Best Preserved Frontier Fort in the West Fort Larned Old Guard Newsletter
Volume 31, Number 4 ~*~ Best Preserved Frontier Fort in the West ~*~ Spring 2021

Out With The Old
by Leo Oliva

     I am retiring as editor with this issue of OUTPOST. It has been a honor to serve Fort Larned Old Guard and Fort Larned and work closely with Old Guard officers and the staff at the Fort. Unfortunately, no one complained about the job I did because the rule was, if you complained, you became the editor. Now old age and other commitments require me to resign before senility makes me totally incompetent. Please welcome Bob Wilhelm as the new editor.

Upcoming Events At Fort Larned
by Ben Long, Park Ranger

     As the summer season quickly approaches, the question on everyone's mind is: what is Fort Larned doing for events this year? While this year seems to be going according to plan, it can all change in an instant. So, while we are hoping to have a more "normal" year, we can't promise too much.

     As of now, we are planning on having our Memorial Day Weekend and 4th of July events, though they might not be the level of events you have experienced in the past. While details are still being figured out for each event, this much is evident: we will have living-history stations at as may places and as much volume is safe for everyone involved. So mark your calendars for May 29-31 and July 3-4 and keep an eye on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) and website ( for more details soon.

     On May 29 the official opening of the new museum exhibits is planned, with the following tentative schedule (please be aware that masks are required inside the buildings and outside if you are unable to maintain a distance of six feet from other people).

     8:30-10:30 a.m. - Living-History Stations
     11:05 - Posting of Colors
     11:10 - National Athem
     11:15 - Leo E. Oliva (Fort Larned Old Guard)
     11:20 - Congressional Representative Comments
     11:30 - Ribbon Cutting (Chamber of Commerce and VIPs)
     11:45 - Storyteller George Pettigrew (Buffalo Soldier)
     12:30-1:30 - Hoop Dancer (Comanche & Kiowa)
     1:30-2:30 - Mariachi Band
     11:30-4:30 - Living-History Stations

In With The New
by Bob Wilhelm

     My name is Bob Wilhelm and I will be the editor of the Fort Larned OUTPOST, beginning with the August 2021 issue, for at least the next year. It is my hope that anyone who has news, information, or a researched article about Fort Larned or the Santa Fe Trail in the region will feel free to send those to me at .

     Please send material for the next issue by August 1, 2021. I will do my best to uphold the standards that Leo Oliva has maintained with the newsletter.

     I am a native Kansan, having been born in Kingman in 1950, graduated from high school in Sterling in 1968, did a stint in the Air Force in the early 1970s, and received a Massters' Degree in biology from Fort Hays State University in 1979. Beginning in 1984, I held a position at Fort Hays State Historic Site for 28 years, all but the first three as the director.

     One of my first responsibilities at Fort Hays was overseeing the living-history program, something I knew nothing about. But, thanks to George Elmore, I became well acquainted with the program, and Fort Hays and Fort Larned cooperated in many living-history events over the years.

     My wife Joan and I live in Hays. We are both retired. We have four children and five grandchildren.

     I currently serve as the editor of the Overland Despatch, the newsletter of the Smoky Hill Trail Association, and have also served as editor of Post Returns, the Society of Friends of Historic Fort Hays newsletter, so am quite familiar with historical research and newsletter production.

     I have been a member of the Fort Larned Old Guard almost since its inception. I look forward to working with the staff at Fort Larned as well as the board of the Old Guard during the coming year and welcome any questions or comments on my editorship of OUTPOST.

Fort Larned Old Guard Chair's Column
by Janet Armstead

     Best wishes to everyone! Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? Things are starting to open up, including our beloved Fort Larned. Masks are still required indoors and also outdoors if you are standing closer than the required "social distance" of six feet. The Park is now open normal hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

     The Fort Larned Old Guard board met April 17 for their regular meting via Zoom. It was good to see everyone, even on a screen! We hope our next meeting will be in person! There was not a lot of business to conduct. We are in good shape all the way around.

     Thank you for sending your ballots for election of directors. Nominees for a two-year term were Rex Abrahams, Janet Armstead, Kathleen Foster, Tom Giessel, and Greg VanCoevern. The nominees were approved unanimously. Thank you. Officers for the coming year were elected at the April meeting: Chair Janet Armstead, Vice-Chair Rex Abrahams, Secretary Kristin Keith, and Treasurer Kathleen Foster.

     One piece of business we did discuss was the upcoming editor vacancy. Leo Oliva has decided to "lighten his load" and this will be his last issue as editor. Our conciliation is that Leo will still serve as Village Site Manager, so we will still see him regularly. Fort Larned Old Guard member Bob Wilhelm has gratefully agreed to taking over the editor's job after this issue, for a while. We have many years of appreciation for Leo serving time as OUTPOST editor for about a dozen years. Thank you just doesn't seem adequate, Leo.

     Twoof our board members have reached their term limits. We thank Mark Berry and Martha Scranton so very much for their years of service to Fort Larned Old Guard and Fort Larned. Mark served on various committees and has been a longtime volunteer at the Fort. Martha was our treasurer. Because of her job, Martha had to do a wide range of duties from stocking the Fort's pop machine to legal work. We thank you both from the bottom of our hears.

     The official ribbon cutting for the long-awaited dedication of the new displays at the Fort visitor center will take place on Saturday, May 29. The official opening will be at 11 a.m. (see tentative schedule for the day on page one). The displays will then be open for visitors. Because of COVID restrictions, only a limited number of people will be permitted in the exhibit area at one time (masks required). Each group will be allowed to view the new exhibits for a specified time, and then another group will rotate in. You are welcome to return at a later time to view these wonderful exhibits at your leisure. Please note that living-history programs will be available throughout the day, and there are programs featuring Buffalo Soldiers, Hoop Dancers, and a Mariachi Band, so bring a sack lunch and spend the day!

