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

Fort Larned To Benefit From Special Funding
by Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent
     In 1998 Fort Larned NHS will benefit from special funding to correct several problems that have been on the Fort's backlog list for years. The money, totaling $262,400, is from various cyclic maintenance and cultural resources preservation accounts. It comes through a National Park Service effort to correct a backlog of maintenance needs in parks throughout the system.

     The largest project at Fort Larned will be replacement of the heating and air conditioning system in the visitor center. The current system was installed in the 1970s and frequently breaks down. The existing system also has very noisy compressors that can be heard roaring constantly throughout the Fort during hot weather. The new system is expected to be quieter and therefore not as disruptive to the historic scene. It will also be more efficient and should reduce the park's utility bills.

     Another large project will be completion of interior work on the quartermaster storehouse. Historic furnishings are already on order so that restoration of this building can be completed as soon as the offices are done. This will be a major new exhibit at the park and will allow visitors to learn about the Army's extensive quartermaster operations. Virtually all supplies the troops used, except for rations and ammunition, were stored in this building.

     Other projects include the installation of temporary gutters along officers' row to deal with water problems in those buildings, cellar stabilization in both company officers' quarters, window repairs in the north officers' quarters, painting of a number of the historic structures and reroofing of the old commissary. Part of the money will also be spent to reduce the backlog of cataloging of the park's artifact collection.

     Fort Larned also received good news recently in that it is one of the few parks recommended for an operating increase (approximately 10%) in President Clinton's proposed 1999 budget. If approved by Congress, the funds will go toward regular preventive maintenance on the historic buildings and grounds. The 1999 budget also proposes significant increases in the cyclic maintenance funds for the National Park System. This may help the park obtain more money for preservation and maintenance work in the future.

1998 Promises To Be An Exciting Year!
Superintendent's Desk
     The year ahead will be truly exciting for the staff, volunteers and supporters of Fort Larned National Historic Site. Several special events that should be exceptionally entertaining, as well as educational, are currently being planned.

     The first will be the annual meeting of the Fort Larned Old Guard on April 25. This will again be a joint meeting with the Kansas Corral of the Westerners. It promises to be an outstanding program this year.

     Although Wayne Hagerman, chairman of the Fort Larned Old Guard, is still working out the details, I can tell you that the scheduled entertainment is VanAnn Moore, a very popular entertainer from Santa Fe. She will be presenting a new "one-woman musical theater" production titled "Libby Custer: Boots and Saddles, the Life of Elizabeth Custer and Her General." Ms. Moore's accompanist is the noted flamenco guitarist, Raul Gomez.

     Fort Larned's baker will be baking bread in the wood-fired brick bake oven to serve at the dinner. If you haven't seen our oven in operation yet, or tasted our aromatic bread mixed from the original Army recipe, this will be your chance.

     Living-history programs during the afternoon will include cavalry demonstrations, a large Indian camp, and a retreat ceremony. I hope all of you will come and bring a friend! Fort Larned Old Guard and Corral members will have a chance to make reservations for the limited seating before tickets are sold to the general public, so plan ahead and be ready. Your invitation will arrive by letter or in the next issue of OUTPOST.

     On May 1, the Fort will be one of the primary host sites of "Kansas Kids' Fitness Day." Four hundred students from schools across the state will spend the morning participating in history-oriented outdoor physical activities.

     In the afternoon, they will hear a talk on General Custer by Steve Alexander, who presented a program to the Fort Larned Old Guard several years ago. We hope some of the kids will be interested enough in the Fort to coax their parents into bringing them back for another visit.

     The Santa Fe Trail Center, with assistance from Fort Larned NHS, will sponsor the annual Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous September 24-27. For the first time, the Santa Fe Trail will also be a cosponsor of this popular event. The 1997 theme is "Music and Leisure on the Santa Fe Trail."

     Trust me---this is going to be a lot of fun! Events will begin with a chuckwagon dinner and live music of the trail at the Trail Center Thursday evening. The excitement will continue throughout Friday and Saturday.

     A rip-roaring Fandango (audience participation---instruction provided) is being planned at the Fort for Saturday night. The program will end with a trailside church service Sunday morning at Sibley's Camp in the west part of Larned. Better mark this on your calendar now---you won't want to miss it!

     Of course, our other regular special activities are also on the schedule, including Santa Fe Trail Days (our largest living-history event of the year), old-time Independence Day celebration, Memorial Day, candlelight tour, and Christmas open house.

     Give us a call and we will send you a printed schedule, or, if you have access to the World Wide Web, you can view an updated schedule at any time:

     This year promises to be one of the best ever for our special programs at Fort Larned National Historic Site. I hope you will be able to join us for all of them!
Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent

Letters From Fort Larned, Part 4
Historical Perspective
     This is the fourth installment of letters written by John Morrill, a member of the 48th Wisconsin Infantry who arrived at Fort Larned in the fall of 1865. During his stay in Kansas, Morrill wrote regularly to his family in Jackson County, Wisconsin.

