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

A Message From Leo E. Oliva, Old Guard Chairman
     This will probably be my last column as chairman of the Old Guard. I will go off the board on May 1, 2004, having served my three terms per bylaws' provision for term limits.

     It has been my pleasure to serve as chairman for six years, during which time the major accomplishment has been the purchase of the Indian village site on Pawnee Fork. I want to extend thanks to Karl Grover and Wayne Hagerman for planning and executing the purchase, and to the landowners, Frank and Leota Klingberg, for agreeing to sell the property to the Old Guard and The Archaeological Conservancy so it may be preserved. Also special thanks to Steve Coen, who now completes his three terms again (he also served three terms earlier, including time as chairman), for all his contributions over many years.

     The candidates for the two vacancies on the board are Betsy Crawford Gore of Larned, Kansas and Dr. Timothy A. Zwink of the Oklahoma State Historical Society.

     Wayne Hagerman, who ably served as chairman before my tenure, has agreed to serve as chairman for the coming year. Linda McCaffery will be the candidate for vice-chairman, and Secretary Bonita Oliva and Treasurer Nancy Marteney have agreed to serve again if elected.

     Unlike politicians, none of these candidates has campaigned for office. In fact, they only agreed to serve if no one else would take the job. My thanks to all the board members with whom I have served over the years, and special thanks to Dave Webb who continues to edit and publish our newsletter, OUTPOST.

     During the past year it was determined that National Park Service policy prevents any employee from serving on the board of a friends' organization because of the possibility of a conflict of interest. As a result, Karl Grover and Roy Hargadine were no longer eligible to serve. Special thanks is extended to both for their time of service. They were replaced on the board by Linda McCaffery and Bonita Oliva.

     During my time on the board, the Old Guard has sponsored some excellent programs at Fort Larned NHS and helped with the restoration of the army ambulance, which was purchased in the first place because of efforts of the Old Guard. Fort Larned Old Guard is currently discussing the future management of Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, which is owned and administered by the Kansas State Historical Society. The state society is looking for someone to help manage this site, and the Old Guard has offered to assist. At this time we are awaiting a proposal from KSHS.

     Over the past year Fort Larned has been featured in True West magazine and was selected by its editors as the best-preserved frontier fort in the West. Wichita artist Hugh Greer won last year's national competition of Art for the Parks with a painting of Fort Larned. The restoration of the Rucker army ambulance was completed, and it is something you have to see.

     Although my term of enlistment as a member of the board will end on May 1, I have volunteered to manage the village site and oversee the application to get it placed on the National Register of Historic Places and seek approval of the site as a National Historic Landmark. Thus I will continue to work closely with the Old Guard board of directors.

     I am pleased to report that the Old Guard application to place the crop land at the village site into the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program and get the cultivated land planted back to grass has been accepted, and the grass will be planted next fall or winter. Special thanks for assistance and being a good neighbor is extended to Harold Shank, who lives and farms next door to the Ness County village site.

     Please plan to attend the Old Guard's annual meeting on May 1 reservation deadline of April 24). There will be no activity at the village site this year, and everything will take place at Fort Larned NHS.

     We would like to have a full house for the speakers and the evening performance by the frontier army band. Cheyenne Chief Lawrence Hart has spoken at Old Guard meetings before, and his knowledge of Cheyenne culture and history is unequaled. Louis Kraft, who gave that dazzling performance as Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop two years ago, will return to talk about Custer and the Cheyennes. The program on buffalo hunting - by Mark Berry, Kirk Shapland, and Clive Siegle - promises to be as informative and realistic as anything you will every see and hear on the subject. We haven't had a band perform for several years and are pleased to be able to bring Fred Schmidt and his fine group from Abilene.

     I am especially pleased to be able to offer this fine program to Fort Larned and hope to see you there. Please invite everyone who may be interested to come and enjoy the presentations.

     If you have not renewed your membership for 2004, please do so now. With your support the Old Guard can continue its various programs to enhance the public appreciation for and programs of Fort Larned NHS. Your membership dues, other contributions, and volunteer assistance for Fort Larned are greatly appreciated.

     As with most historic sites, the Fort has experienced a decrease in visitation in recent months. Visit the Fort every chance you get, and take other people along. There will be many living-history events at Fort Larned during the coming months. Please enjoy as many of them as you can.

