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

Thank You - Bob Dole!
     Today, visitors at Fort Larned National Historic Site can tour beautifully restored buildings and interact with living-history volunteers in an authentic 1868 setting.

     Behind the scenes-and not always apparent-are years of research, archeology and restoration. For decades, historians, archeologists, stonemasons, carpenters and other craftsmen have worked hard to produce what is today the best preserved Indian Wars-era fort on the Great Plains.

     Also at work behind the scenes are supporters of the Fort. As a unit of the National Park System, funding for Fort Larned NHS is, of course, tax-supported. Many persons have supported the Fort over the years, but one of the most faithful has been Bob Dole. In 1964, then Representative Dole joined Senator Frank Carlson in introducing the legislation that established Fort Larned National Historic Site-the first national park in Kansas.

Bob Dole & Block House
Thank you, Bob Dole!

     As a senator, Dole worked hard to see that Fort Larned received additional funding for various projects as the need arose. The blockhouse reconstruction in 1988 and the recent bake oven reconstruction are only two of the Fort projects Bob Dole supported in the Senate. In appreciation of Senator Dole's efforts, the Old Guard and Fort Larned NHS are pleased to announce plans for "Bob Dole Appreciation Day." Events held at the Fort on Saturday, April 26, will salute the Senator's contributions and commitment to Fort Larned.

     As of this writing, Senator Pat Roberts has indicated he will be present. Other dignitaries have been invited, including Senator Dole. It is possible he will be able to attend, although his schedule is subject to change. As April 26 approaches, Old Guard members in Kansas will no doubt hear of Senator Dole's plans through the media.

     Included in the afternoon's events are living history events in various buildings around the Fort. A public reception will be held in the commanding officer's quarters. At 4:30 p.m. a B- 1B bomber flyover will begin the ceremonies to dedicate the bake oven.

     Dinner was served in the quartermaster warehouse at 5:45 p.m. After a serenade by mariachi players, we will enjoy a presentation by T. Lindsay Baker, a talented Texas historian/educator/entertainer who is familiar to many Old Guard members. On this visit to Fort Larned, Baker will portray "Frenchie," a buffalo hunter working in the Dodge City area.

Wisconsin Infantryman Writes From Fort Larned, Part 2
Historical Perspective
     John Morrill, a member of the 48th Wisconsin Infantry,was transferred to Fort Larned in the fall of 1865. During his stay in Kansas, Morrill wrote regularly to his family in Jackson County, Wisconsin.

     Four of the infantryman's letters were reproduced in the Winter 1997 "Outpost"; four more appear here. Morrill's correspondence is part of the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. With the exception of added paragraphing, the letters appear as written. Several references to his farm and other home matters have been omitted.

October 9, 1865

     Under the heading "Ordinance Rooms Ft Larnerd Kas" Morrill discussed why he had been off duty. He also mentioned the Kansas weather and spoke to some of his wife's apparent concerns about running the farm in his absence:

"Dear dear Wife & Children

     "I have just received you kind letter dated [-?-] 17 and finished 19 Sept. was verry glad indeed to hear that you were well & Getting along well. I am verry comfortably situated. have good rooms & a good place to sleep. as good as there is about the post. have but little duty to do now & in fact need not do any.

     "The reason is this. one week ago at the time the Col took account of stock here in thes rooms I had a severe cold. felt sore & lame & some feverish. did not try to do much. was arround a portion of the time & a portion of the time lay on my bunk. had hands detailed to do the work & after they got the stores arranged. the Col asked the man (who belongs to the 2nd US is a nice man) to remain with me (until his Regt is relieved which will be in a few days) as I was not well. he has been with me since.

     "the Col has treeted me verry Gentalmanny. come in a day or two ago. had some things on the invoice he wished me to look a little but said he did not want me to tuck them now as he did not think me able. it is the first time since I have been excused from duty & in fact I was excused by no one. simply told the Col that I would get some one to help in my place. he Immediately sent to the co for a detail of 2 men & I laid down.

     "It was that day that I attempted to write to the Children in my last giving a discription of the Buffalo Wolfe & Prarie Dog & nearly failed. the day before I was well & only thought it a Slite cold & in fact I have been knocking arround out of doors all the time & am getting quite well again.

