(Frank) First up, Deb Bisel is at the Dickinson County Historical Museum, Then she travels to Liebenthal, a small German community with a lot to see, and a must stop along the way to indulge in some tasty snacks. We end up at Cheyenne Bottoms, a surprise for travelers who say Kansas is flat.
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(Deb) Well this is my favorite part of the Dickinson County Historical Museum, and you’ll recognize the figure, the bust of Wild Bill Hickok just behind me here. And there are several artifacts connected with his time here in Abilene. And of course he was here during Abilene’s heyday as a cow town. Abilene became famous because it was a rail head for the cows being driven north out of Texas and of course then they were shipped back east. Well, Wild Bill from 1870 to 71 was the Marshall here in Abilene and he was a pretty tough Marshall, he was pretty handy with a gun. Ironically his job was to enforce a no-gun law within the city limits. And keeping those rowdy cowboys in line was a pretty tough job. Now, one of the most controversial incidents of his entire career happened here in Abilene. And that’s when he was responding to a disturbance involving a Phil Coe and in the process of handling that disturbance, one of his deputies came up behind him, unexpectedly and he wheeled around and shot his deputy and killed him. It was a very unfortunate accident, definitely an accident and it was the last man Bill Hickok killed. And after a short time there, he was relieved of his duties here. And of course he’ll go to 1876 to Deadwood where he will be killed in a card game in Deadwood. Abilene is at the very head of the Chisholm Trail, probably the most famous trail for moving cattle during the heyday of the cowboy era. And it owes that prominence along the cow towns to Joseph McCoy. Now McCoy came to Kansas and was going to make his fortune moving cows from Texas back east. The demand for beef after the American Civil War was tremendous in the northeast. So hewas going to take advantage of that and all the new railroads coming through and all those cows, those longhorns who lay in Texas. All he had to do was get them up the trail, get them on the railroads and ship them back to be slaughtered. So, that was his plan. And Abilene was just a little village, if that, just a few sod houses and a handful of businesses before McCoy picked that to be the trail head for the movement of the cattle. And Jesse Chisholm, ironically, the man who gave his name to the Chisholm Trail never moved any cattle. He owned a little trading post there near Oklahoma City, part of the Cherokee nation and acted sort of as a guide for people going along that way, but he never traded himself. And it’s just ironic that the most famous cattle trail bears his name. I’m so sad that we are here at the Dickinson County Museum on a day when my friend, Jeff Sheets, who is the director has a rare time off because I would love to be able to visit with him about what a great job he has done with these displays. And one of the best is behind me here. And it’s the early exploration of what is going to become Kansas, at one time. You know this was part of the Louisiana Purchase, so in 1803 when President Jefferson buys this from France you know, one of the reasons it was such a valuable area was the fur trade. And the French had valued it for the fur trade and they’ve got this great beaver hide on the wall and then the beaver hat right next to it. Beaver was the currency of the day, furs but especially beaver. The streams here in the middle of Kansas were rich with beaver. It’s hard for us to imagine that now but at that time, they would have been everywhere, they would have just been everywhere. And it was just a trappers dream to come through the middle of the state. So, I just thought it was just so great that Jeff included this early part of history and the whole area of Dickinson County, because it’s one that we don’t normally associate with this part of the state.
(Deb) Really wonderful exhibit at the Dickinson County Historical Museum on the railroads impact on this community and the entire west, not just on Abilene. But this great poster that the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad sent to Europe advertising for people to come to America and settle lands along the Santa Fe. So the Santa Fe Railroad is going to carry culture, it’s going to carry civilization throughout the southwest and this was a great place to start. And for those teaming masses of Europeans who had outgrown the land and had very little opportunity, this truly was the promised land, the land where dreams could come true. The American dreamreally has its birth right here in the west and Kansas is literally at the heart of it. So, we were talking about a lot of those communities before on other episodes. You know, the Czech communities, the German communities, the Swedish communities, the Russian communities. The reason we have those is because of ads like this that the Santa Fe Railroad, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe sent to Europe, just begging for settlers and promising them land out here. And of course the railroad means everything to Abilene. Again you’ve got the trail head for the cows and the railroad coming together and so all of that comes together to create this community. And with the Homestead Act, you’ve got all these soldiers coming out here after the Civil War is over from the east to make this their home. Again, because we’ve got land. We’ve got land and we’ve got opportunity. And the railroad is just the bloodline, if you will, the arteries for that to happen. Without that railroad none of this can take place. Hello. Sorry can’t talk right now, we’re filming Around Kansas. I’ll call you back in a few minutes. Where can we go today without our cell phones? And if you look around here in the Dickinson County Historical Museum, you’ll see the most incredible collection of phones I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s just unreal. There are posters here about party lines. Are any of you old enough to remember party lines? I actually do. When I was a kid, back in the dark ages, we were on a party line and everybody had a different number of rings, longs or shorts to indicate whose phone was being called. And of course you would pick up the phone and listen in on your neighbors. You know those were the good old days. This collection is incredible, you’ve got the switchboards, you’ve got the phone booth. Where would Superman have been without the phone booth? I don’t know what he does these days. But this is just a great surprise in the back of this already incredible museum. You’ve got to make this a stop.
