Mapping Lasita, Kansas
~ Old maps are such a cool way to get oriented to the new reality.
Note: There is another post that says more about Lasita, Kansas and starts from the beginning.
This “Lasita Project” has me going. It has me going deeper and deeper into the past in order to find the present. It’s good to look at a hundred or so years of history all at one time. It can show you where the hopes and dreams of a different generation or two have led. In my case the present search involves Lasita (Kansas), the “old” family home on my mother’s side, on her mother’s side.
For many, the American Dream meant to go to America and become a farmer. In Europe the old family farms got smaller and smaller with each passing generation as families got larger and larger and the farms (and lands) were divided between the “each of them”. It’s an old saw. It has happened many times all over the world and is still happening still.
When the farms get so small that you (one) cannot even eat off them it’s maybe time to move (on). That’s the story of Johan Backlund. He left what was left of the ancient farm in Sweden and left his brothers and left the hunger on the farm and moved to the big city, meaning a big city in Sweden. He built ships for awhile, got hurt, then got the urge to go on a bigger ship to “America”. By “America” he was considering Canada too, it was a new continent he was after, not necessarily a new nation.
He rambled a bit after getting here. He stayed north (near Canada) and tried things in Indiana and Illinois and then one day he heard of Kansas. There was good land there it was said. “Unto a good land” is another book about Kansas worth reading.
When he was younger the family changed the families names from the “son of son” Swedish system to a “family name”, choosing “Backlund”. Lund meant “land”. The “Back” land was the “Black” land of deep forest loam, sometimes often almost black in color. With enough of this special fertile land one could probably almost live forever.
So, the new family name was a link to the Swedish past and a program for the future. Johan probably had no choice about becoming a farmer. It was his name. When he came to Kansas he changed his Swedish name “Johan” to “John”. He never did a legal filing, in those days names were more based on usage. He used “John” when he filed for a homestead of 160 acres of the closest thing he could find in Kansas to the deep black forest loam. Of course what he found was not forest loam, but Kansas sod; it was good land, but not farm land that would last forever. In time the fertility of the land would not even ‘feed’ a family (considering the price of clothes, electricity, transportation, feed, education, furniture and fuel).
In the end, as the frequent misspelling of his name shows, he was at heart a “Blackland farmer“.
So Kansas is now sometimes more about ‘collective farms’, called “corporate farms” that have vast acreages that are dependent upon federal subsidies paid to modern ‘farmers’ to grow things and not to grow things. The names of these new farmers are not Backlund, not Lund; as the maps show, things have changed some around Lasita.
SOIL MAP – KANSAS – RILEY COUNTY SHEET – 1906 (Fancy Creek / Lasita – map portion)
U.S. Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Soils – Milton Whitney, Chief
Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station – J.T. Williard, Director.
Soils surveyed by William T. Carter Jr. and H.C. Smith – 1906
Field Operations, Bureau of Soils – 1906. Published by Julius Bien & Co. Lithographers, New York
The Map shows the route of the narrow gauge Leavenworth, Kansas, and Western Railroad. The NE Quarter of Section 26 (as indicated), immediately northwest of Lasita, is the Backlund Farm. The soil on the farm and in most of the area around Lasita is “Os” – Oswego silt loam.
Eight square miles of the Lasita District – Atlas of 1910
In this 1910 Map of the Lasita, Kansas area the property owned by Johan “John” Backlund is clearly stated to be “John Blacklund”. At least the acreage is right. The 300 acres owned by Michael Senn is also shown, less the acreage of the town of Lasita. The L,K & W Railroad runs through the Lasita townsite almost north to south, then up to the Chaffee’s land and cuts a diagonal across the Backlund Farm property on its way to Green (Kansas) and eventually Clay Center (Kansas) where the Chautauquas have been held.
The small square indicating the buildings of the Backlund Farm are not quite accurate. What is accurate is the fact that the entrance to the farm was (and is, as can be seen on Google Maps) from the north. All the roads surrounding the farm leading into Lasita were still dirt in 1953 (as I recall)
A sketch map of Lasita, Kansas (the town) by Hemme
May 11, 2011:
This is an update to the original post on “Mapping Lasita”. The older maps, like the one above, mislead me. It does not show the “Lasita” on the west side of Lasita Road. Fortunately I have just found a sketch map done by Hemme Backlund Martin (my grandmother) that clarifies things. It is here:
The Lasita Cemetery is at the Northwest Corner of the intersection of Senn Road (east-west) and Lasita Road (north-south). The original Frank Lund House (on the east side of Lasita Road faced Lasita Road at the north end of the town. The Senn Store (Frank Lund Store) was further south on the right side (east side) of Lasita Road; the door of the store faced south. This places the Shell Mill across Senn Road to the north, on the southwest side of the tracks. Finally, the Lasita School was on the SW corner of Lasita and Senn Roads, south of the cemetery.
I must say, a simple map, and everything now makes sense. I’ll have to make appropriate notes under the building pictures.
Google Maps shows the original Backlund Farm
The Backlund Farm is here (on Google). The original “road in” can be plainly seen. It leads to the “old pond”, south and west of which was the original Victorian style farmhouse. The original soddy from the 1870’s was near the pond and against the side of a small hill. There was a barn, a windmill and an outbuilding or two, and an outhouse. The pictures of the farm must wait for another day.
Hemme Backlund Map of Riley County in 1907
This map of Riley County was drawn by Hemme Backlund in 1907, when she was either 19 or 20. As she clearly states it was copied from an earlier map, dated 1898. Think of this map as her I-Pad, or Google Map function; she could carry it wherever she might go. The other maps of the time were mostly Atlases, bound (expensive) and too big to carry. Emphasis is on the railroads, because that’s the way people traveled.
RILEY COUNTY – KANSAS – 1910
Click on these maps and other images to enlarge. Sometimes another click will enlarge the maps or images further. This map shows Riley County as it was symbolized by the “G.A. OGLE” Co. circa 1910. The name (in the lower left corner of the map) is so similar to “GOOGLE” that maybe “GAOGLE” was where the name really came from. If not, it is an amazing coincidence.
Anyway, Someone, probably Hemme has written many of the School District numbers (in pencil) near many of the schools. The numbers are old, they were changed. However, most all of the schools of the time in Riley County appear on this map.
Another interesting item of note is the General Ogden Monument shown on the Fort Riley (Diminished) Reservation (see the center of the screen). It’s hard to find on the modern GOOGLE (not GAOGLE) Map, but it is here. Further south, as the Maltese Cross symbol shows is the perceived Center of the United States. The center of the United States is at the convergence of the Republican and Smokey Hill Rivers. From this point, the river flows east under the name of Kaw, or Kansas River (the Kaw River).
Of course this “center” wasn’t including Alaska and Hawaii, which were not States in 1910. I guess the military surveyors assumed (however) that Arizona and New Mexico would get in.
And one more point about the above map. It seems that the BLUE VALLEY RAILROAD, that ran along the Big Blue River has disappeared and now is a part of the Union Pacific (Railroad).
MAP OF Northeastern KANSAS – 1910
This Map shows the communities of Kansas and the railroads one took in 1910 to get to them. Hemme Backlund visited Topeka, went to school in Emporia, went to Kansas City and back; she did all these trips entirely by train. Go ahead, you figure out the different railroads and change of stations to get from Lasita, Kansas to Emporia, Kansas and back. It was all great fun, except when the rivers flooded and the tracks that followed them were washed out.
[“Mapping Lasita, Kansas” Post written on April 30, 2011 @ 19:53 ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]