History comes alive in a ‘Hipp’ way

Classic War Stories Members of the community gather to read, “Shared Stories of the Civil War.” There will be a second reading next Sunday.

Like a blast from the past, Kansas history was brought to life last Sunday, Feb. 5, as citizens of the Topeka community gathered at the Ritchie House’s Cox Communication Heritage Education Center for the first of the “Shared Stories of the Civil War” performances that will continue on through the month of February.

The free-to-the-public performance consisted of six community volunteers reading from the first installment of the performances, titled “John Brown: Martyr or Madman.” The volunteers were made up of four women and two men.

“I really love Kansas history,” said Ralph Hipp, evening news anchor for Topeka’s Channel 13 News, WIBW.

Although he works every night to deliver Topeka its most current news through the television, Hipp still found time to be the narrator for the performance and will narrate the remaining three shows as well.

Hipp said that the performances are sort of like a play but more like a historic reading.          He said that he is glad that events like this are still happening past Kansas’ 150 year birthday, and is interested in Kansas teens learning more about their state’s rich history and its unique role in the Civil War. Hipp stated that since he had volunteered, he began reading more about the main subject of the first story, John Brown.

“It’s been very helpful,” said Hipp. “I’m always finding more out about the guy.”

The other three performances will be held on the remaining Sunday’s of February at the same time and location, at 1118 S.E. Madison. The remaining performances are titled “The Underground Railroad,” “Guerilla Warfare: Bushwhackers and Jayhawks,” and “Quantrill’s Raid and Order Number 11.”

“The purpose is to familiarize the public of these events that helped shape up Kansas,” said Bill Wagnon, volunteer of the Shawnee County Historical Society and professor of history at Washburn University.

According to Wagnon, “Shared Stories of the Civil War” is a program of the Kansas Humanities Council and the Freedom’s Frontier group. They commissioned a group of specialists to write a series of scripts from documents such as letters, diary entries, and articles around important events in 1850s and ‘60s that happened in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War and the Border War.

Wagnon stated that he feels programs that celebrate Kansas history like this are important to the community because they emphasize the legacy and impact of the historic events.

“They are posed in such a way that people who experience the stories are challenged to see the complexity of the event,” said Wagnon.