(Deb) Believe it or not we are still in the Dickinson County Historical Museum, can you believe it? So many buildings here, so much to see and a few minutes ago we looked at the evolution of the telephone over the years and now you can see the evolution of farm equipment, from the wagons to we have a patrol car over here, but this harvesting equipment, the tractors, the harvesters, it is just an awesome display not only of the evolution of the machinery itself, but really the human story of what it took to pioneer here in Dickinson County and through out the west of course and to make a living off this ground. It is really a wonderful exhibit, again the Dickinson County Historical Society has gone to great trouble to keep this all together. There is an exhibit of the different varieties of barbed wire, who knew? And so many of the local families of course have donated vehicles, tractors to this exhibit. It is one of those things that makes this so special and makes this museum very unique, you know the families and this community have really stepped up to the plate to donate these items and then to maintain them and share them with the public. Kudos, just a fantastic job. One of the jewels of the Dickinson County Historical Museum is this CW Parker Carousel. Parker was in business in Abilene from the mid 1890’s to 1911. At that time, after a dispute with the city of Abilene over property lines and land use, he moved his company to Leavenworth Kansas. During the decades to follow he was the undisputed amusement park king and was the nation’s largest owner of private railroad stock. Production kept up at a steady pace until the depression that came after the market crash in 1929. Parker died in 1932 at the age of 68 in Leavenworth, leaving scores of his marvelous county fair style carousels as his legacy. It has been painstakingly restored to its former glory, so not only is this on the national register of historic places, you can still ride it. So the whole community can come together right here and enjoy these restored masterpieces of amusement.
(Deb) Welcome to Liebenthal in Rush County, Kansas, it is one of those lovely little communities founded in the 1870s by the Volga Deutsch, those German immigrants from the Volga region of Russia and they were
actually ordered out of the country of Russia by the Czar, he decided it was time to kick the Germans out. Fortunately, these people were really experienced in growing wheat, so when Kansas was advertising for settlers it was a perfect place for them to come. And Liebenthal is such a great example of the community they created once they arrived in Kansas. Now in the heart of Liebenthal which only has about 50 families now, is of course,St. Joseph’s church. And the church itself hand quarried stone, magnificent structure, is a beautiful and is obviously the heart of the community. But if you go up to the cemetery, the German heritage is… the German-Russian heritage is evident there as well with beautiful crosses, the metal work in those crosses and the obvious German themes from the headstones and the crosses that are there in the cemetery. It’s just on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the community. Now right downtown in Liebenthal in what used to be the State Bank is Pat’s Beef Jerky. And Pat’s has been there for more than 20 years and any given day when they’re open there is a line forming around the block to go in and buy beef jerky. This used to be a bank and I think it was 1927 the bank was robbed. Eventually, it closed in the 1930s when so many banks around the country were closing in the midst of the Great Depression. So Pat did an extensive renovation and has a thriving business there that serves not only the community, but pretty much all of Kansas. And a lot of travelers that are coming through and the regular customers that order his product from just everywhere. Folks come in from eastern Kansas regularly and stop there in Liebenthal, just southwest of Hays, a great little community. A must stop on one of your trips Around Kansas.
(Deb) Just driving around Kansas one of my favorite places to take folks especially people who aren’t familiar with Kansas landscape and think it’s just flat and dry, is the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. Now that is about 20,000 acres that the state of Kansas has protected, out of a 41,000 acre natural sink, this is just northeast of Great Bend. So in the 1940s and 50s when the state of Kansas took it over they actually built a canal system that divided this, the area they are protecting into pools, so they could control it a little better. This is on a natural bird migration route so the Cheyenne Bottoms is a paradise for bird watchers the whooping cranes are just one of the species you can find there but at any given time it is just almost deafening with the cacophony of bird sounds on the marshes. Now, it’s a trial to control that now you’ve got all these invasive species of plants that have to be controlled and they want to keep of course, the bird migration going so they can drain these pools and actually sow it with millet or some kind of seeds that help feed the birds and keep them coming back. It’s an absolute incredible place. There are times when the marsh is so full, it’s like you are just sitting on the shore of the ocean and you can just see waves lapping in this incredible wetlands and so surprising right here in the heart of Kansas to come across that. In managing the wetlands, one of the things that the state of Kansas has done were built dikes to impound five pools of water in the Cheyenne Bottoms area. Now canals and dams were built to divert water from the nearby Arkansas River and Wet Walnut Creek to supplement the water provided by two intermittent streams, the Blood and Deception Creeks. Now of course, when we think about drought around the state, it affects farming and like livestock production, you know, all those things that we normally think of. But with the Cheyenne Bottoms what the drought means to maintaining the wildlife is virtually incalculable. This is such an important place where the nesting and migration of migratory species that we can’t even put a an amount on how valuable space is for them. So when you’re driving around Kansas, it’s going to be a big surprise when you stop in the Cheyenne Bottoms. Make sure that’s on your stop.
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