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

From Steve Linderer's desk . . . one last time
by Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent, Retired
     After almost 35 years of federal service, more than 14 as superintendent of Fort Larned National Historic Site, my wife Margaret and I decided it was time for me to retire at the end of 2004. The decision didn't come easily because I have really enjoyed my career and my tour of duty here.

     I am fortunate in having been assigned to some great places over the years: Alaska (while in the U.S. Army), Craters of the Moon, New York City, Yellowstone, Hawaii Volcanoes, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania, Friendship Hill and here. Temporary assignments have taken to me dozens more.

     Of all those places I have enjoyed Fort Larned the most, and as a result I have stayed here the longest.

     One of the things I have appreciated the most about Fort Larned is the strong support the park has from the community, especially you folks in the Fort Larned Old Guard. The Fort Larned Old Guard has done much over the years to help preserve, interpret and promote the park. Some of the projects have included fostering political support, the acquisition and restoration of the Rucker Army Ambulance, Bob Dole Appreciation Day, Fort Larned Old Guard'S excellent OUTPOST newsletter and many outstanding programs for Fort Larned Old Guard annual meetings.

     The Old Guard has made some great acquisitions for the park's collections, such as the Springfield rifle, original orders from General Hancock to burn the Indian village on Pawnee Fork, and the original "Bold and Fearless" painting I am especially excited about the acquisition of the Indian village site by the Fort Larned Old Guard and look forward to the day when it can be added to the Fort Larned NHS.

     Many people, as Fort Larned Old Guard members and directors, have worked long and hard for Fort Larned. Space prohibits me from naming everyone individually, but please know that I have really enjoyed working with all of you. Your work over the years has made a real difference in providing support to the park that the National Park Service could not, either due to a lack of funds or because of restrictions on what government agencies may do. You have my congratulations and deeply felt thanks for all that you have done for me and for the park.

     Margaret and I intend to stay in Larned for at least the next year or two. We look forward to continuing to support Fort Larned in any way we can---especially through our membership in the Old Guard. We hope to see you soon and especially at the annual meeting on May 7. Call on us anytime if we can be of service. Keep up the good work!

Pictorial Salute To Steve Linderer

Welcome, Kevin McMurry!
     Fort Larned NHS's new superintendent, Kevin McMurry, will arrive later in February from his position as superintendent of William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is enthusiastic about moving to Fort Larned and relocating in Kansas as his mother lives in the Sunflower State.

     Kevin has an impressively diverse background that includes serving as facility manager and acting superintendent for several park units prior to managing Taft NHS. He brings a wealth of construction and maintenance experience that will serve him and park resources well as we continue restoring the Fort's historic structures. Kevin has built a reputation for being open, honest and straight-talking in his working relationships. He is also very committed to resource preservation and excellence in visitor services. Chief Ranger Felix Revello is serving as acting superintendent until Kevin arrives.

Original rifle is back 'home'
by George Elmore, NPS Ranger
     The Old Guard has purchased a significant 3rd United States Infantry rifle for future display at the Fort. The Model 1866 rifle was used by a 3rd Infantry soldier at Fort Dodge and would have been carried up and down the Santa Fe Trail by that man while on escort duty.

     This weapon type has an interesting history. By the close of the CiviI War it was obvious the era of muzzle-loaders was over. Breech-loading rifles and metallic cartridge ammunition were the new technology, yet the U.S. Army had over a million .58-caliber muskets in storage. In a cost-saving measure, it was decided to convert the muskets into breech-loading rifles rather than purchase new weapons.

     Erskin Allin, Master Armor at the Springfield Arrnory, devised a plan to mill out a portion of the barrel and add breechblock, reduce the caliber from .58 to .50 by inserting and bronzIng a steel tube into the barrel and adding a u-shaped ejector, and finally, to change the hammer to a flat-face cartridge style.

     This weapon, referred to as the Model 1866 rifle, used a powerful .50-caliber bullet. It was quickly put into production at the arsenal where about 25,000 muskets were altered. The converted rifles were issued to U.S. troops serving in the West beginning in 1867. By that spring all the soldiers serving at Fort Larned had the new "Springfields."

     The Model 1866 proved to be a powerful, serviceable and very accurate infantry weapon. While the basic design remained unchanged, in early 1868 it was improved slightly with the Model 1868 rifle. In 1873 a significant change was made, reducing the caliber to .45. At the same time, the arsenal began manufacturing rifles instead of continuing to alter the old Civil War muskets.

     The muskets were not serial numbered, thus Model 1866 rifles also were not marked. However, in order to reduce theft and track individual weapons, it was decided to add a serial number beginning in 1868. In addition, a few company commanders in the West saw the need to mark the older Model 1866 rifles to identify company equipment and reduce theft.

     The Old Guard was able to purchase a unit-marked rifle---one that was actually used by the 3rd U.S. Infantry in Kansas. This very rare weapon is identified Company F, 3rd U.S. Infantry as indicated by the stamped "F 3I." That company was stationed at Fort Dodge for almost the entire time that rifle would have been in use, as by 1869 the older Springfields were replaced with the improved version, the Model 1868. The soldiers stationed at both Forts Larned and Dodge constantly traveled back and forth between the two posts escorting U.S. mail coaches and commerce on the Santa Fe Trail. The Model 1866 rifle acquired by Fort Larned Old Guard was donated to Fort Larned NHS at the Old Guard's annual meeting on May 1, 2004, as part of the Fort's museum collection.

