Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Historical society volunteer earns honors

December 22, 2004

The Tonganoxie Historical Site gets better every year.

The site now features a finished school house, church and -- the most recently completed work -- a dairy barn turned into a museum.

It exists thanks to the work of dozens of volunteers who've donated countless hours of service.

The Kansas Museums Association recently recognized one of those volunteers, Susy Ross, giving her a 2004 KMA award for distinguished service.

George Cooper, president of the Tonganoxie Historic Society, recommended Ross for the award.

Ross has been a member of the historical society for 10 years, and was instrumental in establishing the museum in the dairy barn.

"She wasn't one that simply did her job," Cooper said. "She went beyond that to determine what had to be done and to do it."

Cooper noted that two other women -- Betty Englen and Virginia Seymour -- worked closely with Ross.

The result is a museum of their work, he said, crediting much of the success to Ross's leadership.

"We were extremely fortunate to have somebody that not only put her energy into it, but was creative enough to take a lot of the odds and ends that primarily Del Englen picked up," Cooper said.

For instance, Englen bought used office panels at an auction.

At first, Ross said, she didn't know what to do with the panels.

"We decided to work with them and go with it," Ross said. "We started making frames and trying to use each panel as a unit and then the museum started coming together."

A challenge of organizing the museum was that as new pieces were donated, the displays had to be rearranged to fit them in.

"As soon as you get it set up and then something like an organ comes in, you've got to move stuff to make it fit," Ross said, noting that she was constantly asking the men who volunteer at the site to help move furniture.

With the dairy barn museum, which officially opened in June 2003, basically completed, Ross still has more plans in mind.

She'd like to set up displays on early settlers.

"I'm trying to research the pioneer families of Tonganoxie," Ross said.

The first one she's focusing on is the Needham family, noting that Robert Needham has provided her with his family's genealogy records. And the Needham family members have donated a lamp, trunk, pitcher and bowl that the family brought to Tonganoxie when they moved here in the 1860s.

And, she'd like to find out more about Tonganoxie, the Delaware Indian for whom the city of Tonganoxie was named.

Ross said it's her love of history -- and her fondness for the historical society members -- that keeps her working at her volunteer job.

"I really love history," Ross said. "I love the history of the Indians more than any other. ... And I really like the people at the historical society. ... They all give, give, give and they all donate, donate, donate -- you feel good being around them."

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