Ties to the past
Historical society turns barn into museum
It's a chilly winter morning in the old dairy barn at the Tonganoxie Historic Site.
But the volunteers working there don't seem to notice. In fact, they've been there for more than an hour and nobody's thought of turning the heat up.
Unlike the overcast gray wintry skies, the volunteers are full of sunshine as they chatter about the exhibits they're working on.
With a little bit of luck, and a lot of work, the volunteers, who work at the site every Wednesday morning, hope to open the former dairy barn -- complete with historical exhibits about Tonganoxie -- by this year's Tonganoxie Days celebration, set for June 14.
The barn adds a new dimension to the site, which is west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Washington Street. The ground also includes the old Honeycreek School donated by the family of the late Gordon Harman, and the old Reno Methodist Church, which was used in filming the 1990 TV movie produced and directed by the late Michael Landon: "Where Pigeons Go to Die."
When the barn opens to the public, it will serve as an additional gathering place for Tonganoxie events.
Half of the barn, where the milking stalls used to be, will display items relating to Tonganoxie's history. The other half of the barn, which includes a kitchen, two restrooms and a meeting area, can be rented out for events.
Susy Ross, one of the site's volunteers, said she's hoping to hold a barn dance there to celebrate the barn's opening.
Del Englen said the space should be well-utilized.
"We think there's a need for a place for family reunions or family picnics, even weddings," Englen said. "You'd be out here pretty much by yourself."
Bill Latham, who spends most of his Wednesday mornings volunteering at the site, said a good addition would be an outdoor shelterhouse.
George Cooper, president of the group, said members continually come up with thoughts of how to improve the site.
"We have a lot of grand ideas, but we need money to do it," Cooper said.
Ross, who is helping set up the museum displays, said the information goes back to the area's earlier residents, the Kanza Indians, and including the Delaware Indians who were given this land by the government in the early 1800s.
"We're going to do three or four display panels on Chief Tonganoxie," Ross said.
"Chief" Tonganoxie, as it is said he was called, was a Delaware Indian who lived in a house the government built on what is now the east side of Tonganoxie. Another display will talk about the settlers who later started the town of Tonganoxie.
Ross said she would like to set up booths that portray multifaceted views of Tonganoxie's early days, including what homes, schools and businesses were like, along with the farming angle. Also important is how world events such as wars, affected the town, and what early Tonganoxie residents did for recreation. She's hoping residents will donate items that could be used in these displays.
For instance, in the home display, an antique dresser will be used.
"We would like to have some dishes, a beautiful chair, old quilts, maybe an old lantern, or anything of the early home life that you find in your house," Ross said.
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