     "Co A are in their quarters. our co are out in their tents waiting for the 2nd US to vacate quarters & for 2 days the wind has blown severely & the way the dust has flown is verry unpleasant for them in their tents. We have a verry nice gentlemanny Surgeon, Dr Armstrong the head Surgeon of the Regt. I was in the other day & had quite a long talk with him. he was well acquainted with Dr Hull. attended school with him. was in the same class. had known him since his wife is now in Milton Wis.

     "Well as we are here & Comfortably situated do no worry. I shall write often if well & if not you will be sure to here. I think it is quite healthy here in cool weather which is near at hand. The vegitation dead & dried up so it would not be worth much for stock & there is not much need for domestick except for the trains & stock about the posts. it is over 100 miles to any thing like Sivalization. There are piles of stores at these posts through on this line. I mean Gov Stores.

     "I do not say this to complain but I am exceeding sorry you sold the heifer. I would rather you should have given the Old cow away as the heifer would have been easy to winter. I did not design to part with those heifers, but I left it with you. you know it will be nesessary to look to your own interest. . . .

     "I beleive I have answered all the questions you asked. get Jennies foot well if you can. I think 100 is little enough for Colonel. I would like a piece of your custurd to eat but must defer the invitation at presant. the Boys from that vicinity who are here are all quite well. Sam has just come in out of the wind & dust to write, he is now here writing.

     "Dear little Ollive You said you had been expecting me home. I could not well come. you want to know when I am coming. Ah that is imposable for me even to predict with any certainty. I would like verry much to see you all. It is bad for mother to have to work out doors when I have not done anything since last Spring & now sit in the house & do most nuthing. Isnt it.

     "Well boys you must see who good you can be & when I come home if I come I will try & bring something to you. you must write to & tell me how you gt along

     "I have but little time or space to write more this time. from your Affectionate husband and Father JOHN MORRILL"

October 10, 1865

     The next day, Morrill wrote his family again, expressing more concern about the operation of their farm:

"Dear Wife & Children

     "The mail did not go east to day as it was talked last evening so I thought I would write you a few lines more. I am quite well to day. it is now near four Oclock PM & I have been looking over & straitening up things most of the day. It is quite windy but the dust does not fly as it did yesterday it rained a little this morning just enough to lay the dust.

     "I am verry sorry that your healp disappointed you that you engaged to cut your hay but so goes the world, & we must make the best of it. . . .

     "well Boys could you not get along first rate another summer alone, say better than you have this. you know it is a long way out here and a great long road to travel to get here where there is neither Cars nor Boats to carry us. so you see it will be quite a job to travel back.

     "You will have to write and tell me how you get along & than I can judge for myselfe in relation to it. You must help mother all you can, [-?-] if you can hire your work done out of doors. do not attempt to do it your selfe.

     "I shall be anxious to hear from you. your letter which I received yesterday was about 19 days on the Road. From your Affectionate husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

October 16, 1865

     In his next letter, Morrill discussed troop movements, Indian relations, military food and the weather:

"Dear dear Wife & Children

     "To day was mail day with us but the mail brought me no mail. Verry much disappointed, but wait Patiently another week. then perhaps I shall get two. I have written to you every mail since I have been here & wrote frequently while on the march. I do not know whether you get them or not.

     "Co H mooved from their tents into the caves yesterday. the 2 US Boys vacated in the morning & our Boys mooved in, the 2nd has gone to Leavensworth to muster out. I guess the Boys will get their boroughs fixed up quite cumfortable. you would smile to see a place like this, but there is a verry larg amount of stores here. more than one would think posable to find at a post of this kind.

     "I hardly know what to write to interest you. my health is good. that will be the one thing to interest you. the health of the men from that vicinity are also good. Have not seen Milt & Geo since we left them at Zara but saw some of their company yesterday. report them well. Sam sleps with me mut messes with the boys in the company.

     "I am in hopes you have succeeded in getting a good lot of hay Cut so that you will have a plenty for winter. you will not probably need to get the horses shod as you will not have occasion to use them much. conciquently, you will not have to grain them verry high. get your threshing done before it gets verry cold if you Can.

