Archive for Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wyandotte County celebrates 150 years

March 19, 2009

This year Wyandotte County will celebrate 150 years of history that county experts describe as full of diversity and strength.

Trish Schurkamp, director of the Wyandotte County Museum, said Wyandotte County was established in 1859 and since then has had many memorable experiences. To commemorate that history, the museum is planning a two-day event June 5-6 at the Wyandotte County Park in Bonner Springs.

“Wyandotte County is known for its many ethnic groups and for their strength and ability to work together for the common good,” Schurkamp said. “I look back at several things that were thought as impossible to get through — like the 1951 flood — but we always made it and found a way to rebuild.”

An example of that strength, Schurkamp said, was shown by three sisters who camped out at the Huron Indian Cemetery for several years to protect their ancestors who were buried there. Eventually the pressure to develop the area, located at North 7th Street Trafficway and Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., was stopped and the cemetery was placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places on July 1, 1977.

Schurkamp said there were many memorable events that

have come from the area that was first carved out from Leavenworth and Johnson counties. She said Wyandotte County was the location where the Kansas state constitution was written and finally approved after three other previous meetings failed to come to an agreement.

Other notable historic events for the county include several involving women’s rights. Schurkamp said that a woman was allowed to attend the state constitution meeting in Wyandotte County, which lead to women being given the right to vote in school board elections.

Wyandotte County is also where the first woman argued in front of the Supreme Court and the widely used medical term “code blue” came out of Bethany Hospital in downtown Kansas City, Kan.

“There are so many firsts here,” Schurkamp said.

Wyandotte County also played a big role in the state’s anti-slavery stance, Schurkamp said. In the beginning, the county’s three cities — Kansas City, Kan., Quindaro and Wyandotte City — were divided on the issue of slavery. Schurkamp said that in this time period of the 1850s before the Civil War, Wyandotte County, like much of the rest of the state, was a slavery battleground, leading to the nickname Bleeding Kansas.

“Wyandotte County is made up of very strong people and they work with each other to accomplish great things,” she said. “It’s amazing what we can do. Sometimes people take advantage of that fact and don’t think about it. People don’t know how great our history is.”

The museum’s birthday celebration for the county, which will be free to the public, will feature live music, hot air balloons, a magic show, games such as marbles and hoops, costumes and a quilting bee.

The culmination of the event will be the dedication of a new obelisk, which is being organized by the Kansas City, Kan., Ethnic Council and will be dedicated to the different ethnic groups that have lived in Wyandotte County.

“This event is an opportunity to celebrate (Wyandotte County’s) firsts,” Schurkamp said. “People are going to be amazed and awed about how great Wyandotte County truly is.”

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