Jump to Navigation

Sites of Archeological Interest

Coronado/Quivira Museum, 105 W. Lyon, Lyons, 620-257-3941. Operated by the Rice County Historical Society, this museum has exhibits pertaining to the Coronado expedition of 1541 and the Native American village complex that the Spanish explorers encountered in central Kansas, which they called the "Land of Quivira." The Quivirans are believed to be ancestors of the modern-day Wichita Indians. Members of the Coronado expedition were the first Europeans to enter present-day Kansas, and their efforts to document their journey provide the first written description of Native American life on the Central Plains.

Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site, near Studley, 785-627-5866. Operated by the Kansas Historical Society, this site consists of a late 19th century sheep ranch. The native stone house (constructed 1885-1896) and outbuildings (built 1891-1892) symbolize English settlement and ranching on the High Plains of northwestern Kansas. The Pratt family maintained elements of their British heritage in the construction of the buildings and in their daily activities. Exhibits include historic photographs within the partially furnished house. Cottonwood Ranch offers guided tours of the site. Self-guided tours are also available.

El Cuartelejo, Scott Lake State Park, Scott City vicinity. Listed in the National Register as a National Historic Landmark, El Cuartelejo is the northernmost pueblo in the United States and represents the northernmost expression of the Puebloan cultural and architectural tradition so well known in the American Southwest. The El Cuartelejo area, and Scott Park in general, were occupied by Puebloans and by Plains Apache during the protohistoric (late prehistoric and early historic) period. First excavated in the 1890s, the site was reexcavated and the pueblo foundation restored by the Kansas Historical Society in 1971. It is an open-air site, with interpretation consisting of etched-metal markers placed around the restored foundation. There are no associated museum facilities. Located in Lake Scott State Park, the site is a gem in a gem-like setting, situated on the otherwise featureless high plains of western Kansas. The park is open year-round with camping and picnic facilities. Visitors can drive to within a few hundred yards of the El Cuartelejo foundation and walk to the site from the parking area.

Fort Dodge Museum, Kansas Soldiers Home, Kansas Hwy 154, Fort Dodge, 316-227-2121. Situated on a site once used as a camping ground by wagon trains, Fort Dodge was a supply depot and base of operations against warring Plains Indians. The fort was established in 1865. The first buildings were sod and adobe, and some troops lived in dugouts. Disease was common during the first year in the isolated fort. The first shipments of lumber arrived in 1866 and officers' quarters and a temporary hospital were built. At the height of its operation, the fort boasted four companies of infantry. The Seventh U.S. Cavalry was at Fort Dodge when George Armstrong Custer returned to his regiment after a court martial suspension. The fort was abandoned in 1882. Eight years later Fort Dodge was deeded to the state for use as a soldiers home, and it still serves today as the Kansas Soldiers Home. Several buildings are open to visitors and tours. The quiet, tree-lined walks and dignified buildings are a far cry from the desolate sod homes and dugouts that made up the original fort in 1865. Limited archeological testing was conducted at the site in 1996 by archeologists from the Kansas Historical Society. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the grounds during daylight hours. A small museum is located in the library.

Fort Harker Guardhouse Museum, Kansas Hwy. 140, west edge of Kanopolis, 785-472-3059. Established as Fort Ellsworth in 1865 and renamed Fort Harker in 1866, this fort provided protection to the Kansas Stage Line and military wagon trains traveling the Fort Riley Road and Smoky Hill Trail. The famous Butterfield Overland Despatch began operation in 1865 along the Smoky Hill route to Denver. In 1866 young Bill Cody took his first scouting job at the fort. The next year while hunting buffalo for the railroads, he became known as Buffalo Bill. In November 1866 a three-day peace council held at Fort Harker. It failed, with the Cheyenne vowing to drive the soldiers off the Plains. For three weeks in 1867 cholera swept through the fort. That experience led the post surgeon, Dr. George M. Sternberg, to become a leading authority on communicable diseases. Fort Harker served as a supply depot and distribution point for forts in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Texas, and General Sheridan's winter campaign of 1868-69 was developed at the post. Four of the original stone fort buildings remain, although most of what was once Fort Harker is private property. Archeologists from the Kansas State Historical Society and volunteers from the Kansas Anthropological Association conducted investigations at the site in 1996 as part of the Kansas Anthropological Training Program. The Ellsworth County Historical Society manages the Fort Harker Guard House Museum and also owns one of the stone junior officers' quarters.