     We hope to see many Fort Larned Old Guard members and volunteers at the Fort on May 29. At 1:30 that day the Old Guard will have a brief awards ceremony to honor some outstanding people. The location will be announced during the morning ceremonies.

Superintendent's Corner
by Betty Boyko

     I am pleased to start my remarks for this edition of the OUTPOST with the news that Fort Larned's Visitor Center is now open. We officially reopened to the public on March 15. This was right before Spring Break, so visitation was fairly high the following week, but we are now at a more normal level for this time of year. Guidance from the new administration includes wearing a mask inside all federal buildings, and outside if physical distancing is not possible. We are limited on the number of people who can be inside buildings at one time. CDC guidelines mandate 25% of normal occupancy, and people from non-related households must be able to maintain the six feet physical distancing.

     Now that we've reopened the Visitor Center, we will have an official opening for our new exhibits on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. The celebration will include a ribbon cutting at 11:00, along with a Mariachi band, a Kiowa hoop dancer, and a Buffalo Soldier storyteller. The new exhibits were blessed on February 27 by Cheyenne tribal leader Gordon Yellowman in a special ceremony.

     In February, park interpretive staff participated in a Descriptathon coordinated by the Unidescription Project out of the University of Hawai'i. The purpose of the project was to audio describe the park's brochure for people who are blind or have low vision. For those who are unfamiliar with what audio description is, it is the description of pictures and graphics so that people with vision impairments are able to experience to some degree what sighted people do.

     In April, we completed a prescribed burn. Prescribed burns are a tool used in natural resource management to promote a healthy prairie landscape and maintain the cultural landscape of the park. It's also used to control exotic vegetation and promote native plant and animal diversity. The area burned this year is the northern edge of the park property that runs along K156 to the east of the picnic area.

     The upcoming summer will be a busy one at the Fort. The Southern Plains Network will be inventorying the prairie dogs and their burrows at the Trail Ruts site, the Midwest Archeological Center will be conducting a ground-penetrating radar study to pinpoint the locations of any archeological features associated with the Fort's army period, and we're still working with the Santa Fe Trail Center on the "Taste of History" filming here this coming fall. We are also planning to bring back a popular Park Service feature by having several evening "campfire" programs throughout the summer.

     In other news, the National Park Service has officially launched the new National Park Service Mobile App. This app is the only place where you can find information on all 400+ National Park Service sites. Look for an article in this edition for everything you can find on the Fort Larned section of the app.

Fort Larned Roll Call: Tyler Smith
by Ben Long, Park Ranger

     Tyler Smith, a Larned native, attended Fort Hays State University and Wichita State University. For several years, Tyler worked at the State Hospital in Larned where he met Pete Bethke---a welcomed familiar face as Tyler began working here around the beginning of April. Tyler lives in Larned with his fiancee and three kids.

     The Traditional Trades Apprenticeship Program (TTAP) is a twenty-week paid internship that focuses on, you guessed it, the traditional trades. It is through this program, put on by Conservation Legacy ( a branch of AmeriCorps), that Tyler joins us. Because of the nature of the program that Tyler is in, most of the time he follows Robert around focusing mainly on the carpentry aspect of historic preservation. As a result, Tyler has been working on many different projects, in part, in preparation for our Memorial Day Weekend festivities. When the weather permits it, you can find Tyler scraping, priming, and re-painting around the Fort. One such location that was in dire need of attention was the Sentry Box near the Blockhouse. Officers' Row is also being worked on by more of the staff than just Tyler to make sure it's looking in tip-top shape for Memorial Day Weekend and the entire summer.

     Since spring weather tends to mimic a yo-yo in western Kansas, this painting has been slow going, but there are several other projects to fill Tyler's time. Fixing a broken hospital bed, preparing for a porch renovation on the south Junior Officers' Quarters, and preparing to repair sections of the roofs are some of the "rainy day" projects. In addition to working on historic preservation of the Fort, Tyler is also able to work alongside our other maintenance workers, giving him a wide variety of skills, including water monitoring, mechanic work, and even custodial work. This variety keeps things interesting and has made the time fly for Tyler.

     In a world where manual labor and historic preservation are not emphasized as much as they should be, it is great to see new faces and hard workers who seek to do the hard work and preserve these national treasures. We are glad Tyler is with us for a few months and we are looking forward to seeing how the Fort's appearance improves as the result of his work.

School Groups
by Brian Miller, Park Ranger

     School groups are back in session! With school becoming more comfortable resuming traveling, Fort Larned has begun bustling with school groups. By the end of May, the Fort will have connected with over 20 schools and nearly 900 students via in-person and virtual-distance learning programs in just two months! Through the generosity of the National Park Foundation, we can use the remaining funds from last year's Open Outdoors for Kids Grant to fund many of the trips this spring. Upon arrival, the students are divided into small groups to rotate through various stops around the fort. A huge thank you to our dedicated volunteers Chris Hagerman and Kristin Keith for assisting with the groups and to Martha Scranton for coordinating the grant payments to the school districts!

     The demand for distance-learning programs continues as well, reaching schools as far away as California and Virginia. After partnering with two local schools to complete grant applications, the National Park Trust recently announced both would be the recipients of $500 grants for distance learning opportunities. Students will be completing hands-on activities, building their own fort structures before discussing their findings virtually with a ranger. We are also in the process of arranging a distance-learning program for an Idaho based group of deaf and hard of hearing students. We look forward to a busy spring season!