     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.

Monday, November 6, 1865
"Dear dear Wife & Children,

     "to day is mail day. I do not know whether it will arrive to day or if it does whether it will bring any mail to me but guess it will.

     "Geo Vincent was here saturday from [Fort] Zarah. he was well said Milt was also well, he said he had written home that I had had the fever & Ague. said that Plug Wason was down there & told him I had & wrote home that such was the case. But it is not so. I have neither fevre nor Ague. I have not been as well as usaul my Stomache got out of order & as usual when any of the men in the company get out of order it takes a long time to get straitened arround but I have not been what any one would call sick as I have been knocking arround all the while & I am getting quite well again. I will wait & see if the Mail brings any letter for me & then I will finish this. "

Tuesday, November 7, 1865

     "Well mail day has come & passed but brought me no mail. there is occasionly a week that I do not get any. they get layd over somewhere. I do not feel verry much disappointed if I do not get a letter. a Soldier must be prepared for anything that comes along as I am always glad to get a letter & if I do I am prepared to meet the disappointment. Next week likely I will get two. We are having quite pleasant weather here again. There is no snow on the ground & the mud has got dried up so it is good getting arround & the weather being pleasant makes it quite nice again.

     "We do not get any news out here as we are so far from sivilization. sometimes there is a [wagon] train goes past for New Mexico but that is nuthing new or do they bring any news. sometimes the Boys go out & shoot a Buffalo but that has seased to be a novelty & they do not go verry often The Boys that are here from that place are well.

     "I shall not write you a verry long letter this time as I have not the material. to day is election day & here we are out in Kansas. I would lik to step in this morning & see how you get along & have a chat but I would not like to return again. if I get hom I do not want the Gov to have any demand on me.

     "How do you all get along? have you not got most tired farming, alone or can you manage all the farm next year. if so & I live I can work out. how do you get along Boys & Olive you must all be good children & help mother & do all you can

     I will commence the next letter earlier & try & see if I cannot write you a longer letter

     "From Your affectionate Husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

Sunday, November 12, 1865
"Dear dear Wife & Children

     "It is 8 Oclock Sabbath morning & I have just got my dishes washed & put away in place. you may want to know what I had for breakfast. well I will tell you. A night or two ago I went up to an old man who keeps an eating house. I knew he had some potatoes. I tried to buy a few of him. he said he would not sell any for if he commenced to sell he would have to let all he had go & he had no more than he wanted for his own use but he would give me a mess or two. so he gave them to me & this morning I had Boild potatoes, good smoked Shoulder, bread, tea & Dough nuts. so you see I had a fine breakfast. you may want to kno where I get my doughnuts. if you could slip in some day on the sly & find me in the dough with my sleevs up you would not ask where they come from. I have my bread all baked from the Bakery & then I have flour, rice, shugar, Molasses, bacon & a plenty to cook & time enough to cook it. get fresh beef in 1 or 2 days. I have just been & got some fresh beef & put on [-?-] to make a soup for dinner.

     "I cannot write much this morning for you see I must get out & [ser ?] arround.

     "my health is good. all the men from that way are well. Tomorrow is mail day from the East agin. Our Colonel & several others are out hunting. went yesterday to be gone 3 days.

     "I shall try to write more this afternoon or evening if I do not have to many callers. Sam went over to the Co to breakfast & stops to inspection & has not yet returned.

     "Well I have been out knocking arround. went up to the Post Office a little distance off & there I saw the celebrated Kit Carson. he is rather below the medium hight thick set naturally of a social turn of mind. I should think appears about 40 or 45 years of age capable I should think of endureing great hardship The mountain & plains is his home. He can talk almost any language that he meets with on his travel. he ranks as Colonel.

     "We have no news here now but as the mail does not go East until the middle or last of the week I am in hopes we may have something of importance to write before it goes. I will wait & see if I cannot pick up something.

     "It is now sunday evening most sun down. I suppose you are flying arround doing chore. I am doing nuthing from morning until night or the same as nuthing.

     "I learned since I wrote this forenoon that Carson is 56. first travailed this way in 1826 the year I was born. if he does not possess a knowledge of this country it would be useless for one to attempt to gain any knowledge, of it. I will wait until the mail comes tomorrow & see what it brings for me. So Good Night..."

Monday, November 13, 1865

     I have not done much to day but have been [-?-] arround apart of the time cooking. washed my shirts & draws. doing a little work in the office. running about choping wood for stove &c so you see how the days are filled up. The weather is verry pleasant now. I got a letter from you to day but did not get the one due last week. was glad you was getting along so finely. . . .

     "you need not worry about my mud house. it is quite pleasant. a good sised room 2 large windows in it making it quite a pleasant place. [In late 1865 the only stone buildings at the Fort were the sutler's store and the blockhouse.] there is no one rooms with me except Sam. he sleep with me & messes with Kimball & a fellow by the name of McConahy so he is not here all the time.