Fort Hays State Historic Site, 1472 Hwy 183 Alt., Hays, 785-625-6812. This historic military fort is operated as a museum by the Kansas Historical Society. Originally constructed 14 miles to the southeast and referred to as Fort Fletcher, the fort was moved to its present location after Fort Fletcher was virtually destroyed in a flash flood in 1867. This noted frontier post housed troops intended to protect military roads, guard the mails, and defend construction crews on the Union Pacific railroad which arrived in 1867. It also served as a major supply depot for other army posts in western Kansas. Fort Hays was abandoned by the army on November 8, 1889. In 1897 Congress gave the land to the state of Kansas to be used as a college, an agricultural experiment station, and a park. Four original structures, the stone blockhouse and guardhouse, and two frame officer's quarters, survive today. A visitors' center contains exhibits of military artifacts and a gift shop.

Fort Larned National Historic Site, 6 miles west of Larned on K-156, 620-285-6911. When it was first established in 1859, this post was called "Camp on Pawnee Fork" and then "Camp Alert," and was situated about 3 miles to the east. In June 1860 the camp was moved to its present location and renamed Fort Larned for Colonel Benjamin F. Larned, U.S. Army Paymaster-General (1854-62). Troops stationed at this fort guarded the Santa Fe Trail and took part in many of the campaigns against the Plains tribes. From 1861 to 1868 the fort served as an agency of the Indian Bureau, distributing annuities of food, clothing, and other necessities to the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches as agreed under various treaties. The fort was abandoned by the military in July 1878 and the military reservation was sold at public auction in 1884. For many years the fort site was operated as a private farm. Fort Larned became a national historic site in 1964 and is administered by the National Park Service.

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Old Fort Boulevard, Fort Scott, 620-223-0310. Fort Scott was established by the U.S. Army in 1842 to protect Indians and settlers along what was then considered to be the permanent Indian frontier. Troops participated in the Mexican War and missions of western exploration. The post was abandoned by the military in 1853. The buildings were sold at public auction in 1855 and became the town of Fort Scott. The Army returned to the post, garrisoning troops in the town, during the period of Bleeding Kansas (1854-1861), the Civil War (1861-1865), and regional land disputes of the early 1870s. Currently administered by the National Park Service, the site includes 20 major historic structures, 33 historically furnished rooms, museum exhibits, and a bookstore. Interpretive programs, guided tours, and special events are offered throughout the year.

Fort Wallace Memorial Association Museum, U.S. Hwy. 40, east edge of Wallace, 785-891-3564. First called "Camp Pond Creek," Fort Wallace was established in 1865 near present-day Wallace. A year later the post was moved farther east along the Smoky Hill River. Troops from Fort Wallace protected miners heading west along the Smoky Hill Trail to the Denver gold fields, stagecoach travelers on the Butterfield Overland Despatch, construction workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and early settlers in the region. It was the westernmost military outpost in the state, and from 1865 to 1878 was one of the most active military posts in the Central Plains. Troops were almost constantly in the field and the fort was several times besieged by Plains Indians striving to defend their lands from white immigration. By 1882 the U.S. government decided to abandon the site, and in 1885 the army exhumed the bodies of 88 soldiers from the post cemetery and removed them to the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. The graves of many civilians who died in the Indian wars still remain in the old post cemetery, enclosed by stone walls within the Wallace Township cemetery. The area where the original fort buildings stood is directly south of the cemetery on private property. Nothing is now visible of the stone and wood buildings where once over 300 men were stationed. Limited archeological investigations were conducted at the site in 1997 by archeologists from the Kansas State Historical Society. The Fort Wallace Memorial Association Museum, which is located in the roadside park on the north side of U.S. Hwy. 40 immediately east of Wallace, contains displays of artifacts from the fort. The museum is open on a limited schedule.