Utilizing Park Staff, Volunteers, And Cameras
To Make The Fort Come To Life
by Ben Long, Park Ranger

     While the recent season at Fort Larned has not seen very much activity when it comes to volunteers and certainly new volunteers, there have been a couple of opportunities for our amazing volunteers. One of the most prominent opportunities is in our video productions for use on our website and social media. With the pivot toward more virtual activities, Fort Larned, along with many other National Parks, have been benefiting their fans with screen-based content. Even though in person events weren't as common last year as they normally are, we still take any opportunities we can to make the Fort come to life.

     Since our Virtual Open House back in December, we have produced and published at least one video every month, all with different tones and subjects. We even started a video series on our social media (also published on our website) where we feature a new room or building at the Fort per month. Since the beginning of the year, we have been able to feature the Barracks, the Blacksmith Shop, the Hospital, and most recently the Blockhouse.

     Spotlight Saturday The Blockhouse

     Each Video has seen an increase in the number of actors and as such an increase in the volunteers helping with the productions of these videos. In fact, the most recent video, consisted of five fantastic volunteers who had a great time acting some of the events surrounding Private Michael Nicholas's imprisonment. Nicholas was one of two men who attacked 1st Sgt. John Roche on May 1, 1868 (the story of the other man is also in this issue). No one acts the way Nicholas did without some form of punishment. Through showing some of the harshest forms of punishment for the enlisted men (solitary confinement and confinement in the sweatbox), we were able to show the purpose of the blockhouse, tunnel, and sweatbox in an entertaining way. This video would not have been as nearly entertaining without the dedicated help from our volunteers. Totaling about two and one-half minutes, the video not only shows some of our buildings but also some of the characters that called Fort Larned home.

     But why use volunteeers? Isn't it easier and quicker to get some quick shots of the building's interior and exterior, edit it together and publish it for our fans? The simple answer is yes, but good things rarely take the easiest courses of action. We have noticed that across all social media platforms, even with still photographs, posts do much better when there's a person in the frame. Our first video in this series showed the barracks as a visitor might see it on a regular day---no people, no movement, just shots of the rooms. Just as the Blacksmith Shop isn't as entertaining without the blacksmith at work, this video, though it showed some unique perspectives, wasn't as entertaining as it could be. As we add more and more people in our videos, it is more and more entertaining for our audience.

     As we look to the other side of the mask-wearing and social distancing era, we hope to continue to produce videos for our website and social media. We have fans all over the world and some of those individuals may never get a chance to see us in person. So instead of bringing those people to the Fort, we bring the Fort to those people. We also hope that videos like these, made possible by our dedicated volunteers, can inspire people to see the Fort for themselves and perhaps help as volunteers for our events, virtual or in person!

National Park Service Launches Mobile App
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger

     April 16 marked the official launch of the National Park Service Mobile App. This app is the only place where you can find information about all 400+ National Park Service sites. As mentioned previously, this app was designed to provide visitors with information about any park they visit, as well as give them a unified National Park Service app experience. The app content is also created by National Park Service staff, so it will be the authoritative source for park information.

     The app content is created with existing web content and the amount of information on each park site within the app depends on how much content each park creates for it. The Fort Larned section has two self-guided tours: The Historic Sandstone Buildings and the History & Nature Trail, as well as Things to Do, information about the Visitors Center, upcoming events, and park news.

     The app also features the ability to download specific park content if you're going to a remote location with limited cell phone service. And, because of GPS location tagging, the app will let you know of any nearby Park Service units whenever you travel.

     The app is available for both iOS and Android. You can download it on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Get the National Park Service App today and start exploring your National Parks!

Fort Larned National Historic Site
Find A Park National Park Service App Opening Page
Description 7--Audio Describing
The Fort Larned Brochure
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger

     During February 9-11, Fort Larned took part in something called a Descriptathon. It was sponsored by the Unidescription Project out of the University of Hawai'i The purpose of this event was to audio describe the Fort Larned brochure and make it accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

     Although there is no one set definition of audio description, one way to definite it is "a description of virtual information delivered via an audio channel." In other words, what people can't see, such as graphics, photographs, or maps, are described and can be heard through a synthetic voice or audio recording.

     The Unidescription Project is a "grant-funded research initiative based at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa." The research team is led by Dr. Brett Oppegaard in the College of Social Sciences. They have one very simple goal: "Audio Describe the World!"

     A Descriptathon is explained as a "gamified way to learn audio description." During the three-day event, team members participated in competition with other teams, learned about audio description, its importance to the blind and low vision community, and, in the end, audio describe their assigned brochure. The teams were made up of park staff members, volunteers, and members of the blind and low-vision community.

     The Fort Larned team consisted of myself, Park Rangers Brian Miller and Ben Long, volunteers Ed Marfut (from Virginia), and Sarah Peterson (from Nebraska), as well as two people from blind/low vision organizations: Gary Schoelerman (Blinded Veterans Association) and Shereen Faber (American Council on the Blind). For those of you who might be familiar with Sarah's name, she is a former Fort Larned volunteer and seasonal employee.

     The Descriptathon was a lot of fun and also resulted in a completed project: the entire Fort Larned brochure is audio described and available on the Unidescription App and the Fort Larned website. While the sighted members of the team described the images on the brochure, Gary and Shereen provided feedback to let us know if what we were writing really did provide them with a mental image of the picture, graphic, or map.

