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

Visitation For 1999
      Travelers from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and 33 foreign countries visited Fort Larned National Historic Site in 1999. Visitation at Fort Larned dropped slightly from 1998, with a decline of 2.2% for the year. A total of 42,572 visitors were served in 1999. As always, the summer months yielded the highest visitation numbers. June was the busiest month with 7,573 visitors recorded.

      According to our guest register, the five most frequently represented states in 1999 were Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and Texas, in that order. More foreign visitors hailed from Germany than from any other country.

      Some 2,800 Kansas school children from 74 schools visited Fort Larned during the spring and fall in 1999. This is a decline of more than 600 students as compared with 1998. The opening of the new Sternberg Museum in Hays most likely attracted a number of area school groups and may account for the lower turnout last year.

      As 1999 drew to a close, a well-attended Christmas open house boosted December's visitation. As always, the new year promises to be a successful one with special events planned throughout 2000 to attract new and returning visitors to Fort Larned.

New Entrance Sign Planned
      Park staff have initiated plans that, if implemented, will lead to a new entrance sign for Fort Larned NHS. Although the sign was appropriately located in the early days of the park when the picnic area was not part of Fort Larned, it is now set back much too far from us Highway 156 to effectively mark the park entrance. This results in visitors occasionally "overshooting" the park entrance, especially now that the legal speed limit is 65 mph. We are also concerned that some travelers who might have visited the Fort continue on, rather than turn around to return.

      Although the obvious purpose of any such sign is to mark the park entrance, there are a number of other valuable functions that a main entrance sign can serve. Our staff sets the following additional goals for our new entrance sign:
* Through its architectural and artistic elements, the sign conveys a visceral understanding of park resources and theme.
*The sign evokes curiosity and interest in a way that stimulates people who would not have otherwise visited us to do so.

      With the assistance of an architect from the Denver Service Center (the National Park Service architectural and engineering center), a number of tentative designs were recently completed. At this point, it appears that the design most likely to be selected will incorporate a Corten steel silhouette of a cavalry soldier and horse standing ahead of a stone and wood entrance sign.

      Corten steel is an architectural steel formulated with a high copper content to weather into an attractive patina. Some of you may have seen such signs near the Dodge City airport.

      As currently planned, the sign will be placed in the roadside picnic area, close to the main entrance; the mounted cavalryman (twice life-size) will be placed between US 156 and the sign. Depending upon funding, we may be able to initiate construction this fiscal year.

      We hope that the striking character of this sign will, when built, encourage more visitation to the most complete Indian Wars-era fort on the Santa Fe Trail.

Roman Nose: 'Bold and fearless'
      No one who saw him forgot him. He was one of the best-known Cheyennes on the Plains-Roman Nose.

      Artist Jerry Thomas featured the warrior (second from left below) in his dramatic painting "Bold and Fearless." Prints of Thomas' painting are among the items being sold as part of FLOG's current fundraising drive. Funds from print sales, along with other contributions, will go toward purchase of the Cheyenne-Sioux village site. Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman Leo Oliva has more about this effort in his column.

Bold and Fearless

      Roman Nose is mentioned in numerous historical accounts. George Bent, in Life of George Bent by George E. Hyde, noted: "Roman Nose was the most famous Cheyenne warrior of his day. . . . As a boy, Roman Nose was called Sautie (the Bat); but when he became a warrior he was given the name Woqini, meaning Hook Nose, which the whites always interpreted as Roman Nose. . . .

      "Contrary to the general opinion, Roman Nose was never a chief, nor was he even the head man of any of the soldier societies. At the time of the great wars in the 1860s he was known as a great warrior to all the Indians of the Plains, and his fame so spread to the whites that they credited him with being leader in all the fights where the Cheyennes were engaged.

      "I knew him very well and found him to be a man of fine character, quiet and self-contained. All the Cheyennes, both men and women, held him in the highest esteem. . . ."

      Isaac Coates was an Army surgeon who witnessed the meeting of troops and Cheyenne and Sioux leaders near the Indians' village in April 1867. After the confrontation, Coates wrote in his journal, "Roman Nose showed his bold and fearless spirit." More of the surgeon's comments are found in On the Plains with Custer and Hancock, by W.J.D. Kennedy:

      "Of all the chiefs, Roman Nose attracted the most attention. He is one of the finest specimens, physically, of his race. He is quite six feet in height, finely formed with large body and muscular limbs. His appearance decidedly military, and on this occasion, particularly so, since he wore the full uniform of a General in the Army. A seven-shooting Spencer carbine hung at the side of his saddle, four large Navy revolvers stuck in his belt and a bow, already strung, with a dozen or more arrows, were grasped in his left hand. Thus armed, and mounted on a fine horse, he was a good representative of the God of War; and his manner showed plainly that he did not much care whether we talked or fought. . . ."

