On Thursday (21st) we drove to a spot a little west of Coffeyville, Kansas, where Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie stands. The lady who works in the gift shop there declares the house actually stood half-a-mile away where she lives. Whether or not the log cabin is on the exact right spot did not matter to me. The house has been recreated the way Laura described it in her book and the prairie across the road has been returned to its native state. That is good enough to give a person an idea of how it looked when Laura lived there.
On our way from the Little House to Newton, we stopped at Neodesha where Leroy wanted to see a guy about Novo engines. It was 9 p.m. when we finally got to the home of our hosts, Ed and Marge Harms, in Newton. They had invited us to stay with them and only on the last day did I learn they are listed in Mennonite Your Way. They were wonderful hosts and did everything imaginable for us. They had plans to be away overnight on Friday night but gave us the key to their house and insisted we stay there anyway.
The museum at Gossel features the history of the Russian Mennonites who settled there in the 1870s after coming in by train to Peabody. Two entire congregations immigrated together. One of the immigrants brought with him the Turkey Red seed wheat which turned the Midwest into the breadbasket of America. Although our interest was not as much in the Russian Mennonites as in the ones who had migrated to the area earlier from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, it is still part of the local history out there and was interesting to see. The Russian Mennonites had some customs which are different from those in our German background. For example, this is the roller they used to thresh wheat. It was hitched behind a horse and dragged over the stalks.
After we finished at Gossel, we went through the Kauffman Museum which is across the street from Bethel College in North Newton. They have a larger display of Mennonite artifacts than at Gossel. The Martyrs Mirror collection is housed there. They have seven of the copper plates used to print the pictures in the Martyrs Mirror in Holland in the 1600s. We were there until it closed and then went for supper and hung out with the rest of the crowd who were staying at the motel. More people kept dribbling in through the evening.
Saturday (23rd) was the big Good Tour of the Peabody area. Meredith Mauck, who was hosting the reunion weekend, had arranged to have one of the school busses provide our transportation. We got a real taste of Kansas! Most of the roads we drove on were dirt roads and clouds of dust blew right through the open windows. Don Good, who was the tour leader, planned a route that included family farms, Mennonite churches, and cemeteries. One of the most tragic Kansas pioneer stories was told at this little Brunk family cemetery where the father and siblings of George R. Brunk I are buried.
Sunday morning (24th) we went to the Grace Hill Mennonite Church with Ed & Marge Harms. Grace Hill is one of the churches which immigrated en masse from Russia. Ed's ancestors were among them. After church we returned to the Peabody Elementary School for the Good reunion. The nine grandchildren of Isaac B. Good are the nucleus of this reunion, but other more distant cousins also attended. One of the Good traditions is homemade ice cream and they far exceeded the need by providing nine freezers of ice cream. After the reunion we made a short run to Hutchinson to see what we were told are the biggest grain elevators in the world. One row is a half-mile long, and there was more than one row. Hutchinson was the furthest west we traveled.
On Monday morning (25th) we began our trek back east. We stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Strong City, Kansas, and took a free bus tour of the prairies. The bus took us way out back where nothing could be seen except the rolling prairies and cattle grazing. It was beautiful in its own way. Leroy wanted to see the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City but we missed the last tour by 45 minutes. They made an unannounced early closing because it was Memorial Day. So we drove east a couple hours instead and stopped at Columbia, Missouri.
Tuesday (26th) we drove to Carbondale, Illinois, where I wanted to stop at a cemetery. Joanna Coughanour, the sister of my great-great-grandfather, Josiah Powl, is buried there. It was raining when we got into town but by the time we had lunch and found the cemetery the rain had stopped. The longer we were there the brighter the sun shone. So I did not get drenched and got some nice pictures of the stones. From there we went to my cousin Anna & Vernon Weaver at Bluford, Illinois, where we spent the night. They have been living in Illinois for 34 years and this is the first time we got there to see them.
Wednesday (27th) was my big research day. I had been searching for years for the burial place of Lavina Griffith (a sister of Joanna and Josiah). The last trace I had of her was in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1880. About a month before we left I got a tip that told me she was buried in Paris, Illinois (20 miles west of Terre Haute), where both she and Joanna had lived for about 15 years. I made a quick stop at the public library in Paris and then went to the Genealogical Library a few blocks down the street. I spent a couple hours looking at their records of the Edgar Cemetery (which is a HUGE city cemetery) and marking the spots on a cemetery map which I wanted to visit. Leroy waited patiently and went for some lunch while I worked. Then we went out to the cemetery and walked two hours to find all the stones I wanted to see. I took about 100 pictures in that cemetery alone. After years of searching, I finally found Lavina's resting place which also told me her birth and death dates. She was the hardest to find, but now I have seen all the places where Josiah and his siblings are buried---Lancaster County, Pa., Stark County, Ohio, Jackson and Edgar Counties, Illinois. Many of the descendants of both Joanna and Lavina are buried in this cemetery. One of them was actually buried while we were there.
I ended the research day at the Vigo County Public Library in Terre Haute, Indiana, where I found Lavina's obituary on a microfilm of the 1884 newspaper. I could not find one for her husband who died in 1874. Obituaries were rather sketchy in those days. I also found a few other things at the library. They have the largest historical section I have ever seen in a public library. I could have spent days there! It was 8 p.m. when I decided I must quit. I was too tired to drive east as I thought we might, so we got supper and a motel right in town. This day was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
On Thursday (28th) we drove back to Cheryl's place in Ohio and spent the night there. We left around 7:30 Friday morning and drove the last stretch home. It was a great trip. My dreams have become memories that will keep forever. We met a lot of friendly folks and I owe them a debt of gratitude for making our visit to Kansas such a pleasant experience.