After my Aunts and Cousins said “Goodbye,” we visited the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas. It’s a “living history” museum that tells the story of Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement, to a cattle town, to an agricultural and manufacturing area. It’s definitely a must see.
*Old Cowtown Museum’s collections reflect aspects of life on the frontier in the late 1860s and 1870s. They include historic structures and their period furnishings, clothing and domestic textiles, tools and machinery, farming equipment and rolling stock. An archival collection of photographs, letters, and documents also provide primary source material for historical research. A separate study collection and reproductions are used by costumed history interpreters to bring this historical period to life.
There are 54 historic and recreated buildings at Cowtown located along the banks of the Arkansas River that are open to visitors all year long. Twenty-seven of the buildings are original and have been relocated to the grounds from Wichita and other sites in Kansas. Relocation of these structures protected them from demolition and preserved them for the future.
I’m warning you now.
This is one of those typical family vacation spots where you take tons of pictures.
Sorry… I tried to keep it at a minimum. Not!
*Heller Cabin is considered as one of the top 10 intact structures in the United States from the settlement period. The cabin was built by Civil War veteran Leonhard Hoffman, who expertly cut and pieced the logs together.
The living history interpreter in the cabin, taught us a little about this and that. It was pretty interesting.
Aren’t these two the cutest?
We had to take the typical tourist pictures with the covered wagons, and the kids sitting on saddles. (Sitting on them backwards.)
*In 1870, the Presbyterian congregation built the first permanent church structure in the town, and was later used as a boarding house. After a fire in 1949 destroyed the second floor, the building was condemned. In 1952 the Church was moved to a site on the Arkansas River, which has become the grounds of Old Cowtown Museum.
Lifting his heart to the Lord!
“Preach it, baby!”
*The Hodge House was built by Wesley Hodge, an African-American blacksmith from 1878-1885. In 1880, Wesley was 40 years old and his wife Millie, a homemaker, was 38. They and their children Fannie, 15, and James, 13, who worked as a bootblack, lived in the house. The Hodges were one of Wichita’s first African-American families.
*In 1874, Marshall M. Murdock, founder and editor of the Wichita City Eagle, built his fine home, “Eaglehurst.” This elegant dwelling was among the most stylish residences of the day in Wichita. In its time the structure symbolized Wichita’s rapid advancement from frontier trading outpost to successful urban center.
Many structures in Old Cowtown are purportedly haunted. The Murdock House is considered to be the “Most Haunted.” The Murdock’s young daughter, Love-en-Tangle, died in 1883, of Spinal Meningitis. A vision of a young child has been seen peeking around the corners, playing in the yard, and watching from the window upstairs. Reports have candles levitating and voices being caught on recordings, EVPs. You can read more about the hauntings in the book, Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper.
I’ve got ‘The Willies’ just imaging this old creepy doll coming to life. Muahahaha….
“Hello, cute little squirrel!”
*In 1871, Wichita passed a school bond issue allocating $5,000 for a wood-frame building. Prior to that, classes were held by William Finn in an abandoned sod dugout. Finn charged a subscription rate of one dollar per pupil. The Old Cowtown Museum schoolhouse was built in Wichita circa 1910.
“What is 2 + 2?
“I know, The answer is 22!”
“You’re Wrong! You didn’t study! F!”
“I know the answer!”
“Around A.D. 1200 Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci) discovered that a few weeks after putting 2 male rabbits plus 2 female rabbits in the same cage, he ended up with considerably more than 4 rabbits. Fearing that too strong a challenge to the value 4 given in Euclid would meet with opposition, Leonardo conservatively stated, “2 + 2 is more like 5 than 4.” Even this cautious rendition of his data was roundly condemned and earned Leonardo the nickname “Blockhead.” By the way, his practice of underestimating the number of rabbits persisted; his celebrated model of rabbit populations had each birth consisting of only two babies, a gross underestimate if ever there was one.”
“Do you mock me, girl!? You get an F, too! The answer is 4! Just 4!”
I love my crazy family!
Unfortunately, we visited the museum at a time when there weren’t really any demonstrations, or reenactments going on.
No gunfights, no wagon rides… Bummer.
