1871-1880: Clash of cultures

01/29/2011 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 2:05 PM

Change was rapidly transforming the grasslands into farms and towns. Buffalo were shot and slaughtered by the thousands; Indians were pushed from the state's boundaries. There were shootouts in cowtowns, gas lights in Lawrence, corrupt politicians facing bribery charges, and serial killers attacking unsuspecting travelers.

People of all faiths and cultures came to Kansas — believing "out here" they had a clean slate.

It was a chance to start over and rebuild lives.

Historian Carl L. Becker would write, "The Kansas spirit is the American spirit double distilled. It is a new grafted product of American individualism, American idealism, American intolerance. Kansas is America in microcosm."

Kansans, Becker wrote, "thrive on the impossible."

And so, on the Kansas prairie, a "make-do" mentality began to mean everything.

Kansas Pacific Railroad officials provide newcomers a handbook in the 1870s that promised the state's "weather and condition of roads enable you to do more work here than elsewhere."

That same year, R.S. Elliott published a pamphlet called "Climate of the Plains."

He would advocate breaking the prairie by plow — which, in turn, would change the weather and climate. Plowing, "would mean taller herbage; less reflection of the sun's heat, more humidity in the atmosphere, more constancy in springs, pools and streams; fewer violent storms; more frequent showers."

If only it were true.

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