Mennonite Settler Statue

Athletic Park

Newton, KS 67114

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The Mennonite Settler statue serves as a silent reminder of the significant contribution made by the Russian Mennonite immigrants who settled here, bringing the seed of the Turkey Red hard winter wheat. The success of this wheat variety earned the Midwest the title of "Breadbasket of the World." The statue was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. In the 1940s, Jaycees president Charles Hinitt announced a campaign to "sponsor the erection of a memorial to commemorate one of the greatest events in the history of the United States - the arrival of Turkey Red Hard Winter Wheat to Kansas in 1874." Estimated to cost around $2,500, the Jaycees "conceived a plan to ask for gifts of wheat to be turned into cash by the sponsors to finance the statue." Wheat came from all over the United States - even from foreign countries - in five to fifty bushel lots. Kansas Governor Payne Ratner even contributed five bushels of wheat, saying it was "a privilege to be able to contribute 'not only for the purpose of assisting in the erection of a suitable memorial, but as a token of the interest of all loyal Kansans in wheat and in those who grow and process the grain.'" Kansas native Max Nixon was selected to design and sculpt the monument of native limestone. Nixon first created a plaster model of the proposed statue and a partial model of the mosaic design at the sculpture's base. Sculpted at Sargent Cut Stone Co. in Topeka, it was to be carved in limestone block sections and assembled on site in Newton. The limestone sculpture portion was completed shortly before Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Nixon originally planned to use colored stones for the mosaic at the base. However, with the developing war, he decided to join the Army, resulting in a compromise to use commercial tiles instead. Ultimately, the project was completed as a joint effort of the Newton Jaycees, Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and dedicated on September 10, 1942. Celebrities in attendance were Dr. John A. Parker, Director of the Wheat Improvement Association; Bob Benso, State President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce; J. R. Hubbard, Public Relations Department; H. F. Rupple, Hutchinson Division Freight Agent: and George C. Kief, Wichita Traveling Freight Agent of the Santa Fe Railroad. Life Magazine sent photographer Gordon Coster to the ceremony and also instructed him to get pictures of the Mennonites on the surrounding farms, the mills and the grain elevators. However, his pictures were never published due to, in part, that "during World War II, Mennonites and other conscientious objectors to war were not afforded national publicity so as to avoid problems or hard feelings."

 

These photos show the Mennonite Settler statue and the tile base, which recognizes the contributions of Mennonite Settlers and Turkey Red Wheat title= These photos show the Mennonite Settler statue and the tile base, which recognizes the contributions of Mennonite Settlers and Turkey Red Wheat title= This photo shows the Mennonite Settler statue in Athletic Park, circa 1964 title= This undated photo shows the Mennonite Settler Statue in Athletic Park title=

 

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