Category: Museums


The Santa Fe Trail Center

The Santa Fe Trail Center near Larned is a regional museum dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the geographic area once known as the Santa Fe Trail. The trail was a great trade route which linked the United States with Mexico, and later with its own American southwest. The era of the Santa Fe Trail began in 1821, when Mexican independence from Spain opened up new trade opportunities for both American and Mexican merchants. Pulled by oxen and mules, commercial freight wagon trains crossed the plains until the railroad arrived near Santa Fe in 1880. This ended rnthe Santa Fe Trail’s freighting days and a new era began as settlers established homes, farms, and ranches along the ruts of the old trail.

The museum’s exhibits show the trail as a transportation route which blended the Indian, Spanish, andAmerican cultures. Displays include prehistoric Indian artifacts, a Wichita Indian grass lodge, a full-sized mounted buffalo, a commercial freight wagon , and an exhibit showing the Spanish influences on rnthe trail.

The period of settlement along the ruts of the old trail, brought about by the coming of the railroad, is depicted in the museum by a series of rooms showing pioneer life in the early 1900’s. An impressive rncollection of historic firearms showing the progression of weapons from flintlock to cartridge is also on display.

Outdoor exhibits on the Trail Center’s 5-acre complex include a sod house, dugout home, limestone rncooling house, one-room schoolhouse, and a Santa Fe Railroad depot. On special occasions, living history programs provide visitors with an insight into early pioneer life.

In 1991, the Santa Fe Trail Center was designated a certified site on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. It was the second site on the trail and the first site in Kansas to receive this important designation by the National Park Service.

Morton County Historical Society Museum

A visit to the Morton County Historical Museum is an exploration in history.

As you enter the museum, you will note the beautiful paintings around the room, depicting the history of Morton County. All are painted by local artists, reflecting pride in sturdy pioneer ancestors.

Walking through the museum, your imagination will allow you to relive Coronado\’s quest as he crosses the prairie; to experience the Indian\’s life as he follows the herds of buffalo. The Santa Fe Trail becomes a reality in your mind, and you can plainly visualize the freight wagons lead by William Becknell, as they hurry towards Middle Springs, just below Point of Rocks, for the only available water after leaving Wagon Bed Springs on the Cimarron Cut-Off.

You relive these events in history as you tour the various rooms of the pioneer home, the early businesses; look at the covered wagon hooked up to life-size horses; go down into the half dugout that is renewed memories for many visitors; and walk into the 14\’ teepee with Indian artifacts of the \”Native Americans\”. Antique tractors, cars, toys … there is something for everyone.

The Museum was established in 1987, and though the people of Morton County are the true history makers, staff and volunteers are extremely proud of their accomplishments to preserve and conserve the past.rn

The museum is a tribute to those who live … and a memorial to those who have passed on.


Meade County Historical Museum

The Meade County Historical Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of early Meade County settlers with stories and memorabilia from the frontier days. The museum boardwalk includes replicas of scenes from the past such as a sod house, general store and blacksmith shop. The museum also hosts an extensive collection of railroad memorabilia and artifacts from a local archeological dig.

The museum\’s outdoor display, which is 1 block east and 1/2 block south of the museum, includes the Sunnydale one room school house, a windmill and early farm equipment.

The Dalton Gang Hideout & Museum

A modest house and barn on a cottonwood shaded hill are home to an Old West legend. Notorious for robbing trains and banks, the Dalton Gang created a hideout in Meade and built an escape tunnel from the home of their sister, Eva Whipple, to the barn some 95 feet away where their horses could carry them away undetected by the law. The Whipple house, escape tunnel and barn museum have been preserved and are all open to the public. Viewing the tunnel provides a sense of adventure that appeals to all ages.

Also on the grounds is the Heritage House, a restored circa 1900 Meade County home.

At the south end of the tunnel the barn houses a museum in the loft which contains a fascinating collection of western items that have been preserved by the pioneers of Meade and surrounding counties.

The Dalton Gift Shop, also located in the barn, affords an opportunity to by Hideout souvenirs.

The shady park beyond the barn offers picnic and playground facilities. At the south end of the Hideout park you will find “Old Town” a wild west town facade built for the historical reenactments and gunfight competitions we have each year during Dalton Days Wild West Festival. Kids love to pose for photos behind the bars of the jail or in the old casket propped up on the undertaker’s wall.

Lane County Historical Museum

As a tribute to those pioneers who endured the hardships and loneliness of the prairie, the Lane County Historical Society was established. In 1976, the Society opened the Historical Museum to help preserve and promote the history of the county.

In addition to the permanent and temporary exhibits, the Museum grounds include a machinery park, a native plants and grasses garden, and a full-scale sod house.

The Museum building houses a fine library containing reference materials on Lane County and Kansas. Copies of the Museum’s privately owned photographs can be obtained through the Museum Gift Shop. A variety of unique handcrafted items, and also books and post cards are available here.

