A WONDROUS PLACE
July 19, 2011
cannot truly know my home town without looking back
at the history it created, and try to walk in the steps
of those that made that history. For a while, try and
see what I see when I think, “TOPEKA."
if you will, standing at the corner of Fifth and Kansas
about 1860. As you look to the south you see a vast, unending
sea of prairie. Tall grass prairie, known to conceal a
covered wagon as it slowly moved across this green waving
ocean. Your thoughts likely would wonder, how truly endless
is this quiet and beautiful landscape. Then you would
think of the courage of those who moved west. Those, as
true with the great oceans, saw it as a challenge just
to find the other side. The way Columbus must have felt
when attempting what some thought to be an endless voyage.
Stories of dragons that could swallow up whole ships most
have crossed the minds of those who knew not what lie
about the dangers of crossing the prairie and the bias
and unfair stories told about Native Americans trying
to hold on to the last parcels of their world. People
traveled for weeks seeing nothing but this vast inland
sea. Something that many now cross in a day, and shamefully,
take little notice!
to the north, glancing east to west, you see a small portion
of the resting place of our mighty Kaw River. Flowing
so peaceful and quiet, you would never guess that in times
like 1844, 1903, 1951 and many others it became angry
and flowed from the Topeka side to the Calhoun Bluffs.
A raging, killing force sweeping away nearly everything
in its path. Those of us who witnessed 1951 know of what
in its quiet times, with the hills in the distance to
the north, the green fields and the trees on the bluffs
in the distance; which in the mid 1800’s were logged
for their walnut beams and lumber; it is a view of great
peace and beauty. Today that view is well hidden under
the presents of human occupation. But I still see it there,
for true beauty can never be camouflaged.
sky! In Kansas it presents the most wondrous shades of
blue with what some call “cotton ball” clouds.
But it can present a most frightening darkness, with sounds
that send all life to their preferred hiding place--hiding
places that too often become death traps to small unprepared
creatures. But that is nature in a land we believe we
have tamed, but we have not! The land, the sky, the river,
all rule what we think we command. We are in fact much
less than what we think. But we are in and wondrous place
to think it.
at fifth and Kansas was considered the most advantageous
location on the avenue of the new city. Therefore, the
perfect location for the Topeka House, the first Hotel
in Topeka. Considered my many to be an eye sore, its history
was brief. But as so accurately said, “beauty is
in the eye of the beholder.”
the attraction Topeka presented to America, and many other
places in the world. The PR must have been better back
then, or word of mouth must have been spread like wildfire
in our late fall prairie. Whichever the case, it stirred
and interest in many. It was even for a time called,”The
Boston of the Prairie.” Never having seen Boston,
I can only assume that was meant as a compliment. Even
though Dr. F.L. Crane used Boston as an example of a city
we did not want to look like, and he had been there. Again
I would say, in the eye of the beholder.
our perch at Fifth and Kansas. Looking east to southeast
we would have noticed a valley, in which flows a small
meandering stream with a scattering of trees along it’s
banks as it worked it’s way down the gradual slope
to wed with the Kaw. As does many such streams that flow
into the bowl like basin in which Topeka calls home.
witnessed this location in the new city, and to have watched
it progress from 1854 to the end of the 1800’s would
have truly been a sight to behold. Buildings being built
and raised in a series of moves to constantly improve
ad redirect a new and vital city. Where hundreds, then
thousands chose to stake a claim, build a home, and in
many cases put it all on the line, knowing the price of
failure was everything. These were brave people. People
with convictions and determination. Where I wonder are
I am honored to sit in my office, in a building coming
to pass within a year of the found of our fair city. Built
under the direction of one of the founders of the city.
A wise and noble man, that as few others, saw the path
to the future and accepted the challenge that it offered.
A man of principal, of courage, family, and dedication
to them all. A man who placed compassion for others above
his own ambitions, and love of country above his own needs.
Such a man was Dr. Franklin Loomis Crane.
is at my feet, and in my face. I walk with it. I breath
it. It flows in my veins. As native Americans, I believe
I am part of the earth, and one with it. This is where
I was born, where my spirit walks, and where the love
that flows within me wishes to be.
you’re at Fifth and Kansas, or happen to make a
special trip just to go there, stand for a few moments
at the intersection. Don’t look at what is there
now, see what it was a hundred and fifty years ago. Listen
with your heart, wait for someone from that time to pass
by. Feel the breeze from across the vast prairie as the
breath of a mother holding her newborn child, and know
this is Kansas. See what was, and think of the history
that was about to unfold.
with a name, “TOPEKA.” A special place chosen
by Cyrus K Holliday. A dream that lived in all of their
hearts--a dream of a new city, a free state, and a place
to make history. A history we have nearly lost to all
but the dreamers. Then remember, sometimes d4eams do come
true and history can be revisited. This is our city, and
I will tell you now what those from our past would say:
“A dream is a fire that burns with hope, kill the
dream, and you lose the hope!”