May 11, 2015

5/5/15 - Old Cowtown Museum

Located on 23 acres in Wichita, Kansas, Old Cowtown Museum is a living history museum of a typical Great Plains town from the 1870s. It's a fun way to learn how a famous old western town on the Chisholm Trail managed the move to become a Victorian town on it's way to what is now the largest city in the whole state.
After getting our tickets at the Visitor Center, we were given a map of town, and headed back in time--just like in a Twilight Zone segment. We found when we got there that a bunch of grade school kids had taken over the town. No, wait! It's yet another Field Trip! It's okay though--the Town Marshall is keeping a wary eye on them.
We stayed on one side of the street while they ran rampant on the other. That was okay because that way we could do the buildings in numerical sequence so I'd know how to label my pictures. Cowtown looks like a western town from the movies, false fronts, dusty streets, boardwalks. I'm glad the cattle drive is scheduled for later in the year.  (For some reason, George kept walking into my photographs today. It's something we both do to each other's pictures, but he was being a little rampant himself. You'll see what I mean.) 
They've got an old trapper's cabin from the 1870s, which they are pretty proud of because it's one of the top 10 intact structures from the settlement period. Not one I'm particularly drawn to, but I never had aspirations to live in a log cabin. At least it has wooden floors!
They give free wagon rides that go all over town. We opted to wait until later to do that. I don't know if George read the disclaimer that "Kansas has no liability for injury or death from a participant in domestic animal activities resulting from the inherent risks of domestic animal activities." So if we get stomped or stampeded by these great big draft horses, nobody's going to get rich...
We've been to a lot of museums and seen a lot of really old things while on this trip, but sometimes we see something that's really unique, I saw this macrame-looking thing hanging in the Harness and Saddlery and neither of us had a clue what it was.
Later when we were at the farm, I saw something similar out in the barn and asked the interpreter. He said it was called a "fly net" for horses. Apparently you throw it over the horse, and when he twitches his skin, the net sort of shimmies all over and keeps the flies off. Clever...
The First Arkansas Valley Bank building isn't very grand on the outside, but inside it's pretty impressive.  The teller cages are made of well decorated wood and glass. The boot rail on the floor is made to keep the cowboy's boots from scuffing up the wood, just like in a bar. I didn't realize that's why they put them in bars--I just thought it made it more comfortable to stand. This is clever too.
One more thing I'd never seen before was in the General Store. The top part spins, and the little triangular drawers are marked with bolt sizes. George says it's for nuts and bolts. jLooks like an 18th century version of a rotary display case. I'm sure I could find a use for it--but probably not in the 5th wheel.
We went to the saloon for lunch. Except for the sarsaparilla, it wasn't very impressive.
Wyatt Earp was Wichita's most famous lawman, although he was fired in 1876. That's when he headed for Dodge City and a rendezvous at a corral.

I liked the Grain Elevator and the Depot and the bright red stagecoach outside the livery stable.
In the newspaper office, there's an extremely ugly settee made of longhorn horns. It looks like it was placed there as an incentive to keep people from staying very long. There's a matching chair if you're interested.)d
As you might expect, there was a gunfight. But it was a bit different than other gunfights we've seen. Instead of a shootout between the Marshall and the bad guy, they did a little play based on a dime novel. It was more fun than the standard version.
It's not all about cowboys. There's one section of Victorian houses, so you can see what it was like at the beginning of the 20th century. It's a fun place to wander around and look at things in a frontier town, but you should try to time it when there aren't scores of children running around.

I've got lots more pictures of houses, furnishings, a high-wheel bicycle, a one-room schoolhouse and more. Old Cowtown Museum 

Post a comment.

  1. This is great! I haven't been there in many years but am old enough to remember when all there was was the Munger House and the wooden jail. Then they added the chapel. It was years before the large modern-day Wichita Cowtown came into existence. One of the best old West reconstructions anywhere around, in my opinion; and I've seen several.


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