansas won the award for most beautiful license plate for the wheat plate design issued in 1981.
- The Arkansas River may be the only river whose pronunciation changes as it crosses state lines. In Kansas, it is called the Arkansas (ahr-KAN-zuhs) while in Colorado and Oklahoma, it is called the Arkansaw.
- Kansas has 27 Walnut Creeks.
- Morton County sells the most trout fishing stamps of all Kansas counties.
- The Hugoton Gas Field is the largest natural gas field in the U.S. It underlies all or parts of 10 southwestern Kansas counties as well as parts of Oklahoma and Texas. The gas field underlies almost 8,500 square miles, an area nearly five times as large as the state of Rhode Island.
- Between 1854 and 1866, 34 steamboats paddled up the Kaw River (Kansas River). One made it as far west as Fort Riley.
- The graham cracker was named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). He was a Presbyterian minister who strongly believed in eating whole wheat flour products.
- At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas.
- George Washington Carver, the famous botanical scientist who discovered more than 300 products made from the peanut, graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Kansas, in 1885.
- The Kansas Speleological Society has catalogued at least 528 caves in three Kansas counties. Commanche County has at least 128 caves and Barber County has at least 117 caves.
- In Italy the city of Milan is 300 miles northwest of Rome. In Kansas, Milan is less than 25 miles northwest of Rome, in Sumner County.
- Holy Cross Shrine in Pfeifer, was known as the 2 Cent Church because the building was built using a 2 cent donation on each bushel of wheat sold by members of the church.
- The rocks at Rock City are huge sandstone concretions. In an area about the size of two football fields, 200 rocks, some as large as houses, dot the landscape. No other place in the world has so many concretions of such giant size.
- The first United Methodist Church in Hutchinson was built in 1874 during the time of the grasshopper plagues. The grasshoppers came during the construction of the church’s foundation but the pastor continued with the work. As a result, thousands of grasshoppers are mixed into the mortar of the original building’s foundation.
Happy Kansas Day!
Bruce Graham is CEO of Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. in Topeka.