FUTURE, PRESENT and PAST Museum offers chances to learn about history

By Steve Quakenbush

When Sam Cooke sang “Don’t know much about history” in his 1960 hit “Wonderful World,” he probably wasn’t thinking about people in southwest Kansas. After all, we do our best here at the Finney County Museum to make it easy and fun to learn about the past, and we’re offering plenty of opportunities this fall.

Those include our Evening at the Museum and History at High Noon programs, our upcoming fall picnic and our eighth annual Historic Walking Tours of Valley View Cemetery.

You’ll want to watch for a separate announcement soon on the cemetery tours, since tickets tend to sell out in short order and we’re planning to conduct the walks Oct. 7-9. There’s no need to call just yet, but be sure and stay tuned.


Meanwhile, you can share some great food and learn about history from the perspective of a neighboring community at the 2021 Fall History Picnic. That gathering is set for 1 p.m. on Oct. 3 in the grandstand meeting room at the Finney County Fairgrounds. Admission is free but RSVPs are due by Sept. 29 at 620-272-3664.

Our guest speaker will be Lara Brehm, executive director of Dodge City’s Boot Hill Museum, where extensive renovations have taken place recently. Those who attend can also expect to hear a little about past times in the Cowboy Capital, and maybe even a fact or two about the famous “Gunsmoke” TV series.

The indoor picnic is sponsored this year by Edward Jones Financial Advisor Lora M. Schneider, and it will conclude with a raffle drawing for 10 donated items, ranging from gift cards and prize baskets in various themes to outstanding merchandise and even $100 cash. Drawing tickets are available in advance at the museum and you can also purchase them on-site at the picnic, so don’t forget to bring some cash or your checkbook.

In addition to getting us your RSVP by the deadline, we’re asking everyone who attends to bring a side dish, salad or dessert to share. We’re planning to provide fried chicken and possibly a few other main course dishes, as well as water, coffee and tea. We’re also asking all who participate to exercise their own best judgement in terms of precautions and virus immunity. Though not required, we’ll make masks and hand sanitizer available, and of course plans are subject to adjustment pending any unexpected conditions or public health orders.


Those noon and evening history lectures, noted earlier, got started for the fall season on Sept. 8 when veteran Southwest Kansas history presenter Howard Koehn, Montezuma, shared a lost story of the Santa Fe Trail, entitled “The Epic Trek of the Mormon Battalion.” He offered the program again in the evening of Sept. 21.

We make the free presentations available at noon on the second Wednesday of September, October and November, as well as January through April; and also at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesdays of the same months. They take place in the museum’s Mary Regan Conference Room and those who come should use the north entrance of our building at 403 S. Fourth Street in Finnup Park. The 7 p.m. presentations are sponsored by the AT&T Pioneers Southern Council.

The second set of sessions will take place at noon on Oct. 13 and 7 p.m. Oct. 19, offered by Chad Myers, an accomplished archeology consultant from Kalvesta. He has given previous programs and will again offer updates on archeological discoveries in Western Kansas. In addition, those who come are invited to bring arrowheads, spear points and other stone artifacts, which the speaker will date and identify.

“Railroads across Kansas” is the theme for the final two fall segments, scheduled at noon Nov. 10 and 7 p.m. Nov. 16. Museum Education Coordinator Johnetta Hebrlee will provide the daytime presentation, with a focus on the Finney County area.

Dr. Leo Oliva will speak in the evening segment. The prolific Kansas history author and retired Fort Hays State University professor is planning to focus on the way that 19th Century railroad development impacted settlement, immigration, Native American life and the success or failure of Kansas communities. His appearance is possible because of a generous grant from Humanities Kansas.

The museum is returning to its pre-COVID practice of offering light self-service refreshments and inviting attendees, if they wish, to bring their own lunch or dinner. As with the picnic, masks and hand sanitizer will be available but not mandated.

By the time the mellow-voiced Mr. Cook concluded his “Don’t know much about…” song 61 years ago, he had also touched on algebra, biology and even the language of France. While we may not be able to help with those topics, anyone who stops by the Finney County Museum’s activities this fall should leave with at least a little historical knowledge, and what a wonderful world that will be.

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 .