Thursday, October 26, 2023

Rough Beginnings to a Rich Legacy

 By Cindy Regnier

George Washington Carver saw peanuts like an artist would look at paintbrush. He is famous today for being the founder of hundreds of uses for the everyday peanut, not to mention the sweet potato and various other things. Credit his extensive imagination for inventions of things we use every day.

Carver was born as a slave in Missouri during the 1860s. When George was just a baby, he, along with his mother and sister were kidnapped from their owner, Moses Carver, by slave raiders. Moses Carver found George before he could be sold, but George never saw his mother and sister again.

Slavery was abolished soon after George’s rescue, but George stayed with the Carver family who raised him. By his work on their farm and in their garden, he became interested in plants, soils and fertilizer. Around the age of 13 George moved away from the Carver farm to Fort Scott, Kansas. He attended school there and supported himself by doing laundry at a local hotel. He moved several more times as a teenager, then while living in Olathe Kansas, Carver met ex-slaves Ben and Lucy Seymour. He eventually moved to Minneapolis, Kansas, with the Seymours in the summer of 1880 and finished high school. (Minneapolis is very near where I live and Carver has quite a legacy in this area.)

Carver, still hungry for more education, was accepted into Highland Presbyterian College in northeastern Kansas. However, he was rejected when he arrived and officials discovered he was African American. Discouraged, Carver then homesteaded in western Ness County near the town of Beeler. He farmed there for a few years, always learning whatever he could about the local plant life.

Next, he worked railroading and ranching jobs, living in several small southeastern Kansas towns as well as New Mexico for a brief time. Carver sketched plants and animals in all the places he lived, including the Kansas towns of Paola, Olathe, and Spring Hill.

Finally, his dream of higher education was realized when he was accepted into Iowa State College. In 1894 he became the first black person to graduate from that school, where he studied botany and fungal diseases, and later earned a master’s degree in agriculture. In 1896 he was offered a teaching position at Tuskegee Institute, a college for African Americans.

As a botany and agriculture teacher to the children of ex-slaves, Dr. George Washington Carver wanted to improve the lot of “the man farthest down,” the poor, one-horse farmer at the mercy of the market and chained to land exhausted by cotton. Dr. Carver saw the need to implement practical farming methods including foregoing the soil-depleting cotton crops in favor of soil-enhancing, protein-rich crops like soybeans and peanuts.

To achieve this lofty goal, he developed a series of free, simply-written brochures that included information on crops, cultivation techniques, and recipes for nutritious meals. He also urged the farmers to submit samples of their soil and water for analysis and taught them livestock care and food preservation techniques. In 1906, he designed the Jessup Wagon, a demonstration laboratory on wheels, He believed this to be his most significant contribution toward educating farmers.

Dr. Carver’s benevolent approach to science was based on profound faith to which he attributed all his accomplishments. He always believed that the interaction of faith and inquiry were essential to reach success. One of his favorite sayings was: “It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.”

He passed in 1943 leaving behind many inventions that created diversity for farmers and much improvement to the economics of the rural South. His inventions include foods, household products, beverages, medicines, cosmetics, and many other items commonly used today.

Contrary to popular opinion, Dr. Carver did not invent peanut butter, but that’s another blog. Suffice it to say, he improved it to be the sandwich filling and cookie ingredient we all know and love today. What impresses you most about Dr. Carver? His many inventions? His unending quest for knowledge? His benevolent heart? Let me know what you think!

Scribbling in notebooks has been a habit of Cindy Regnier since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She writes stories of historical Kansas, especially the Flint Hills area where she spent much of her childhood. Her experiences with the Flint Hills setting, her natural love for history, farming and animals, along with her interest in genealogical research give her the background and passion to write heart-fluttering historical romance.


  1. Thank you for posting today. I love his belief that faith and science could co-exist.

    1. Me too Connie - and he proved that belief to be absolutely correct

  2. I didn't consider how long it took him to achieve his education. His desire to help poor farmers impressed me. God blessed his heart to serve. Thanks for shanring.

    1. A special kind of man for sure. It was never about him, always those he served

  3. I'm fortunate to live in the Southwest Missouri area where he was born, Diamond, MO. There, you will find The George Washington Carver National Monument, which is a few acres of beautiful setting. The almost one-mile walking trail winds around through the heavy woods, by a large pond, stops at the Carvers' cabin, crosses a winding brook, passes by the Carver Cemetery, and then finishes back at the building that houses George's information, science rooms where children discover his many inventions, a gift shop, lots of guided information, etc. They celebrate many times per year, all geared to the life he led while here as a boy, and hill and hollow events.

  4. Karen - that is so cool to hear about. As I mentioned he has quite a legacy in Minneapolis Ks too. I really hope I can visit your area someday and see these things you mentioned. Thank you for sharing!