Fort Wallace Museum
In July 2009 I visited the Fort Wallace Museum in Kansas. I nearly passed up this little gem and boy am I glad I didn't! Because I had started my yearly history vacation just before the 4th of July I had unfortunately ran into several museums and sites that were closed on days they normally weren't. Since this was a small (I thought) privately owned museum I had fears it would be a rip off or closed. I tried for two days to bring up it's website without success. Their server or site was down for two days in a row. I decided to chance it and head that way. As I arrived I saw no other vehicles except for a pickup that an elderly gentleman was taking lawn care implements from. When I asked him if the museum was open he told me it sure was and to come on in. I had stumbled onto Mr. Floris Weiser, the owner and curator. Mr. Weiser gave me a walking tour and gave me an oral history of the museum, the artifacts, Fort Wallace, and the surrounding area. He was was a real treat. Mr. Weiser is sharp as a tack at 83 years old and is a wealth of knowledge. Several other patrons stopped in and made a seemingly mad dash through and left. Mr. Weiser seemed to sense that I had a real interest in his museum and Kansas history and took several items out of the display cases to let me examine them. Mr. Weiser even took me to the storeroom and offices and let me examine items that were not publicly displayed. I later discovered that Mr. Weiser and his museum had been featured on PBS.
The museum consists of the main building and several other buildings, an artillery piece, and posted information signs. The museum is not at the site of Fort Wallace, which is just a few short miles away. The main building consists of the original museum and a fairly recent addition. The original museum is jam packed with exhibits, displays, artifacts, and even fossils. At first the interior seems to be a little cluttered but you will discover it's actually laid out to make viewing easier. Almost everything is labeled. The old original museum turned out to be my favorite part of the site. It just has a certain old school charm to it and has so much to see. Take the time read and learn in here. It's worth it. I've always been enthralled by dinosaurs so seeing cabinets of their fossils was an extra special unexpected treat! There's a giftshop in store in this portion of the building also.
I next entered the addition. It is spacious, well lit, and flows very naturally. There is a heavy emphasis on western art in this section. All of the artifacts in this section are in display cases. Most are mounted flat on the wall, but several are floor mounted. The Indian, civilian, and Soldier portions seem to be separated from each other. General George Armstrong Custer and his famed US 7th Cavalry are well represented. The US 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers are also well represented. The Indian artifacts made from White acquired metal are quite interesting and show an amazing ingenuity.
After completing my lengthy visit in the main building I ventured outside. A wire sculpture of a buffalo leads to the remaining exhibits. You'll next come up to an artillery piece. I neglected to jot down any notes about it and I can't recall it's significance. The Pond Creek Stage Station was built in 1866 and you can walk about inside. There's only one piece of furniture inside but it's worth going in to see that era's craftsmanship. There's a trap door, now sealed shut, that could conceal valuables or persons. There are several bullet holes, both inside and out, that are the result of Indian attacks.
Next up is the WesKan Train Depot that was built in 1891. Unlike the Stage Station, it's fully furnished with lots of items to view and read about. The Sunderland-Poe Building is next. It's a modern steel building that is jam packed with items. When you enter go to your right to begin. You'll get to see pioneer artifacts and recreations all the way up to modern items like fire trucks. The evolution of how wagons changed during the pioneer days was interesting. Some were quite small and others would put a Hummer ( a real one, sorry all you H2 and H3 owners) to shame size wise.