Best Preserved Frontier Fort in the West - Fort Larned Old Guard Newsletter

Civilians to be Featured in Candlelight Program
     Julia Hart, white female, age 35, housewife. Susan Filson, black female, age 24, servant. Bridget Welch, white female, age 45, housekeeper. Jesse Bannister, white male, age 28, woodcutter. Millie Bradley, white female, age two months. Matt Campfield, black male, age 22, barber.

     Milton Mudge, white male, age 22, store clerk. Fanny Dwyer, white female, age 28, housewife. Mary Welch, white female, age 16, laundress. Henry Booth, white male, age 32, merchant. Tommy McLaughlin, white male, age 9. Charles Lindsey, white male, age 22, cattle herder. Margaret Ellis, black female, age 28, servant.

     These persons and others were among the civilians counted at Fort Larned in the 1870 U.S. census. Along with the enlisted men and officers who filled its barracks and officers' quarters, the Fort was peopled by civilians: servants, scouts, laborers, laundresses, teamsters, and blacksmiths. And---positioned alongside the busy Santa Fe Trail---Fort Larned was often a stopover point for civilian travelers: merchants, politicians, religious pilgrims, goldseekers, homesteaders, and adventurers.

     It is those folks who will be featured in the 1995 candlelight tour---"Civilians at Fort Larned." Scenes will feature several notable civilians who visited the Fort over the years, including Army scout James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and journalist Henry M. Stanley. Ordinary people who were part of the Fort's history will be portrayed as well.

     Don't miss this chance to glimpse history as it was---where it was. The tours will take place Saturday, October 14. The first tour will begin at 7:30 p.m. Subsequent tours will continue at 15-minute intervals until 10: 15 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 40 minutes.

     Reservations are required. Call the Fort at 316-285-6911 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

     On Saturday evening, you should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time. This will enable tour guides to complete your orientation before you step back into the past. There will be no charge for youth age 16 and under. The usual $2 entry fee will apply to adults on the tour.

     As always, the candlelight tour promises to be one of the highlights of the Fort's annual event calendar.

Oven Construction!
     One of Fort Larned National Historic Site's top priorities for years has been the reconstruction of the missing bake oven in the post bakery.

     This goal has also been shared by the Old Guard since the group was organized in 1988. Finally, after years of setbacks of one kind or another, the project is moving forward.

     Funds were allocated to the bake oven project from restoration money obtained for the park by Senator Bob Dole in the 1995 appropriation. National Park Service historical architects Laura Johnson and Al O'Bright began work on the plans this past summer.

     During a trip to the park to investigate the site, however, an unanticipated problem soon arose. The architects discovered that the consistency of the ground a few feet beneath the oven site resembled cream cheese. Calculations indicated that the ground would not support the weight of the oven. It became necessary to design support piers to provide a solid foundation. Following review of the support pier plans by structural engineers at the Park Service's Denver Service Center, the park awarded a contract for pier installation in August. An Omaha company was the successful bidder and began work on September 14.

     Then a new problem developed. The nine piers---all of which are screwed into the ground with a hydraulic system---hit an impenetrable hard layer at half the design depth of 25 to 30 feet. The pier manufacturer will perform a load test, probably by the time you receive this newsletter, to ensure that the support is adequate. If not, additional equipment will be required to drive the piers deeper.

     If the load test is successful, the park will issue additional contracts for bake oven components in the immediate future. We expect the park mason, Bruce Kozlowski, to begin laying brick by early next year.

     If all goes well, the oven will be operational sometime next summer. Watch for an announcement of the ribbon-cutting ceremony!
Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent

Native American Emphasis
     Although the story of Native Americans is one of the major themes of Fort Larned's history, it has been overlooked in the past because insufficient staff and funding. As we have identified funding sources, we have expended a tremendous effort to recruit more volunteers suitable for portraying Native Americans.

     Funds obtained through the Volunteer in Parks program this fiscal year enabled us to purchase a buffalo hide tipi, weapons (bow, shield, lance) and other necessary items. With the recruitment of volunteers, we now have the necessary components in place for portraying Plains Indians.

