2016 is a year for milestone anniversaries in Kansas: The first Spanish conquistador arrived 475 years ago. A deadly F5 tornado struck 25 years ago.
In between, there are anniversaries marking the beginnings of Kansas’ greatest industries, the arrival of an infamous general and the death of a gentle priest, among other things.
475 years ago
Francisco Vazquez de Coronado came to Kansas in 1541 but never found his seven cities of gold.
210 years ago
Zebulon Pike explored the Great Plains in 1806. He was not impressed with western Kansas, finding the soil “generally dry and sandy, with gravel ... and on which not a speck of vegetable matter existed.”
195 years ago
William Becknell, known as the “Father of the Santa Fe Trail,” left Franklin, Mo., for Santa Fe, N.M., in 1821, traveling along a well-established American Indian route. More than half the trail runs through Kansas.
155 years ago
Kansas became a state on Jan. 29, 1861.
150 years ago
Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer arrived at Fort Riley on Oct. 20, 1866.
140 years ago
The Kirwin Chief in Smith County published Brewster Higley’s poem “Western Home” in 1876. It later became known as “Home on the Range.”
135 years ago
The telephone arrived in Wichita in 1881.
130 years ago
Two January blizzards struck back to back in 1886, killing dozens of people and thousands of cattle and leaving drifts as high as railroad cars on the Kansas plains.
120 years ago
William Allen White published “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” in 1896. White, editor of the Emporia Gazette, would twice win the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor.
115 years ago
▪ Topekan Agnes Ozman asked her minister, the Rev. Charles Fox Parham, to lay hands on her. He did, and she spoke in tongues – the beginning sparks of the Pentecostal movement – in 1901.
▪ Carry Nation and 500 followers destroyed one joint, six bars and a cold storage plant in Topeka.
▪ W.C. Coleman moved his Hydro-Carbon Light Co. to Wichita from Kingfisher, Okla., and opened a small lamp factory at 128 E. Second St.
105 years ago
▪ The Cathedral of the Plains, named by 19th-century politician William Jennings Bryan, was dedicated in 1911 at Victoria.
▪ A.K. Longren made a 20-minute flight over Topeka, becoming the first to successfully fly a Kansas-made aircraft over Kansas land.
95 years ago
Walt Anderson partnered with Edgar Waldo “Billy” Ingram, a Wichita real estate and insurance agent, to create White Castle hamburgers in 1921.
90 years ago
▪ The first municipal college in Kansas was created when Fairmount College became Wichita University in 1926.
▪ Mabel Chase, sheriff of Kiowa County, was the first woman in Kansas elected as a law enforcement officer and among one of the first in the nation to serve as a county sheriff.
85 years ago
A Transcontinental-Western flight en route from Kansas City to Los Angeles tumbled from the foggy skies over the Flint Hills and slammed into the prairie just outside Bazaar on March 31, 1931. National football legend Knute Rockne and seven other men died.
80 years ago
▪ Alf Landon was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate but lost to Franklin Roosevelt. One of the most powerful Communist leaders in America also ran. Wichitan Earl Browder drew only 80,000 votes.
▪ A team from Kansas – the McPherson Globe Refiners –brought home the gold medal from the first Olympic basketball tournament in Berlin in 1936.
65 years ago
▪ McConnell Air Force Base was activated to train crewmen assigned to fly the B-47 Stratojet in 1951.
▪ Large sections of Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and Salina flooded, causing more than 100,000 Kansans to be evacuated and damaging more than 1 million acres of farmland.
▪ Father Emil Kapaun, a priest and U.S. Army chaplain from Pilsen, died in a North Korean prison camp. He was credited with saving hundreds of soldiers’ lives and rallying others to survive torture and starvation in the prison camps.
60 years ago
▪ F.C. “Phog” Allen ended a 39-year basketball coaching career at the University of Kansas. His record at KU was 590-219. His 1952 team won the national title.
▪ President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, creating the interstate highway system.
50 years ago
▪ A tornado hit Topeka on June 8, 1966, leaving 17 dead and 500 injured and causing more than $100 million in damage.
▪ Allen Ginsberg, Beat Generation and counterculture pioneer, came to Wichita and wrote one of his most famous and critically acclaimed works, “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” in opposition to the Vietnam War.
30 years ago
▪ Kansas voters approved sale of liquor by the drink in public establishments that serve food.
▪ Voters also approved a constitutional amendment for a state-owned lottery.
25 years ago
▪ A tornado that at its strongest measured F5 on the Fujita scale and was as much as 500 yards wide struck Haysville, Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and Andover on April 26, 1991, killing 17 people.
▪ Joan Finney became the first female governor of Kansas.
▪ Hundreds of demonstrators flocked to Wichita to make their opposition to abortion known in Operation Rescue’s Summer of Mercy.