This year marks the 145th anniversary of when the Charles Ingalls family – Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and little Carrie – homesteaded near Independence.
The family settled in the southeastern corner of Kansas, drawn by the Homestead Act of 1862, which offered 160 acres of “free land” to settlers who would farm and live on it for five years.
Laura Ingalls Wilder later wrote down her childhood experiences. Her stories chronicling frontier life of the late 19th century became one of the most beloved series of children’s books. Although she wrote nine books, the one about her family’s time in Kansas, “Little House on the Prairie,” is the best known.
This year also marks other milestones in Kansas history. Among significant anniversaries:
Union troops force Confederate Gen. Sterling Price’s army out of Kansas during the Battle of Mine Creek in Linn County, Oct. 25, 1864. It is the last significant Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi.
Benjamin Franklin Mudge, the first state geologist for Kansas, conducted a geological survey of Kansas in 1864. He found salt in central Kansas, coal in the southeastern corner and fossils in western Kansas. His discoveries help fuel rival paleontologists Othniel C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope as they oversaw fossil collecting crews scouring western and central Kansas for specimens to take back east as part of the “Bone Wars.”
More than 15,000 Mennonites came to the United States from Russia between 1874 and 1884; of those, 5,000 settled in Kansas. They formed communites at Goessel, Inman, Buhler, Moundridge and elsewhere in central Kansas.
Sedgwick County residents woke to clouds of swarming grasshoppers on Aug. 5, 1874. There was an incessant buzzing, crackling and rasping sound, similar to the sound a prairie fire makes. The ground was 2 to 3 inches deep in grasshoppers, and it shone like silver dollars in the sun.