     "we have no particular news to write. I like my situation here better than any other place I have been in since I have been in the service. am subject to no ones order except the Colonel, & I like him in business matters & his treatment to me first rate always social, but as to his principal I cannot vouch.

     "it is harder on the men here than any other post we have been at. they come on gard verry often. have to haul their own wood from 7 -- 15 miles & there are a great many fires to be supplied & then all the buildings were out of repair & they have been verry busy all the time since they have been at the post. But I presume it is just as well for their health.

     "The mail does not go east until the middle of the week & I may find something to fill up the corners before that time. Well children I got all your letters. you will soon get som. you can write better than I can if you keep on improoving. you must keep on trying be good children & when you go to School see how good you can be & how fast you can learn. write again & let me see how fast you can Improove.

     "Do not worry about me. I shall endeavor to take as good care of myselfe as I can. I have got the main sheet written over. perhaps shall have something interesting to fil the headings. if not will fill it.

     "Do you get your letters regular or is there some weks you do not get them. will close for to night. Good night. there is abundance of supplies at the post & of a good quality. I will close as I have got all the corners nearly full. get along as well as you can. do you get your money from Madison. my respects to all from Your Affectionate husband & Father JOHN MORRILL"

Tuesday, November 14, 1865

     "It is now tuesday and I will close my letter. I have regretted many times that I sent my Gloves home last Spring but I can get along without them as I made me a pair of mittens last week. have but little business out of doors.

     "The Gov is bringing large lots of supplies Sugar. they bring by the 100 barrells molasses, bacon, flour. there was a train came in last night loaded with Potatoes onions Dried apple &c. Potaoes Apple &c have to buy do not Issue."

Fort Notes
SPMA Bookstore
     We asked and the Southwest Parks & Monuments Association gave. That is pretty much the story for 1997. With financial help from SPMA in Arizona, new books were added to Fort Larned's research library, furnishings were secured for the post bakery, and cartridge cases were made for our trap-door Springfield rifles.

     This year SPMA provided refreshments for both the candlelight tour and Christmas open house. But that's not all! At our Christmas event a group known as the "New Old Timers" performed historic music, also funded by SPMA.

     Once a year SPMA can discount all sales by 15%. This year we chose December 13, the date of the Christmas open house, for the discount. What was originally intended as a good deed turned out to be our biggest day of the year---with sales exceeding $700.

     Although we have not yet received them, new fixtures have been ordered that will increase the size of our book sales area. This will allow us to stock more titles and other items (such as film) that visitors have requested.

     Both the funding for special projects and our new employee (Rusti Gardner) provided by the Southwest Parks & Monuments Association have added tremendously to the experience and customer service given visitors at Fort Larned NHS. We look forward to another year of working with our friends in Tucson.

School Tours Increase
     Two of our biggest visitor-generators increased this past year. The number of school tours to Fort Larned in 1997 increased about 23% over 1996. The number of students visiting the park rose about 12% from the previous year.

     Overall, total visitation for 1997 was 43,563, down 5.3% from 45,985 in 1996. Like the previous year, however, summer visitation stayed at about the same level, down only .5% from 1996. Since roughly three-quarters of our annual visitation comes in the summer, it is during the off season that we are experiencing a drop.

     According to our visitor registration log, 1997 visitors came from all 50 states and 36 foreign countries, an increase over 1996. The five most frequently represented states were (in order): Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, California and Texas.

VIPs Work For The Fort
     Volunteers contributed 5,060 hours to the overall park mission in Fiscal Year 1997. Volunteers are a major factor in the park's interpretive program. VIPs donated 3,656 hours in presenting living-history programs and 518 hours assisting with the Fort and Pawnee County booth at the Kansas State Fair, school tours, and off-site programs.

     Other areas of high volunteer involvement were 351 hours assisting our maintenance staff in constructing furnishings, and help from Boy Scouts in painting park benches. The Fort Larned Old Guard contributed 332 hours in administrative support with assistance in planning and carrying out special events. Fort Larned Old Guard volunteers helped with special programs to dedicate the bake oven and to thank Senator Bob Dole for his support during his years in the U.S. Senate.

Research Programs Ongoing
     Work progressed during 1997 on several projects related to preserving Fort Larned's history. Quin Evans Architects continued research for the Fort Larned NHS Cultural Landscape Report and Officers' Row Historic Structures Report. Stacy Reaves, seasonal interpretive ranger, started research on her thesis. It will focus on sutler's operations at Fort Larned and other western Kansas posts.

     David Clapsaddle, Larned historian, began researching and writing an article on James Ladd, a clerk in the post sutler's store in 1864 and 1865. Throughout the year, park staff conducted research using the Fort's microfilm records to support interpretive programs and building preservation at the Fort.
Contributed by George Elmore and Tony Cyphers, FLNHS Rangers.

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