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

Fort Larned Old Guard Mess & Muster
April 26, 2014

     Everyone is invited to attend the Old Guard annual Mess & Muster on Saturday , April 26, 2014. The schedule appears below. Please note there is a silent auction throughout the afternoon, closing at 5:30 p m. All receipts will help fund Fort Larned Old Guard's special projects. Reservations are required by April 14, 2014, contact Treasurer Leo Oliva by calling 888-321-7341 (leave a message if you get the answering machine), or email {}.

Mess & Muster Schedule, April 26, 2014
     Silent Auction until 5:30 p.m.: at Quartermaster Storehouse at Fort Larned National Historic Site (see article in this issue).
     1:00 p.m.: Dedication of Sibley Campsite at Second and State Street in Larned, Chairman Rex Abrahams. The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail will serve lemonade and sugar cookies
     2:00-2:45 p.m.: Quartermaster Storehouse at Fort Larned National Historic Site, Leo E. Oliva, "The Santa Fe Trail and the Civil War"
     3:00-3:45 p.m.: Quartermaster Storehouse, Timothy A. Zwink, "Fort Larned and the Civil War"
     4:00-4:45 p.m.: Quartermaster Storehouse, Celeste Dixon, "Stepping into the Breach: State Militia Officers at Fort Larned During the Civil War"
     5:30 p.m.: Retreat Ceremony; closing of silent auction
     6:00 p.m.: Dinner (brisket, pulled pork, oven browned potatoes, baked beans, corn, coleslaw, fruit cobbler, dinner rolls, coffee, and iced tea)
     7:00 p.m.: Fort Larned Old Guard Membership meeting (election of board members and officers); announce results of silent auction, present Bill Chalfant Memorial Award Glenn Pearsall Challenge Grant Donation and remarks by Glenn about his ancestor, Colonel Uri Pearsall, who commanded Fort Larned during the Civil War
     Program p.m.: J. C. Combs, "Music of the Civil War"

     The Glenn and Carol Pearsall $5000 Challenge Grant will end on April 26. The Pearsalls will still match $1 for $1 your donation! Now is the time to help the Old Guard! Double the value of your gift by donating by April 26, 2014! It is Sincerely Appreciated!

Music of the Civil War
     Since J. C. Combs retired from Wichita State University in 2006, where he taught percussion and music literature, he has devoted much of his time developing a program built around the music of the Civil War. This program has been presented many places in the U.S. The Old Guard is pleased to present his program on April 26.

     To make his presentation as meaningful as possible, Combs has gathered a collection of artifacts, including Civil War drums, fifes, over-the-shoulder brass instruments, original sheet music, recruiting posters, personal items that a soldier would carry, and a host of other items. He ties them to the music.

     Combs's presentation includes regimental band music; "camp duty," such as fife and drum calls; songs, both happy and sad, sung by the soldiers; and instrumental music played on fiddles and banjos, etc. He also will provide some surprises, such as the piano music of "Blind Tom" Bethune.

     Combs gives a balance of music from both sides of the conflict. He shows that some of the same songs were altered to fit the ideology of the side that sung them.

     He will perform "camp duty" on a field drum with fife accompaniment to give listeners a sense of camp life. He will also demonstrate the bones and banjo playing style of the period. Combs also will present unusual facts about the origins of the music that are oftentimes overlooked.

     This is a program you do not want to miss.

Fort Larned Old Guard Chair's Column
by Rex Abrahams.
     The Annual Fort Larned Old Guard Mess & Muster is only two months away and I am excited. A full slate of activities is planned. Kicking off the day will be another special donation to the Old Guard! At 1:00 p.m. we will meet in Larned at the corner of Second and State Street, across the street north of the Little Red House, to accept the donation of the Sibley Campsite. Old Guard members Mildon and Ida Yeager and David and Alice Clapsaddle are making this wonderful donation. For those not acquainted with the significance of this site, the Sibley Campsite is a historical landmark mentioned by George C. Sibley in his diary of August 31, 1825. It marks the spot where he and his party of 42 men camped as they conducted the official federal government survey expedition on the "Road to Santa Fe."

     Following this presentation, we will head to Fort Larned for three afternoon programs commemorating the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. Guest speakers will discuss Fort Larned, its officers, and the Santa Fe Trail during the Civil War. There will also be a silent auction throughout the day. Several nice items will be up for bid, with the funds to be used for special projects. The "Mess" portion of Mess & Muster will be provided by Barton County Community College and consist of brisket, pulled pork, oven browned potatoes, baked beans, corn, coleslaw, fruit cobbler, and dinner rolls. From past experience, I can guarantee that their food is outstanding! Reservations to Treasurer Leo Oliva by April 14 are essential for a proper headcount. The fee for all events, including dinner, is only $15 per person.

     The evening program kicks off with a second special donation. Glenn and Carol Pearsall of Johnsburg, New York, will travel west to be our guests and present their $5000 Challenge Grant donation. Glenn's ancestor, Colonel Uri B. Pearsall was Post Commander at Fort Larned from October 1, 1865, to December 6, 1865. Colonel Pearsall was regimental commander of the 48th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry when he served as post commander. Their donation provided the impetus for our efforts to raise funds this past year. We cannot wait to present the results.

