Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders

Historic Fort Hays: Tracing the Footsteps of Frontier Defenders

The United State established Fort Hays (originally called Fort Fletcher) as a U.S. Army post in 1865. The fort’s function, like other frontier forts, was to protect railroad workers and settlers as they traveled west. They were also tasked with enforcing treaties with Indian tribes.

The fort grounds included 7,650 acres of land, but its 45 buildings were situated on just 65 of those acres. Today only four buildings remain, as well as a visitor center, on a fraction of the original fort property.

Honestly, when we first saw the property, we thought it would be a quick visit. But, besides the four buildings, there are several foundations that outline other former buildings. Those foundations, together with signage throughout the property and exhibits inside the existing buildings, make a great self-guided tour. We ended up spending several hours exploring Historic Fort Hays.

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Home of Stone: The Mueller-Schmidt House – A Living Heritage

Home of Stone: The Mueller-Schmidt House – A Living Heritage

The Mueller-Schmidt House is the only building in Dodge City built of limestone. It’s also the oldest building in the city still on its original foundation. Built from 1879 to 1881, owner John Mueller wanted it to be one of the most impressive homes in the city. Although nowhere near a mansion, many of its unique features stand out as special. Even more special is the story behind the two families who lived in the home—and some of the family members who may still live there in spirit.

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Boot Hill Museum: Discover the Wild West Legacy

Boot Hill Museum: Discover the Wild West Legacy

We first visited the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas, in 2018. At that time, we heard about an upcoming big museum renovation. So, when we returned to Dodge City in 2024, we were anxious to see the changes.

From what we could tell, there weren’t many changes to the exhibits we saw on our first visit. But, there was a huge new addition, which I’ll talk about in a minute. First, we’ll explore exhibits that we remembered from our first visit and still exist.

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Time Travel at The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

Time Travel at The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

We visited the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum to learn more about the city’s Wild West days, as portrayed in the Gunsmoke series. We did find that era fascinating, but we couldn’t resist going through the rest of the museum as well.

It’s amazing that a city can go from the Wild West days to becoming the “air capital of the world” in only about sixty years.

But museum exhibits begin even before the Wild West days, all the way back to when the only population was Native American tribes. Exhibits continue through to modern times.

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The Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All-Indian Center

The Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All-Indian Center

At the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers in downtown Wichita, Kansas, the 44-foot awe-inspiring Keeper of the Plains sculpture stands with arms stretched upward to the Great Spirit. Even more imposing atop a 30-foot rock promontory, the Cor-Ten steel sculpture has become the iconic symbol of Wichita.

Nearby, the Mid-America All-Indian Center teaches about Indian culture and showcases American Indian artists.

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Wild West Wichita Comes Alive at Old Cowtown Museum

Wild West Wichita Comes Alive at Old Cowtown Museum

We’ve been transported to Wichita’s Wild West days. In ten years, the city has grown from Jesse Chisholm’s 1860 trading post to a booming railroad town. In fact, in just a year and a half, the city has grown from 16 buildings to 175. Eight hundred people live here now. Businesses line the dirt streets. The busiest seems to be the saloon. We’ll visit the saloon in a bit, but first we’ll check out some of the other homes and businesses that make up the Old Cowtown Museum.

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