Oral History Project

Southeast Kansas Farm History

**Important Project Update*****

Thanks to collaboration between the Southeast Kansas Farm History Center and Pittsburg State University’s Axe Library, the oral history interviews collected for this project are now accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

The interviews have been published online on the Axe Library’s Special Collections website at http://axedigital.pittstate.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/sekfarmhist.  Visitors to the website can read the full-text of the interviews, listen to original recordings of the interviews, and view photographs collected during the project.  Researchers looking for a first-hand glimpse of life on the farm can browse the collection, or can search the collection using keywords.  A comprehensive index has also been constructed to provide further detail.

Since the initial phase of the project, the number of interviews has grown.   As of spring 2012, nearly 30 interviews with about 45 persons have been conducted.  The project is ongoing;  please see contact information below on how to participate.

**End of Project Update**

Project Overview:

The Oral History Project is a multi-phase project to chronicle and preserve firsthand accounts, as well as stories passed down from generation to generation, about farming and farm life in Southeast Kansas during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Initial Project Phase:

The first phase of the project, “The Impact of the New Deal on Southeast Kansas Farm Life” documents the impact on farm life of various programs enacted during the New Deal of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The project phase began in August 2008 and culminated in October 2009.  Principal funding for this program is provided by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization promoting understanding of the history, traditions, and ideas that shape our lives and build community.

The Interviews:

The Great Depression changed history and molded a generation.  The farm people who were interviewed for this project survived the “Dirty Thirties” by hanging on to their land and raising much of their own food.  Their memories reflect the tenaciousness of farmers everywhere in America’s heartland.  Yet, despite lack of money, harsh weather, and lots of hard work, they still remember some good times from an era when family and community were essential.  Explore a sampling of some of their stories: (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

Project Sponsors:

The Southeast Kansas Farm History Center is the main project sponsor.  Created in 2002, the group is an Advisory Board to the Parsons City Commission.  Its mission is to document, preserve, and demonstrate our rural Southeast Kansas farm history and practices.

Parsons Public Library is a partner in the project.  The Library will archive and catalog the interviews and transcripts and will make them available to the public and to researchers.

How to Access the Interviews:

Check for availability at Parsons Public Library.  Patrons visiting the library will be able to check out printed transcripts of the interviews or listen to recordings of the interviews stored on DVDs.  People not able to come to Parsons can go to their own local library and request an Interlibrary Loan for the transcripts.  The interviews are cataloged individually in the Kansas Library Catalog under the heading “Southeast Kansas Farm History”.

How to Participate:

The Southeast Kansas Farm History Center wants to continue to collect oral histories about farm life in the “good old days.”  If you are an older resident who lived on a farm in Southeast Kansas, your memories and stories are valuable and need to be preserved for future generations.  If you would like to be interviewed or nominate someone else to be interviewed, please contact Pam Cress, 620-421-5404.

Project Staff:

  • Project Director:  Pam Cress
  • Interviewers:  Pam Cress, Jean Strader, Joan Tongier
  • Transcriptionists:  Pat White, Joan Tongier
  • Archivist and Website:  Jean Strader
  • Historical Consultant:  Michelle Martin
  • Publicity:  Kari West


“Simply defined, it [oral tradition] is the passing down of information from one generation to the next solely or primarily with the spoken word. Within the parameters of ‘information’ is family, community, tribal, and national history, as well as practical knowledge that insures physical survival, provides for philosophical development, teaches societal roles, social behavior, norms, and values, and insures preservation of spiritual beliefs. Though the written word has supplanted the spoken word as the primary conveyance of information, every human culture and society has used oral tradition at some point in their societal evolution.” The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, by Joseph M. Marshall III, New York: Viking Penguin, 2004