     Once we finished, all the text and audio components were published to the Unidescription App and is made available as either text or audio through a synthesized voice. There's also an option for parks to upload recorded audio on the project's page on the Unidescription website. Since the synthetic voice didn't provide the best listening experience, Sarah decided to volunteer more of her time to record all the text for Fort Larned, which has since been uploaded to the project.

     Inspired by the improvement a recorded human voice made to Fort Larned's brochure on the app, Sarah created a long-term volunteer project for herself. She is contacting every park that has a brochure on the app and offering to record their text for them. She reports that she's had a positive response from all the park's she's contacted and has been busy recording text for many more parks on the app.

     If you would like to see how the images in the Fort Larned brochure were described, you can find both the text and the recordings on our website at: {}

The Enlisted Men of Company C, Third Infantry
Part XXII - Thomas Jones
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger

     Fort Larned's main interpretive year is 1868, which is the year the stone buildings were completed. Company C, 3rd U.S. Infantry, was stationed at Fort Larned during that year and part of the research for the restoration of the barracks and hospital building was finding out information for most of these enlisted men. That information was compiled in the Historic Furnishing Study: Enlisted Men's Barracks and Post Hospital, HS-2. Here is the twenty-second installment in a series on the enlisted men whose information is included in that report. There are no photos available for these enlisted soldiers.)

     Thomas Jones enlisted on August 23, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. From January to April of 1868 Jones is listed on extra duty in the Post Quartermaster Department as a teamster. From May to August he was in confinement, and then spent the rest of the year, September to December, on company duty.

     Jones was placed in confinement on May 1 for assaulting First Sergeant David Roche, who was trying to take him to the guardhouse. He knocked Sgt. Roche to the ground, then followed him into the company quarters when Roche got away and went in there for help. He continued attacking Sgt. Roche until he was pulled off by others in the room. He was court-martialed and found guilty of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. He was sentenced to confinement at hard labor for two months and the forfeiture of $12 monthly pay during that time.

     Despite his troubles from the year before, Pvt. Jones was promoted to corporal in early 1869; however, his apparently ungovernable temper got him dishonorably discharged for attacking another soldier. On the night of March 4, Jones confronted Corp. Ross in the company quarters for beating Pvt. James McCafferty. Jones said that, "(a)ny company of men that would allow any non-commissioned officer to use a man (McCafferty) in that way are no men at all, and any non-commissioned officer (Ross) that would do the like is a d**m s**t." When Ross tried to leave the squad room, Jones followed him and said, "G*dd*m your soul, are you going to report me to Capt. Snyder?" Jones then got in front of the door, forcing Ross back while others in the room put out the lights.

     At his court-martial Jones was charged with beginning, inciting, and joining a mutiny in Company C by conspiring with others unknown to put out the lights and attack Corp. Ross. He was found guilty and sentenced "to be dishonorably discharged; to forfeit all pay and allowances that are due except just dues to the laundresses; to be indelibly marked with the letter 'M' 1 1/2 inches long on his left hip; and confined for 10 years in a State or military prison."

     Thomas Jones is an example of how difficult it sometimes was for men to live in such close quarters with each other, especially if those men had difficulty controlling their tempers. The Army life wasn't for everyone, but the stress brought on by the close quarters, harsh discipline, and isolation of a frontier military post during the Indian Wars could certainly exacerbate existing tensions of men living and working together under those conditions.

Fort Larned's "Mud Wagon"
by Sam Young, Fort Larned NHS Volunteer

     When you cross the bridge over the Pawnee Fork into Fort Larned, you see what appears to be a stagecoach. For first-time visitors to the Fort, it probably causes them to recall western movies they have watched with six drenched-in-sweat horses pulling a stagecoach with the driver trying with all of his might to get them to go faster, with either Indians or outlaws riding hard in the massive cloud of dust to catch that coach, while the stagecoach's guard tries to keep his balance and a steady aim with which to shoot an attacker.

     However, as the new visitors get closer to the coach, they realize it is different. It is way too small, does not have doors, and does not appear able to carry luggage on top. And it does not have a step to help get inside. They then probably wonder why it is different than the stagecoaches they see in movies and museums. The Fort's staff, volunteers, and the Fort Larned Old Guard members know it as an old mail wagon, commonly referred to by some as a "mud wagon." Some know it is an almost exact reproduction of an original stage wagon on display in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka. But can they answer the "why" questions?

     Fort Larned's Mail Wagon/Mud Wagon

     Researching material for this article led me to speaking with Gerald T. Ahnert, author of the paper "Butterfield Overland Mail Company Stagecoaches and Stage (Celebrity) Wagons used on the Southern Trail, 1858-1861," copyrighted 2013. He told me to compare stagecoaches to SUVs parked at Walmart. From a distance they all look the same, but as you get closer you see different models by different manufacturers with even more differences such as wheels and tires.

     Fort Larned's replica mail wagon is one of the multitude of varieties of very interesting coaches and wagons, of all different sizes and shapes, from very luxurious to very bare bones, for carrying mail and/or passengers. As for those carrying mail and passengers, there were generally two classifications---the stagecoach and the stage wagon.*

     Let's start with the stagecoaches. The primary manufacturer was Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, new Hampshire, which, beginning in 1813 and lasting into the 20th century, built over 40 different models of coaches, carriages, and wagons that were sold and used all over the world. Its most well-known coach was the Concord Stagecoach, first built in 1827. The Concord was solidly built and weighed over a ton. It was a uniquely shaped wooden box mounted on wheels with windows, doors, and a strong ceiling/roof that could hold both luggage and passengers. They earned a reputation of not breaking down and cost between $1500 and $1800. They could carry nine passengers in the coach on three benches and some were also designed to carry nine passengers on the roof. Unfortunately, for those inside the coach, there was little leg room. And it was considered discourteous if you fell asleep and your head rested on a fellow passenger. The Concords were designed with thoroughbraces-multilayered three-inch-thick leather straps that were fastened to iron stanchions on the running gear to support the coach's body-which gave the coach a swaying motion to absorb roughness of the roads and give the passengers a smoother ride. These coaches were pulled by six horses and were designed more for well-graded and flat roads.

