The history of northwest Kansas is rich with significance and in July, it will be on full display, as the Fort Wallace Memorial Association hosts a four-day event highlighting the history of the Plains Indian Wars and settlement of the region – an event that is expected to draw as many as 500 historians.
The Indian Wars took place in Wallace County in 1867, when Native Americans fought to keep their way of life during western expansion, a time that Jayne Humphrey Pearce, president of the Wallace Memorial Association, described to the Wichita Eagle as “pivotal not just to the state of Kansas but the nation.”
From July 6 to 9, the Fort Wallace Memorial Association will highlight the region’s historical significance by hosting an 1867 Western History Exposition and symposium that will feature speakers, guided bus tours and history performances, as the well as the grand opening of Fort Wallace Museum’s new exhibit and the unveiling of Jerry Thomas’ life-size bronze statue of scout William Comstock, one of George Armstrong Custer’s favorite scouts.
“1867 was a pivotal year for Fort Wallace because it was the year the fort was coined the ‘fightin’est fort in the west’ amid major battles between natives and soldiers,” said museum designer Valarie Smith. “The fossil of the plesiosaur was also discovered that year.”
A cast of the 40-foot fossil, on display at the Fort Wallace Museum, is a relic of the Western Interior Seaway, which over 87 million years ago, split North America in half. After the sea dried up, fossils of plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, huge turtles, sharks and other prehistoric creatures were left behind.
Smith designed the new addition to the Fort Wallace Museum, which features six facades from Fort Wallace, 10 facades of a lifelike indoor old town and a stagecoach.
A video about Fort Wallace, produced by Smith, can be viewed here.
1867 Exposition, July 6 to 9 at Fort Wallace Museum, 2655 Highway 40, Wallace, KS
Schedule of events:
*July 6 — Guided bus tour of the Western Vistas Historic Byway with stops in Oakley, Russell Springs, Historic Scott Lake, and the El Quartelejo Museum/Jerry Thomas Gallery in Scott City.
*July 7 — Symposium scholars include: John Monnett (The Year 1867), Chris Gabel (Railroads), Rod Beemer (Army Scouts), Mike Everhart (Kansas fossils), Leo Oliva (Fort Wallace Battle), and Mike Baughn (Indian Wars) Sponsor/Volunteer Dinner that evening.
*July 8 — Re-enactor’s Encampment: From the American Indian, to trappers and buffalo hunters, to soldiers and settlers, the transformation of the West will take place before your eyes.
Unveiling of a major new piece of western artwork by Jerry Thomas.
The grand opening of Fort Wallace Museum’s new addition will be at 9 a.m. MST.
Michael Martin Murphey in concert - a great American artist who is also a champion of western history and lifestyle.
*July 9 — Memorial service at the Fort Wallace Cemetery.
Car caravan tour of Land & Sky Scenic Byway: Kidder Massacre site, Arikaree Breaks.
Authentic crafts, meals on site, historical experiences.