     "I understand that the Indian treaty was a success with the exception of one tribe. did not learn their name. if was held about 70 miles from here. you wil probably get the particulars of the affair before I do. we are not situated to get any news.

     [The Treaties of the Little Arkansas were signed August 15, 1865, at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River, in what is now the city of Wichita, Kansas. Comanches, Kiowas, Arapahos and Plains Apaches participated. In the November 25, 1865, issue of The Plains, a Fort Larned newspaper produced by officers from Morrill's outfit, the editor noted one of the military participants in the treaties: "Col. Kit Carson, the famous companion of General Freemont, passed through here on the 12th inst, en route to rejoin his Regt in New Mexico. The Col. appeared to be in good health, and spoke hopefulley of the benefit to be derived, from the late treaty with the hostile Indians, in this vicinity. It will be remembered that Col. Carson was one of the commission appointed, to treat with these tribes. There is no more faithful or valuable officer to the Gov't on the frontier than Kit Carson."]

     "I have not seen an Indian yet they do not come out on the road or at the Military posts. there was one picked up about 5 miles from here the other day & brought in to Head Qrs. prooved that he belonged to a friendly tribe & they let him go. did not see him.

     "there are stationed here besides our 2 companies 3 companies of 17 Illinois cavalry. one co of them is quite small. the other 2 are fair size. the duty of the men now consists of fixing Quarters hauling wood &c. there are 9 details out of our company now which are away with teams. 3 went to [Fort] Lyon [Colorado] when the Regt went. it will take them 24 or 26 days. afterwards there were three more detailed to go to Awberry Crossing [Fort Aubry, a temporary post on the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail, in operation from September 1865 to April 1866] the first post this side of Lyon with rations. & last week they sent 2 men & one corporal to Saline or Riley after coal for the Blacksmith Shop.

     "so you can see there is a variety of business to do. write how much grain you get. Corn Potatoes I would like a good meal of Potatoes. I think I could make a meal on potatoe & meat, but I might want a little warm buiscit & Butter to finish up. I have not seen any good butter in Kansas. the best I have seen Marm Smith made. Chauncey can vouch for the quality of that. I thought it quite possable but we cannot get even that now. but we get along quite well. have verry good bread coffee & sugar Beef & bacon. I make a little 2 Quart pail nearly full of coffee in the morning & that will last through the day. would not make any but the water is poor tasts of alkaly. 16

     "I told you last night it was warm but it rained some last night & the wind blew & to day the wind blows & the weather is decidedly cool. You must provid for your own cumfort through the winter as well as you can. from your affectionate husband & Father JOHN MORRILL

     "I will finish up the letter tomorrow, must write a little to the children to night

     "Well boys I told you when I wrote 2 weeks ago about there were wolvs here. & they are numerous. yesterday morning I was out where the the US Boys had camped. they had all gone but 2 or 3. they were there all ready to go & a wolf came up & they shot him. did not stir out of their tracks. I heard the report of the gun but was looking somewhere else & the man that shot said there I have done shot a wolf & you may have him & I looked arround and sure enough there he lay. he said he has gone dead yet but I went up to him & he was dead so I took him home & took off his skin & stretched it on the door in the back room & there it is yet & I will try & get some more to go with it & if I get more I will tell you, about them.

     "You must be good boys & help & mind mother. see how good care you can take of the thing.

     "Olive I found an old black button the other day when I was out running arround & so I made you a ring. it is not verry good. I will sent it to you, & you can hav it. I wll finish these letters off. to morrow I may think of something else before I close. the weather is quite warm. have had but one cool day one day. last week the wind blew quite cool. I expect we shall see some rough weather between here & Leavensworth sometine between now & April. Good night

     "16 you may worry unless I have abundance of cloths to protect me on a march in almost any weather so do not worry about me. I shall endeaver to render myselfe cumfortable if posable. & you must all provide as well for winter as you an. get some one to get you up wood enough early to last until into January if you an. From you affectionate husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

October 23, 1865
"Dear dear Wife & Children

     "I received 2 letters from you to day. was verry glad indeed to hear from you. was glad you got along well with your work but was sorry you have to labor so hard out of doors. but I am where I cannot help you a present. I feer you will get but little if any hay cut. as the season had got verry late for hay Cutting at the date of your last letter. Chauncey is leaving our neighborhood verry suddenly it appears. You said Van Tromp wanted to hire the Separator, if he has not got do not let him or any one else have it unless they buy it nor no part of it because it will be nearly worthless after it has been rented out a short time. . . .

