Theodore Korthanke

Photo courtesy of Brown County Historical Society

Theodore Korthanke

Executive Director/Curator

Sharing, caring, and giving these are all words and feelings associated with the holiday season. The discovery of this beautiful gem of one man’s gift to Hiawatha seemed appropriate. Hiawatha remembered as the “City of Beautiful Maples” and the sugar maple is responsible for the brilliant colorful display we celebrate annually, but did you know that one man is largely responsible for this colorful act.

In 1918, Theodore and Emma Korthanke moved from rural Hiawatha into the city. The house located on 2nd and Miami Street in Hiawatha. The house quickly adorned with sugar maples surrounding the house. Theodore took the seeds from his sugar maples and began planting trees in a vacant lot north of the home. As soon as the sugar maples were big enough to transfer Theodore started sharing these beautiful trees with anyone willing to plant, water, and care for these trees.

Local Nurseries became upset that Theodore was giving away the trees, and this resulted in Theodore charging $1.00 for the cost of labor, which required digging up the brilliant sugar maple. Theodore never charged a single penny for the trees. The “granddaddy” of Sugar Maple trees stands at 200 Miami Street in Hiawatha, Kansas.

The generosity and vision of sugar maples surely danced in Theodore’s head many a night, and the result paid out in colorful brilliance that surrounds the town view that is breathtaking to behold. Many years later, in 1973 a memorial honoring Theodore Korthanke for his maple tree vision was erected. The memorial located at 400 block of Oregon Street features a fountain, two benches and most significantly adorned with two maple trees. History can illuminate the facts. As always, there is so much more to this story! Find it! Be sure to stop by and share with me what you discover!


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