     We hope to continue expanding this interpretive message. Visitors show high interest in Plains Indian interpretive programs about tipi etiquette, Plains Indian social customs, spirituality, cooking techniques, and other related topics.

Bravo!
     Those of you who were not able to attend this year's Santa Fe Trail symposium really missed a great opportunity to learn more about the Trail and the important role Fort Larned played protecting travel along the route.

     I was most interested to learn more about a number of the Indian confrontations that occurred in the area of the Fort from Bill Chalfant, one of our former Fort Larned Old Guard board members. I also very much enjoyed the presentation by Joseph Marshall about the Indian view of the westward expansion by the Euro-Americans.

     We all owe a big thank-you to Steve Linderer and his staff for all they did to make this event happen. Personally, I've never seen the Fort look better the number of enactors, group camps, and performances by Saxton's Comet Band were outstanding.

     Thanks also go to Ruth Peters, the staff of the Santa Fe Trail Center, and the folks at Barton County Community College for all their hard work. You all did an excellent job and made us proud!

     As I complete my last year as Chairman, I have begun to reflect on our organization and its future direction. When the Fort Larned Old Guard was formed in 1988, its purpose was to assist Fort Larned in restoring, preserving, developing, and interpreting the site's cultural, historical, and natural resources.

     Specifically, we hoped to augment programming activities at the Fort, raise funds for further restoration, and generally promote the site to the public. Because we have been fortunate enough to attain additional federal support for the Fort over the past few years, our fund-raising role has become less critical. However, in light of Congress' recent discussions about closing a certain number of National Park Service facilities across the country, promotion, in my opinion, has become FLOG's most important task.

     I hope you will do your part in helping us promote Fort Larned. Regardless of whether Congress ever decides to close any sites, it is only logical that higher visitation levels and a broader-based constituency will serve the Fort well over time.
Steve Coen, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman

Fort Notes
by Clarence Wadkins, Ranger, FLNHS
1995 Visitation

     During 1995 the Fort has received visitors from all 50 states, as well as 36 foreign countries.

     Our year-to-date statistics show our attendance has risen from 35,187 in 1994 to 38,029 during the same period in 1995. This is an increase of 8.1%. During the period we also increased our visitor services: tours, ranger programs, and stations manned.

     For the month of August our attendance decreased 15.4% from 7,534 last year, to 6,373. Attendance during September was on the upturn, however.

In the press
Priceless Public Places
Editorial, Wichita Eagle, August 25, 1995:

     ". . . The National Park Service has an annual budget of $972 million, of which users fund about $100 million. The budget falls short of the need; the result is a backlog of maintenance and construction projects that has now reached to more than $4 billion.

     "In recent years, Congress has been in no mood to come up with a big infusion of cash. Now, in fact, some members are talking about closing some parks to make the system more 'cost-efficient.'

     "Certainly, taking a hard look at the National Park System is a good idea. . . . But this country needs more national park space, not less, and it needs to do a much better job of maintaining and improving what it has. . . .

     "There's a bottom line here that is not totally about the bottom line. Yes, the national parks should be run efficiently. Yes, users should pay more. But the parks are priceless public places-for preservation, education and recreation for all Americans. If it costs more money to protect and expand them it's a worthy investment in America's spectacular natural and historical heritage."

Tour Kansas
Columnist Ray Hemman, Hutchinson News, August 21, 1995:
     ". . . I couldn't help but notice what seemed like half the population of Kansas vacationing in Colorado in early August. Colorado is a nice place to visit---once---but I don't think we'll be back soon. Spending $9 to drive up a mountain or $14.25 to look at a waterfall is a little too expensive for my tastes.

     "Truthfully, the most fun we had as a family was at Fort Larned. For $4, we saw living history demonstrations and could tour a marvelously restored Santa Fe Trail fort. Forget Colorado. Tour Kansas."

VIPs play important role
Fort Larned Old Guard member
     Appearances can be deceiving. Summer visitors at Fort Larned thought he was an infantry private in the Company C barracks; she appeared to be an officer's wife.

