Monday, April 25, 2011

Immigrants on the Plains, the Volkmann Cabin

I hope everyone had a good Easter/Passover/week.  Today, I would like to post a bit of information about immigrants that came to Dickinson County, Kansas in the mid-1850s. 

Many of the first settlers in Dickinson County were immigrants from European nations.  Throughout the mid-1850s to 1860s, many settlers were originally from Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Prussia, and Sweden.  Many immigrants that came to the county settled in small colonies made up of other people from their same nation.  These people grew up under similar circumstances, found they had a lot in common, and decided to live near one another.  In these types of communities, many church services and school lessons were given in native languages rather than English.  This type of practice would continue into the twentieth century.

Christian and Charlotte Staatz were born and married in Zicker, Germany.  In 1851, the couple with their five children decided to come to America to live.  First, they settled in Watertown, Wisconsin for six years, but decided to move to the Lyona Valley in Kansas.  The surviving Staatz children were grown by this time, and two settled in Dickinson County with their families, while the other family members built homes along Lyon Creek in Davis County.  The Staatz family was very involved in forming a community where they settled.  Members of the family helped build a public school, established the Lyona Methodist Mission, and were elected to public office.

Another family, led by Martin and Dorthea Volkmann of Statien, Germany, also moved to America and found residence in Watertown, Wisconsin.  After living there for a year, they decided to move to Dickinson County, Kansas in 1858 based on encouragement from the Staatz family and another German family in the area, the Oesterreichs.  The Volkmann family traveled by covered wagon for eleven weeks with their five children, Frank, August, William, Frederick, and Wilhemina.  They arrived in Dickinson County and decided to settle in the Lyona area.  Soon after the move, the family built a small two story, two room cabin (one room on the ground floor, one on the second floor).
The cabin was constructed using cottonwood trees that were hewed by hand to form square logs.  Inside, the first floor was used as a general family area.  A small iron stove was used to cook their meals.  In this room, the family could cook, eat, and socialize.  The second floor of the cabin was used as a bedroom for all seven members of the Volkmann family.
As time passed, additions were made to the home, making it larger and larger.  Eventually, the original cabin became completely enclosed by the rest of the home.  In 1985, all of these additions were removed, and the Volkmann cabin was donated to the Dickinson County Historical Society, where it is on display behind the Heritage Center museum.
The Volkmann cabin is used as an attraction for visitors to see a representation of pioneer life on the Kansas plains.  The cabin is also annually used for living history demonstrations and educational programs during school tours, Pioneer Camp, the Chisholm Trail Festival, and Christmas in the Cabin.

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