Crawford County, Kansas, and immigration

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Emma Lazarus)

Crawford County, Kansas — indeed, southeast Kansas — once personified Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet. “Often known as “The Little Balkans,” Crawford County welcomed 31,000 immigrants from 52 different nationalities between 1880 and 1940. … at its peak, 14,000 miners were digging seven million tons of coal annually in sixty-five deep mines.” (“Crawford County, KS,” http://www.lazr.net)

Originally, “The Little Balkans” wasn’t a complimentary term. Just like today, there were xenophobes who feared, resented, even hated certain of the “foreigners.” The term “Balkans” didn’t necessarily refer to people who immigrated from the Balkan countries — there were more Italians than any other nationality — although there were some miners and their families from the Balkan peninsula, but rather came from the verb “Balkanize,” “to divide a region…up into small, often hostile units.” (The Nevada Daily Mail, September 5, 1985). Crawford County and southeast Kansas became distinctive as a result of this rich ethnic mix. For example, when the rest of Kansas went “dry,” the Little Balkans stayed “wet.”

As so often happens, terms that were once derogatory become symbols of community and ethnic pride. Today, Pittsburg, Kansas, proudly celebrates “Little Balkans Days.”

Some of our Logans and allied families lived in Crawford County, Kansas — many more in Cherokee County, Kansas. Many of them also worked in the mines.

 

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