     "There was no Rubber blanket in the box belonging to me. the blankets belonged to Sam & Sly

     ". . . My health is not first rate. one week ago when I wrote you it was better than it is now but in the middle of the week I appeared to take cold. thought my Stomache was out or order. Took some pills. was not sick but felt sort of weak & not much [sprull ?] have been knocking arround all the time & am getting much better. The men from that vicinity are all well, the camp is about 25 or 30 rods from my Quarters. I have a verry quiet place although I have considerable company. . . .

     "I do not know whether I shall be able to find material enough to fill this big sheet. the weather here for the most part of the time has been verry. ther has been 2 or 3 days or rather rough windy cold weather be one front & then it froze quite hard. made quite thick ice. to night it is cloudy & the wind blows some & threatens rain.

     "I do not go out hunting any. do not get any [chan ?] but they do go out a little distance & get Buffalo a plenty. all the men have been verry busy getting wood & fitting up for cold wather ever since we have been here.

     "there is at this post besides our two companies 3 companies of 17th Illinois Cavalry. Sam has gone out a little to see what news Mr Hilts got to day. Our men who went througt to Lyon with the balance of the Regt to drive teams returned to day.

     "The Stage does not go east until Wednesday or Thurs & I may think of more to write before it goes So good night."

Pawnee Fork Letter

Help Celebrate
     I'm proud to report that the bake oven is operational! I was lucky enough to get to sample some of the first loaves baked. You may get to sample some yourself, if the NPS public health officer approves, when you attend the dedication of the bake oven on Saturday, April 26.

Pawnee Fork Letter

     We're fortunate to have had a prominent Kansas artist, Michael Jilg, create two etchings of scenes from the Fort that will be offered as limited editions. Jilg's work will be on exhibit that Saturday at the public reception area where you may order your copies.

     I'm sure you will be impressed by what you see and will want to take advantage of what we hope will be the first in a series of Fort etchings.

     There is a potential B-1B flyover that afternoon, in addition to appearances from various Kansas dignitaries who have been invited to attend the ceremonies. As of this writing, Senator Pat Roberts has indicated lie plans to attend. Others may participate if possible.

     Plus, you'll have a chance to walk through and relive the Fort's history with the living-history participants.

     You will need to make your reservations for the Old Guard annual meeting as soon as possible. We are holding reservation spaces for Old Guard members until April 16. After that time, tickets will be available to the general public.

     No dinner reservations will be taken after April 21.

     Dinner will be serenaded by roving mariachi players. Our after-dinner entertainment will feature T. Lindsay Baker as "Frenchie," the buffalo hunter.

     With the full slate of activities planned for April 26, it should be a great day to showcase our "Diamond on the Santa Fe Trail."
Wayne H. Hagerman, Fort Larned Old Guard chairperson

Bob Dole Appreciation Day
     The Fort Larned NHS staff is proud to join with the Old Guard to honor Senator Bob Dole for the support he has provided to Fort Larned over the years.

     The Old Guard will recognize Senator Dole's contributions at the dinner meeting and program on April 26. The Senator will also be recognized during the dedication of the bake oven in the afternoon. Without the Senator's support, the bake oven, which greatly adds to the realistic interpretation of life at the Fort, would still be just a long-range plan.

     In 1964 it was then Congressman Bob Dole who joined Senator Frank Carlson in introducing legislation to establish Fort Larned as Kansas' first national park. Senator Dole continued to support the development and restoration of the Fort Larned National Historic Site throughout his term of office. Many of our most significant achievements, including the reconstruction of the blockhouse, can be directly attributed to the Senator's efforts.

     Everyone attending the Old Guard dinner and program that evening is invited to sign a letter of appreciation that will be presented to the Senator.
Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent

Fort Notes
Comet Program A Big Success
     From time to. time the interpretive staff at Fort Larned gives programs on other subjects of interest to the public besides our primary story of the history of the Fort. Astronomy programs have been particularly successful over the years due to the relatively dark skies at the Fort.

