A few decades ago, when I was a Girl Scout I spent a week during a couple of summers as a tour guide at a living history museum called Old Cowtown in Wichita, Kansas. There were only a few buildings in those days, and it was hot and dusty, but I loved it!
This past weekend, I returned with my family to experience it as a tourist. Old Cowtown Museum has grown and become even more of an Old West experience. Now, instead of Girl Scouts, there are professional costumed re-enactors and guides. The buildings are almost all authentic from the late 1800s and show what a midwestern cattle town was like. The buildings are also now air-conditioned….so you can re-live the past more comfortably.
Special events are planned throughout the year. This past weekend, the museum celebrated Independence Day 1870s style. “Abraham Lincoln” visited. Of course, he’s an anachronism, but he did visit Kansas once before he was elected president. Brass bands played, there was an old-style baseball game — Lincoln played third base, gun fights between cowboys and ranchers, dance hall girls, pie-eating contests, watermelon spitting, a bucket brigade and wagon rides. My nephews are champion pie-eaters. We drank sarsaparilla (root beer) in the saloon.
We visited a homestead and saw a half-day-old calf in the barn. The mother wasn’t too happy with our interest in her baby. I never knew a moo could sound so threatening. Every time I tried to focus my camera on the calf, the mother tried to head butt me. Fortunately, the rail was in the way.
In the grand finale, a couple of cow pokes placed two anvils together and blasted the top one with dynamite in the anvil shoot, which was one old-time way to celebrate before fireworks were available. People do love to blow up things to celebrate!
There were so many activities, we didn’t get a chance to visit all of the buildings, including the Munger House, which was the home of Darius Munger, Wichita’s founder. I was the tour guide for the Munger House as a Girl Scout, so now I have to return to Cowtown just to re-live my old guiding days. New since my tour days is the home of the Marshall Murdock, who vigorously promoted the town through his newspaper. There are dozens of buildings, including two churches, a school house, many stores and professional buildings, a train depot, saloon and homes.
To see more of the experience, see my YouTube slide show below, which shows a lot of the action. You can also click on Old Cowtown Museum. Check out the map of the town on the Cowtown website.