New Basehor museum exhibit explores county’s farm history
Thanks to a treasure trove of old records recently unearthed from storage, the Basehor Historical Museum has opened a new window into southern Leavenworth County’s past with its latest exhibit.
The new display, “Our Roots: A History of Leavenworth County Agriculture, From the Farm to the Table,” went up this week and will be the museum’s centerpiece through Oct. 1.
The exhibit provides a glimpse at how southern Leavenworth County farm families lived during the first half of the 20th Century. It was made possible by more than 40 years’ worth of records donated to the museum by the Leavenworth County Kansas State University Extension office.
Included were detailed annual reports — each one contains 100 pages or more — from 1924 to 1968. Reports from Extension agents described the state of farming in the county each year, while dispatches from home demonstration agents discussed trends in health, gardening and other topics.
The museum exhibit concentrates on life in the county from 1924 to 1941.
The reports reflect the introduction of new crops, studies on erosion and the shift from horse-drawn plows to motorized equipment. The County Extension was a vital resource for farmers battling the elements, said Anna Jean Breuer, a Basehor Historical Museum Society board member who helped comb through the records.
“They had to fight the bugs, the weather,” Breuer said. “And these agents came along and let them know what they could do.”
And the records from the Extension’s home demonstration agents contain tidbits and photos from the lives of the county’s women at the time — learning to garden, forming mother-daughter vegetable canning clubs and making mattresses for low-income people as part of a government program near the end of the Great Depression.
Also documented is the development of what’s now the Leavenworth County Fair. It began in the 1920s in a quite different form: It took place in December, inside Leavenworth City Hall, and it was called a “Corn and Apple Show.”
“The men wanted to show off the corn they had grown,” Breuer said. “It was a bumper year.”
Also on display is some additional information uncovered about Basehor’s founders, brothers Reuben and Ephraim Basehor, from obituaries published in the Leavenworth Times.
“They were two very prominent men in Leavenworth County,” Breuer said, “so their obituaries were very long and very detailed.”
In addition to the information and photos from the Extension records, also on display is a relic from 1930s farm life: an “Eleanor Outhouse” from an old Basehor farm. Named for former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and constructed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, the outhouse was built on a concrete base for improved sanitation.
A member of the nonprofit Kansas Barn Alliance spotted the outhouse while scouring an old farm property with museum society volunteers, said museum director Carla Crawford, and he said an intact specimen is quite rare.
“He said, ‘Oh, you’ve got an Eleanor!’ ” Crawford said.
The “Our Roots” exhibit will be on display through Oct. 1 at the museum, 2812 N. 155th St. in Basehor, during its regular hours: 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.