     The evening program should be entertaining, educational, and toe-tapping. We are excited to host J. C. Combs, retired Wichita State University Professor of Music, for a special program on Civil War Music. His personal collection of antique musical instruments and knowledge of the music of the war era is something to behold. We know that music influenced loyalties, martial spirit, and national consciousness during the War Between the States. Come and find out how music can inspire and it can heal. Be prepared for a wonderful experience. I cannot wait to hear Professor Combs's presentation!
     See you Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Superintendent's Corner
by Betty Boyko
     (Betty Boyko is currently serving as acting superintendent at Fort Larned National Historic Site. She is superintendent at Fort Scott National Historic Site at Fort Scott, Kansas, and has been for the past seven years.)

     As we begin the new year, it is with cautious optimism that we begin planning for the programs and events to be held this year at Fort Larned National Historic SIte. Just as the cold temperatures and strong winds of winter make us long for the promise of spring, the reprieve from the impacts of sequestration has also provided us with new energy and opportunities.

     Park employees are busily focusing on planning for current and future activities, programs, and events. This is the time of year that parks identify interpretive, educational, maintenance, and administrative needs for the next five years. Staffs develop and submit project statements and funding requests which must compete with similar requests from parks throughout the National Park System. This process, although very labor intensive, provides parks like Fort Larned with the resources needed to present special programs, engage youth, repair deteriorated buildings, and/or develop new or maintain current exhibits.

     Fort Larned has been very successful in competing for these resources and it's with this spirit of new opportunities that we look forward to another promising year of working with our friends and volunteers through regular living-history demonstrations and programs provided by the many volunteers and employees.

     Silent Auction During Annual Mess & Muster A silent auction of donated items will be offered during the annual Mess & Muster at Fort Larned on April 26. The items will be on display in the Quartermaster Storehouse and bids will be accepted until 5:30 p.m. Winners will be announced during the Fort Larned Old Guard business meeting following dinner. The funds raised will all be used to support special projects for Fort Larned National Historic Site. Some of the items are shown here. Please bring your checkbook and take home some fine treasures.

Two Pendleton blankets, each 64 x 80 inches
Iron Horse Trail Santa Fe Trail

Framed photo of Fort Larned National Historic Site

Rick Reeves Print: "Thus Far and No Further"

Jerry Thomas Print: "Bold and Fearless"

Nick Eggenhofer Print: "Wagon Trail at Wagon Mound"

     There will also be a Fort Larned Old Guard cap, set of Santa Fe Trail note cards, miniature Fort Larned cup and saucer, pair of Fort Larned Old Guard cups, copy of "The Regular Army O" sheet music, and several books, including:
     Dave Webb, Fort Larned Adventures, Activity Book
     Marc Simmons, Friday, the Arapaho Boy and Jose's Buffalo Hunt
     Leo E. Oliva, Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail; Fort Larned; Fort Dodge; Fort Hays; Fort Wallace; Fort Atkinson; and Fort Harker.

Hometown Teams
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
     The Kansas Humanities Council has selected the Fort Larned Old Guard to receive a grant! The grant money will enable Fort Larned National Historic Site to be a partner site for the Kansas tour of the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition, Hometown Teams. The traveling exhibition tour takes place from January through September 2015. Fort Larned's satellite exhibit will be in place the months of May and June of that year.

     The Old Guard submitted a grant application in December offering primary sources that show hunting was a competitive sport at Fort Larned, especially among the elite officers. The grant narrative offered a timeline of hunting in the area, beginning with the indigenous tribes and ending with the state promotion of the sport of hunting. We also included information about women hunting during Fort Larned's active years.

     This statewide initiative calls for partner sites to work alongside the six sites hosting the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition to tell the story of how sports build and unite communities in Kansas. The host site for our area will be the Kiowa County Historical Museum in Greensburg, about 50 miles south of Larned.

     As a Hometown Teams partner site we will receive approximately $1,500 to tell our story, The Evolution of Hunting: From Survival to Marketing to Sport at Fort Larned. In connection with the stationary exhibit we are planning to include one or more traveling banners for area libraries and other public places. Fort Larned will host an open house featuring a guest speaker from Fort Hays State University. A weekly article will appear in area papers and there will be a ranger interpretive program.

Hunting picture in Harper's Weekly, January 5, 1889
sketched by R. T. Zogbaum.
     As a partner we will receive training with Smithsonian Institution staff and statewide publicity and promotion of their Hometown Teams project from KHC, including listing in a statewide brochure. For more information about the Hometown Teams exhibit at Fort Larned in 2015, call Ellen Jones at 620-285-6911.

Fort Larned Roll Call: Pete Bethke
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
     It's no secret. During Fort Larned's busiest months Ranger Pete Bethke is the most popular person around. His popularity isn't due to wearing a badge--it's because of his experience and honed skills as the fort's blacksmith. He also happens to be a very nice guy and a valuable interpreter to the Fort's interpretive programs!