Concord Stagecoach

     (If you look under the driver's seat, you will see the right side thoroughbrace running under the curved coach to under the rear boot. Look at the Fort Larned mail wagon's picture and you will see its thoroughbraces under the yellow horizontal rails that are fastened by "U" brackets to the wagons under side.)

     Next are the stage wagons, and they were not identical in construction to stagecoaches. "By definition," according to Ahnert, "it was not a stagecoach. It was in the class of passenger carrying wagons known as stage 'celerity' wagons." The stage celerity wagon was designed by John Butterfield for use by his Overland Mail Company (1858-1861 from Fort Smith, Arkansas, through Indian Territory, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and California to San Francisco and back twice a week with 25 days for each way). It ceased operations because of the Civil War. It was designed for speed, and Butterfield gave it the name stage Celerity wagon. It had the driver's and conductor's seat on the same level as the passengers' seats, whereas most other stage wagons had the driver's seat elevated for greater visibility. There were sixty-six celerity wagons built by J.S. & E. A. Abbot for Butterfield. Ahnert further writes, "Butterfield chose Abbot-Downing for his stages because their suspension technology was best suited to the low relative humidity of the southwest, and their wheels were the only ones that wouldn't fall apart." Unfortunately, there are no genuine Overland Mail Company stage celerity wagons in any museum collections.*

     According to Ahnert, stage celerity wagons were designed for rough conditions where the trail was not as well developed, in sand, and for traversing steep inclines. It was basically an open buckboard. The mail coaches' body was flat-bottomed and attached to an iron frame, which was clamped to leather thoroughbraces, which in turn were shackled to the running gear in such a way that the vehicle did not sway from side to side, like a stagecoach. It floated forward and backward with jolts from the road surface. This made it a very uncomfortable ride.

     There were no sides except a very low panel across the bottom edge over which passengers had to step. A wooden bench seat was at the front for the driver and conductor. Behind them were three more wooden bench seats for up to nine passengers (the front two facing each other and the rear seat facing the front). The passenger seat backs could be laid down for beds and could sleep from four to ten individuals, depending on their size and how they lay. Wooden staves held up a thin canvas top. Attached to the sides of the top were canvas curtains that could be let down. Some newspaper reports stated it was similar to a "Jersey Wagon"---you can look up Jersey Wagon on the internet. They had smaller diameter wheels for a lower center of gravity and had wider individual wheels as an aid on soft ground. They weighed less than half as much as the stagecoaches and were not as expensive.**

     The stage celerity wagon could be pulled by a 4-horse hitch (two pairs of horses). But, with a mail contract that specified the minimum number of miles that had to be covered each day, regardless of delays caused by weather, road conditions, or mechanical breakdowns, to deliver the mail, and with income from passengers, a six-horse hitch was normal. Stage lines existed to carry the mail. It was a guaranteed income. Passengers were secondary to the stage line's primary mission, but they meant more income, and with towns, villages, and forts sprouting up, there were always passengers.

     Since a wide variety of wagons were built to meet the needs of their customers, the manufacturers modified the primary models with features from each other. For example, the Abbot-Downing Overland wagon has the features of a stage celerity wagon and more nearly matches Fort Larned's mail wagon. I wouldn't be surprised if the potential purchaser requested a reinforced roof in order to carry luggage, and Abbot-Downing said "yes, we can build it."

     John Butterfield's Stage (celerity) wagon are positioned similar to those on the Fort Larned Mail Wagon, but notice the braces to which they are clamped are flat and bolted to the wagon frame whereas Fort Larned's are curved.)

     Overland Wagon, Abbot Downing & company catalog, 1871

     Now, if you look inside Fort Larned's mail wagon you will find two fairly comfortable seats. But there are no lanterns on the outside. This wagon could carry six adult passengers.

     You probably noticed there are no built-on steps to facilitate entering and exiting any of the coaches/wagons. However, places where the stage celerity wagons, stagecoaches, overland wagons, and any other vehicle transporting passengers routinely stopped, there would probably be a wooden platform or stone step for ease of loading and unloading. Or, a portable wooden step might be made that could be carried in the wagon's boot.

     Besides the dust, mud, and cold that often made stage wagon, overland wagon, or stagecoach passengers uncomfortable, there was the tobacco juice spit by either the driver or guard that would "splat" on the passengers if the canvas covering the windows was rolled up!

     Ahnert told me that the name "Mud Wagon" was not an actual name of a style of coach or wagon. Wheels of any vehicle driven through mud will throw mud. He said the term came about in the 1830s when a customer in New Hampshire ordered fenders to be placed over his wagon's wheels to keep mud from hitting his passengers.

     Chief Ranger George Elmore told me that in most records from old military posts, the vehicle carrying the mail was called a "Mail wagon" or a "Mail coach" and not a mud wagon.

     Ahnert also told me mail stage wagons had a waterproof pouch under the driver's seat and in the back luggage boot for the mail. Those without the waterproof pouches were called stage wagons.

