MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas history has never been more alive than it is now in the hands of students and historians devoted to putting the pieces of the past together through hours of painstaking research.

A group of students and staff at Kansas State University, along with historians at the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), have made it their mission to ensure the history of Kansas towns and communities isn’t lost to time. Their efforts are wide-ranging, comprehensive and aimed at showcasing the history of places in danger of being forgotten or that aren’t well-documented.

KSNT News spoke with members of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies at K-State to learn more about what’s being done to catalog and record the history of Kansas’ relatively unknown towns and communities.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The Chapman Center

Executive Director of the Chapman Center, Mary Kohn, said the group was formed in 2008 by Mark Chapman after he made a generous donation to the university’s history department. The center picked up steam in 2015 as it expanded its focus and has steadily grown from there.

Chapman, a native of Broughton, Kansas, was concerned that the history of his hometown was in danger of being lost after it was condemned in 1966 for flood control, according to the Chapman Center’s website. This led to a research project on the town of Broughton that eventually culminated in a book dedicated to preserving its history.

From that point on, students enrolled in the Kansas Communities class at K-State have worked to piece together the history of little-known towns and communities that face being forgotten as the years go by, according to the center’s website. Kohn said more than 290 projects have been completed over the years, with more than 190 communities being covered by the students and staff.

“The nature of our communities is always changing, and there’s always a story to be told there,” Kohn said. “We want all of our small towns to thrive. Certainly, we’ll always be telling stories of communities that were once vibrant or communities that have found new ways to become vibrant.”

Kohn said other projects the center focuses on include Kansas archaeology, immigration to the state and language documentary projects. Plans are currently in place to release a documentary on the Kaw language alongside more Kansas town projects in the future.

“We focus on all aspects of Kansas life,” Kohn said.

Finding Something New

Students working with the Chapman Center conduct their research by looking at resources offered by the KSHS. Kohn said some students make trips to the places they’re studying to get a better feel for what they’re dealing with. Some take the next step towards creating an authentic report on the place they’re studying by interviewing residents or relatives of residents who hail from the community they’re researching.

“Students conduct research projects online,” Kohn said. “Many of these projects provide information on Kansas towns that may not even have a Wikipedia page.”

Resources at the KSHS, like the Kansas Dead Town List put together by Mary Montgomery during the 1940s, offer a good starting point for students to begin their research. With more than 5,000 entries on extinct or declining towns, students have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

“We have a number of approaches,” Kohn said. “We work very closely with various historical societies, especially the Kansas State Historical Society. Students will start with archival research, census records, historical newspapers. We’re very lucky the Kansas State Historical Society has a huge digital selection.”

Not every project in the works at the Chapman Center is on a town that is considered extinct or nearly so; some researchers are working to reveal more about little-known communities that have a special place in Kansas history. Holly Hill, an employee at the Chapman Center, is currently working on a project related to a community that she has a personal connection to.

Hill’s project focuses on revealing more about Asian refugees who came to the Sunflower State following the Vietnam War. She said she is “trying to put my own community on the map.”

“Starting in about 1975 after Vietnam War ended, hundreds of thousands of refugees were coming to the U.S. from southeast Asia and Laos,” Hill said. “Many ended up in southeast Kansas. In the last 50 years, a significant community has been established there.”

Hill said she plans to release her findings later this year. She looks forward to presenting her project to her peers in the future and continuing the work being done at the Chapman Center.

Lost Kansas Communities

The Chapman Center allows guests to its website to scroll through dozens of history projects on Kansas communities that are not well known or unoccupied. A total of 159 communities, counties and regions occupy the Lost Kansas Communities list, each with their own unique stories to tell.

The list of communities on the Chapman Center’s website can be found below:

