Prairie Talk Series Program Features Story of Matfield Green

Prairie Talk Series Program Features Story of Matfield Green

English pioneer named new hometown for place near his former home in England.

By Frank Buchman

When David Washington Mercer left England in 1858, his journey took him to a place in the Kansas' Flint Hills which he considered the "land of milk and honey."

He was so taken by the countryside, Mercer named his new hometown after a place near his former home in England: Matfield on the Green.

The beginning

"Thus was the beginning of Matfield Green, Kansas," according to Lynn Smith, executive director of Pioneer Bluffs near Matfield Green, which will host another Pioneer Bluffs Ranching Heritage Prairie Talk Series program about the history of the Mercer family this Saturday afternoon, Feb. 1, at 1:30.

DESCENANT: Nancy Griffin is a great-granddaughter of Alfred Mercer who settled in Chase County in the mid-1800s after his brother David W. Mercer formed the town of Matfield Green. Mrs. Griffin and her siblings and her husband, Richard, will present a Prairie Talk program Saturday afternoon, Feb. 1, at Pioneer Bluffs near Matfield Green about the Mercer family's history in the Flint Hills.

"Pioneer Bluffs, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the original homestead of the Rogler Ranch and now a nonprofit organization with a mission to respect the land, preserve history, and engage community," Smith said.

"After serving in the Civil War, forming Matfield Green and becoming its first postmaster, David Mercer operated a general store. He provided funding for his brother Alfred, and  Alfred's wife and their 10 children, to join him in America, and that family homesteaded one day's travel west of Matfield Green," Smith said.

Nancy M. Griffin of Cedar Point, James A. Mercer of Kansas City, Mo., and Marilyn M. Rowley of Valley Center are the great-grandchildren of Alfred Mercer.

"The great-grandchildren along with Nancy's husband, Richard, will lead a discussion on Flint Hills ranching and their rich family history, complete with photos from six generations," Smith said.

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MATFIELD GREEN FOUNDER: David Washington Mercer came from England to the Flint Hills of Kansas in 1858 and formed the town of Matfield Green in southern Chase County, naming it after a place near his former home in England: Matfield on the Green. Soon afterward his brother Alfred brought his family to this country and settled nearby. Great-grandchildren of Alfred Mercer will present a Prairie Talk program Saturday afternoon, Feb. 1, at Pioneer Bluffs near Matfield Green.

"Driving through the open range, I am in awe of the hills and thankful to our ancestors who made this lifestyle possible," said Nancy Griffin. "I do not take it for granted, and we have committed to keep the ranch and homestead a viable working legacy."

"The Mercer family's voyages across the ocean on wooden ships, the Homestead Act of 1861, and a charming green for playing cricket intertwine in the Mercer story of ranching heritage," Smith said.

"They became farmers and ranchers at a time when ranchers grew the feed they needed for cattle and horses. Through the years, the Mercers adapted operations using modern technology and a tradition of conservation," she added.

Evolution to a booming community

"Matfield Green has evolved from a spot on the prairie with a one-room schoolhouse, to a booming railroad community with six grocery stores and a brick school built in 1919, to the charismatic, active community of today," Smith said.

At this Prairie Talk program, open to the public without charge, the family panel will also discuss "how the culture of agriculture has changed, while it holds tight to basic values necessary for the continuance of a rural community," Smith said.

Pioneer Bluffs is located one mile north of Matfield Green, or 15 miles south of Cottonwood Falls on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway K-177.

Information is available from Smith at 620-753-3484, or lynn@pioneerbluffs.org.

The next unique story-program in the Pioneer Bluffs Ranching Heritage Prairie Talk Series  will feature the Moxley family on March 1.

Blogger and free-lance writer Frank Buchman lives in Chase County.

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