This site is the outgrowth of five years of reading, listening, visiting, observing, photographing and absorbing. Learning about a particular place is a lifelong process -- as I was reminded so often in my interviews with the Brainerdites encountered in the Memories section of this site. In developing this site, I tried to condense a life's learning into a few short years. So blame my factual or interpretive errors on the folly of youth and not on my sources, which were about as varied and colorful as the wildflowers now sprouting between the rotting ties of the abandoned railbed in front of the old Brainerd grain elevator.

On this page, you will find detailed information on the specific sources consulted over the course of this project, with links to sites where you can order or review these materials and learn more about Brainerd and Butler County history. You can click here to jump down to the official bibliography, or continue scrolling through the text that follows for some general background and subjective commentary on the sources I consulted in completing this project.

Before sending you off on your merry way, however, I would like to briefly thank some key individuals who gave so much of their time and input over the past year to make this site a reality.

I'll never forget the day I spent with Jake Cornelius, who patiently walked and talked with me, and drove me all around Brainerd and much of Butler County in search of artifacts from Brainerd's past. His hands-on, repairman's knowledge of each and every structure still standing in Brainerd shed light on subtleties in the architecture and townscape that I otherwise would have missed.

Edgar and Agnes Harder also went way out of their way to accommodate my search for Brainerd's history. The History of Brainerd, which Agnes compiled in 1985, provided the inspiration I needed to tackle this project when I first located a copy of it at the Kansas State Historical Society's library in 1998. She and Edgar willingly shared a windy spring afternoon with me, showing me the landmarks from their community and family histories, allowing me to borrow and copy many of the historic images included on this site and even setting up a lunch at the Whitewater Cafe with two other area old-timers, Art Newman and Rollan Eberhard. Agnes also fact-checked the information I compiled on this site, keeping me honest and making sure I didn't miss any key details.

I also would like to thank Stella Weigand, my grandmother. Her memories of the Kansas winds awakened my interest in the Great Plains, and fueled my grandfather's joke that gregarious Grandma must have "brought half the wind back" with her. She also brought back a lot of memories and photos, most of which we rescued from dusty boxes in her attic, closets and basement and digitized for this project. Throughout this project, I've been fortunate to get to know Stella even better and take part in one of her greatest childhood adventures.

On a side note, Lin Frederickson at the Kansas Collection and archivist Jason Wesco at the Kansas State Historical Society were immensely helpful at the 11th hour, getting me essential bibliographic and demographic information to make sure all the facts cited herein are accurate and up-to-date. Jason also supervised the microfilming of the Brainerd city ledger books and provided copies of the film to the Frederic Remington Area Historical Society. And, of course, there are the numerous friends in "The Web Biz" who've helped me trouble-shoot my graphics and HTML to get this done. Special thanks to Jerry Podhajsky and Kendal Kelly, who guided me through the HTML and javascript maze and helped me bring this site to life.

A Commentary on My Sources

Because Brainerd is a very small town on the periphery of a very large, rural county, it has not generated the coverage its history merits on a state or county level.

As a result, reliable secondary sources are few and far between, and consist largely of two self-published community histories from the 1980s, a 1970 Emporia State University graduate thesis and sections on Brainerd and Whitewater appearing in two early 20th century county histories.

Primary sources proved to be more abundant, but were still limited to microfilmed copies of several local newspapers, an early town ledger book (rescued from a drawer in my Grandmother's garage in Toledo one summer), published plat maps, letters, diary entries and a smattering of old family photos. Unfortunately, I could no locate no published travel accounts (which were very popular in the early settlement of the Great Plains) in which Brainerd was cited, and the archives of the 1930s Kansas Federal Writers Project contain no mention of the community, either.

Placing a community study in the larger historical context is key to intepreting local findings against a against an even more meaningful backdrop. Monographs from a variety of historians, geographers, architectural historians and journalists (most included on the reading list for my "Built Forms and Landscapes of the Great Plains" class described in the Introduction) were key to understanding the state, national and international context for town planning and architectural forms on the Kansas Prairie Plains.

John C. Hudson's Plains Country Towns and John W. Reps' Cities of the American West were particularly helpful in their assessment of the physical way towns formed, grew and disintegrated in relation to the arrival and departure of the railroad. Both authors -- one a geographer and the other a historian -- present cogent overviews of the settlement of Great Plains towns and cities, but sweep the postbellum Kansas story under the general Great Plains/Western history rug in an attempt to cover a great deal of territory in a single monograph. The same could be said on a more national level of John Jakle's The American Small Town and Richard Francaviglia's Main Street Revisited: both posit the Brainerd story somewhat in the national town-building narrative, but tend to be more useful for understanding larger, more urban towns as opposed to a semi-rural, farm community like Brainerd.

Daniel Fitzgerald's Ghost Towns of Kansas expands upon the subject of boom-and-bust town-founding from a uniquely Kansas perspective, but obviously focuses on those towns that failed as opposed to analyzing the factors that allowed certain communities -- like Brainerd -- to continue to exist and avoid becoming ghost towns.while William Least Heat Moon's Prairy Erth digs very, very deeply into the history, geography, culture and mindset of a nearby town and county (Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, in neighboring Chase County) and provides lyrical, though admittedly longwinded, model for this Web site's community-focused approach.

Finally, several general Kansas histories proved useful in laying out the events that transpired in Brainerd along the broader Kansas historical timeline. Geographer James Shortridge's Peopling the Plains illuminates the place-specific Kansas settlement patterns of and native and foreign-born immigrants into the state over the past 150 years, chronicling the influx of German-speaking peoples (including the Swiss and German Mennonites) into the Butler County area in the late 19th century. And the Journal of Kansas History has proven invaluable for the many community history profiles it has published over the years.

The Official Bibliography

Following is a list of the specific sources consulted throughout this project. Where possible, I have included links to other sites where you can learn more information about a particular source, or order a copy for your personal use.

* The Frederic Remington Area Historical Society makes its holdings available for research in the library at the Remington High School north of Brainerd, by appointment. Those interested in viewing this material for research purposes should contact the society at 316-799-2123 or via e-mail for additional information.