Wichita, a city of entrepreneurs, offered an ideal home for Middle Eastern Christians who started arriving in the 1890s. Initially identifying themselves as Syrians, they operated as peddlers across southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. Peddling rapidly gave way to wholesale, grocery, and dry goods companies. Patriarchs such as N. F. Farha and E. G. Stevens established themselves in local business and civic circles. Primarily Eastern Orthodox, the Lebanese established two churches, St. George Orthodox Church and St. Mary Orthodox Christian Church, that became focal points of community life. After World War II, entrepreneurs responded to new opportunities, from real estate to supermarkets to the professions. In recent decades, an additional wave of immigrants from war-torn Lebanon has continued the entrepreneurial tradition.
Author Bio: Jay M. Price is an associate professor of history at Wichita State University. His previous books include Wichita: 1860-1930, El Dorado: Legacy of an Oil Boom, and Wichita's Legacy of Flight. Victoria Foth Sherry served as founding director of the Heartland Orthodox Christian Museum in Topeka from 2001 to 2004. She has developed two touring exhibitions on Orthodox immigration to Kansas, including Nishkur Allah: Arab Christians in the Heartland. Matthew Namee, a descendant of one of Wichita's oldest Lebanese families, is a student at Wichita State University and is pursuing a career in law. Wichita State University students Raymond Crosse and Andrea Schniepp Burgardt provided additional research and support for the book.
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