     When Pete started attending Mountain Men reenactments 30 years ago he dabbled in blacksmithing as a hobby. Over the years he has become highly skilled as a blacksmith and the hobby has led to paid positions. He worked at Boothill Museum for a couple of years and then worked at a horse-shoeing school near Dodge City. For the past eight years he has been the Blacksmith at Fort Larned. Although he is a seasonal park ranger, you will most likely see him in a leather apron working in the blacksmith shop at one of two forges.

Pete Bethke
     Pete has a full time job as a scheduler for Central Nursing at the state hospital in Larned. When Memorial Day Weekend comes around he begins his busy season of working two jobs. Pete's fond of saying that being a blacksmith doesn't seem like work to him. Instead he enjoys an activity that lets him de-stress from all of life's daily worries. The multidimensional trade of creating useful metal items that look antique is challenging. For example, one of his favorite past projects was the making of hinges for the counter tops in the Commissary and Issuing Room. Notice how ornate the hinges are in the Issuing Room next time you visit.

     Pete engages audiences with his demonstrations on making S-hooks and chain links. He will give many visitors a chain link telling them to visit again and he'll add another link. The children especially get excited when they see an array of sparks in the air as Pete hammers out the red hot metal. In fact, the Fort's gift shop sells postcards with Pete pictured doing that very thing!

     Pete is married to Linda and they have two college educated daughters. It just so happens that the college curriculum the girls chose was Biology. It seems Biology runs in the family. Linda isn't the only one of the parenting duo who has a degree in Biology--Pete's degree is in Biology too! Pete, we are so grateful you put down the petri dish and flask to pick up a hammer and iron stake!

     Be sure to find Pete the Blacksmith interpreting this very interesting heritage craft during the Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26, 2014 at Fort Larned National Historic Site. For more information about the Fort's special events, call 620-285-6911.

Volunteer Roll Call: Jan Elder
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
     Fort Larned can now boast having a Master Gardener in the volunteer ranks! Jan Elder, a Baldwin City resident, volunteered for the first time at the Fort over Memorial day weekend in 2013. Her knowledge and passion of gardening was evident from the start. Although she has several passions in her life there might be just one other that can compete with gardening--19th-century living history. Combine the two and suffice it to say, Fort Larned is going to have a magnificent garden this year with Jan's input! Jan is fond of saying she was born in the wrong century!

     Not quite two years ago Jan visited Fort Scott National Historic Site hoping to find information to add to enhance her genealogy work. Instead she was confronted with the idea of becoming an interpreter of living history. The more the idea took root, the more anticipation she felt while putting together her historic-style clothing. She loves sewing too! It didn't take long for her journey into the 19th-century lifestyle as a volunteer to consume her time! This year she has sewn an additional dress, made a corset, two pair of drawers, a chemise, and countless hats. She has assisted with preparations for a kid's Spring Break program by sewing vests for the boys and aprons for the girls. She feels very strongly about creating an aura and space that transports people back in time.

Ellen Jones and Jan Elder in the Post Garden
     Jan is originally from Ipswich, England, moving to the states in the mid-1960s. She married a serviceman and together they raised two children on a 160-acre farm outside Baldwin. While raising her family she also raised and cared for horses. That experience came in handy for another job she loves, being an equestrian program volunteer. Two days a week Jan teaches horsemanship skills to people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and/or emotional challenges at a place called Midnight Farms.

     Where does Jan find the time for all this? Three years ago Jan retired from Kansas University, ending 34 years of a very fulfilling career. She is a veteran administrator of the Undergraduate Biology Program where she wore many hats. We are fortunate that her energy and competence she demonstrated for 30+ years at KU has been brought to our Volunteer-in-Parks program at Fort Scott and Fort Larned.

Jan Elder and student at the Fort
     One of Jan's most recent day trips was to Kansas State University. The librarians knew she was coming and what her mission was: 19th-century vegetable varieties! Because of Jan's knack for research, this year's Fort Larned garden will not only be growing heritage vegetable plants but the vegetables will be of the variety grown in the 1860s and 1870s. Here is a typical message Jan sends to us on any given day:

     "Found a delightful gardening book at the KU Library--dated 1871--fertilizer recommended includes lots of horse manure (readily available) and 'left-overs' from a soap factory (sounds yucky especially the fat component!)."

     Be sure to stop and see the garden this summer and see the "fruits" from Jan's research. Although she lives four hours away, she plans to make several visits throughout the growing season and to attend our special events! For more information on the Fort Larned Gardens and the Volunteer-in-Parks program, call 620-285-6911.

Rosetta Graff
Fort Larned Old Guard Roll Call: Rosetta Graff
     (Rosetta Graff, Kinsley, is a longtime supporter of Fort Larned National Historic Site and longtime member of the Old Guard. She shares her interests:)

     I like history, have been a member of the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail for many years, and have served as vice-president of the chapter for several years. I am also a member of the Fort Larned Old Guard, Santa Fe Trail, and the Smoky Hill Trail Association.

     I am married to Galen Graff, and we have two grown children. I have been librarian at the Kinsley Public Library for 43 years, and I have researched the genealogy and local history of Edwards County. I have served on the board of the Edwards County Historical Society as secretary for several years. I like to read, travel, and listen to people tell their stories.