     From its establishment in 1859, and for many years after, one of the primary missions of soldiers at Fort Larned was escorting the mail wagons along an almost 140-mile stretch of the Santa Fe Trail. That trail was not a smooth, easily traveled road. It was a rutted dirt road, either very dusty, very muddy, snow covered, or frozen, and it was frequently dangerous. It was escorted by cavalry or horse-mounted infantry soldiers to discourage Indians and bandits from attacking or to help free the mail wagon if it was stuck in either mud or snow.

     One of the Fort Larned Mail Station employees, from 1859 to 1868, was James Brice who tells his story in his book, Reminiscences of Ten-Years-Experience on the Western Plains: How the United States Mails Were Carried Before Railroads Reached the Santa Fe Trail. In it he describes how a mail wagon, in 1863, was coming to Fort Larned from New Mexico and became stuck in the snow. The passengers and crew with the mail made it to Fort Larned, but the wagon had to be left until spring. When they went to retrieve it, they found Indian women using the mail wagon to give their children rides. Brice placed the following drawing in his book.

     Please note the design of this mail wagon. Brice did not call it a "mud wagon." Since he had almost ten years working with mail wagons, it is very probable this is one of the styles of mail wagons used on the Santa Fe Trail at Fort Larned. It looks like the Butterfield Overland Mail Company Stage Celerity Wagon.

     The study of history is very interesting as it answers may questions, and leaves may unanswered! Thus, research continues!

     "Abbot Downing Company - Makers of the Concord Stage"
     Smithsonian National Post Museum, Mud wagon-style stagecoach model
     *Butterfield Overland Mail Company Stagecoaches and Stage (Celerity) Wagons used on the Southern Trail1858-1861 by 2013 Gerald T. Ahnert,
     ** "Celerity and Mud Wagons" by Marshall Trimble, April 10, 2017 issue True West magazine
     http://wheelsthatwonthe Legacy Collection "Abbot-Downing Mud Coach."
     Texas Monthly Magazine, March 2016 issue, Texas History "Rough Rider - There was the romance of the stagecoach, and then there was the reality of the mud wagon."
     "Overland Stage (Celerity) Wagon"

Maintenance Matters
by William Chapman, Facility Manager

     Greetings to all readers of this OUTPOST newsletter. Quite a lot has been happening since our last article, both good and bad. Like a limburger cheese sandwich, we will describe the bad first. We used a hydraulic grout injection firm to raise the concrete sidewalk that has settled at the bridge approach. This was not a successful operation. The sidewalk and the bollard (to prevent motor vehicles from accessing the bridge) was constructed as a single unit. The additional depth of the bollard foundation is what prevented the hydraulic grout injection from being successful. So, we will be developing a scope of work to replace a section of the sidewalk to restore an accessible route. Well this is the bad---you will love the good.

     As the park's point of contract for wildlands fire program, I am glad to a let you all know that we had a very successful prescribed burn of land management units 6 and 7. These two units are located north of the river and east of the picnic area. They have both native and invasive plants throughout. The fire burned the new shoots of these invasive plants promoting the growth of the native plants that had not sprouted from the ground at the time of this burn. Robert Sellers is our Preservation Specialist and Red Carded staff (meaning he has specialized training to work with wildland fires) and worked along with members of four different US Fish and Wildlife Refuges to complete this task.

     We welcome aboard one of the Traditional Trade Apprentice Program staff members to Fort Larned National Historic Site (see article about Tyler Smith in this issue). We are still recruiting for a second member to this special program.

     The Traditional Trades Apprenticeship Program (TTAP) provides avenues for diverse young adults and veterans to learn from experts, developing trade skills and knowledge to enter the workforce, while preserving traditional trades and addressing critical maintenance projects within our National Parks. This program is managed by the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Training Center in Partnership with Conservation Legacy to provide the training and skill development for younger citizens. Robert Sellers and I are mentioning Tyler in painting and carpentry this summer. He will also have to complete a Historic Preservation Fundamental class while learning these skills. This is a 20-week internship and the interns receive a living stipend as well as a computer to use during the program.

     We also recently underwent a U.S. Public Health inspection of the public water and wastewater system in the park. Shawn and now Kenny have been doing a great job on these assets. The inspection only sighted two items that are being corrected as I write this article. Inspection findings that can be corrected very quickly is a testament to how well this staff approach their responsibilities. Great job guys.

     Well, I have taken up too much of your time by now but I have enjoyed letting you all know of the ongoings of a dedicated maintenance staff in preserving our Fort.

     (We at Fort Larned National Historic Site are still looking for TTAP interns! The internship is open to anyone 18-30 or 18-35 for veterans. For more information email Bill Chapmen at

Fort Larned Madness
by Ben Long, Park Ranger

     Who doesn't like a friendly competition? To continue along the lines of virtual programming and events, we decided to host a photo contest on our social media this year. Open to all ages, we had sixteen photos for our fans to vote for their favorite. The number of photos reflected the variety within the photos. Though there were the obligatory blacksmith photos, there were many different angles taken at different times of the day of the Fort and the sights surrounding the Fort.

     This being the first year for us to host something like this on our social media accounts, we didn't know how our fans were going to respond to it. Our fears of the contest not being accepted by our fans were short-lived as each matchup had between 25 and 200 votes. As we got into the semifinals, our fans favorite views became clear--the long porches of the barracks and, of course, our lovable blacksmith.

     The benefit of hosting such a contest on our social media and not in person is that each matchup had people from all over the country, and no doubt the world, voting for their favorite. As a result, we were able to include more people and were able to have a more exciting competition. In the end, it was a Kansan who won---Brenda, with a fantastic shot down the porches of the barracks.

