In Wichita, we have our own brand of history.
Through the years, Wichita has put up plaques and statues marking the history that has unfolded beneath our feet.
Within the past few weeks, two markers noting the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail have been placed in Wichita. A third was unveiled Saturday at the site of the old cattle pens at 220 S. Commerce.
Those dedications got us thinking about other historical markers around Wichita.
So The Eagle has put together a list of eight of our favorite historic places in Wichita that are marked with a plaque or statue.
The following are just suggestions. There are many more historic locations in Wichita.
Share your favorites with Beccy Tanner at email@example.com.
A marker describing the Wichita Indians at Central Riverside Park near Murdock Bridge says that about 1,500 Wichita Indians favoring the Union returned to their ancestral lands in 1864 and settled along the Little Arkansas River. The area offered protection from tribes sympathetic to the Confederate cause until the Civil War ended.
Civil War monuments
▪ The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the south lawn of the Old County Courthouse was built in 1913 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic – Union soldiers who periodically met in Wichita from the 1870s to the late 1930s – helped build the monument.
▪ The Soldiers Circle at Maple Grove Cemetery, 1000 N. Hillside, features a pavilion surrounded by 84 tombstones in two 75-foot circles. The site is significant because Union soldiers of all races were buried side by side at a time when racial segregation was practiced, even in death.
Spanish-American War Memorial
The Fighting 20th was made up of Kansas soldiers who volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War and then the Philippine Insurrection.
Wichita’s Riverside Park has a Spanish cannon in recognition of the Fighting 20th. The cannon – forged for the king of Spain in 1794 – was captured in Cuba during the Spanish-American War as a trophy. The intricate filigree design of the king’s seal is hand-carved into its muzzle.
Near the cannon is a bronze sculpture of “The Hiker” by Allen G. Newman. It was dedicated in 1926 in honor of the Spanish-American War soldiers from Kansas.
During the 1890s, Wichitan Mary Elizabeth Lease was nicknamed the “People’s Joan of Arc” because of her efforts to rally and build the national Populist movement. She became one of the Populist Party’s most popular and forceful speakers, championing the rights of farmers, laborers and women throughout the nation.
A sculpture of Lease stands between Century II and the Wichita Public Library. It was paid for by the Hypatia Club, which wanted to honor the Wichita woman who started the club in 1886.
World War I hero
The Bleckley monument on the grounds of the Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office near Kellogg and Edgemoor commemorates a local bank teller, Erwin Bleckley, who became a national hero by flying supplies over enemy gunfire to the Lost Battalion during World War I. The monument was championed by American Legion members in 1932.
Bleckley is credited with one of the first air drops in military history, but it cost him his life in 1918. His memorial was moved in 1997 during the Kellogg expansion and is now near the southwest corner of the hospital.
In 1923, Bleckley’s family was presented with the Medal of Honor, America’s highest honor for military service. Only four were given to World War I aviators.
‘Double V’ campaign
At the end of World War II, seven African-American women from Wichita started a campaign that swept the nation. It was called the “Double V” campaign: The first “V” stood for victory over Allied enemies, and the second “V” stood for victory over segregation.
The women led efforts to build the first World War II monument in the nation to honor the men and women who served in the armed forces.
The monument, dedicated in 1946, sits on the southern edge of McAdams Park off 13th Street in front of the park’s baseball stadium. It reads: “In honor of the men and women who served in the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. during the second World War.”
The oak tree on the northwest corner of the rim next to the entrance of Koch Arena at Wichita State University is not tall, but it has a mighty story.
Oil company workers from McPherson and a handful of Universal Pictures players from Hollywood won the gold medal in basketball for the United States in the 1936 Olympics. All the athletes received a small oak tree along with their medals.
In the 1980s, Kansan Donald Holst began looking for any surviving Olympic Oaks. He found one in Connellsville, Pa.
Holst gathered acorns from the surviving tree and planted them. What grew was the beginning of WSU’s Olympic Oak.
In 1990, Holst raised a seedling that he gave to 1936 Olympian Francis Johnson, one of the basketball team’s players who, in turn, gave the seedling to WSU, his alma mater.
The second-generation Olympic tree was originally planted in front of the Rhatigan Student Center but later was placed by the entrance to Koch Arena.
A plaque not far from the tree tells the story: “WSU’s Olympic Oak – Dedicated on Oct. 12, 2012 to the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal Basketball Team including University of Wichita players Francis L. Johnson 1934 and Jack W. Ragland 1934 and their coach Gene Johnson, Wichita Basketball Coach 1928-1933 and Olympic Team Assistant Coach 1936.”