Albany, Nemaha CountyAlta Mills, Harvey CountyAmerica City, Nemaha County Americus, Lyon County
Anness, Sedgwick CountyAshland, Cash City and Sitka, Clark CountyAtchison, Atchison CountyAubry, Johnson County
Barnes, Washington CountyBean School, Wabaunsee CountyBellegard and Mariadahl, Pottawatomie CountyBerea, Franklin County
Bethany-Hillside, Clay CountyBigelow, Marshall CountyBlood Creek, Pottawatomie CountyBloomington, Osborne County
Bodarc, Butler CountyBodaville, Riley CountyBourassa’s Mill, Wabaunsee CountyBrookville, Saline County
Broughton, Clay County Buckeye, Dickinson CountyCamp Pliley, Pottersburg and Ash Grove, Lincoln CountyChelsea, Butler County
Chetolah, Ellis County Clearfield, Douglas CountyColony, Anderson CountyCoolidge, Hamilton County
Coronado, Wichita CountyDelia, Jackson CountyDelia, Jackson CountyDiamond Springs, Morris County
Dillon, Dickinson CountyDispatch, Smith and Jewell CountiesDogtrot-Galatia, Barton CountyDoniphan and Grand Village des Canzas, Doniphan County
Doniphan, Doniphan CountyDover, Shawnee CountyDuluth, Pottawatomie CountyEarly Chapman, Dickinson County
Early Paxico, Wabaunsee CountyEl Quartelejo Pueblo Ruins, Scott CountyElbow Community, Pottawatomie CountyElm Slough, Pottawatomie County
Emmons, Washington CountyFancy Creek, Clay CountyFive Creeks, Clay CountyFlush, Pottawatomie County
Fort Aubrey, Hamilton CountyFort Scott, Bourbon CountyGarrison, Pottawatomie CountyGatesville-Siding, Clay County
Germantown, Smith CountyGoff, Nemaha CountyGypsum, Saline CountyHaddam, Washington County
Hanover, Washington CountyHarveyville, Wabaunsee CountyHavensville, Pottawatomie CountyHaworth, Republic County
Hiattville, Bourbon CountyHillside, Clay CountyHochfeld, Marion CountyHolland, Dickinson County
Hollenberg Station, Washington CountyHope, Dickinson CountyHoyt, Jackson CountyHuscher, Cloud County
Ida, Republic CountyIdana, Clay CountyIrving, Marshall CountyIuka, Pratt County
Iwacura, Clay CountyJacksonville, Neosho CountyJuniata, Pottawatomie CountyKeene, Wabaunsee County
Kickapoo, Leavenworth CountyLaclede, Pottawatomie CountyLaClede, St. Clere and Flush, Pottawatomie CountyLadore, Neosho County
Lanesfield, Johnson County Langley, Ellsworth CountyLarkin/Larkinburg, Jackson CountyLasita, Riley County
Leonardville and Riley, Riley CountyLiebenthal, Rush CountyLillis, Blaine and Holy Cross, Marshall and Pottawatomie CountiesLog Chain, Nemaha County
Longford, Clay County Ludell, Rawlins CountyMadura, Clay CountyMagic, Riley County
Mahaffie Stagecoach and Farm, Johnson CountyMahaska, Washington CountyMariadahl, Pottawatomie CountyMay Day, Riley County
Moehlman’s Bottoms, Riley CountyMorland, Graham CountyMorton City, Hodgeman CountyMulberry, Clay County
Murdock, Kingman CountyNavarre, Dickinson CountyNeighborville, Norton CountyNew Chillicothe, Dickinson County
Newbury, Wabaunsee CountyNiles, Ottawa CountyOak Mills, Atchison CountyOakhill, Clay County
Old Wabaunsee, Wabaunsee CountyOneida, Nemaha CountyOrion, Gove CountyOronoque, Norton County
Ottumwa, Coffey CountyOzawkie, Jefferson CountyPalmer, Washington CountyPavilion, Wabaunsee County
Prairie Band Potawatomi Indians in Mayetta, Jackson CountyRamona, Marion CountyRichmond, Nemaha CountySaffordville, Chase County
Seward, Stafford CountySherman, Clay CountySibley, Cloud CountySilkville, Franklin County
Skiddy, Morris CountySolomon Rapids, Mitchell CountySoutheast Kansas Regional StudySpringdale, Leavenworth County
Squiresville, Johnson CountySt. Boniface, Scipio, Anderson CountySt. Clere, Pottawatomie CountySt. Joseph’s Church and Ashland, Riley County
St. Joseph’s, Cloud CountySt. Mary’s Aleppo, Sedgwick CountyStanley, Johnson CountyStrawberry, Washington County
Sugar Works, Shawnee CountySwamp Angel, Pottawatomie CountySwedesburg, Clay CountyTecumseh, Shawnee County
Tipton, Mitchell County Waconda Springs, Mitchell CountyWakarusa, Shawnee CountyWalsburg, Riley County
Webster, Rooks CountyWheaton, Pottawatomie CountyWhiskey Point, Geary CountyWhite City, Morris County
White Rock Township and White Rock City, Republic CountyWild Cat Valley, Riley CountyWilsey and Helmick, Morris CountyWinchester, Jefferson County
Winkler, Riley CountyZeandale, Riley CountyBradford, Wabaunsee County