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

Fort Larned on symposium schedule
by Steve Linderer,
Superintendent, FLNHS

     The 1995 Santa Fe Trail symposium will be held Thursday, September 21, through Sunday, September 24 in the communities of Larned and Great Bend. The event, sponsored by the Santa Fe Trail, is held every two years in communities along the Trail. The Fort Larned Old Guard is providing support for this year's program.

     Fort Larned will be featured Friday afternoon and evening during the four-day meeting. Special programs will include an art exhibit ("Artists of the American West"), performances by Saxton's Comet Band (an authentic 1860s reenactment band that plays original instruments of the period), and Indian horse-painting demonstrations. There will also be historic surveying demonstrations, living history, a military tattoo, self-guided candle tours and period dancing in the quartermaster storehouse. The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter will be serving dinner at the Fort.

     Other events during the symposium will take place at the Santa Fe Trail Center, Larned, and in Great Bend. The symposium will be one of the largest events ever to be held in this area. Seventeen speakers will give presentations about the Trail. It is an evening that anyone interest in the history of the Santa Fe Trail will not want to miss. Old Guard members will be receiving a symposium registration flyer soon. If you don't receive one, or need additional copies, please call Fort Larned NHS at 316-285-6911. Membership information about the Santa Fe Trail is available from Ruth Peters, SFT Secretary-Treasurer, Santa Fe Trail Center, Route 3, Larned, Kansas 67550.

     On Saturday, April 29, members of the Fort Larned Old Guard, the Kansas Corral of Westerners, and other guests enjoyed a visit with Elizabeth "Libbie" Custer at Fort Larned. The occasion was the Old Guard's annual dinner meeting. Arlene Reynolds, an actress and writer from Seattle, delighted those present with her first-person portrayal of the widow of 7th U.S. Cavalry officer George Armstrong "Autie" Custer. Ms. Reynolds based her performance on material from Mrs. Custer's letters, diaries, notes and books.

Fort Larned notes
Contributed by the FLNHS staff
'Nest' for volunteers
     Park maintenance staff are making good use of special funding received for constructing two trailer pads to be used by park volunteers. The pads, which will be completed shortly, include all of the "hook-ups" needed by travel trailers.

     This facility will be especially useful to us in encouraging volunteers because, although Fort Larned has very limited accommodations for extended occupancy, many long-term park volunteers have their own travel trailers in which they live while working here. This will also free up other limited overnighting space for short-term volunteers during special events.

Children's educational program
     Fort interpretive staff are preparing a hands-on education program for children aged 10 through 12. The. program, to be conducted July 10 through July 14, will emphasize lifestyles and "life skills" of the Plains peoples during the Indian Wars period. Topics to be covered will include barracks life, military cooking, cavalry camp, Plains Indian camp, and post life.

Native American initiative
     Interpretive staff at Fort Larned NHS are attempting to increase the presentation of Plains Indian interpretive programs so visitors may more fully understand this facet of the Fort's history. The Plains Indian lifestyle and causes of conflict with westward expansion are primary themes. Telling this part of the story is essential to fully understanding the military's role in the West.

     To further this effort, we are acquiring more equipment and seeking Indian volunteers. We are purchasing a buffalo hide tipi, a canvas tipi and many accessories---including bows, tipi furnishings, etc. At the same time, we are cultivating relationships with Native American volunteers who could present interpretive programs using the new equipment.

     If all goes as planned, we hope soon to be able to establish small encampments of Plains Indians during major Fort events. Bow-firing will be part of our small arms demonstrations for Fort Larned visitors this summer.

Prairie dogs
     These cute, industrious little diggers have been a continuing source of concern to park management for their potential treat to the Santa Fe Trail ruts in our 40-acre detached site southwest of the Fort. It is thought that, through their mound-building activities and vegetation damage, they could obliterate the ruts.

     Fortunately, Fort Larned is one of several parks chosen to participate in a program studying prairie dogs. This program will develop prairie dog-monitoring methods and vegetation changes. Long-term park level plans include monitoring for soil erosion resulting from devegetation. The additional information gained will enhance making more appropriate management decisions in balancing preservation of cultural resources like the ruts with maintaining prairie dogs.

     Enhancement of the decision-making process becomes more important with the likely listing of our species of prairie dog-the black-tailed-under the Endangered Species Act. Listing may be appropriate because black-tailed prairie dog populations have declined by 98%, and a number of important animal species depend upon prairie dog towns for habitat.

     Fort Larned is one of only seven areas in the National Park System hosting black-tailed prairie dogs. The black-footed ferret (currently listed as endangered and undergoing intensive recovery efforts) is one such animal entirely dependant upon prairie dogs for survival.

