PITTSBURG — Local writer J.T. Knoll could tell you all about the last 50 years, where restaurants and businesses were and what was going on in the world. 

He kept much of this in his journals and during the Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society of Southeast Kansas’s 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday at the Pittsburg Public Library, he shared an entry he wrote from 1969. Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson also shared what may be in store for Pittsburg’s future. 

“Oct. 6, 1969, dear diary,” Knoll read. “Saturday afternoon I picked Linda up at 5:30 and we went to Argentina’s for spaghetti and meatballs before stopping for a couple bucks worth of gas at the Hudson Station at North Broadway and then we caught the first show at the Fox, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” 

For the past 50 years, area history has been compiled by the Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society — the people, the businesses, the news and the records.

How it all began 

In 1969, a group of approximately ten women, headed by Bernice Shackelton, met at the Pittsburg Public Library to discuss the need for a place to collect and preserve county and family records, said Ella Buzzard, secretary of the Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society of Southeast Kansas. According to Buzzard, the group was offered a room in the northeast basement section of the public library to house the genealogical library. 

The first meeting was on the first Monday of Feb. 1969 in the Kansas Room of PPL. The first Monday of the month is still used as the day for the society’s meetings.

The society collected church and cemetery records as their first project and they did so by asking people for donations of books, old Bibles, family and county histories. The group had no money to buy books or supplies and so they secured a stall at the Armory for an annual rummage sale. With the money they raised they purchased their first two genealogy-helper books. Throughout the years, book sales were held annually so that books could be purchased. 

The collection grew and grew. 

At one time, the genealogy library had over 4,000 volumes in their collection, Buzzard said. 

‘The Seeker’ 

The group decided to begin work on a publication which could be sent out to members. It’s content would include articles and various reports collected by the society. 

By April 1971, the society members voted to name their publication The Seeker.  The first issue of The Seeker was printed July 1971 and 114 copies were distributed, printed by Superior Printing. Starting in 1972, The Seeker was printed four times annually. In 1979 the format of “The Seeker” was changed making it the size of typing paper and each issue would have at least 20 pages. New Horizons would start publishing “The Seeker” in 1986. The yellow cover has the township map of Crawford County,  which is the same design as its current editions. 

According to Buzzard, The Seeker has been sent to people and various libraries throughout the United States. In fact, the Library of Congress requested that copies of The Seeker be sent to them starting in 1982, she said.

In 1987, the members placed the genealogy society’s publication in doctor’s offices, beauty shops, the hospital and any place that had a waiting room. Today, the printing department at Pittsburg State University prints the publication twice a year. 

The projects 

The society members continued indexing cemetery records, working on the pioneer card index and purchasing and taking in donations of books.

“The room is now full of research data and letters requesting help in their family research were coming in from all parts of the country,” she said. “It was agreed that members do research work free on material in the genealogy room for members only, except that copies are to be paid for.  “All new members were asked to fill out ancestor charts on their families.”

According to Buzzard, 570 researchers came to the Genealogy Room in 1973.  

The society’s volunteers were kept busy with various projects. According to Buzzard, Mona Cowan and Lelia Morris traveled to Girard once each week to index marriage records and  William Cuthbertson headed a project to canvas and index every grave in the cemeteries of Crawford County which started as a card file then was later placed in a 1,400 page bound book titled Crawford County Tombstone Transcriptions and was sold to patrons.  In 1990, the book was copied onto microfiche. In 2004, Windell Johnson had the book copied onto a CD and copies were sold, Buzzard said. 

Since Jan. 1971 the group began collecting Betty Crocker and other General Mills coupons and had earned 14,991 coupon points with each point being worth one-half cent, Buzzard said. With the coupon points valued at $74.95 and donations received, the society was able to purchase a portable microfilm reader for $160 plus $5 mailing charges.

In May 1975, with more than 1,000 books on the shelves in the Genealogy Room, to save expenses the group’s president, Bessie Boso, asked each member to bring one covered brick to be used as a book end. Buzzard brought one of the bricks during the event as proof that several of the bricks are still in use today. 