Frontier Army Museum, Building 801, Reynolds Ave., Fort Leavenworth, 913-684-3186. This museum tells the history of the frontier army from 1817 to 1917 and of Fort Leavenworth from 1827 to the present. Fort Leavenworth is the oldest U.S. army fort in continuous existence west of the Mississippi River. Established in 1827 as a frontier post to protect trade on the Santa Fe Trail, it also became essential to overland expansion along the Oregon-California Trail. In 1834 the fort became headquarters for the U.S. Dragoons, the army's first permanent mounted regiment. During the Mexican War, the Army of the West left from Fort Leavenworth. When Kansas achieved territorial status in 1854, Governor Andrew Reeder first had his office at the fort. During the Civil War, the fort was a critical western linchpin for the Union, serving as an arsenal and training point. After the Civil War, Colonel Benjamin Grierson formed the black 10th Cavalry Regiment that distinguished itself throughout the frontier.

Fort Leavenworth, is the home of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the highest ranked school in the army educational system. Also on the fort are the "Rookery" (1830), which is the oldest continuously occupied residence in Kansas; the Post Chapel (1872); the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery; and the Buffalo Soldier Monument honoring the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry regiments.

Haskell Indian Nations University, 155 Indian Ave., Lawrence, 785-749-8470. Established as an industrial trade school in 1884, Haskell was one of the first large boarding schools established by the Federal government for Indian students. With the closure of Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania at the beginning of World War I, Haskell became the only school of its type. In 1965 it became Haskell Indian Junior College, and received full state accreditation in 1970. In 1993 it became a university. Over the years the school has provided educational opportunities to thousands of Indians. The Hiawatha Welcome Center and Academic Support Center in Tommaney Hall contain interpretive exhibits, and guided tours of the campus can be arranged with prior notification.

Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site, 2889 23rd St. (Kansas Hwy. 243), Hanover, 785-337-2635. This site is associated with both the Oregon-California Trail and the Pony Express. In 1858 Gerrat and Sophia Hollenberg moved their business establishment to the present site of Hollenberg Station in Washington County. He realized that there he could capture the growing trade from the St. Joseph branch of the Oregon-California Trail as well as from the older southern branch. Beginning with a one-room log cabin that soon evolved into a long, narrow five-room building, the Hollenbergs sold supplies, meals, and lodging to travelers. Over the years he added barns and sheds so that he could sell draft animals and repair wagons. Hollenberg's road ranch later became a stop on the Pony Express during its brief life in 1860 and 1861, providing food and shelter for both riders and horses. Hollenberg eventually lost hundreds of dollars when the Pony Express went bankrupt. Hollenberg Station is operated by the Kansas Historical Society.

Kansas Museum of History, 6425 SW 6th Ave., Topeka, 785-272-8681. The Kansas Museum of History, operated by the Kansas Historical Society, is located in the northwest part of the capital city, Topeka. The museum grounds were once part of the Potawatomi Baptist Mission. The museum has permanent exhibits focusing on the prehistory and history of the state, and a temporary gallery with changing exhibits. The Discovery Place offers interesting and educational activities for children.

Kaw Mission State Historic Site, 500 N Mission, Council Grove, 620-767-5410. Now operated as a museum by the Kansas Historical Society, Kaw Mission was established by Methodist missionaries prior to the Civil War as a mission and trade school to benefit a native Plains tribe known as the Kaw or Kansa. Once occupying most of northeastern Kansas, the Kaws' 1846 reservation was centered on the present-day city of Council Grove. The Kaws have lived in Oklahoma since the 1870s, but tribal members often participate in the Washunga Days celebration (named after the last of the Kaw chiefs) held annually in Council Grove.

