A collection of Eight Videos that address agriculture, arts and architecture, education, immigration, industry and economics, mining and labor, people, and social reform in Crawford County.
Crawford County contains 595 square miles and is the 84th largest county in the state in size. Crawford County contains approximately 379,460 acres, of which 89.9% were farms according to a survey conducted in 2002. There were 820 farms reported in the County in 2003. The average size of farms in Crawford County was 413 acres according to a study in 2002
Arts and Architecture
The Hotel Stilwell was built in 1887, located on 7th Street and Broadway Street in Pittsburg. Famous faces have graced its lobby since the grand opening, including President Teddy Roosevelt. The Besse Hotel in Pittsburg stands out as the tallest building in Southeast Kansas, and has been described as Pittsburg’s first skyscraper. George Edward Kessler, who is considered by some to be the world’s best landscape architect, designed Lincoln Park. He also designed the park and street systems of Kansas City, Gage Park of Topeka, and Central Park in New York City
The first schoolhouse built in Crawford County was at Pleasant Ridge, about two miles southeast of the present site of Pittsburg. The schoolhouse at Cato was a small log house, formerly occupied as a dwelling in Lincoln Township. The Cato School is thought to have been the first school in which teachers were paid for giving formal instruction. Crawford County is now home to Greenbush – the Southeast Kansas Educational Service Center, Pittsburg State University, The Harley-Davidson Center, and the John Deere Ag Center.
Between the years 1880 to 1919, people from over 50 countries immigrated to Crawford County. On a typical Saturday night in Pittsburg, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Spanish, French, Welsh, Lebanese, and at least twenty other languages could be heard in the streets. The loss of jobs and economic crisis hit Italy especially hard, which helps to explain why seven million Italians immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century
Industry and Economics
Crawford County began its development in the 1870s as an industrial center. Labor unrest and strikes were frequent among the Crawford County miners where working conditions were often described as terrible. The strikes attracted national attention in the 1890s when hundreds of strike breakers were brought in from the coal companies to destroy the power of the union. In addition to labor unrest, the coal and other natural resources once considered to be inexhaustible began to fail rapidly in the 1920s. By 1930, the resources were largely exhausted and signaled the beginning of the end for the once booming industry
Mining and Labor
Early mining camps were set up in Washington and Lincoln Townships. The first underground mine was sunk in 1877 in Pittsburg at what is now 2nd and Pine Streets. In 1914, Crawford County had 63 shaft coal mines, 6,000 workers, and was mining 4.5 million tons of coal. The area was responsible for 1/3rd of the nation’s coal production. The mining and related industries helped change Crawford County from an agricultural area to an industrial center
The first people of Crawford County were the Osage Indians. The land eventually became the property of the Cherokee Indians. On February 13, 1867 part of the Cherokee Neutral Lands became established as Crawford County. From the 1880s to the 1920s over 50 nationalities immigrated to Southeast Kansas because of the coal mines and the associated industries. Many prominent people in history have ties to Crawford County including Julius Augustus Wayland, Alexander Howatt, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Marcet Haldeman-Julius, and Waylande Gregory.
Ethnic groups did not form the basis of political organization in Crawford County. The coal miners of the area developed a class consciousness, and instead of making gains for their particular ethnic group, they realized that only through a united movement could miners achieve their goals. This social awareness displayed by the miners is unusual in the history of the United States and helps explain why the residents of the coal fields were to have such an influence on the politics of Crawford County