In the spring of 1976, members of the Crawford County Genealogical Society decided to republish the Crawford County History book which was originally printed in 1905. In 1977, the society began ordering microfilm rolls of the Federal and State Census.  

From 1974 to 1993, the Genealogical Society would add several volumes or microfilm rolls of state and federal census records to the genealogy room’s holdings by setting up a booth at the Meadowbrook Mall in May and Sept. where the members would sell used books, baked goods and plants, Buzzard said. 

Some of the projects in the last fifteen years were the selling of the Coal Mining Towns book which was the reprint of Ira Clemens scrapbook and republished by Nanette Krumsick, a society member, and Betty DeVoss.  Susie Stelle promoted the making of a Cato CD, Arcadia CD and the reprint of the early stagecoach line which ran through Cherokee and Crawford Counties.  

The 1906 Crawford County Plat Map was indexed by owner’s name and legal description and the pages were photocopied in 2010 by Buzzard.         

Membership for the group increased every year. In 1993, there were a high total of 149 members, representing several states and the local area. 

The Genealogy Society’s Home 

In 1996, the Pittsburg Public Library undertook a major project of adding a new addition and remodeling the old portion of the building. 

“Members of the genealogy society scouted around Pittsburg and Girard trying to locate temporary quarters for the society’s holdings for a period of 18 months to two years,” Buzzard said. 

None was available.

All the books, old issues of The Seeker, the microfilm reader, a cabinet full of microfilm rolls, copy machine and all other items in the room had to be removed. Most of the items were taken to the Pittsburg State University Book Store which had been vacated and was offered to the Genealogy Society free as a storage facility, Buzzard said. The members decided not to set up a temporary place for the society, but instead decided to wait until the construction on the public library was completed.  

In 1998, the library made available a 20’ x 40’ room on the second floor and northeast side of the library to house the genealogy society’s collection of genealogical material. This room was twice the size of the old genealogy room in the basement, Buzzard said. 

“The Genealogy Society was responsible for dusting and keeping the Genealogy Room in a neat and orderly appearance,” she said. “The library staff was responsible for vacuuming the room on a regular basis.

On May 26, 2015 the group was asked if they would be willing to move the holdings of the Crawford County Genealogical Society to the Seminar Room on the second floor of the library.  “Since the room is much smaller, the members were told that rent would no longer need to be paid,” Buzzard said. “The library board agreed to place the subscription to Ancestry.com on the computers in the computer lab.

“Unfortunately, moving into the smaller room meant that periodicals from other states and counties had to be discarded, the DAR collection of books, the Pittsburg city directories and some yearbooks were given to other libraries or placed in the cabinets in the reference area of the public library, and then some books were sold at a book sale.”

In Aug. 2016, the volunteer librarians started moving the shelving, file cabinets, furniture and books into the present Genealogy Room. The obituary cards were taken out of the large catalog desk and placed into the microfilm cabinet. According to Buzzard, all the censuses on microfilm were placed on the Kansas libraries website by Library Technician James Swafford.   

According to Buzzard, to become tax exempt according to the state of Kansas, the society had to have the word “historical” in its name.  As of Aug. 2019, the name is now officially Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society of Southeast Kansas.

“For fifty years the Crawford County Genealogical Society has helped family researchers and historians find information about their ancestors, about communities in Crawford County, about the mining industry and the immigrant population which came to southeast Kansas, and other items of interest,” Buzzard said. “The active volunteers wish to thank all the patrons who visited the Genealogy Room or sent inquiries and who gave donations to the genealogy society over the past five decades. 

“The society also gratefully appreciates the support of the Pittsburg Public Library and its staff.”

To learn more or to be part of the Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society of Southeast Kansas people can visit them at the library during their hours of operation 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. People can also visit the Crawford County Genealogical-Historical Society of Southeast Kansas webpage on the library’s website.