     I hope to see you on May 1, 2004. Please continue your active participation in the programs of the Old Guard. Let the outstanding staff and volunteers at the Fort know how much their efforts are appreciated.

     I extend my thanks to all members of the Old Guard, to the fine members of the board of directors with whom I have served, to Superintendent Steve Linderer and the outstanding staff at Fort Larned NHS, and to the many volunteers who continue to make our visits to the Fort a great experience.

     It has been gratifying to serve as your chairman, and I hope to continue working with you as a civilian after May 1.

Old Guard Is Online
     For those Old Guard members who are also web-surfers, please be advised that the Fort Larned Old Guard is online. Member Larry & Carolyn Mix of St. John, Kansas, have put up a nice website for our organizition at: {}

     In addition to general information about Fort Larned Old Guard, Larry has posted articles from past issues of Outpost, a feature on the village site, pertinent links and a calendar that includes details of our May 1 meeting.

     Special thanks to Larry & Carolyn for creating and maintaining this site for the Old Guard.

Fort Larned NHS may benefit in President's 2005 budget
Superintendent's Desk
     As I am sure anyone who follows the news knows, many federal agencies are feeling a severe budget pinch. Fort Larned is no exception, and Fiscal Year 2004 looks to be a very tight year for us.

     Although we have been successful competing for regional maintenance funding for repairing roofs and other maintenance needs this year, our base operating budget has been hit by several across-the-board reductions and other assessments. In addition, operating funds are not keeping up with inflation and annual cost of living salary increases for employees. Even so, we expect to maintain a full schedule of visitor services this year.

     Most national parks expect even tighter budgets in 2005. However, Fort Larned has good news in the President's proposed FY2005 budget, which was recently released to the public. It includes an almost 20 per cent increase in operating funds for the park. If enacted by the Congress, the increase will enable the park staff to significantly increase our ability to accomplish preservation maintenance projects at Fort Larned, Nicodemus National Historic Site (which is administered by Fort Larned NHS) and other also provide preservation assistance to other National Park Service areas. This proposed increase has come as a result of the current administration's commitment to reducing the deferred maintenance backlog in parks.

     There is even more good news for the Fort in the proposed 2005 budget. Two of our line-item construction requests are in the budget, for a total of almost $2 million. These projects include the stabilization of the Old Commissary and the restoration of the North Officer's Quarters. Once these two projects are finished, the restoration of the Fort's historic buildings will be nearly complete. The only major project remaining will be the restoration of the Commanding Officer's Quarters. Of course, we always have ongoing maintenance projects that are necessary to keep the historic buildings in good condition. Our General Management Plan also calls for a new visitor center. The visitor center proposal is currently on hold as we explore other options.

     All things considered, Fort Larned is doing very well, especially considering the current budget environment. I hope Old Guard members will come out to the park often over the next several years to watch these projects take shape.

     When you do come out, please bring friends! Our visitation numbers have been on the decline for several years - a trend we would like to reverse. American taxpayers are making a significant investment in Fort Larned. We would really like to see many more people take advantage of this fantastic historic site!

     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.

Maintenance Corner
     Fort Larned NHS maintenance staff has been busy constructing furnishings for the Quartermaster Warehouse.

     The furnishings will replicate storage closets and bins of the era, which stored excess items such as uniforms, insignias, boots, candles and many other items that would be readily available for issuing to the troops of Fort Larned.

     The furnishings will provide additional interpretation opportunities for Fort Larned living-history staff and will have practical applications for storage, including providing space to store items not appropriate to the historic period. These storage units are designed with retractable wheels that will allow them to be moved when special events are held in the warehouse.

     As part of the park's commitment to "sustainability," most of the construction material is recycled wood from a salvage source.

     Other preservation projects this past year included the completion of tuck-pointing and wall stabilization on the Barracks/Hospital north elevation and painting of the architectural wood features on the South Officer's Quarters and the east elevation on the North Officer's Quarters.

     We have an ambitious list of projects planned for this year: painting, roofing four structures, masonry repairs, tuck-pointing and refurbishing the earthen closet attached to the hospital.
Bill "Chappy" Chapman,
FLNHS Chief of Maintenance

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