Superintendent Back At Work
      Steve Linderer, superintendent of Fort Larned NHS, was temporarily sidelined from his duties during recent weeks. At Thanksgiving, he was hospitalized after a heart attack and subsequently underwent double bypass surgery. The Old Guard is pleased to announce that he is back on the job, and we offer the FLOG's best wishes for his continued good health. Chief Ranger Felix Revello substituted for the superintendent in this issue, but Steve submitted the following:

      I would like to thank the members of the Fort Larned Old Guard for the beautiful flowers the Fort Larned Old Guard sent while I was hospitalized in Hays over Thanksgiving. I also greatly appreciate the many cards and well wishes I received at the hospital and during my recovery at home. I am pleased to report that I have recovered fully and have been back at work full time since early January. Thanks again for your concern and support, and I look forward to seeing you at the annual meeting in April!
Steve Linderer, FLNHS Superintendent

1999 Volunteer Program Highlights
      The park volunteer program has about 250 volunteers who assist throughout the year, but 1999 saw an increase in hours from 5,275 in 1998 to 5,414 because of one dedicated intern---Mike Seymour.

      Mike worked tirelessly all summer long, seven days a week, ten hours per day. He assisted the ranger staff with numerous projects and helped staff the buildings, enhancing visitors' experiences.

      All the park volunteers continued to provide diverse assistance, from interpretive roles to maintenance work. As in the past, volunteers' main assistance has been in providing quality living history programs during special events. Every event throughout the year averaged over 50 volunteers assisting with it. It would be impossible to provide the high quality interpretive programs for the public without the dedicated commitment of our volunteers.

George Elmore, FLNHS Ranger
      Fund drive continues Best wishes for the new year, the last year of the century and millennium. Special thanks to the staff and volunteers who keep the history of Fort Larned alive. We hope 2000 will be a great year for Fort Larned NHS and the Old Guard. We face challenges and opportunities as we close one era and enter another.

      The Old Guard assumed an enormous task and financial burden when it agreed to purchase the Indian village site on Pawnee Fork. Thanks to the owners, Frank and Leota Klingberg, for their willingness to sell the property, it will be procured. This is an outstanding opportunity to preserve a significant historic landmark associated with Fort Larned. It is also a challenge.

      We knew raising funds for this endeavor would not be easy, but we did not think it would be this difficult. The final payment of $22,500 is due June 11, 2000, and we are far from that goal. We are grateful for the many donations received. The Old Guard commissioned artist Jerry Thomas to create a spectacular painting, "Bold and Fearless," with 1,000 limited-edition, signed, and numbered prints to sell to finance the purchase of the quarter-section of Ness County land. If we sell these prints for $150 (with $50 going to the artist as his commission), the project will be funded. At present, however, 940 of these prints remain unsold.

      We will, of course, borrow the funds necessary to complete the transaction, but eventually the loans will need to be paid too. The board welcomes all suggestions for fund-raising. Special effort will be made at the Old Guard annual meeting on April 29 with an auction of donated items. A successful auction requires two things: good items and bidders to buy them.

      We are seeking quality items, including books, art works, reproduction equipment, and other items related to Indian and military history. We do not want irrelevant "junk" that would otherwise be consigned to the trash collector. The Fort Larned Old Guard board of directors will serve as the screening committee, with Mary Cottom as chair, to accept articles. If you have something to donate or know someone who might donate, please contact any member of the board. The items will be displayed at Fort Larned during the day for examination. Anyone may bid on and purchase them, and the more bidders the better the auction.

      Mark your calendar now and plan to be there April 29. There will be another Indian encampment at the village site, with a program during the afternoon. There will be a catered dinner at Fort Larned in the evening, with entertainment, followed by the auction. Bring your friends and bring your money. We'll have an entertaining and rewarding good time. Successful bidders will take home treasures, and the Old Guard will raise much-needed funds for the village-site project.

      While the land purchase is uppermost in our minds, we must remember that our primary purpose is the promotion of Fort Larned and the many activities that take place there throughout the year. All of us in the Old Guard need to encourage visitation, participate in events, and seek support from all quarters for Fort Larned. It is a national treasure. We are its official friends. Let's do all we can to assure that it remains a spectacular monument which depicts our frontier heritage.
Leo E. Oliva, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman

Southwest Parks and Monuments Association
      Wow, what a year! The annual Christmas open house was another great success. The New Old Timers returned (funded by SPMA) to strum out period music and spread holiday cheer. The Christmas open house is also our fifteen-percent-off day and sales were great, just like the previous year.

      Mike Seymour spent the summer as an Intern here at Fort Larned NHS. In addition to providing living history interpretation to the public, Mike helped with many other projects including: college researchers looking for remains of the stables, filming of the Comanche movie, all the special events, with the curatorial collection, at offsite programs, school tours and numerous other special projects. Mike also brought with him a marvelous collection of historic firearms that he had on display at the Fort during the summer. The money SPMA provided for a stipend was probably one the best bargains that we have ever gotten.

      This year our Fourth of July event had the Black Wolf band playing period music and providing historic dance lessons. SPMA provided funding for that and support for the candlelight tour as well as the Christmas open house special event.

      Many new books and periodicals were added to the library. Furnishings were purchased for the historic buildings, and funds were provided for our SPMA employee Rusti Gardner.

      Overall sales in the bookstore were up 9.4% over 1998. For the year 2000 we plan to add more new titles to the bookstore. If the interior of the quartermaster's warehouse is restored, we will use funds from book sales to help buy furnishings for it.

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