     In an email interview I had with Brenda, she said she took that photo on a very nice September morning as she waited to reserve a slot for Candlelight Tour. Brenda always tries to make it out for our Candlelight Tour as she loves to see the experiences of both the volunteers and visitors. And an evening of fun it most always is, for everyone involved!

     We are glad that our photo contest was a hit and we are looking forward to what we can utilize the virtual world for in the future!

     Photo by Brenda, Fort Larned Madness Winner

Fort Larned In The News
Buffalo Bill Cody Visited Old Fort Larned 1915

     William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody returned to Kansas in 1915 with the Sells-Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. He performed at Dodge Cit on September 9 and at Larned on September 10. Local newspapers interviewed him and wrote about his time as an army scout in the 1860s.

     He visited old Fort Larned in 1915, and the newspapers wrote about his recollections, some of which may have been true. The claim he was a scout and delivering supplies to Fort Larned in 1859 is not true. Cody was born in 1846 and would have been 13 years old in 1859. He was at Fort Larned as a scout in the late 1860s. His claim that he had not seen the stone buildings at Fort Larned is curious since he was at the fort after those buildings were completed in 1868.

     The newspaper editors and Cody appear not to have let the truth get in the way of a good story. The following articles from the Dodge City and Larned newspapers appear as written.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, 9 September 1915
Buffalo Bill Here Today With Circus Was Once Chief Of Scouts At Ft. Dodge

     Colonel W.F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is himself one of the chief attractions at the Sells-Floto circus here today. The picturesque appearance of this old army scout and world character, and the history he has made in this part of the country make him one of the center of interest in the big circus organization which arrived in Dodge City this morning.

     Colonel Cody no longer sleeps on the plains as he did in the early days. Instead he is housed in a luxurious private Pullman car, The Cody. This morning while the circus train was being unloaded he sat on the observation platform of his car in the Santa Fe yards and talked reminiscently of the days when he was chief of the army scouts with headquarters for a time at old Ft. Dodge. "I was never a citizen of Dodge City," he said. "This town is something new which has sprung up here since I left the military post at Ft. Dodge. No one can be more surprised than I am to find such a prosperous and fine looking city here. Certainly there was no promise of it when I was here. Then we would have hooted at the suggestion that anyone could have lived in this part of the country by growing crops, but it appears now to be one of the best crop sections I have visited for a long time."

     Colonel Cody is now 70 years of age. His first visit to this part of the country was before the military post was established at Ft. Dodge and he was at the Fort at times until 1869. During the winter of 1868-69 he did scout service for the army which drove the Indians south, and he says it was this drive which made it possible for settlers to stay in southwestern Kansas. He also remembers well a spirited fight in which he engaged with a band of Cheyenne and Kiowa Indians at what was known as the Sawlog crossing northeast of Dodge City (on the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge Road). The troops which fought the Indians were under the command of General (Winfield Scott) Hancock.

     General Phil Sheridan, in his memoirs, commends Colonel Cody for his bravery in making a 365 mile ride through what was then a densely infected Indian country in a severe blizzard. Colonel Cody said this morning that he started on that ride from Ft. Dodge. He rode to Ft. Larned and Ft. Zarah and back to Ft. Dodge, then west and north to Ft. Hays and back. It was one of the greatest rides of his life.

     "I was never a man killer--a town gun man," Colonel Cody said. "My work was as an army scout in the field and while I became an expert shot I never was engaged in any of the town rows which followed the settlement of the country. Those things happened after I was gone."

Larned Chronoscope, 16 September 1915
Buffalo Bill At Home
Scouted Over Pawnee County Old Indian Days.

     When "Buffalo Bill," Col. W.F. Cody, came to Larned last Friday with the Sells-Floto and Buffalo Bill Shows, he came again to the scene of some of his most thrilling experiences as Indian scout for the government along the old Santa Fe Trail, over fifty years ago.

     Col. Cody was a government scout on the old Santa Fe Trail as early as 1858 and 1859, and was doing scouting duty when the first adobe buildings were put up on the first site of Ft. Larned. He carried despatches between Ft. Larned and Ft. Lyon and Ft. Leavenworth.

     Last Friday afternoon E. E. Frizell took the veteran scout out to Fort Larned and up on Jenkins Hill. The present fort buildings, built of native stone, which were started in 1866, were new to Buffalo Bill. It was not until he was taken about a third of a mile east of the present buildings along the Pawnee that he began to recognize where he was. It was at this point that the original fort was built of adobe.

     Col. Cody pointed out where the old buildings were located, mounds and depressions now marking the ruins of the first buildings. Along the banks of the Pawnee are found many holes or cellars dug back into the high banks. These, Col. Cody said, were the ruins of dugouts built by parties crossing the plains, who would winter under the protection of the fort.

     The building of a dugout was a comparatively easy thing in the high banks along the Pawnee. A hole would be dug back into the bank the desired size. Poles cut from the timber along the creek were placed across the top to support the sod and thatch roof, with a hole left for the chimney. The front of the shack would be closed, except for a door made of blankets or buffalo hides, making the dugout snug and warm. The ruins of hundreds of these dugouts can be seen on the Fort Larned Ranch.

     Col. Cody was taken to the top of Jenkins Hill, a landmark which he well remembered, and from this headland he pointed out many points along the trail. At the foot of this hill, just above the dam at the state farm, was the Boyd ford, where the caravans crossed the Pawnee on their way to the Ft.

      The Santa Fe Trail most familiar to Buffalo Bill was the high route from Fort Zarah to Fort Larned, crossing Ash Creek and passing Pawnee Rock. It was along this trail from Pawnee Rock that Buffalo Bill had one of his most thrilling escapes from the Indians, and it was just across the Boyd ford that he overtook a squad of soldiers, who turned back his pursuers. (Quotations from a book were added to this story and not included here.)