*In 1869 Darius S. Munger built this two-story residence which is considered to be the first two-story substantial house in Wichita. All of the building materials come from the river bank vicinity with the exception of the hardware and windows. The logs are hand-hewn cottonwood, the floors are walnut and samples of the original plaster still exist. A log barn stood between the house and the river. Due to Munger’s role in the development of the fledgling town, his family residence served many functions, including that of Post Office, boarding house, meeting place and office of the Justice of the Peace.
The Gill Mortuary was built at Cowtown in 1964 as a replica of Wichita’s oldest funeral home, the I. W. Gill Undertaking Parlor, which was in business from 1890 thru 1980. The stain glass windows and fireplace were from the family home while the oak ceiling arched beams and scroll work came from the chapel.
That hearse is creepy!
Oh, Man! Nooo! What happened? Maybe he saw the credit card bill? Or maybe, I took a little too long taking pictures! Sigh…
He thinks he’s funny…
*The City Eagle Print Shop building represents the office and printing business of Colonel Marshall M. Murdock, founder and editor of the Wichita City Eagle. The Eagle was one of the first newspapers published in Wichita and has remained in continuous operation since that time. Marsh Murdock was an ardent promoter of the city of Wichita throughout his life. He used his newspaper as a means to proclaim the advantages of life on this western frontier. He attracted new settlers and speculators by portraying Wichita as an oasis of civility and led community boosters in his vision to turn a frontier town into an enterprising city.
*Max M. Fechheimer, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, came to Wichita in 1869. His grandfather had fourteen children and as a result, several Fechheimer businesses sprang up in America. Following in those family footsteps, Max and the Fechheimer family, opened their first clothing and dry goods store in 1842. The company prospered over the years and is now a leading manufacturer of police, fire, postal, and band uniforms.
“How can I assist you?”
*The building that is now interpreted as an early barbershop, originally was built to be the Wichita Township Hall. It was erected in 1881, and over the years the small, front-gabled frame building served as a meeting place for township trustees and a polling place for residents. The exhibit portrays a business where men could obtain a shave, haircut, and the local gossip. The sign outside the museum’s tonsorial establishment indicates that baths were also available to travelers and cowboys as an added convenience. As gathering places, barber shops offered an opportunity for men to enjoy camaraderie and lively debates about news and politics while enjoying a cigar or chew of tobacco. Due to the all-male atmosphere associated with barber and bath houses, Victorian-era women did not frequent such business locales.
****In the 1870s, people did not know that germs made you sick. To feel better, people made their own medicine (home remedies), bought patent medicines, or bought medicine the pharmacist made. Because people thought all three worked equally well, the pharmacist sold patent medicines and ingredients for home remedies. The pharmacist probably knew that some did not work, but he sold them anyway because people wanted to buy them.
Look at the graphics on the bottles and boxes! Swoon!
****Many of the bottles in the center cabinet on the west wall are patent medicines that, with no FDA or government regulations, could tout whatever claims the maker desired, and as long as people purchased the product the drugstore would continue to sell it. Though many of these medicines were outright frauds, the makers relied on the customer’s limited scientific knowledge and their belief in the testimonials given by other customers. Though many pharmacists knew they did not work, they sold these medicines because people wanted to buy them.
I think he was thirsty!
*In 1872, Wichita had fourteen saloons. Although many of the town residents disapproved of such establishments, they recognized their contribution to the city economy and saw to it that the “evils” were properly licensed. By 1876 Snitzler, a German immigrant, had established a large complex that included a hotel with restaurant, a meat market and a saloon. He lodged his customers’ livestock in a large stable out back. The Wichita Weekly Beacon referred to the area as “Snitzville” and often acclaimed the jovial host as a man who spared no expense to provide the best food, drink and cigars at any hour of the day or night.
FRITZ SNITZLER is the proprietor of a Restaurant at Wichita…. Everybody knows Fritz, and who ever visited Wichita know him. Mr. Snitzler will pull down over two hundred pounds avoirdupois, and is fully as liberal and jolly as he is heavy…. Fritz knows how to run a Restaurant, and never allows his guests to go away dissatisfied. When you go to Wichita take your dinner there. -Wichita City Directory, 1877
You can’t go back in time to Kansas, without meeting the “real Dorothy” from The Wizard of Oz.