Post Commanders: Verling Kersey Hart
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
     (This is seventeenth in a series on the commanding officers of Fort Larned.)
     In October 1870 Captain Verling Kersey Hart took command of Fort Larned from Captain Dangerfield Parker. Captain Hart was an Indiana man who, like so many of the Indian Wars era Army officers, began his career during the Civil War. He started out as a captain in the 19th Indiana Infantry and received a brevet promotion to major for gallantry and meritorious service during the Battle of Chickamauga. He later received a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel for gallantry and meritorious service throughout the war. He also spent 14 months as a Confederate prisoner of war in Columbia, South Carolina.

     In 1866 Captain Hart was transferred to the 21st U.S. Infantry and then to the 3rd U.S. Infantry in 1869. He married Juliet Watson Taylor on August 14, 1867, at Christ Church in Detroit. The Episcopal Bishop of Michigan performed the ceremony and William G. Lovett gave the bride away. The Harts had three children, two sons and a daughter, all of whom were born at frontier posts with Army doctors in attendance at each birth.

Verling Kersey Hart
     Captain Hart arrived at Fort Larned as the commander of Co. B, Third Infantry, sent to replace Co. K, which had been transferred to Fort Leavenworth. Captain Hart and his men had come from Fort Supply in Indian Territory and joined Co. C, which was still stationed at Fort Larned. A few days after Captain Hart assumed command Lieutenant Frank Baldwin returned with 50 new recruits to join the fort garrison, who were divided between the two companies. At this time the Army did not have recruitment centers or basic training facilities, so officers often had to go out and recruit the new soldiers who replaced the ones who left after their enlistments ended, deserted, or died in the line of duty.

     By the time Captain Hart assumed command in the fall of 1871, Fort Larned was in a transitional period. The Indian threat had been greatly reduced in this area of Kansas and the Indian Agency previously set up at the fort had been moved south to Indian Territory in 1868. Even traffic on the Santa Fe Trail had slowed down since the Kansas Pacific Railway 50 miles to the north had taken the commercial traffic that used to travel that route to Santa Fe. Most of the wagon trains coming to or passing Fort Larned carried military freight. There were not yet many settlers in the Arkansas River valley, so the post activities at Fort Larned during the fall and winter of 1870 to 1871 were limited to the daily mundane tasks of garrison duty, punctuated by a few exciting events.

     The normally dry oxbow filled with water when the Pawnee River overflowed its banks, threatening to carry the post latrine downriver, while actually submerging the old post cemetery. Once the waters receded, the post quartermaster officer, Lieutenant Charles E. Campbell, requested permission to move the bodies from the first post cemetery on the oxbow to the new one about an eighth of a mile northwest of the fort. He also requested permission to enclose it since the lack of a fence meant that the graves were trampled by cattle, buffalo, and other wild animals.

     The ordnance officer at the fort apparently wanted to make sure that all the soldiers at the fort were carrying the same small arms because he requested any soldier with 1865 and 1866 model Springfield rifles turn them in to get a newer 1868 model.

     The post surgeon, James Laing, was kept busy in November with the victim of an accidental gunshot wound. His unfortunate patient was Sergeant David Gordon from Co. M, 7th U.S. Cavalry. The incident occurred when Sergeant Gordon and some of his men were escorting the paymaster, Major Deaver, from Fort Hays to Fort Larned. Sergeant Gordon accidentally shot himself in the knee after telling his men how dangerous it was to carry a loaded rifle in a wheeled vehicle. Although his wound initially seemed to be healing well, it eventually became infected. Dr. Laing did all he could for him, even calling in his fellow surgeon from Fort Dodge to assist with amputating Gordon's lower leg when it was obvious it couldn't be saved. In spite of the doctors' efforts, though, Sergeant Gordon died 50 hours after the operation.

     Dr. Laing was also preoccupied with a fatal case of diarrhea brought on by a heavy bout of drinking what the doctor called "the stuff sold as whiskey." Many men went on drinking sprees whenever they were paid, and since the paydays only occurred every two months these men apparently wanted to make up for lost time. Binge drinking caused quite a few alcohol-related injuries and illness around payday. Dr. Laing thought that paying the men every month might help cut down on these problems since the men would have less money coming to them at one time, and also less time to wait for the money with which to buy alcohol.

     December brought subzero temperatures that caused several cases of frostbite among some of the men whose job it was to be out in the cold for long periods of time, such as mail couriers and those on guard duty. Dr. Laing put out placards to warn these men of the hazards of prolonged exposure to the cold weather. Though bad news for anybody who had to be outside, the extremely cold temperatures did ensure a good supply of ice. The men were able to gather so much ice, in fact, that it filled the existing icehouse and plans were made to build another one.

     On December 10, 1870, Henry Booth was appointed post trader at Fort Larned. Also in December, Sergeant John R. Leary took a detail of men to Walnut Creek to build a shelter for the mail couriers who camped there on their trips between Pawnee Fork and Hays.

     By January 1871 Larned's commissary officer had to ask the commander at Fort Hays about supplies for Pawnee Fork. That's because the commissary shelves at Fort Larned were getting bare and if the post didn't get supplies soon the men might go hungry. Captain Hart was also anxious to get the lumber from Fort Hays for the construction of the new ice house.