The Kiowa County Historical Museum

The Kiowa County Historical Museum houses area memorabilia collected by The Kiowa Co. Historical Society. The restored Hunter Drug Store Soda Fountain stands proudly as a living history exhibit in the Kiowa County Commons Building, being enjoyed by new generations as well as devoted pre-tornado patrons.

The original Museum Building, prior to the EF5 tornado in May of 2007, was donated to the Historical Society by Beulah Wheeler, in memory of her late husband, Wendell & the heirs of J. M. Caplinger who wished the memory of their ancestor’s and the building to be preserved. Today a new building houses the artifacts and the soda fountain.

The Big Well Museum & Visitor Information Center

The Big Well is a marvel of pioneer engineering that was completed in 1888 as the towns original water supply. At 109 feet deep, this is a breathtaking sight to see. This new museum opened in May 2012 and once again allows visitors to descend a spiral staircase into the Big Well and view exhibits that feature Greensburg’s history, the tornado, and our rebuilding as a sustainable community.

The story of the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well began in the 1880’s when both the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads were laying tracks across the plains of Kansas. A large supply of water was needed for the steam locomotives and for the people of the area. The only dependable source of water was from a well. In 1887, the city granted a franchise for a water works system, to cost approximately $45,000, a huge sum of money in those days. The Santa Fe terminated its track at the west Kiowa County line and removed eight years later.

Construction of the well was a masterpiece of engineering. Hired on a day to day basis for fifty cents to a dollar a day, crews of twelve to fifteen farmers, cowboys and other local men dug the well. Other crews quarried and hauled the native stone for the casing of the well. This stone was hauled in wagons from the Medicine River twelve miles south of Greensburg. Dirt from the well was hauled away by the wagons which had slatted beds. By opening the slats and dumping the dirt in low spots, streets and roads to the quarry were leveled.

For many years it was accepted that the stone casing was built on a circular wood platform and lowered inch by inch using jackscrews, and that the stonemasons worked at ground level.

Newspaper accounts of the well’s construction describe exactly how it was dug, cribbed and cased. As the dirt was removed, it was cribbed with wood to prevent caving in. Every eight feet was braced from wall to wall with 2″ x 12″ planks. When the well was down to water, a ring was built, called a boot, constructed of heavy oak bridge timbers. The timbers were mortised and dovetailed together in such a way that no nails were used. When the boot was finished, the stone was started on it and the weight forced it through the water and sand till it rested on solid footing. As the masonry progressed upward, the cribbing braces were sawed off after the stone was laid up around them. Some of these ends have rotted away leaving holes in the wall, while others are still in place and are clearly visible.

When the well was completed in 1888, it was 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter. It served as the city’s water supply until 1932. The well was covered and opened as a tourist attraction in 1939. Since then over 3,000,000 people have visited the “Big Well.”

People have been tossing money and other items into the Big Well since its beginning. In 1990, the town hired trained divers to clean the bottom of the well. A silver and onyx crucifix, shoes, coins, and even a rubber snake and frog were found. These items are on display in the gift shop. The money was deposited in a special fund to help maintain the well.

Visitors brave enough to walk down the 105 steps to the bottom will be impressed with this century-old feat. The lights installed under the water enable one to see all the way to the bottom.

Kearny County Historical Society Museum

Step back in time as history unfolds at the Kearny County Museum on Buffalo Street. Established in 1979, the museum won the Kansas Historical Society’s Award of Excellence in 1982.

In 1974, the museum property, one-half city block, was given to the Kearny County Historical Society by Jennie Rose O’Loughlin, daughter of John and Mary O’Loughlin. Jennie’s father, John, was the county’s first permanent white settler in what was to become Kearny County. He was also the first permanent settler of Southwest Kansas. In 1873 John came to the railroad designated stop of Lakin to establish a store.

The complex consists of the museum building constructed in 1979 and annex, the White House, School House, Santa Fe Depot, Farm Machinery building and a Round Barn, totaling over 20,000 square feet. The Lakin area was an important part of the Santa Fe trail and houses an excellent Santa Fe Trail exhibit. The 1831 Conestoga Wagon is quite impressive.

The Museum was built in 1979. It houses a large reference library, with volumes reaching back as far as 1847. Extensive files on Kearny County history, families, newspapers, county records are housed in the Museum. An extensive collection of indexed photographs, Kansas Historical Society publications, and all newspapers printed in the county are on microfilm.

Historic O’Loughlin House

The O’Loughlin house was called, “The Little White House”, as it was the largest building in the town and was the center for social gatherings, church services, meetings and housed visiting dignitaries.

The White House is the oldest two-story house in Lakin. It was built in 1875 for Alonzo Boylan, the first depot agent. John and Mary O’Loughlin’s wedding reception was held there in 1882. In 1916 the house was purchased by the O’Loughlin family and moved to its present site. It was remodeled and became the home of the William O’Loughlins, a son of John and Mary.

It has been decorated in keeping with the 1916 era, and is located at the Museum Complex.