By Steve Quakenbush

How will we all remember 2020 in Finney County history?

We don’t know if our predecessors in Finney County looked back on 1918 and 1919 - the years of the Great Influenza - as a time of lost opportunities, but it’s clear that people in our community today will remember 2020 the year of the six-week statewide shutdown, and the year of shortages, hand-sanitizer, face masks and keeping our distance.

Unfortunately, some will also remember it as a year in which friends and family were lost to the pandemic.

Here at the Finney County Historical Museum, we’ve certainly faced some daunting challenges during 2020, as did most other non-profit organizations serving the community. In the year to come, even with vaccination efforts now under way, there will be additional adversity too.


However, despite the difficulties we’ve all shared, here at the Finney County Historical Museum we’ll also remember 2020 as a year:

-  That we still hosted more than 11,000 visitors to see exhibits, seek services and participate in socially-distanced history programs.

-  Served more than 3,100 children and adults through our education program.

-  Welcomed over 850 visitors at events, activities and meetings, plus 756 shoppers at the scaled-back Flea Market Festival; and 239 participants, just before the COVID crisis, at the Southwest Kansas Antiques Appraisal Fair.

-  Added the antique firearms of the infamous Fleagle Gang to our True Crime Exhibit, as well as the chair and judicial robe of Judge Roland Tate.

-  Successfully conducted our first Board of Directors election with mail-in ballots.

-  Provided the Garden City Telegram’s Page in History with monthly information from 1918, 1920, 1935, 1945, 1953, 1960, 1966, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1992 and 2005.

-  Replaced all of our storage area lighting with LED technology, including 41 fixtures, with assistance from the Finnup Foundation Trust.

-  Sold out the Historic Walking Tours of Valley View Cemetery for the seventh consecutive year.

-  Boosted total holdings in our artifact collection to more than 21,000 cataloged items.

-  Braced and stabilized our library shelving for safe access, and added 230 books on automotive history.

-  Hosted Front Door Gallery exhibits on Mid-century American glassware, historic American Flags, Finney County women’s organizations over 125 years, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and presently, vintage Christmas cards from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

-  Hosted in-house programs on the service of animals in the U.S. military, the El Quartelejo Pueblo, the 2020 U.S. Census, 50 years of Kansas high school football, the history of china production and importation, the Mitchal Runnels gravesite, the 19th Amendment centennial and Impressionist painting

-  Welcomed 842 guests to the historic 1884 William Fulton House from 25 Kansas towns and 12 other states and nations.

-  Provided research information in response to more than 1,700 inquiries.


These accomplishments were attained through the efforts of our staff, the assistance of our volunteers and the support of many generous donors. For making our work possible in preserving the past to enlighten the future, we thank them all.

There’s more ahead too. We’re still featuring those early-day Christmas cards in the museum’s Front Door Gallery through the end of the year. Admission is free, with viewing hours of 1 to 5 p.m. daily, except Dec. 24-27 and Dec. 31-Jan. 3. In addition, on Dec. 22 our exhibits will open at 2 p.m. rather than 1.

Meanwhile, work has started on our project to restore the Mitchal Runnels gravesite memorial in Valley View Cemetery. That’s the well-known resting place of a young man who was killed in 1927 when his beloved 1924 Chevrolet was struck by a train on the railroad tracks at Sixth Street. The victim’s father placed the mangled car’s engine atop a concrete marker that has deteriorated severely over the past 93 years. The crumbling concrete is now being replaced with an engraved granite stone that will support the soon-to-be-preserved engine for generations to come.

The project involves not only the FCHS, but also the cemetery staff, Price and Sons Funeral home and an anonymous local shop that is preserving the engine, plus approximately two dozen donors. In addition, funds have come from many generous memorial gifts in honor of Ashley Alexander, a museum volunteer who lost her own life in an October highway accident. Ashley had an avid interest in the project and her family designated gifts in her memory toward the effort.

With the holidays here, we can look back with gratitude on the heartfelt encouragement, volunteer effort and generous support that has come to us this year from so many people in our community. We wish you a Christmas filled with meaning and joy, and a new year that we’ll all remember not for adversity, but for peace, good health, progress and prosperity.

Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. He can be contacted at HYPERLINK "mailto:squakenbush@finneycounty.org" or at squakenbush@finneycounty.org .