Steve Linderer retirement tribute
by Leo E. Oliva, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman, Retired
     I'll miss Steve Linderer in the superintendent's office at Fort Larned NHS and, at the same time, continue to appreciate all he has done for this park---a place that has held my keen interest for 45 years---and for Nicodemus NHS.

     When most friends retire, I usually give the honored individual a roasting because humor takes away the regret one feels when a good person steps down from a job he has done so well. Also, it seems, to tell the truth sounds too much like an obituary. Risking that, I am opting for the truth. It may sound more like a job recommendation than an obituary.

     We wish Steve and Margaret a long and happy retirement. It was my pleasure to work closely with Superintendent Steve for several years while I was chairman of the Fort Larned Old Guard. Throughout his tenure at Fort Larned NHS, I have admired his leadership, his abilltv to get things done in an efficient manner, his capability to work with all types of people and personalities, his enthusiasm for his job, the fine staff that works with him (not for him and certainly not against him), his honesty and concern for observing the rules, and his support for projects undertaken by the Old Guard. He is the very opposite of the unpopular image of a typical government bureaucrat.

     Steve is an unassuming gentleman who doesn't pretend to be anything he is not. He doesn't make promises he can't keep, and he will do everything in his power to support people and projects to which he is committed.

     When the Old Guard had the opportunity to purchase the Indian village site, Steve gave us encouragement and support. He was also one of the few people who helped clean up the site. There was never a time when he was not willing to help the Old Guard in any way that he could. Being superintendent was not just a job for Steve, it was a responsibility that received his most serious thought and effort. Fort Larned is a better historic site today because of what Steve has done and supported.

     For all these things, I admire him and regret his leaving. He will no longer be superintendent, but he will always be a friend. He has earned his retirement, and my advice to him is "enjoy it." With all good wishes to Steve in retirement, I would add these words, paraphrasing a favorite radio personallty, "be well, do good, and keep in touch."
Thanks, Steve, for a job well done.

Village site report
by Leo E. Oliva, Site Manager
     The Fort Larned Old Guard recently purchased the share of the Indian village site held by The Archaeological Conservancy, and now the property belongs solely to the Old Guard. A special thank-you is extended to the Conservancy for reconizing the significance of this historic site and helping with the initial purchase from Frank and Leota Klingberg.

     Thanks, too, to the Klingbergs for making it possible for the Old Guard to acquire and preserve this significant Indian wars location.

     The cropland adjoining the actual village site has been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and will be planted to grass in another year. The primary project for the irnmediate future is to complete the nomination of the site for inclusion in the national register of historic places and seek desigination as a national monument. Once that is achieved, the Old Guard will be in a position to approach Congress and the National Park Service about transferring the site to the NPS as a detached site of Fort Larned NHS.

     The village site continues to be closed to the public, except on special occasions. Because of liability concerns, everyone visiting the site will be required to sign a waver of responsibility, absolving the Old Guard of liability for any accident a visitor may have at the site.

     Present plans call for public access to the site during the annual Old Guard program on May 7, 2005

Notes From the Chairman
Greetings from Fort Larned
     As you may know, Steve Linderer retired as superintendent of Fort Larned NHS on December 31. We all wish him well as he enjoys a well-deserved break from the daily grind.

     It seems like yesterday when his son Russell was a young boy playing in the commanding officer's quarters at the Fort. Today he is a young man attending Kansas State University. It makes you wonder if time is passing us by too fast. Steve, Margaret and Russell have been dedicated to Fort Larned and a joy to work with. Thank you!

     On behalf of the Fort Larned Old Guard board I want to thank Leo Oliva for serving as chairman the past four years. Leo has given many hours of time and generously supported Fort Larned Old Guard's many efforts.

     Leo has volunteered to be the village site manager. He will be working to get the site developed so that eventually it will be eligible for inclusion in the National Park Service. There is much work yet to do, but Leo is dedicated to seeing the project completed.

     The Fort Larned Old Guard board met in Hesston, Kansas, on March 19 and 20, 2004, for a planning retreat. Steve Coen and Marita Soucie of Wichita guided our group through the exercise. I want to thank Steve, Marita and all of our group for their time and effort to make this a success.

     From this exercise the board is determining Fort Larned Old Guard's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and most importantly---the goals for our organization's future.

     If you have suggestions about what you want Fort Larned Old Guard to be and/or accomplish, please share your ideas with us. We would welcome any feedback that you might have. Send any comments to Fort Larned Old Guard, PO Box 354, Larned Ks 67550, or contact any board member.

     If you have not yet renewed your Fort Larned Old Guard membership for 2005, a blue reminder slip and envelope are enclosed. We appreciate your support and hope that you will continue to help us support Fort Larned.

     I invite all of you to visit the Fort soon and enjoy our diamond on the Santa Fe Trail!
Wayne Hagerman, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman




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