Lowell D. Holmes Museum of Anthropology, McKinley Hall, Wichita State University, 316-978-3195. The University's Department of Anthropology operates this museum which contains exhibits of ethnographic materials and prehistoric artifacts from the Plains and around the world. Archeological collections in the museum focus on the American Southwest and the Plains.

Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650 N Seneca, Wichita, 316-262-5221. This privately operated center has changing exhibits of prehistoric and ethnographic items. There are also displays of modern Indian art. In addition, there is a powwow arena, library, and gift shop.

Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site, near Republic, 785-361-2255. This site, which is operated by the Kansas Historical Society, is unique in several ways. The Pawnee Indian Museum site represents the remains of an earthlodge village occupied by the Republican or Kitkahaki band of the Pawnee in the 1820s-30s. It consisted of some 30 or 40 circular earthlodges, protected by a fortification wall and situated on a high upland bluff overlooking the Republican River valley. Most of the lodges were 30-40 feet in diameter; some were larger. Since most of the site has not been touched by the plow, the lodge "rings" and floor depressions are clearly evident on the six-acre grounds donated to the state in 1904. Eight of the lodges on the museum grounds have been excavated by archeologists, but the rest are undisturbed. Details of the excavated lodges are indicated by etched-metal signs placed alongside a concrete sidewalk which meanders through the village area. The most striking part of the site's interpretation is the museum which was built on and around one of the largest of the earthlodge rings. After the building was constructed, the earthlodge floor was excavated and all of the remains left in place. A slightly elevated walkway along the inside perimeter of the building enables visitors to walk around virtually all of the lodge floor and look at the various features. The circular shape of the museum building, the earthlodge-like pitch of the roof, and a central skylight create an ambiance quite similar to that of an actual earthlodge. Interpretation is provided by small signs on the floor, individually activated tape-recorded explanations, and by museum exhibits in cases along the walls.

Roniger Memorial Museum, South Courthouse Square, Cottonwood Falls, 620-273-6310. Operated by Chase County, this museum contains exhibits of Indian artifacts collected by Frank and George Roniger, mainly from their farm in the central Flint Hills. The Roniger collection is one of the largest individual collections in Kansas, with artifacts from all of the major time periods of Kansas prehistory.

Santa Fe Trail Center, west of Larned, 316-285-2054. The museum is operated by the Fort Larned Historical Society. It contains exhibits relating to the Santa Fe Trail, as well as ethnographic materials and prehistoric artifacts acquired through survey and excavation of archeological sites in the vicinity.

Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, 3403 W 53rd, Fairway, 913-262-0867. This site, which is now operated as a museum by the Kansas Historical Society, was established as a mission and trade school by Methodist missionaries in the 1820s to benefit Indians in the region. At Shawnee Mission the missionaries' efforts were concentrated on the Shawnee, a tribe which was removed to this reservation from their homelands east of the Mississippi River in the 1820s-30s. Children from other immigrant Indian tribes in the region also attended the mission school.

Steamboat Arabia Museum, 4th and Grand, Kansas City, MO, 816-471-1856. In 1856 the Missouri River steamboat Arabia sank fully loaded near Kansas City, Missouri. Nearly 132 years later the remains of the ship were excavated and the cargo was recovered intact. The Steamboat Arabia Museum contains exhibits detailing the recovery and displays of the recovered cargo. Said to be the largest collection of pre-Civil War steamboat cargo in the world, the exhibits also include whole sections of the steamboat itself, including the boilers and stern section of the hull.

U.S. Cavalry Museum, Custer Ave., Fort Riley, 785-239-2737. This museum is located in one of the more historic buildings at Fort Riley, which served as the post hospital from the time it was built in the 1850s until 1890 when it became the post headquarters. Operated by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Cavalry Association, the museum focuses on the American horse soldier from 1775 to 1950. Whether as a Mounted Rifleman, Dragoon, or Cavalryman, the horse soldiers played an important role in the development and defense of America. Museum exhibits portray the history of these mounted soldiers and of the Cavalry School which operated at Fort Riley. The nearby Custer House is also open for visitors and a guide is available for a 1.2 mile walking tour of the post.