     In January Captain Hart was transferred to the Seventh Cavalry and went to Fort Harker in February to join his new unit. Captain James A. Snyder, who had previously commanded the fort, took over as the post commander. Captain Hart would eventually be promoted to a major of cavalry in December 1875. He died on February 17, 1883. His cause of death was initially listed as "intemperance," or consuming too much alcohol, but was later determined to be inflammation of the stomach.

     The period of time that Captain Hart commanded Fort Larned was one of inactivity and boredom for the post garrison due to the fort's changing role. With the Indian threat greatly diminished, and traffic shutting down on the Santa Fe Trail, there wasn't much for the soldiers stationed at Fort Larned to do. Although it might not have been immediately apparent to the commanders and men at the post, it seems that Fort Larned's days as an active military post were numbered.

New Information Kiosk
Maintenance News
by William Chapman, Facility Manager
From Facilities Manager William Chapman
     The new information kiosk in the new parking lot entrance to Fort Larned National Historic Site, via the new bridge, is nearing completion. This little structure has been an interesting story in its own right. In September 2013 a student in the National Park Service Preservation Ability Skills Training (PAST) Program for Pea Ridge National Battlefield, was at Fort Larned for a hands-on workshop dealing with post and beam structures. This workshop provided him with skills in methodology of a post and beam building, training with hand tools used to lay out and cut timbers into the structure's members. He was also trained in mortise and tenon joinery.

     After the governmental shutdown last year, park staff and volunteers from the prison established the foundation for the structure and raised it. In the last two weeks of January the staff roofed and installed informational panels. Completing this little structure will provide our visitor's an introduction to the wonder that is Fort Larned. Please take time to enjoy this new addition on your next visit to the historic Fort.

Fort Larned Ranch Era Photographs Donated
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
     The Frizzell family is cleaning out their attic and Fort Larned is getting some of the treasures they've found there. Specifically, Judy Frizzell Redding donated hundreds of photographs and slides of the fort during the time when the Frizzell family operated the farm and ranch here from 1902 to 1966. Although the pictures do not depict life during the military period of the Fort's history they do provide a very intimate look at daily life here during one of the other major eras of its past.

Frizzell photo of girls playing at Fort Larned
     It's a wonderful gift that will add greatly to our understanding of the Fort Larned story. Mike Seymour, Park Museum Technician, will be spending the next year or so cataloging and documenting the scenes in these pictures.

Christmas Past: A Good Time Was Had By All
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
     Almost 70 visitors came to Fort Larned on December 14 last year to help us celebrate a frontier Christmas. They enjoyed homemade 1860s holiday desserts, caroling, and blacksmith demonstrations. Longtime park volunteers Marla Matkin and Gay and Lloyd Choitz also welcomed them to the quarters on officers' row.

     Unfortunately we weren't able to offer carriage rides because the volunteer who was bringing the carriage and horses had car trouble, but the visitors really seemed to enjoy the park staff and volunteers who serenaded them with popular Christmas carols, as well as the baked goods served in the barracks mass hall. The setting and activities were meant to portray a party given by the officers' wives for the enlisted men.

Marla Matkin welcomes guests in Officers' Quarters
     Everyone who came enjoyed tasting the food and seeing the different scenes of a frontier Christmas in the various buildings. Even the weather cooperated with temperatures in the 40s, making it a pleasant afternoon to enjoy a Christmas outing at the Fort.

     You can see a short video of highlights from the event on our website at

Kaw Mission At Council Grove Presents
Series On Indians Of Kansas

     Kaw Mission State Historic Site in Council Grove presents a series on Indians of Kansas this spring:
     March 23, 2014--James Sherow--KSU History Professor--"Plains Indians of Kansas"
     April 6, 2014--Tricia Waggoner--KSHS Highway Archaeologist--"Investigating Fool Chief's Village"
     April 27, 2014--Leo E. Oliva--Kansas Historians--"Understanding the Defeat of the Plains Indians in Kansas"
     May 4, 2014--Donald Blakeslee--WSU Archaeologist--"Products of the First Kansans"
     June 1, 2014--Ron Parks--Author and Kanza Historian--"The Darkest Period: The Kanza and Their Homeland, 1846-1873." Book review and book signing of Ron's new book.

     For more information, contact Mary Honeyman, Site Administrator, Kaw Mission Historic Site, 500 N Mission, Council Grove KS 66846, 620-767-5410 or {}.

     Fort Larned National Historic Site is a unit of the U. S. National Park Service located six miles west of Larned on Kansas Highway 156. Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, the park's Visitor Center/Museum and all furnished buildings are admission free. Information on Fort Larned may be found at {}, by calling 620-285-6911, or by sending email to {}

Ten Bears
Ten Bears--Comanche Chief
by Sam Young, Park Volunteer
     When we think of Indians at Fort Larned, it is usually Southern Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho because western Kansas, eastern Colorado, and northern Oklahoma were their primary hunting grounds. It is also because of the Indian Agent Ned Wynkoop established his Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho agency at Fort Larned. Two other Indian tribes also frequented this same area, the Northern Comanche and Plains Apache. This article focuses on Chief Ten Bears, leader of the Northern Comanche, the Yamparika (Root Eaters) Band.

