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Kate Warthen Searcy papers

Call Number: RH MS 34


Kate (Warthen) Searcy was an early homesteader in western Kansas, in addition to being a schoolteacher, author, and newspaper editor. This collection includes her family correspondence and some records related to her career, as well as photographs and other personal materials.


  • Creation: 1853-1953 (bulk 1882-1926)


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Kate Warthen Searcy

Sarah Catharine Warthen (Kate) was born May 20, 1866 to I.B. and Martha Custis Bragg Warthen in Morgan County, Indiana. She was the third child and only daughter in a family of five children. Kate grew up in rural Pulaski County, Indiana and attended public schools. In 1881 she attended a coeducational normal institute in Valparaiso. When she was fifteen, in 1882, her family moved to Hays County in central Texas. A year later the Warthens moved to Cherokee County in southeastern Kansas. The family lived there for several years, and her father became the school district clerk in 1886.

During 1885 and 1886, three of the Warthen boys homesteaded in Hamilton County in western Kansas. Kate followed her brothers, filing a claim in February 1887 on a quarter section of land in southeastern Hamilton County. Her parents homesteaded about 30-50 miles away, near Lakin in Kearny County.

Before her marriage in 1894, Kate Warthen was a schoolteacher and writer. She was elected the County Superintendent of Public Instruction in Hamilton County for two terms, 1890-1894. For additional information on Kate's school career see Rosalind Urbach Moss's chapter "Educated and Ambitious Women': Kate Warthen on the Kansas Frontier" in Gender, Ideology, and Action: Historical Perspectives on Women's Public Lives, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Kate wrote short stories, poems, and songs, which were published in newspapers and magazines. She also edited the National Echo, a quarterly newspaper for the children of veterans. Kate studied law under Judge Tapscott in Syracuse, Kansas and passed her bar examinations, also passing the Kansas Supreme Court bar examination in 1894.

Kate Warthen married E.C. Searcy November 27, 1894 in Syracuse, Kansas. The couple moved to Wartrace, Tennessee, Searcy's home. They attempted to publish a newspaper, the Wartrace Tribune, but it failed. Kate continued to write short stories and poems for magazines and newspapers. In 1898 their only child, Lucile, was born.

In 1901 the Searcys moved to Elk City, Oklahoma where they spent the rest of their lives. E.C. Searcy died in September 1945, and Kate Warthen Searcy died February 22, 1953.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 document cases + 3 oversize folders, 3 volumes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Kate W. Searcy Papers have been divided into 8 series: Family History; Correspondence, 1891-1934; Teaching Career, 1884-1902; Writing Career, 1882-1925; Miscellany, 1853-1953; Volumes; Certificates; and Photographs. The bulk of the material in the collection dates from 1882 to 1926.

The majority of the correspondence is composed of letters written by I.B. Warthen to his daughter Kate and granddaughter Lucile. They mainly discuss family matters, as well as the production of his laying hens, the number of coyotes he has trapped, and often relates the prices received for farm products. He also writes of happenings in and around Lakin, such as floods, prairie fires, epidemics, and a sugar beet company that brought in foreign workers as well as keeping Kate informed about family members still residing in Indiana.

Also included in the correspondence series are typescripts of letters to E.C. Searcy from David L. Spotts, historian for the 19th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. The letters discuss General George Armstrong Custer's Washita campaign. The original letters are in the Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Material concerning Kate's teaching career includes letters of recommendation written for Kate, teaching certificates, teaching contracts, invitations to the 1885 and 1886 Cherokee County, Kansas education conventions, and various papers from Kate's tenure as County Superintendent.

Kate's writing career series is composed of a variety of material. Included is an handwritten contract between W.H. Mundy, publisher of the Burlingame Echo, and Warthen for Kate to act as editor of the National Echo from 1890 to 1893. Also included are three issues of the National Echo from 1890. Kate also acted as a correspondent for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and some material relating to this work is included.

While the collection does not contain any diaries, several fragments from Warthen's 1886 diary are included. Some of these include notes added by Kate's daughter, Lucile, and relate Civil War experiences of Kate's father, I.B. Warthen, who served with Company H of the 79th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The rest deal with Kate's everyday life, teaching, and homesteading.

Also included in the collection are articles, poems, and songs written by Kate. Same are in manuscript form, others were retained in printed form. The collection contains copies of various magazines in which Kate's articles appeared.

The miscellany series contains a variety of material about Kate and her family. One folder contains typescripts of letters written by and to Kate's father-in-law, Daniel P. Searcy, who was a circuit preacher in Tennessee. The typescripts were made by Lucile and include explanatory notes. The original letters were sent to the Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mainly they are from girlfriends before he was married and speak in a flowery manner about friendship and the pros and cons of marriage. They also discuss various friends who are also preachers or who are planning to move to Texas.

Another folder contains material about Kate's father, I.B. Warthen. Included are an essay on antelope, a brief account of the capture of a spy near Murfreesboro during the Civil War, and sketches of Warthen's house and property in Kansas.

The folder on Kate's property contains receipts for taxes from the Hamilton County Treasurer, 1891-1895, and the patent for her homestead. Her homestead certificate, dated October 31, 1892, can be found at RH MS Q53, along with a certificate authorizing her to practice law in Kansas; a certificate from the Order of the Eastern Star can be found at RH MS R29.

Also included in the miscellany series are the New Christian Hymn and Tune-Book, which belonged to Kate's grandmother, Martha Custis Bragg Warthen, and one issue of the Acme Haversack of Song and Patriotic Eloquence.

Volumes, including a receipt book and autograph albums, are located at RH MS A41 and RH MS AK10. Photographs of Kate and other family members have been separated from the manuscript collection and are located at RH MS-P 34.

Physical Location

RH MS 34

Physical Location

RH MS-P 34

Physical Location


Physical Location


Physical Location


Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Lucile Searcy, 1955-1982.

Related Materials

Emmett Coldewell Searcy papers, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Guide to the Kate Warthen Searcy Collection
Kate Warthen Searcy papers
Finding aid prepared by ecs, 1980; nb, 1987; kdo, 1988. Finding aid encoded by mg, 2004; jep, 2004; rw, 2008. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Kate Warthen Searcy papers, RH MS 34, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States