     Pawnee Rock, as remembered by Buffalo Bill, was a rock standing sheer forty-five feet high on the east and overlooking the whole Arkansas Valley. This was a famous point on the old trail, and many fights with the Indians occurred at or near this rock. It was also the battleground of Indian tribes years before the white man came. Much of the original rock was blasted away by the railroad and used in building the abutments of its bridges, and early settlers used the stone for building purposes.

     During his stay in Larned, Wm. Keller, one of the pioneer residents of this county and an old buffalo hunter, visited Col. Cody and renewed old acquaintanceship. At first Col. Cody did not remember him, but Mr. Keller related several incidents of the frontier days which brought him back to the scout's memory.

Dugout at Fort Larned, 1860s
The Tiller and Toiler (Larned KS), 16 September 1915
Big Crowds At The Circus
The Tents Were Filled For Both Performances Last Week.

     Before daybreak last Friday they had begun to arrive to see the cars unloaded, and by 11:30 o'clock, when the parade started, the streets of Larned were crowded with people in town to see the Sells-Floto circus. At both the afternoon and evening performances of the circus the tent was crowded, In the afternoon the tent was so crowded that many people were compelled to stand, while in the evening every seat in the big tent was filled, and the numerous side shows were liberally patronized. In the afternoon almost 2,000 people remained for the after performance, while in the evening over 1,200 people remained.

     The parade started at the circus grounds on south Broadway, came north to Fourth street, where it turned west to Main street. From Fourth street to Sixth street the parade followed Main. At Sixth it turned east to Broadway, and south down Broadway to the tents. The parade was about four blocks long, with either a band or a calliope every half block. Near the front of the column drove Colonel Cody behind a white team, preceded and followed by a band.

     Colonel Cody opened the afternoon performance with a short talk on the west in pioneer days, after which, with some Larned men he visited the old fort and Pawnee Rock. In the evening Buffalo Bill talked of his ride, and thanked the Larned men for their hospitality. "When I rode these plains in the early days," said the pioneer, "I thought this Pawnee fork country the most God forsaken I had ever seen, but after my ride today I have changed my opinion of the country. No place in this big west has the change been so great as in this locality." Following a few courteous tributes to the land and the people who have made the land, the picturesque old man galloped out of the tent.

     During the early part of the afternoon performance a woman bare-back rider fell from her horse in the south ring, and was badly injured. She was picked up, unconscious, and carried from the tent.

     The three-ring Sells-Floto circus and Buffalo Bill wild west show drew one of the largest crowds ever attracted by a single show in Larned. And it was a well satisfied crowd that left town after the final performance in the evening. At 8 o'clock loading the cars of the two long trains which carry the circus was begun. Wagons, horses, cook shacks and side show tents were the first to go, and following the final performance that night, the coast was clear for the removal of the big tent. By 12 o'clock the show was loaded and ready to leave.

      A wagon cook shack, equipped with ranges at which three cooks worked continually, fed the hundreds of employees of the circus. The kitchen with the dining tent was located on a vacant lot, across the street west from the show grounds.

     For an hour and a half following the opening of the show, every one of the three rings were filled with riders, animal trainers, acrobats, contortionists, and clowns, and, as usual, the clowns received the most enthusiastic reception.

Fort Larned, 1868, looking west
The Tiller and Toiler (Larned KS), 17 September 1915
Buffalo Bill At Old Haunts

     Nothing Seemed Familiar at Fort Larned, Where He Scouted in the Late '50s.

     Col. Wm. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill," was on once familiar ground when he visited Larned with the Sells-Floto circus last Friday. He was a scout in this part of the West in the late 50s, and in 1859 drove the first load of supplies into Fort Larned, just established. He again visited the Fort in 1868, but since then had never until last Friday re-visited this one of the scenes of his many early adventures.

     As a mark of respect for the famous old scout--old in years only--and in the hope of getting unrecorded details of early history along the Pawnee, Mayor Lindas and a party of old-timers took Col. Cody for a visit to the Fort while the circus was in progress Friday afternoon. He opened the show with a short talk, and immediately afterwards joined the automobile party, which was composed of Mayor Lindas, E. E. Frizell who now owns the Fort, A. H. Moffet, Wm. T. Keller, Dudley Posey, W. P. Peter, Fred Spreier, M. T. Banta and a newspaper man. Mr. Banta was personally acquainted with Col. Cody, and helped make arrangements for the trip.

     Col. Cody found nothing familiar about the site of the old fort. The buildings of the fort he knew were built of adobe, and as he remembers were located in the bend of the Pawnee just east of the stone buildings built later which now stand.

     May 29-31, 2021: Memorial Weekend at the Fort
     May 29, 2021: Official opening of new museum exhibits (see details on page one)

August 1, 2021

     Notice: If you would prefer to receive OUTPOST as a pdf file via email to save paper and postage, please send a note to the editor at {}. You will see color photos in color and may print out the newsletter if you want a hard copy. Thank you.

Membership Reminder
     Annual memberships in the Fort Larned Old Guard expire on December 31. If you have not renewed for 2021, 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. Thank you so much for all your support!!!

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 Fort Larned 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.

     Fort Larned National Historic Site is a unit of the U.S. National Park Service located six miles west of Larned, Kansas 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. They also have a great book store! Information on Fort Larned may be found at {www.National Park}, by calling 620-285-6911, or by sending email to {fols_superintendent@National Park}.

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