     Chief Ten Bears, whose Comanche name was Paruasemana, was born in the 1790s. He was orphaned shortly after birth when his family was murdered by the Lakota. While little is known of his life, there are several key points that illustrate his leadership: chief of the Ketahto Band ("Don't Wear Shoes"), principal chief of the Northern Comanche ("Root Eaters"), signed the 1853 Treaty of Fort Atkinson, visited Washington in 1863 to secure (unsuccessfully) concessions for his band of the Comanche Indians, warriors from his village led the successful counterattack against Colonel Kit Carson's attack on a Kiowa village in November 1864 near the ruins of Adobe Walls in Texas, was one of the several Comanche signers of the Treaty of the Little Arkansas in Kansas in 1865, signed the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, in November 1868 his warriors participated in the counterattack against George Custer's 7th Cavalry during its attack on Black Kettle's Southern Cheyenne village along the Washita River, and traveled to Washington in 1872 to get (unsuccessfully) the United States to keep its treaty promises. He died in November 1872 and is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

During the Medicine Lodge Treaty conference, Chief Ten Bears made the following speech:
     "My heart is filled with joy when I see you here, as the brooks fill with water when the snow melts in the spring; and I feel glad, as the ponies do when the fresh grass starts in the beginning of the year. I heard of your coming when I was many sleeps away, and I made but a few camps when I met you. I know that you had come to do good to me and my people. I looked for benefits which would last forever, and so my face shines with joy as I look upon you. My people have never first drawn a bow or fired a gun against the whites. There has been trouble on the line between us and my young men have danced the war dance. But it was not begun by us. It was you to send the first soldier and we who sent out the second. Two years ago I came upon this road, following the buffalo, that my wives and children might have their cheeks plump and their bodies warm. But the soldiers fired on us, and since that time there has been a noise like that of a thunderstorm and we have not known which way to go. So it was upon the Canadian. Nor have we been made to cry alone. The blue dressed soldiers and the Utes came from out of the night when it was dark and still, and for camp fires they lit our lodges. Instead of hunting game they killed my braves, and the warriors of the tribe cut short their hair for the dead. So it was in Texas. They made sorrow come in our camps, and we went out like the buffalo bulls when the cows are attacked. When we found them, we killed them, and their scalps hang in our lodges. The Comanches are not weak and blind, like the pups of a dog when seven sleeps old. They are strong and farsighted, like grown horses. We took their road and we went on it. The white women cried and our women laughed.

     "But there are things which you have said which I do not like. They were not sweet like sugar but bitter like gourds. You said that you wanted to put us upon reservation, to build our houses and make us medicine lodges. I do not want them. I was born on the prairie where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within walls. I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over the country. I lived like my fathers before me, and like them, I lived happily.

     "When I was at Washington the Great Father told me that all the Comanche land was ours and that no one should hinder us in living upon it. So, why do you ask us to leave the rivers and the sun and the wind and live in houses? Do not ask us to give up the buffalo for the sheep. The young men have heard talk of this, and it has made them sad and angry. Do not speak of it more. I love to carry out the talk I got from the Great Father. When I get goods and presents I and my people feel glad, since it shows that he holds us in his eye.

     "If the Texans had kept out of my country there might have been peace. But that which you now say we must live on is too small. The Texans have taken away the places where the grass grew the thickest and the timber was the best. Had we kept that we might have done the things you ask. But it is too late. The white man has the country which we loved, and we only wish to wander on the prairie until we die. Any good thing you say to me shall not be forgotten. I shall carry it as near to my heart as my children, and it shall be as often on my tongue as the name of the Great Father. I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass. I want it all clear and pure and I wish it so that all who go through among my people may find peace when they come in and leave it when they go out."

by Sam Young, Park Volunteer
     When we think of hardtack, our thoughts go to one of the basic staples of a soldier's diet, especially during the Civil War. A Union soldier could be issued nine or ten of the water and flour biscuits a day, the number depending on his regiment, along with his salt pork, sugar, salt, and coffee. Hardtack was often issued in one of four ways: fairly easy to crumble; so hard that it had to be shattered by a rock or rifle butt before it could be used; moldy or wet from either having been boxed too soon after baking or being exposed to the weather but, in either case, would be replaced with the "good" hardtack; and fourth, infested with weevils, in which case it was still issued unless the weevils had almost thoroughly infested the hardtack.

     Hardtack has been a food source for soldiers and civilians for thousands of years because when properly baked, stored, and transported it would last for a very long time. Because of its long "shelf life," some Civil War soldiers probably felt their hardtack came with Columbus on the Santa Maria. During the early months of the Civil War, soldiers on both sides were issued hardtack left over from the Mexican War. Interestingly, hardtack is still used in many different countries around the world by both soldiers and civilians. For those who are concerned about storing food for emergencies, hardtack is a very good option as it is economical and easy to store.

     Throughout the centuries hardtack has been known by many different names. If used by soldiers, common names include hard bread, hard crackers, and hardtack. Sailors called it pilot bread, ship's biscuit, sea biscuit, and sea bread. Other names included teeth dullers, sheet-iron crackers, worm castles, and molar breakers.

