Local history back in print

A Hillsboro historical treasure is back in print, and no one is happier than the man who wrote and published it 25 years ago.

When Raymond Wiebe released ?Hillsboro, Kansas: The City on the Prairie? on the heels of the city?s 1984 centennial celebration, his supply of 300 hard-cover copies and 770 soft-cover copies were all but sold out within 21?2 years.

The 190-page chronicle of the city?s founding and first 100 years was sponsored by the Hillsboro Centennial Commis?sion and Centennial Publication Committee, but Wiebe produced it with his own funds. He didn?t think he could afford a second printing.

?I?m pleased and humbled that somebody thought it was worth doing,? Wiebe said.

The reprint of the book was completed and 100 soft-cover copies released earlier this month by the Hillsboro Free Press.

?I felt it was the right time to bring it back to life and make it available to those who have interest in Hillsboro?s history,? said publisher Joel Klaassen. ?The book has a wealth of information all because Raymond was very thorough in his research some 25 years ago.?

The original project was the outgrowth of a semester-long sabbatical Wiebe was granted at Wichita State University in 1983.

Wiebe was a member of the administrative faculty at the time, focusing on student enrollment. But he also had collegial ties with the university?s history department.

?Dr. James Kelly, my dean, said you are eligible for another sabbatical leave, and you better get your thinking cap on,? Wiebe said.

He wasn?t sure what project to pursue.

?I listened to some of the people around here and to the Tabor (College) teachers?logically, they might be interested. I didn?t get any vibrations.?

Having a long-time interest in local history, he decided to pursue a history book about his hometown that would pass the rigors of academia as well as satisfy interests of local readers.

?The first thing that piqued my interest was a German bio?graphy of Hillsboro pioneers that I ran across during the migration and wheat centennial (in 1974),? Wiebe said.

He completed his research during the sabbatical and began writing after compiling 18 appendices for the book that range from a list of Hillsboro mayors to a composite list of local businesses from 1880 through 1912.

The resulting book was well-received by the WSU faculty and by local readers.

?The faculty always included it in their report of new publications, which is edited by the vice president,? Wiebe said. ?I really was humbled by the way it was highlighted as a good example of local history.?

Local responses were positive, too.

?They?d ask me if they should buy it,? Wiebe recalled. ?I said it?s arranged a little bit like an encyclopedia. That?s why it has such an extensive index?1,800 names and faces.

?I?d tell them, look at the index for what you?re interested in and read that first, then you?ll get used to the style. It has stories in it, but it also has nuts-and-bolts type of writing, too.?

Of course, there were occasional suggestions from the locals about the contributions of ancestors that Wiebe had failed to include.

?I would say, ?What you?re saying is fine and your angle is fine?and furthermore, why don?t you write your book??? he said with a chuckle.

The reprint contains a few minor corrections, but otherwise it has stood the test of time.

?With the digital age we now live in, it was possible to scan the original book into a format that works with today?s equipment and print much smaller quantities,? Klaassen said about the reprint process.

At $19.95, the reprint actually sells for less than it did when it first came out. Wiebe will be at Thee Bookstore, 105 N. Main, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday to autograph copies of the book.

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