     In reality, they were George and Zelda Varner from Leroy, a small Kansas community near Fort Scott. George recently retired as the town's postmaster; Zelda once taught fifth and sixth graders, and later managed a day care center. They donated their summer to the National Park Service and Fort Larned NHS.

     From the first of May until just after Labor Day, the Varners were volunteers at Fort Larned. In exchange for a place to park their camper, plus utilities and costumes, the eastern Kansas couple was allowed to spend eight hours a day greeting summer visitors at the Fort. A fair trade? Yes, the Varners reply enthusiastically.

     "We've learned so much about Kansas history," Zelda said one warm August afternoon. In her period costume---complete with long sleeves and a full skirt-she enjoyed the chance to visit in the August breeze outside officers' row. "Every question from a visitor has spurred me to learn more."

     The couple has always been interested in history, she said. After George retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 1994, the Varners, with one of their sons and a grandson, visited Bent's Old Fort, Fort Laramie, and the Little Bighorn National Battlefield. On that tour, they decided to join the Park Service's VIP (Volunteers in Parks) program.

     Each summer, VIP people are placed at various historic sites. Assignments vary. The Varners spent much of their summer at Larned as costumed interpreters, helping make visitors' experiences more meaningful and enjoyable.

     They also worked behind the scenes at the Fort, cataloging artifacts. And they weren't alone.

     Rod and Irene Poppe, another retired couple, spent two months at Fort Larned this summer. They are from Illinois. Like the Varners, the Poppes were interpreters. They also worked with artifacts.

     Stacy Webb, a university student from Tennessee, also participated in the VIP program at the park. She received nine hours of college credit for her work in cataloging artifacts in the Fort's collection.

     These long-term volunteers at Fort Larned were coordinated through the NPS Midwest Regional Office in Omaha. This is the second year Fort Larned has received assistance from full-time summer volunteers.

     Another aspect of Volunteers in Parks has been in place at Fort Larned since the mid 1970s. That program places temporary VIPs---most of them costumed enactors---in the park on weekends and during special events such as the SFT symposium and upcoming candlelight tour.

     Ranger George Elmore, who coordinates VIPs for special events, emphasizes their importance: "VIPs really enhance our living history program. With them," he says, "we're able to open up more interpretive stations. During the summer, that means we can offer visitors living history experiences seven days a week, instead of just on weekends."

     With the small permanent staff at Fort Larned, the Varners could easily see the impact of their four-month stay. "If there weren't volunteers, it would be difficult to staff parks of this size," Zelda pointed out.

     Despite working from May to September with no air conditioning---much of the time wearing heavy wool and cotton costumes---both George and Zelma enjoyed the experience. They plan to work as summer VIPs again, and are looking forward to spending time in another park.

SFT Symposium Draws Participants From 17 States
by Steve Lenderer Superintendent
FLNHS and 1995 SFT symposium coordinator
     The Santa Fe Trail Symposium held at Larned and Great Bend in late September saw people attend from as far away as Pennsylvania, Washington, and California. A total of 406 persons registered from 119 cities and towns in 17 states. Another 75 people, volunteers at Fort Larned NHS, attended the Friday afternoon and evening symposium programs at the fort, bringing the total count of participants to 481.

     Predictably, the state with the highest number of registrations was Kansas with 238. New Mexico was next highest with 57, followed by Missouri with 33, Colorado with 30, Oklahoma with 15, and Texas with 11. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Tennessee each had one person attend.

     Larned was the most-represented city with 33 registrants. Next was Council Grove with 19, Santa Fe with 18, Great Bend with 17, Haviland with 14, and 12 each from Wichita and Independence.

     The symposium is a biennial event sponsored by the Santa Fe Trail. Previous symposia were held in Trinidad, Colorado; Hutchinson; Santa Fe; Arrow Rock, Missouri; and LaJunta, Colorado. The 1997 event will be held in Boise City, Oklahoma, and surrounding towns in Kansas, Texas, and New Mexico. Council Grove and Las Vegas, New Mexico, are the host cities for 1999 and 2001, respectively.

     SFT members are notified of symposia and other Trail events in Wagon Tracks, the Santa Fe Trail quarterly newsletter, edited by former Fort Larned Old Guard board member Leo Oliva.




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