A True Kansas Treasure — Joel Condray

March 15, 2023 | Member features · Supporting Kansas

A family story that came to life: Warren Condray — a Kansas native, a son, father and grandfather — was known for his amazing stories and specifically the one told in the book “A True Kansas Treasure”. Warren Cordray was an innovative farmer and rancher in rural Kansas and was one of the first to terrace his fields and grow conservation reserve program grass in north central Kansas. Grandson Joel Condray wanted to find a way to commemorate his grandfather and pay tribute to his legacy and thought what better way than to write a children’s book. If you have not read the book or heard about the story, spoiler alert ahead! 


In 1955, after a big storm, Cordray went out on his horse to check his fields in Ottawa County and found skeleton remains that had been washed up from the rain. With his knowledge in wildlife, he knew these were not just ordinary wildlife remains. Cordray made a few calls to local senators to learn more about what he discovered and before he knew it the University of Kansas was at his door to collect the skeleton remains to do research. After five years of research, they learned that what Warren Cordray discovered were fossil remains of a new specimen that they named Silvisaurus condrayi. 


Silvisaurus condrayi was a remarkable find because it dated back to the late cretaceous period when much of Kansas was under water. Based on the fossil, this dinosaur was a land animal that was three feet tall, 13 feet in length and weighing one ton. You can now find the fossil on display at the KU Natural History Museum along with other fossils found in Kansas.


You might have seen in recent news that there is a land fossil in the process of being named the official State of Kansas land fossil. Grandson Joel Condray, a 6th grade teacher in the Goddard school district, first brought the idea to Senator Elaine Bowers and she was on board. Joel Condray and Senator Bowers wanted to find a way to include his students in the process of creating this bill. Joel had almost 75% of his students interested, and these students met outside of class time to learn about how a bill is created and proper voting procedures to appoint a student speaker. “It has been a really cool experience for them, and they were able to learn life skills and how to act in a professional setting,” said Joel.


Joel, along with his students and other key people recently presented Senate Bill 3 to the Legislature. The bill passed to name Silvisaurus condrayi the state land fossil pending Governor Laura Kelly’s signature. “The students were given credit for making history; without the students being excited and the help of Elaine Bowers it wouldn’t have had the same momentum,” said Joel.


You can find the KAKE news reporting of this bill and clips from the hearing HERE and be sure to check out shop.fromthelandofkansas.com to purchase “A True Kansas Treasure” written by Joel Condray. Joel also released a line of merchandise that can be found HERE


By: Casandra Rodriguez