Like local history?
Then you’ll love Southeast Kansas History Online.
Simply navigate to the SEK History homepage at sekhistory.com, on either desktop, tablet or mobile, and you’re ready to start exploring.
Did we mention that it’s absolutely free, thanks to a generous grant from the nonprofit organization Humanities Kansas?
Humanities Kansas is a cultural organization that connects communities with history, traditions and ideas to strengthen civic life.
Your first option is to choose a quadrant on the splash page, out of Northern/Southern Allen County or Northern/Southern Woodson County. On your phone, simply press “continue.”
Once you’re inside the site, you’ll find a map of Allen and Woodson counties dotted with pins of different colors.
The colors of pins correspond to whether the land is privately or publicly owned, as well as whether tours are possible with a guide. Purple is a warning not to trespass without permission, whereas green signals land that’s completely open to traverse.
As the project continues to expand, there will also be sites marked on the map from other southeast Kansas counties as well, such as the Old Mill Dam in Fredonia or Dalton Defenders Museum in Coffeyville.
Go ahead. Zoom in and pick a pin.
A new page then opens and features a full-length story on the historic site along with photos.
The stories are the same content from Register reporter Trevor Hoag’s “Just Prairie” articles.
Let’s say we chose the pin for the historic Allen County Jail, northeast of the Iola square. You’ll notice it’s colored yellow, which means it’s possible to get a tour of the inside.
Once the story tab is open, note the box that says “Let’s Go.” If you’re unsure how to drive to somewhere, click this option and driving navigation will automatically be opened in Google Maps.
Keep in mind that many of the pins are not exactly in the place where things are located, but are usually close by.
After you get a feel for the site, you’ll be reading and exploring in no time.
Along with Humanities Kansas, other sponsors for SEK History Online include the Iola Register, Woodson County Historical Society, Iola USD 257 and the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
Dan Kays, director of the Bowlus, said “I think it’s very cool,” and added that he and others had previously envisioned creating a similar resource, specifically linked to sites along the rail trails.
“Obviously, this is a much more exploded version of what we could ever think of,” he added. “This is a lot more informative.”
“It’s also awesome for us to have, as something that’s available at the Chamber of Commerce, when people are looking for something to do.”
The primary content creators and site designers for Taking SEK History Online are Trevor Hoag and Tim Stauffer, managing editor of the Iola Register, along with web support from their partners at BCI Media.
They hope the website will continue to be used for years to come, and that it serves the following functions:
To generate interest in the historical tales of southeast Kansas, whether among natives or folks visiting from elsewhere.
To educate people young and old about the place that they are from, and to help them forge a deeper connection to that place.
To draw in tourists who will spend money at local businesses and restaurants.
To produce civic pride in our local stories, and to preserve them for generations.
Intrepid reporter Hoag invites the community to provide suggestions on previously composed materials, as well as give him new ideas on exciting people and places to write about.