Uncovering the past

4/6/2013

County historical museum a treasure trove of artifacts.

County historical museum a treasure trove of artifacts.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Time capsules typically are buried in the ground, filled with memorabilia from a certain period in time.

"There's no point in burying one in the ground — we are the time capsule now," Todd Roberts, collections manager at the Finney County Museum, said.

It is estimated that the museum houses approximately 100,000 artifacts that tell their own stories about the history of Finney County.

"When I say 100,000 things, I'm guessing," Roberts said. "That's an estimate."

Some artifacts date back prior to the area being settled.

"There are stone tools and arrowheads and implements up in the Spirit of the Plains gallery that would go back thousands of years. We also have mammoth tusks that were unearthed in Finney County," Finney County Historical Society Executive Director Steve Quakenbush said.

Other items date back to the 1860s, prior to the establishment of Garden City.

While most people think only of the exhibits at the museum, Roberts, Registrar Yadira Hernandez and Quakenbush know that it's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the complete collection goes.

The museum has existed since 1948, but Roberts said they didn't start cataloguing items until 1964.

"Anything before that was very sporadic, and they really made a conscious effort in '64 to start doing it, but we record a lot more information nowadays. Everything gets its picture taken and is put on the PastPerfect software," he said, adding that it is specifically geared for tracking museum inventory.

Some of the more familiar treasures housed in the back room at the museum include old pianos, organs, a telephone switchboard, an iron lung, a horse-drawn fire 'truck,' the original Finnup Park sign and a Myer's sign.

Myer's was an old-fashioned soda shop opened in 1943, located where Traditions Soda & Sandwich Shop, 121 W. Grant St., now is located.

Next to the Myer's sign hangs an arrow that used to light up, saying, "Eat."

"The sign that says, 'Eat,' is Seaver's Cafe, which was the little box car place out there where Burtis (Motors) is," Quakenbush said.

Another item of an even older variety is a 1929 Ford Model A, said to have been owned by Walter Fleagle, a brother to Ralph and Jake Fleagle, who along with George J. Abshier, (a.k.a. Bill Messick), and Howard "Heavy" Royston, made up the Fleagle gang. The gang is famous for a 1928 robbery of the First National Bank of Lamar, Colo. that culminated in the murder of three bank employees and a doctor. A fingerprint found on the doctor's body ultimately led to the gang's apprehension and executions. Prior to that robbery, the gang robbed banks in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and California for at least 10 years,

"This hasn't been used in a bank robbery. It belonged to Walter, their brother. He was the good Fleagle, and he owned this car," Roberts said.

There's also an old horse buggy that Roberts said dates back between the 1890s and turn of the 20th century.

An old cash register that Roberts believes was made sometime between 1915 and 1920 also sits in the backroom. It used to be used by staff of the museum's store.

"Eventually it's going to break if we keep using it. I've got a picture of it when it was in Dickinson's Jewelry store," he said.

Established in 1885, the Dickinson Jewelry Store, owned by G.W. Dickinson, was one of the first stores to be established in Garden City and later was run by his son, C.E. Dickinson.

There are also droves of smaller memorabilia housed at the museum, including old dishes, cameras, toys, quilts, jewelry, as well as clothes. One room of the museum is filled with old clothing separated by decade.

"We have '60s, '70s," Hernandez said, pointing to sparkly disco apparel and shoes.

There is also no shortage of military uniforms and helmets either.

"We have a bunch of Army uniforms," Hernandez said.

Despite being valuable family heirlooms, Quakenbush said, it's also valuable history.

"We've got plenty of World War II. There are certain things I'd like to have that we don't have here — an M1 Garand rifle from WWII, a Colt 45 we don't have here, Luger we don't have here. Just little things like that," Roberts said.

Space limitations prevent the staff from taking in every item brought to the museum.

"No more gas masks. People just had them as souvenirs from WWII, and no more ox yokes. We've got about five of those," Roberts said.

However, Quakenbush said, the museum wants people to contact the museum regarding any items they have that may be of historical interest,

"We appreciate people thinking of us, and we want them to contact us if they have anything," he said.

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