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.
6 responses to “Old Cowtown Museum Celebrates Independence Day”
Actually sounds like an interesting visit. Being a foreigner I am slowly piecing together the history of North America.
My only encounter with Abe Lincoln was the mechanical one at Disneyland. I understand that one is no more.
I like re-enactment places, or places where it’s more “living history” than a museum, so if I’m ever to Kansas it’ll be on my list.
What fun! We call our city Cowtown because that’s what it is: Calgary, Alberta, and we’re having the Calgary Stampede this week. We have a Heritage Park, very similar to your OCM, but without the Can-can dancers though.
Great pictures! The pictures you took really captured the atmosphere and ambiance of Old Cowtown.
I portrayed Abraham Lincoln that day at Cowtown and had a wonderful time. I have been performing as Lincoln for about three years throughout Kansas and once in New York State. My real job is teaching 4th grade in Conway Springs, Kansas.
President Lincoln did come to Kansas in December of 1859. Kansas was very important to Lincoln. He practiced his famous Cooper Union Speech and heard of John Brown’s hanging while in Kansas.
He was also an avid baseball fan and even had a baseball field called the “White Lot” built behind the White House. He enjoyed playing with the youngsters. When I heard they were playing baseball at Cowtown that I couldn’t resist. I am pretty sure Mr. Lincoln would have done the same.
A very enjoyable read… 😉
I know (because of your ‘like’ on the post) you had a little look at this page https://abcofspiritalk.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/thank-you-xoxoxo/ which shows a very similar experience here in Oz in the state of Victoria at Ballarat (a mining town of old). I wish though, I’d taken more pics of the day; yours are wonderful; they allowed me to have a good understanding of all the activities you wrote about. That anvil certainly went ‘sky high’, which surprised me. I loved the dancing girls (and you seemed to, too). The little calf was gorgeous.
A very enjoyable day for you; I’m sure..!
I too was a tour guide while in girl scouts, three summers in the late 60’s. I got to float around to each building there at that time. Delmonicos was there at that time. Such a wonderful experience I will never forget.