Hiawatha’s beautiful maples have a rich history that makes the fall splendor of the town even more intriguing.
Hiawatha has long been known for it’s beautiful maples — first planted so many decades ago by Theodore H. Korthanke. He lived from 1860 to 1941 and was considered one of the founding fathers of Hiawatha — certainly the founding father of the maple trees found nearly on every block.
As the story goes:
“In 1918, T. H. Korthanke and his wife moved to 200 Miami Street in Hiawatha from a farm northeast of Hiawatha. On the corner of their yard was a stately hard maple tree which was admired by all who saw it in its full fall splendor. From that one tree, Mr. Korthanke was inspired to take seeds and plant them on a vacant lot north of his home. As the seedlings took root, he shared them with anyone who would agree to care for them. Mr. Korthanke died in 1941 before the trees reached maturity, but he indeed left Hiawatha with it’s legacy of the ‘City of Beautiful Maples.’”
What Mr. Korthanke envisioned so very long ago — indeed a full century — has blossomed into full fruition, so to speak. These maples draw visitors from near and far to view their glorious colors of gold, orange and red. A walk around Hiawatha this time of year is truly an inspirational experience — a blessing of nature — no matter what your age.
Mr. Korthanke’s very first maple tree still stands — at his former home of 200 Miami Street, which is currently owned by Connie Bent. About a year or more ago, local contractors were replacing sidewalks along that area and made sure to reroute the sidewalk around the “Granddaddy” maple tree.
Looking back through the Hiawatha World archives, a poem about Hiawatha that a Horton woman found in her family memorabilia was shared several years ago. Iva K. Jacobsen of rural Horton, grew up in Hiawatha. Her father, William Berry, was a police officer in town from 1952-1972.
During one of her father’s patrols in autumn of 1961, he came across a visitor from Ralston, Neb. This man later wrote a poem and sent it to her father. The letter was dated Nov. 9, 1961 and the poem itself has a date of Oct. 22, 1961 on the bottom.
Hiawatha’s Maple Trees
“Near the shore of gitchee gumee
Better known as “The Missouri”
In the North-east part of Kansas
Grew a Village on the prairie
Grew a Town called Hiawatha
Where the fathers in their wisdom
Planted, by their homes, the Maple
Planted many, many Maples.
Here in Spring the robins nested —
Built their nests in shady Maples.
And the boys and girls did likewise —
In these Maples they built houses.
Here they played, and here they listened
To the breezes from the prairie —
To the robins, talking, scolding.
Townsfolk called the robins — “chickens”
Called them — “Hiawatha’s chickens” —
(As they strolled beneath the Maples
‘Neath the cool and shady Maples)
Came the glory of October,
Then — the Maples changed their color
Changed their green to red and orange.
(Not just one or two — but thousands)
Till the whole town blazed in glory!
Every shade of red and yellow
Mixed with green — No artist’s paint brush
Could create a scene of beauty —
As did nature — there in Kansas!
In the years, long past the Redmen
Built their camp fires and their wigwams.
Today — Hiawatha’s wigwams
Are named “Redmon”; — also “Redman.”
So the fame of all this beauty
All the blazing streets of color
Reached the ears of other Redmen —
(Gladstone E. and Dorothy Redman)
In the little town of Ralston
West of Omaha, Nebraska.
They, too, heard about the Maples
Heard of Hiawatha’s Maples.
So they drove to Hiawatha
Where they marveled at the beauty —
Of the Maples in full color.
And they called the fathers “blessed”
Citizens of Hiawatha.”
— October 22, 1961