     Hardtack is very easy to make as it has three basic ingredients: flour, water, and salt or sugar (which can be omitted). While there are numerous recipes, here is a simple one:
     4-5 cups of flour
     2 cups of water
     3 tsp. of salt
     Mix the flour, water and salt together, and make sure the mixture is fairly dry. Then roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness, and shape it into a rectangle. Cut it into 3 x 3-inch squares, and poke holes in both sides. Place on an un-greased cookie or baking sheet, and cook for 30 minutes per side at 375 degrees. Let it dry and harden (as hard as a rock) for several days before it is placed in an airtight container for storage. It it gets soft, throw it out and make a new batch.

     Soldiers found many ways to eat hardtack. While it could be eaten as issued-plain and hard, soldiers usually broke it up and put it in their morning coffee to soften it. If the hardtack was infested with weevils, they would float to the surface and could be skimmed off. Now, if it was dark, and the soldier was eating his hardtack plain, he did not see the weevils and ate them! Other ways to prepare hardtack were based on what the soldier had available. The soldier could break up the hardtack, add water or milk, and cook it as mush or as a pancake. He could soften it then add sugar, whiskey, or molasses and make a pudding. It might be used to thicken soup just as we use crackers today. It could be toasted and eaten or softened and cooked in salt pork or bacon grease. But it was still hardtack. The following song will give you an idea of what soldiers thought about hardtack.

From John D. Billings in his book Hardtack & Coffee, The Unwritten Story of Army Life, is the following song: "Hard Crackers, Come Again No More," Anonymous.

     Let us close our game of poker, take our tin cups in our hand,
     While we gather round the cook's tent door,
     Where dry mummies of hard crackers are given to each man;
     O hard crackers, come again no more!

     "Tis the song and the sigh of the hungry,
     Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!
     Many days you lingered upon our stomachs sore,
     O hard crackers, come again no more.

     There's a hungry, thirsty soldier who wears his life away,
     With torn clothes, whose better days are o'er.
     He is sighing now for whiskey, and, with a throat as dry as hay,
     Sings, "Hard crackers, come again no more!"


     'Tis the song that is uttered in camp by night and day,
     'Tis the wail that is mingled with each snore,
     'Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away,
     "O, hard crackers, come again no more!"


     (Since their General heard their lament, he ordered the cooks to serve
     Corn-meal mush, for which the soldiers added a new stanza to their song.)

     But to groans and murmurs, there comes a sudden hush,
     Our frail forms are fainting at the door,
     We are starving now on horse feed that the cooks call mush!
     O, hard crackers, come again once more!

Final Chorus
     It is the dying wail of the starving,
     Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again once more!
     You are old and very wormy, but we pass your failings o'er.
     O, hard crackers, come again once more!

Volunteers Needed For Special Events
     Fort Larned's 2014 special events are currently being planned. Volunteer help is needed and greatly appreciated. Fort Larned has the best volunteers! Mark your calendar and call us with any questions, 620-285-6911.

     The annual events are Memorial Weekend, Saturday through Monday, May 24-26; the 4th of July (Friday); Labor Day Weekend, Saturday through Monday, August 30-September 1, with special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Fort Larned in the National Park Service; the Candlelight-tour event which is always the second Saturday of October--this year it will be October 11. The fort usually plans the Volunteer Dinner around 4 p.m. on the date of the Candlelight tour. The Christmas Past event is always the second Saturday of December-this year that date is December 13.

     Please get these dates on your calendar now and plan to help with living-history.

Rough Riding On The Plains (continued)
by Robert Morris Peck
     (Peck's memoirs of life at Camp on Pawnee Fork, which became Camp Alert and then Fort Larned, continue with his account of life at the post during the winter of 1859-1860. Please note his descriptions of hunting, which fits in with the program planned for next year; see article in this issue on "Hometown Teams." Peck's account continues.)

     The weather had remained tolerably fair and pleasant, though cold, through the month of December, but with January, Winter had began in earnest. But no matter how severe the weather, we had to keep the mails going both ways. Those of us who remained at the post when not on escort duty had rather a dull time.

     The duty was light enough, as we had really little to do but a tour of guard duty about once in seven days; but it was the want of something to do that made the time hang heavily on our hands.

     We had all had sufficient Winter experience on the plains to know what to expect in the way of weather while escorting the mails, and this knowledge impelled us to devise ways and means for protecting ourselves from the fierce wintry blasts that we were sure to encounter. Following the example of the old veterans of our party, utilizing such material as was available, we made for ourselves out of buffalo robes, dressed wolf skins, buckskins and so forth, such additions to our ordinary Winter clothing as we thought would enable us to travel in and endure the severity of the coldest weather.

     We made some very comfortable Winter overcoats out of buffalo robes and wolf skins. If enough dressed buffalo calf skins could be procured, about six to the coat, an excellent overcoat was made from them. We purchased these from the traders at Walnut and Cow Creeks. The old hands taught us youngsters how to dress wolf skins with alum, which we also bought of traders; and as wolves were plenty and the skins easily obtained, we killed, skinned and dressed these ourselves, and soon had plenty of them for either overcoats or bed robes.

     A man in the infantry detachment who was a tailor assisted us very much in making our extra Winter clothing.

