Scenic USA - Kansas

Mennonite Settlement Museum

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Mennonite Settlement Museum - Hillsboro, Kansas

Photo by Neil Marcus
Neil's PBase Gallery

     Even as late as the mid 1800s, many Americans still referred to the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River as the West. To the best of their knowledge, the land beyond the Mississippi was an inhospitable plain controlled by bands of Pawnees, Kiowas and Sioux. What followed in the 1840s was an incredible transformation. Following three major routes, (Oregon, Santa Fe and Mormon trails, plus a shorter California spur) the lands in eastern Texas, the Sacramento Valley and Willamette Valley were opened up to more than 300,000 pioneers, miners, farmers and 19th century entrepreneurs.
     At first, the Great Plains area was viewed as a formidable barrier, and in crossing, it became part of the journey that simply had to be endured. Over time, some of the well watered sites in northern Missouri, eastern Kansas and Nebraska began to attract groups of ethnic settlers. The Mennonite Settlement Museum celebrates these groups of Eastern European Mennonites who arrived in Hillsboro, Kansas, in 1870. These refugees from Russia and Poland were instrumental in building 14 villages in east-central Kansas.
     Here on the Great Plains a fickle Cottonwood River was not a reliable source for water power, but prairie winds were strong enough to turn a windmill in the village of Gnadenau. Recreated from a 1904 photograph, the mill was built by Dr. Richard Wall. Here at the museum, visitors may experience late 19th century living on the Kansas prairie, along with this recreation of the 1876 Jacob Friesen Flour Mill.

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