Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > Forsyth Library > Kansas Heritage > Lasker
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A group formed in Russia in the 1870's to train Jewish people to farm land in America, Am Olam, was the founder of Lasker in 1884 or 1885, depending on whose story one goes by. This group saw agriculture as a way to get out from the unrest going on in Russia at the time. The colonies they founded stressed a utopian farming movement with a philosophy of "back to the land". Because of their determination, Lasker was moderately successful.
Michael Helprin was the head of the Montefiero Agricultural Aid Society and an avid supporter of the Am Olamites. He wrote later that Lasker was founded in April of 1885 by 17 emigrants, and their land was about 9 square miles. By the spring of 1887, the population had increased to 200 people.
The other story of Lasker's beginnings states that it was started in 1884. Gabriel Davidson and Edward A. Goodwin published an article titled "The Jewish Covered Wagon" in a 1932 issue of "The Jewish Criterion". They said that the colonists who settled here had originally planned to settle at the Montefiore Colony in Pratt County. However, there was no land available, so they got covered wagons and traveled over the plains of southern Kansas to find a new spot for their colony. Davidson and Goodwin claimed that the new colony site was 40 miles from Ford City. That claim and the 1884 date are disputed by others due to what the land and post offices records show. Those records say that Lasker was actually 6 to 10 miles from Ford City, and that the homestead claims were made in 1885 and 1886.
Davidson and Goodwin also claim that Lasker ceased to exist in 1886 because a land company bought large parcels of land for irrigation purposes in the area from the colonists. Again, this is highly unlikely because the land records show that the land was still in the hands of the colonists.
Accounts written by Michael Helpern and the Ford City newspaper show that Lasker was booming in 1886-1887. It also became the home of colonists who had lived at Montefiero, but moved to Lasker in May 1886.
It really isn't known why Lasker died, but the years of 1888-1891 were extreme weather years, and land records show that many claims were sold during those years. These were claims of both the Jews and the Gentiles. By 1891, there were no Jewish landowners in the area of Lasker.
Jewish Colonies in Kansas set up by Agricultural Aid SocietiesBeersheba (Hodgeman) | Gilead (Comanche) | Hebron (Barber) | Lasker (Ford) | Leeser (Finney) | Montefiore (Pratt) | Touro (Kearny)
Douglas, Donald M. "Forgotten Zions: Jewish Agricultural Colonies in Kansas in the 1880's." Kansas History 16 (Summer 1993): 108-119.
Harris, Lloyd David. "Sod Jerusalems: Jewish Agricultural Communities in Frontier Kansas". Masters Thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1984.
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