A visit to the Morton County Historical Society Museum is an exploration in history. 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. The museum is a tribute to those who live, and a memorial to those who have passed on.
Santa Fe Trail Room
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.
About the Santa Fe Trail
Approximately 33 miles of the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail (also known as the Cimarron Cut-Off Route or Dry Route) pass through Morton County. It is the largest number of miles located in any one county in all of the 5 States that the Trail passes through.
The Morton County Section of the Trail is located on the Cimarron National Grasslands and is watched over and cared for by the USDA Forest Service. Unlike other sections of the trail, it is open to the public for their enjoyment. Hunters, fishermen, campers, hikers, wildflower enthusiasts, bird watchers, and history buffs are everyday visitors to the Grasslands.
Following the MCHS Museum's certification, the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and the Morton County Historical Society formed a partnership and used the museum as a pilot program for the research and building of the six Santa Fe Trail modules.
The first three depict the general history of the area. In addition to the modules, the exhibit consists of two display cases containing original artifacts found on the Trail and a large freight wagon set in a prairie scene. The scene was built by the local Forest Service staff and contains prairie grasses and cactus plants, a prairie dog, a rattlesnake, and two ground squirrels.
In 1996, the MCHS Museum was designated as an Official Interpretive Facility for the Santa Fe Historical Trail by the National Parks Service.
In June of 1997, professional artist Charles Goslin was commissioned to paint a mural approximately 20 by 40 feet large of the Point of Rocks and Middles Springs area. The mural was made possible by the generous donations from the Cooper-Clark Foundation, Baughman Foundation, USDA Forest Service, Colorado Interstate Gas Company and the Morton County Historical Society.
The Santa Fe Trail Room is available for clubs and organizational meetings, school tours, receptions, etc. For reservations call 620-697-2833.
Pioneers who came west to Morton County, the "Cornerstone of Kansas", searching for free land struggled against the extremes of Mother Nature; freezing blizzards, instant dust storms, flash flood, grasshopper invasion, drought, and prairie fires all served as obstacles to them. Pioneers literally "carved" homes out of the land, only to have their dreams destroyed by the elements, but still, they stayed, and survived!
You relive these events in history as you tour the various rooms of the pioneer home, the early businesses. Additionally, you can:
- Look at the covered wagon hooked up to life-size horses
- Go down into the half dugout that is renewed memories for many visitors
- Walk into the 14-foot teepee with Indian artifacts of the "Native Americans"
- View antique tractors, cars, toys
There is something for everyone.
Life as a Pioneer
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 led 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.
Slowly, the covered wagons came carrying these determined people with their dreams of becoming "independent landowners". The absence of human landmarks neither depressed nor disheartened, but instead, they found something frank and joyous in the open-faced country.
They lived in dugouts and sod houses (lumber was scarce on the "treeless" plains) and purchased their needs on credit, later paid off by the fruits of their endeavors, the sale of cattle or at the time of harvest.
The red caboose, sitting in front of the museum, symbolizes the taming of the "American Desert", and the end of the Santa Fe Trail.
Famous Olympic Athletes
Morton County, Kansas is the smallest county in the world to have not only one, but two Olympic Medal Winners.
Both Glenn Cunningham and Thane Baker are the epitome of "true winners"; both on the track and in their everyday life, they are an inspiration to all. The two large displays and the oil painting done by local artist, Julie Caffee, are a fitting tribute to their endeavors. They are the pride of Morton County.
Glenn Cunningham ran on the 1932 and 1936 U.S. Olympic teams winning a silver medal in 1936 in the 1,500-meter race. In 1938 he set the indoor mile world record with a time of 4.04.4 and was given credit for making the mile the glamour event in indoor track and was selected as the outstanding track performer in the 100-year history of Madison Square Garden.
Thane Baker, in 1952, captured the silver medal in the 200 meters during the Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. In 1956, in Melbourne, Australia, he won the gold medal as captain and member of the 400-meter relay team; a silver medal in the 100 meters, and the bronze medal in the 200 meters.
For any additional information, contact the Morton County Historical Society Museum.
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