     To visit the Santa Fe Trail ruts site, turn south (off of U.S. highway 156) onto the county road just west of the entrance to the Fort. Go 4 miles south to the stop sign, 1 mile west, then 1/2 mile south. The ruts are visible from the viewing platform just east of the road.

Superintendent's Desk
     As most Old Guard members are aware, the National Park Service has been working on plans for a new visitor center for the Fort for the past several years. The first step was revision the park's General Management Plan. This was completed last November. Briefly, the new GMP calls for construction of a visitor center across the Pawnee River, restoration to the historic period of at least part of all nine original buildings around the parade ground, and possible future reconstruction of the cavalry stables, sutler's store and adjutant's office. Most modem intrusions in the historic core of the park would be removed. If you are interest in details, copies of the revised GMP are available at the park office.

     Unfortunately, Senator Bob Dole advised the park last fall that Congress has placed a moratorium on new buildings. As a result, the senator was unable to request construction funds for the visitor center this year. It will probably be years before the Fort Larned visitor center project can be funded through the Park Service's construction program. The west barracks building will have to continue to serve as the visitor center and house park offices for some time to come.

     There is good news, however! Senator Dole was successful in securing appropriations for the park for work on the historic buildings this year. Architects are currently working on plans for rebuilding the missing bake oven in the post bakery. If all goes well, we hope to begin construction in July. With luck, the candlelight tour this fall might pass through a bakery with fresh bread baking in the brick oven. More likely, though, it will be next year before the oven can be used. Other projects that have been funded this year include studying methods of correcting structural problems in several of the buildings, completion of historic furnishings in the east barracks, handicapped accessibility projects, and planning and design for the restoration of the commanding officer's quarters and north officer's quarters.

     Considering the economic climate, Fort Larned has been fortunate that past few years. There is never enough money or manpower to do all that needs done. Nevertheless, we are gradually completing needed maintenance on the historic buildings and improving or opening new furnished rooms. Hardly a day goes by without a visitor remarking that they have noticed major improvements since their visit a few years ago. If you haven't been here for a few years. I hope you will stop by soon and see what's new!
Steve Linderer,
FLNHS Superintendent

Message from the Chairman
     Reflecting back, it's hard to believe that the Fort Larned Old Guard has just completed its seventh annual meeting. The evening presentation, a first-person portrayal of the life and times of Elizabeth "Libbie" Custer entitled "Garrison Life on the Plains" by Arlene Reynolds of Seattle, was both informative and entertaining. The attendance was good, around 100, but I am certain many more would have enjoyed the evening had they made the effort to attend.

     The mission of the Fort Larned Old Guard is to assist Fort Larned National Historic Site in restoring, preserving, developing and interpreting the site's cultural, historical and natural resources for the benefit of the public and posterity.

     Over the past several years, an important role played by the Fort Larned Old Guard has been the encouragement of members of Congress to continue to provide the monies necessary for restoration projects. Primarily due to the efforts of our ally in Washington, Senator Bob Dole, we have indeed been fortunate to receive increased levels of funding the past few years.

     Another special role played by the Fort Larned Old Guard is to develop ways to increase attendance levels at the Fort. I am constantly amazed how few people, particularly those in Kansas, know about the Fort and the area's history.

     While viewing the recent PBS television series, The Way West, I wished there was some way we could have arranged for the producers to use the Fort as a backdrop in some scenes. I am certain that if we could get just one movie or national television production shot at Fort Larned, attendance would increase dramatically.

     I want to extend my personal congratulations to our new board members: Linda McCaffery, John Lee, Bonita Oliva and William Unrau. These four people will all bring some new expertise to the board. We are fortunate that they have agreed to volunteer their time for this important cause. Dave Webb, a board member whom we all appreciate for his work putting together issues of Outpost, was reelected to the board as well. To our outgoing board members--Al Campbell, Bill Chalfant, Leo Oliva and Chuck Smith--I'd like to express my thanks for their years of dedication to the Old Guard.

     I would appreciate hearing ideas from our members on how the Fort Larned Old Guard can more effectively promote and support the Fort.
Steve Coen, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman

Special Orders, No. 32, signed by Captain Henry Asbury, 3rd U.S. Infantry, commanding Fort Larned, March 30, 1867: On and after April 1, 1867, until further orders, calls will be beaten as following:

Reveille Sunrise
Breakfast 6:30 A.M.
Surgeons call 7:00 A.M.
Fatigue call 8:00 A.M.
Guardmounting 8:00 A.M.
Drill 10:00 A.M.
Recall from Drill 11:00 A.M.
Recall from Fatigue 12:00 P.M.
Orderly 12:00 P.M.
Dinner 12:00 P.M.
Fatigue 1:00 P.M.
Drill 2:00 P.M.
Recall from Drill 3:00 P.M.
Recall from Fatigue 5:00 P.M.
Retreat Sundown
Tattoo 8:30 P.M.
Taps 9:00 P.M.

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