Who is the only native Kansan ever to be elected President or Vice President? (If you guessed Dwight D. Eisenhower, you would be wrong. Although Eisenhower claimed Abilene, Kansas as his home, he was born during his family’s brief stay in Texas.) Who is the first Native American Indian ever to be elected President or Vice President? The answer to that question is the same as the correct answer to the first one: Charles Curtis is the first native Kansan and first Native American Indian to be elected to the nation’s second-highest office. His life is an amazing example of how education and hard work created a rags-to-riches success story. Thanks to the Kansas Historical Society and the U.S. Senate website for this information.
Charles Curtis was born in north Topeka. His father was Orren Curtis and his mother was Ellen Pappan who was one-quarter Kaw Indian. Charles was the great-grandson of White Plume, a Kansa-Kaw chief who had offered assistance to the Lewis and Clark expedition. White Plume’s daughter married a French-Canadian trader, so Charles grew up speaking French and Kansa before he learned English.
His mother died in 1863 at about the time his father left to fight in the Civil War. Charles was raised by his grandparents at the Kaw Reservation near the rural community of Council Grove, population 2,051 people. Now, that’s rural.
Young Charley learned to ride Indian ponies bareback. He became a successful jockey. He was also the hero of a cross-country run to warn Topeka about upcoming Cheyenne Indian raids.
The woman stands 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Wow, that would be quite a basketball player. But this is no basketball player, it is a statue. Specifically, it is a monument to the pioneer women of America. It is one of only 12 such statues which are located across the nation. This one is found in rural Kansas.
This statue is located in Council Grove, county seat of Morris County. Diane Wolfe is the director of the Council Grove/Morris County Chamber of Commerce. I was referred to Diane by Kay Hutchinson, who recently retired after 22 years as executive director of the Greater Morris County Development Corporation.
Kay and Diane are strong advocates for Morris County. “There are more historic sites on a per capita basis in Morris County than Washington, D.C.,” Kay said. As a key community along the Santa Fe Trail, Council Grove is the location of the Custer Elm, Post Office Oak, and 20 or more other historic locations.
One prominent site in Council Grove is the Madonna of the Trail statue. The history of this statue goes back more than a century.
Fun and fitness. Those two elements go together at the Council Grove Life Center, where the goal is to make rural life fun, entertaining, and long-lasting.
Deidre Knight is executive director of the Council Grove Life Center, a community fitness center in Council Grove. Deidre grew up in Salina and studied Family Studies and Human Services at K-State. She also met her husband, who grew up on a farm near the rural community of Alta Vista, population 444 people. Now, that’s rural.
Deidre and her husband moved to Kansas City after graduation. They eventually moved back to Council Grove where she became the director of the Council Grove Life Center.
Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University writes Kansas Profile. The weekly posts highlight individuals or companies in rural Kansas who are making a difference to their community and state.
The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is a public / private partnership between Kansas State University and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The mission of the institute is to help rural people help themselves. Learn more at www.huckboydinstitute.org.