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

Marla Matkin will portray Elizabeth Custer at Fort Larned National Historic Site
     Her husband visited Fort Larned in the spring of 1867. One hundred thirty-four years later, Elizabeth "Libbie" Custer will follow in his footsteps.

     The appearance, on Saturday evening, April 28, will be in the form of a first-person portrayal by Marla Matkin.

     Ms. Matkin, a resident of Hill City, Kansas, is a native Kansan who grew up near Dodge City. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, she is a teacher with a longtime interest in history and theater. She combines those disciplines in her portrayal of Elizabeth Custer through "Libbie's Story." She has made a thorough study of the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer and provides an overview of the Custer story, with glimpses of Mrs. Custer's charming personality and astute knowledge.

     As Elizabeth, she traces the romance and adventure with George Armstrong Custer and the many years after his death when she wrote and lectured about her "Autie." People of all ages will enjoy her informative and entertaining performance.

     Following her presentation, Ms. Matkin will entertain questions and comments from the audience.

Elizabeth Libbie Custer at Fort Larned

     "Libbie" has performed many places, including Little Big Horn National Historic Site, Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Fort Hays State University, Fort Riley, and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.

     Steve Black at Washita Battlefield National Historic Site wrote, "Ms. Matkin's research into the life of Mrs. Custer is first rate. Her performance is insightful, entertaining, poignant, and goes far to explain why we still know the name of George Armstrong Custer today."

     "Libbie's Story" will provide an exciting conclusion to the Old Guard's annual meeting. Don't miss this one!

Documents available for review
Superintendent's Desk
     The annual performance plan and documents providing details about the appropriated budget for Fort Larned National Historic Site for FY 2001 are available for public review as required by the "National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998."

     Highlights of the park's budget, which funds specific goals in the annual performance plan, include:

     $311,000 for resource preservation and management.

     The national historic site's goal is to protect, restore and maintain in good condition the natural and cultural resources of the park.

     The park includes nine historic structures that date to the 1860s as well as the reconstructed blockhouse. Also maintained are numerous secondary structures such as well houses, flagpole, fences, privies and the parade ground and company streets.

     The park also maintains approximately 400 acres of restored prairie, including a tract with ruts still remaining from the Santa Fe Trail and an active prairie dog town. Park museum objects are protected in accordance with professional standards.

     $248,000 to address visitor services.

     Park visitors, neighbors and the general public learn to understand the significance of the national historic site and enjoy a safe visit. The park provides a visitor center open all year.

     Approximately 40,000 people per year visit the park, including a number of school groups. Many visitors take ranger-led tours or a self-guided tour of the fort's buildings and grounds. The park staff, aided by a large group of volunteers, also provides extensive living history programs, especially during the summer season.

     $70,000 for facility operations and maintenance.

     Visitors safely enjoy and are satisfied with the availability, accessibility, diversity and quality of park facilities and recreational opportunities. Public facilities include the visitor center and a picnic area as well as the historic buildings. A detached section of the park includes an observation platform for observing the Santa Fe Trail ruts and prairie dog town.

     The park provides infrastructure support to ensure that the necessary facilities are available for public use and for the preservation of the park's cultural and natural resources. This category will be enhanced by approximately $7,200 the park expects to retain from the entrance fees paid by park visitors.

     $135,000 for park administration.

     The park uses current management practices, systems and technologies to accomplish its mission.

     To meet a variety of legal requirements and to expend available funds and personnel efforts in the most effective way requires a support staff. They ensure that mandates are fulfilled, guidance and direction are provided, and those needs are accurately defined and support requested. Managerial capabilities are increased through initiatives and support from other agencies, organizations and individuals.

     A copy of Fort Larned National Historic Site's complete annual performance plan, prepared in accordance with the "Government Performance and Results Act," is available by writing to Fort Larned National Historic Site, Route 3, Box 69, Larned KS 67550-9321. The plan is also available on the Internet at

     The goals described in the park's annual performance plan are derived from the 2001 National Park Service Strategic Plan, also available on the Internet at
Steve Linderer, Fort Larned National Historic Site Superintendent

Cleanup set for April 22
     Considerable progress was made last fall in cleaning trash from the main channel of Pawnee Fork at the village site. The remainder of the area needs some attention.

     Volunteers are invited to join in another cleanup day on Sunday, April 22, in preparation for the annual meeting and encampment. If the weather permits, workers may come any time between 9 a.m. and sundown to help. If it rains the cleanup will be scheduled later in the spring. Remember there are no facilities at the site, so bring water, food, and whatever else you may need.

