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Kansas History - Winter 2019/2020

Kansas History, Winter 2019/2020(Volume 42, Number 4)

Christopher M. Rein, “The Second Colorado Cavalry and the Conquest of the Central Plains”

The Second Colorado Cavalry Regiment, drawn from early pioneers to both Kansas and Colorado Territory, rendered important service within Kansas and around the new state’s borders during the Civil War. Drawn from the hardy miners of the Colorado gold fields, the soldiers of the regiment helped repel a Confederate invasion of New Mexico in 1862, turned back allied forces of Texans and sympathetic indigenous residents in the Indian Territory in 1863, suppressed violence in the “Burned District” along the Kansas-Missouri border depopulated by Gen. Thomas Ewing’s “Order No. 11” in 1864, including defending the region against “Price’s Raid,” and spent most of 1865 guarding the Santa Fe Trail against Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche incensed by the massacre at Sand Creek and attack at Adobe Walls the previous November. As historian Chris Rein of the Combat Studies Institute, Army University Press at Fort Leavenworth demonstrates, the regiment’s service reveals the connected nature of the Civil War and Indian Wars that followed, especially on the Central Plains, as the individual soldiers participated in a collective act of conquest that simultaneously dispossessed indigenous peoples and preserved the region against proslavery forces. After the war, veterans of the regiment spurred development in the region, fulfilling the vision of Free-soilers that animated both the Civil War and the simultaneous conquest of the American West.

Brent M. S. Campney, “‘Leave Him Now to the Great Judge’: The Short and Tragic Life of Allen Pinks Free Black, Fugitive Slave, and Slave-Catcher."

With this article, Brent Campney, associate professor history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, reconstructs the life and death of Allen Pinks, a complicated figure who was at once a free-born black man, a fugitive from enslavement, and a slavecatcher. Pinks moved among some of the best-known historical figures of the Bleeding Kansas era and would be worthy of historical inquiry for no other reason than for his role as a noteworthy actor in the storied drama of that time and place. Nevertheless, as Campney demonstrates, Pinks is more significant because his short and violent life, bursting with intrigue and betrayal, provides so vivid and tragic a prism through which to explore the tangled issues of racism, violence, agency, and justice on the Kansas-Missouri border. To achieve its aims, the article patches together the relatively few and scattered scraps of information related to the life of Pinks as captured in newspapers and in the reminiscences of contemporaries and historians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Chase M. Billingham, “Urban Renewal, Homelessness, and the Birth and Death of Wichita’s Naftzger Park.”

Through much of the mid-twentieth century, the intersection of Douglas Avenue and St. Francis Street in Downtown Wichita was the site of the city’s notorious “Skid Row” area, featuring cheap hotels and other amenities catering to the low-income men who populated the district. In the 1960s and 1970s, the elimination of “Skid Row” was among the top priorities for Wichita’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA). As a central component of this endeavor, URA spearheaded the construction of a new park, named for prominent Wichita banker M.C. Naftzger, on top of the former Skid Row territory. Though this park was supposed to bring about middle-class resettlement and contribute to the eviction of poor and homeless men, it instead became a central gathering spot for the city’s homeless population, provoking decades of consternation and social problems. After years of attempts to reform Naftzger Park, the city finally bulldozed it altogether in 2018, with a plan to rebuild it into an inviting new public space. Wichita State University sociologist Chase M. Billingham traces the planning, construction, and ultimate demise of Naftzger Park, documenting how concerns about homelessness, poverty, and gentrification have repeatedly been at the center of arguments over the development of this key downtown intersection.


Book Notes