     On Friday evening, March 28, the park was open from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to observe comet Hale-Bopp, one of the most spectacular comets in recent history. The night was exceptionally clear as more than 100 people turned out to look at the comet through binoculars and telescopes. Both the comet's bright white dust tail and the spectacular bluish ion tail, formed by ionized carbon monoxide gas, were clearly visible.

     Several people mentioned that they hadn't see the night sky this brilliant since living on a farm years ago before electric lights were so common. The night sky during the Fort's active period in the 1860s and 1870s must have really been beautiful indeed. Other astronomical features that were highlights of the evening included a prominent zodiacal light, Mars, Mercury, the great nebula in Orion, and the constellations of late winter. The next astronomy program at the park is tentatively scheduled for August, during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.

Summer Education Encampment
     This will be the third year for the summer education program at Fort Larned NHS. Plans are to continue the program fairly unchanged from last year.

     Each morning for a week, youth from ages 11 through 13 will relive the life and times of the people on the Plains during the Indian Wars. They will experience life through the eyes of soldiers, post school children and Plains Indians. If you know of any good potential "recruits" for our summer education encampment, please have them call us at 316-285-6911. We will provide information about dates and schedules at that time.

Visitation Up
     The year 1997 has started well for Fort Larned National Historic Site. Visitation is up almost 91% for the first three months of the year. The upward trend began in December 1996, and we hope to see it continue through the year.

     Plan to attend the activities on April 26. Enjoy more living-history programs over the Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend.

SPMA Bookstore
     Sales at the Fort's Southwest Parks and Monuments Association (SPMA) bookstore are up nearly 5%.

     SPMA cooperates with some National Park Service sites in operating bookstores. We have added eleven new titles to our book sales area, including Dave Webb's excellent new activity book, Fort Lamed Adventures. SPMA funds an employee who will begin in April. With the assistance of the SPMA person, the FLNHS staff member who works at the front desk is freed up to attend other duties.

     The Southwest Parks and Monuments Association has also provided funds for furnishings in the Fort bakery, as well as cartridge cases we use to interpret the Springfield 50-70 rifles.

Fort Larned On The Internet
     The Fort has begun a new project in cooperation with the Kansas City, Missouri, school district. As part of the "Trails Project," students in Kansas City will communicate with Fort Larned NHS over the Internet.

     As the kids learn how to use computers and the Internet, we will furnish them with information about Fort Larned and the Santa Fe Trail. We are pleased to participate in the program.

     Information and photographs about Fort Larned is included in several World Wide Web sites. The official National Park Service homepage for Fort Larned can be found by setting your Web browser on

Our E-mail address for inquiries is
Contributed by Steve Linderer, Felix Revello and Tony Cyphers, FLNHS.

Limited-Etchings Available
     As part of the activities on April 26, Kansas artist Michael, Jilg will exhibit two etchings of scenes at Fort Larned. One shows a view from near the blockhouse, looking toward the parade ground. The other includes officers' row as viewed through part of a wagon in the near foreground.

     Jilg, a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at Wichita State University, currently operates a studio in Hays and teaches at Fort Hays State University. He has been honored with several awards, most recently being named the 1997 FHSU President's Distinguished Scholar. In 1991 he received the Kansas Governor's Arts Award.

     Copies of Jilg's delicately-detailed etchings will be on display in the commanding officer's quarters Saturday afternoon.

     An etching is an original print that is printed from a metal plate, almost always copper or zinc. The plate prints on paper because of variety of lines and textures have been eaten into the metal with acid. Before printing, the whole plate is covered with ink. With it is wiped clean, the lines and textures in the plate retain the ink, while the smooth areas of the plate are left clean. The inked plate and a piece of paper are then pressed between the moving rollers of an etching press, which forces the paper into the etching's grooves. When the paper and plate are separated, the ink is left in the paper, reproducing the artist's work.

     A half-size copy of Jilg's view of officers' row is shown at left-however, much of the rich detail was lost in the computer scanning and photocopying necessary to reproduce it in this newsletter.

     Plan on seeing Jilg's beautiful work in person on April 26. Signed and numbered copies will be available for sale at that time. It is hoped these Fort etchings will be the first in a series.

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