Custer exhibit a possibility
     Pat Hall, Fort Larned Old Guard board member, is working on a very rare opportunity that if it should work out could be tremendous special event for For Larned and the Old Guard.

     At the Civil War Battle of Trevilian Station in June 1864, George Custer's personal baggage fell into the hands of the Confederates. Among the items Custer los was his dress uniform, the outfit he probably wore at his wedding with Elizabeth the previous February. Also lost were his belt, gauntlets, sword, and numerous other articles. Amazingly, all these items have been found stashed under a bed in Texas.

     Pat has met the new owner, Sam Kennedy, and the pair is now in discussion about securing the items for a special temporary display at Fort Larned. If arrangements can be made, the articles will be shown this year. This will be a rare opportunity for visitors to see original Custer memorabilia. For Fort Larned, this could be as exciting as the "Sue" dinosaur exhibit has been for Sternburg Museum in Hays.

Join us April 28-and throughout the year
Message from the Chairman
     Thanks to all who have renewed membership in the Old Guard. Your continued support is essential and appreciated.

     Remember the deadline of April 23 for reservations for the annual meeting on April 28. This promises to be a fine program with the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail seminar, Indian encampment at the village site, buffalo hunters' camp, and an evening with Elizabeth Custer. There will be good food, good information, good entertainment, and an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful heritage of Fort Larned National Historic Site, the village site and the Santa Fe Trail. I hope to see you there.

     The Fort Larned Old Guard board of directors will meet at 4 p.m. on April 28 at the Fort. If you have questions or suggestions you would like to see considered, please contact me. There will be a very brief business meeting after the evening dinner and before Elizabeth Custer's program.

     Looking farther, the Old Guard and the Society of Friends of Historic Fort Hays will present an invitation to the Little Big Horn Associates to host their annual meeting in 2003, with programs at both forts and the village site as well as other places in the area associated with Custer.

     There are special activities scheduled at Fort Larned National Historic Site during Santa Fe Trail Days, May 26-28; on July 4; on National Park Service Day, August 25 (free admission day); Labor Day weekend, September 1-3; the annual candlelight tour on October 13; and a Christmas open house on December 8. These programs offer excellent opportunities to enjoy this remarkable historic site.

     It is a pleasure to serve on the board of the Old Guard and work with many talented and energetic people. Special thanks to Superintendent Steve Linderer and the entire staff and volunteers for the extraordinary work they do to make Fort Larned live again. I hope to see you at the Fort April 28, and during the year.
Leo E. Oliva, Fort Larned Old Guard chairman

     Old Guard membership is open to anyone interested in the frontier military history of the United States, the Indian Wars in the trans-Mississippi West, the role of the military in the development of Kansas and the West, Indian white relations on the Plains, and of course Fort Larned National Historic Site.

News from Southwest Parks and Monuments Association
     We are staying on the move at the bookstore getting ready for the 2001 Summer season. Some of the new books we've added include: Robert A. Carter's Buffalo Bill Cody, Mark L. Gardner's Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade, Herman J. Viola's Little Bighorn Remembered, Thomas E. Mails' The Dog Soldiers Society of the Plains, Michael L. Tate's The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West, and in the children's section, S.D. Nelson's Gift Horse.

     Stop and check for these and other new titles during the April 28 Old Guard annual meeting at Fort Larned National Historic Site.

     A new T-shirt has been designed for Fort Larned and is now available in a variety of sizes, from small to XX-large. If a T-shirt is not your cup of tea, patches and pins are also available with the same attractive logo.

     We will use this year's ISA funds (money generated by the sale of books in the store) to print historic forms for use in the quartermaster warehouse exhibit and to purchase items for summer interpretive programs. ISA monies will also fund two interns at Fort Larned National Historic Site this summer. This year we are going "international" with one intern from the Netherlands.

     This year's Cultural Diversity Conference (held in cooperation with Larned State Hospital) was aided by Southwest Parks and Monuments Association funding for a presenter, John Dove. He is an Indian interpreter from LaJunta, Colorado.

     Sad news for Fort Larned, Ranger Gia Lane has accepted a new position with the National Park Service in New Hampshire. Best of luck, Gia. We will miss you. Come say goodbye at the Old Guard annual meeting April 28.
Rusti Gardner

     The Old Guard annual meeting is Saturday, April 28. A schedule is enclosed. Make your reservations now!

New T-shirts and pins

     Pete Bethke, often seen wearing soot in the Fort's blacksmith shop, proudly models the new Fort Larned National Historic Site T-shirt in his hands are a Fort Larned pin and patch. All (with the exception of Pete) are available for sale at the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association bookstore in the Fort's visitor center.

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