     I killed in Pawnee Fork several otter and beaver, and after dressing the skins, made caps and fur-lined mittens of them. I also made for myself a pair of very serviceable undershirts of antelope skins; and with the tailor's help I got up an excellent pair of buckskin trousers. The Winter winds of the plains are so penetrating that even our Uncle Sam's heaviest woolen clothing was found to be but poor protection from the cold, and the garments we made of skins and furs far more comfortable. With buckskin over-socks outside our woolen hose, and a pair of homemade buffalo over-shoes outside our boots we kept our feet pretty comfortable.

     To correspond with our clothing we had plenty of blankets and buffalo and wolf robes for bedding. Some of the men made sleeping bags by sewing a couple of buffalo robes together with the wool turned inside, like those used by Arctic travelers. These are quite comfortable, but need to be turned inside out and aired frequently, else they soon become damp, foul and unhealthy, from the continued breath and perspiration of the body.

     Wolves in the buffalo range are of two kinds; the large gray, or buffalo wolves--called by the Mexicans, "lobos"--and the common coyotes. The latter are far the more numerous.

     They are all cowardly, and do not often attack persons. Like the Indians, their living is derived chiefly from the buffalo. They hover on the outskirts of the herds and pick up stragglers that have been wounded and dropped out.

     When a buffalo becomes very old or disabled from any cause he is whipped out of the herd by the others, and soon falls a victim to the wolves.

     Wolf hunting-or rather wolf poisoning-is an occupation followed by a few men from the border settlements, who spend the Winter months in the buffalo range poisoning wolves for their hides. They kill a buffalo for a bait, remove the skin, and put strychnine-just a little here and there-on the outside of the carcass in the evening, and then in the morning hunt up the dead wolves lying around the bait and skin them.

     Wolf-hunting parties are usually composed of two or more men, who take a team and supplies for several months. Beginning about the first of November, they spend the Winter in the buffalo range skinning wolves and drying the hides. The time for securing good pelts ends about the first of February, for after that time all animals begin shedding their Winter coats and the pelts are then of but little value.

     Of course, wolf hunters have to take a risk of losing their scalps, and when any of the Indian tribes are known to be on the war path the hunters try to keep out of the range of the hostiles, if possible; but they have to be men of some nerve and familiar with Indian tactics to be successful.

     While idle at Camp Alert, between escort trips, I spent a good deal of my time in hunting. Besides buffalo there were beaver and otter along the creek, and about the Arkansas River and sloughs along its bottoms there were plenty of water fowls, such as sand-hill cranes, wild geese, brants and ducks.

     One day while hunting up and skinning some wolves I had put out poison for-riding a mule to carry the pelts on-I discovered a hole in the bank of the creek with fresh wolf tracks around it, and among them the tracks of small cubs, which indicated that it was a wolf den.

     I dismounted to look into the hole-holding my mule by the lariat-and on stooping down with my face to the opening and peering into the dark hole I could only see in the blackness of the interior a pair of fiery eyes glaring at me, and heard an ominous growl. I stepped back quickly and jerked out my pistol in expectation of the wolf coming out, but as she didn't do so, I looked again. Another growl and a rushing noise, and as I stepped aside from the hole the old she wolf came out like a flash, snarling and snapping her teeth as she went by me, I fired at her, but probably missed, and she was out of sight in the timber in a second.
(to be continue}

New Memberships
     Fort Larned Old Guard welcomes the following new members:
     Kimberly A. Thompson, 1626 SW Central Park Ave, Topeka KS 66604

Event Calendar
     April 26, 2014: Fort Larned Old Guard annual Mess & Muster.
     May 24-26, 2014: Memorial Weekend
     July 4, 2014: Living-history Weekend
     August 30-Sept. 1, 2014: Labor Day Weekend
     October 11, 2014: Candlelight Tour
     December 13, 2014: Christmas Past

Deadline For Next Issue: May 1, 2014

Membership Reminder
     Annual memberships in the Fort Larned Old Guard expire on December 31. If you have not renewed for 2014, please send dues to membership chair Linda Peters, 1035 S Bridge St, Lakin KS 67860. Additional donations are always welcome to assist with projects of the Old Guard..

Fort Larned Old Guard Contact Information
     The officers, members of the board of directors, dues information and email's are listed on this page of information. Please feel free to contact any of us.

Schedule of Annual Events
     True to life stories of the Indian Wars along the Santa Fe Trail, brought to life by some of the greatest volunteers in the West. . . ! Visit the most complete Indian fort surviving from the days when Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody rode through this part of the West on their missions. Original restored buildings to that time period, a visitor center, Park Rangers will guide you through this adventure of the Old West.

     Memorial Day Weekend (Saturday, Sunday & Monday) largest living history event in western Kansas - experience a working frontier fort.

     Labor Day Weekend (Saturday, Sunday, & Monday) Re-enactors bring the fort back to life for the holiday weekend.

     Candlelight Tour (2nd Saturday of October) Entertaining evening tours with vignettes from the fort's history.

     Christmas Open House (2nd Saturday of December) Old-fashioned Yuletide celebration with hot apple cider, cookies and Christmas carols.

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
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