The Fort Larned Historical Society, which owns and operates the Sante Fe Trail Center Museum, first ran a small curio shop with some historic displays at Fort Larned. From these humble beginnings, the museum has grown to encompass a large complex of ten buildings, located on 10 acres two miles west of Larned – four miles from the Fort.
Inside the main museum building, exhibits begin in the East Gallery where visitors will see our full-sized mounted bison, affectionately called Wally. Next, learn about the American Indians that inhabited the Great Plains. Visitors will discover what life was like for Mountain and Southwest trappers and how they differed. Lastly, travel the historic trade route known as the Santa Fe Trail. The East Gallery is currently under renovation, but many of the artifacts are in temporary cases and on display.
In the South Gallery, visitors will experience what life was like in a typical frame-style home during 1919. Then learn about 19th century mourning practices. The South Gallery is also home to several large horse-drawn vehicles and a 1914 Ford Model T automobile. Finally, visit a movie theater to see a “flicker” in our brick-paved main street exhibit.
Outside on the grounds, visitors will take a step back in time to experience living like the early pioneers. Enter a reproduction sod house and dugout and imagine life without modern conveniences. Next, visit the first church built by the African-American parishioners of our community 100 years ago, the Johnson Street CME Escue Chapel. In the historic Frizell Depot, visitors can plan a train trip on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway or send a message via telegraph using morse code. The limestone cooling house and attached windmill give visitors a glimpse into how early pioneers improved the quality of their lives. Lastly, everyone will enjoy attending class in the 110-year-old L’Dora one-room schoolhouse.
In the Dale and Melba Woods Farm Museum and Dale and Melba Woods Automobile Museum buildings, visitors will be transported back to the days of horse-drawn farm implements, belt-driven equipment, crank-started vehicles, and the classic lines of cars from the 1940’s through the 1970’s.
The 1914 Ford Model T depended on gravity to feed fuel to the carburetor. Because of this, when the fuel tank was low on gas the car had to be driven backwards up steep hills so that it would not stop.
In 1860 trade on the Santa Fe Trail equaled $3.5 million dollars. That is more than $95 million dollars by today’s dollars.
In April 1872, the first building in Larned was located in what is now Schnack Lowery Park. It was the old Sutler’s Mess House from Fort Larned. Henry Booth floated it down the Pawnee River from the Fort. The building was used as a church, school, saloon, post office, and more. A reproduction of the building is now located at the corner of 2nd and State in Larned.
Between the mid 1700’s and 1889 the Bison population in the United States was decimated from an estimated 30 to 60 million to just over 1,000. Today, thanks to the efforts of organizations like the American Bison Society, there are an estimated 500,000 Bison.
In 1916, Larned had the highest number of automobiles per capita in the state of Kansas.
William Becknell completed the first successful trading expedition to Santa Fe in 1821 when Mexico gained independence from Spain. He is known as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail.
"A Treasure! Wonderful exhibits which really bring the past to life. Very accessible - very understandable. Don't miss this!"George & Mary Colorado and Scotland