What? No dancing-girls? We’ll have to fix that!
“No Whiskey for you today, Dear.”
Better late than never, the entertainment has finally showed up.
*The Southern Hotel, built in 1871, was one of the earliest hotels in Wichita.
*To the community in 1871, the railroad represented a lifeline to the outside world, and city founder James R. Mead rallied Sedgwick County residents to vote for bonds to bring the railroad to town.
One can now take the railroad cars at Wichita one morning and be in St. Louis the next morning and in Chicago the evening following. We are now within the bounds of civilization. -Wichita City Eagle, May 17, 1882
*This wood-framed depot was built in 1887 and now bears the name “Wichita & Southwestern Railroad” to represent the city’s independent company that convinced the AT&SF to build a branch line to Wichita. Early Santa Fe depots are similar to each other in structure, a strategy that created uniformity along the entire railroad line. This depot is typical of that early frame architecture. By the turn of the 20th century, all Santa Fe designs were governed by the company’s System Architect’s office in Chicago. Those standardized buildings continued the use of details found in the Museum’s depot such as the 12-light windows, brackets, wide overhanging eaves, and gable over the cashier’s bay.
A stretch of rail line extends from the grain elevator to the stockyards and provides an authentic setting for the depot. To reconstruct the track, Santa Fe officials provided original 52-pound rails and a keg of old-style “grasshopper” spikes. The railroad company also contributed a hand car and a boxcar to stand near the station.
My niece tried her hand at a Game of Horseshoes.
She needs a “little” practice.
The kids had fun playing on the hand car.
I wish I could have gotten all of them to pose together nicely.
That definitely wasn’t happening. At least these two posed for me.
The definition of Livery is the business of keeping vehicles that people can hire.
****Can you think of two reasons why everyone did not own their own transportation? Most people could get places by walking. Owning a horse required daily chores, food, veterinary bills, and riding equipment. Owning a buggy meant having a place to keep it out of the weather in addition to maintaining it with parts and grease.
*The position of City Marshal was one of the first established after the City of Wichita was incorporated in 1870. He was responsible for not only “keeping the peace” but also for firearm ordinance enforcement, rounding up stray dogs and issuing various city permits and licenses.
*Built in 1884, the General Store originally operated as the A.K. Masters General Store in Garden Plain, Kansas. The General Store exhibit represents a business that provided basic goods and services to early Wichitans. In small frontier towns, general stores were the primary outlet for tinned food, dry goods, pots and pans, hardware, lamps and furniture. The coming of railroad services to Wichita in 1872 greatly facilitated business, and one might also have found wallpaper, stereoscopes, candy, beauty cream and other refinements newly arrived from the East. Eventually such ready distribution by the railroads caused the rise of retail businesses specialized in particular lines of goods.
Unlike today’s retail businesses, merchandise in general stores was displayed behind the counters and the store keepers filled the customer’s orders from those shelves.
I love the shoes!
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900, and reflected the struggle of life in Kansas, in the late 1890’s. It’s certainly appropriate for the museum to contain some sort of ‘homage’ to the classic children’s story.
*****The Millinery and Dress Shop, represents the entrepreneurial role of women in early Wichita. In 1878, when the population of Wichita was around 4,000, there were at least 47 businesses owned and operated by women. Over half of those businesses were listed as seamstress, dressmaker, milliner and/or hairdresser. It was not unusual for dressmakers and milliners to be married women with children. This follows true to form as dressmakers and milliners were typically trained as young girls or early adults. They apprenticed in shops under the tutelage of the shop owners, starting as a clerk, then moving onto easy seams, then buttons and buttonholes, eventually graduating to the fine detailed seams and hat construction techniques. It took years to learn their craft.
Skilled seamstresses were valued as ladies‘ clothing was very form-fitted. Each garment made to fit the size and shape of each lady. The idea of standard sizes or off the rack clothing would not come until later in the century.
Hubby is such a ladies-man! Haha…
It was a nice day. Can’t wait to go back and see everything we missed!
*Excerpt taken directly from Old Cowtown Museum.
**Silliness from Aha! Jokes.
***Taken from Sedgwick County KS Genweb.
****Taken from Working Together To Make a Town Work.
*****Taken from Historical Background.