Museum to herald township’s history
Years of work will culminate Saturday into a dedication of a museum focusing on the history of the Monticello Township.
Paying homage to the town that was founded in 1857 and briefly boasted Wild Bill Hickok as a constable and resident, the Monticello Historical Station museum at Floyd Cline Hall will have an open house a dedication from 1 to 3 p.m. Cheryn Swanson, president of the Monticello Community Historical Society, said the day will give the society a chance to show off all it has done so far to preserve the history of the area now known as western Shawnee and Lenexa.
Come one, come all
The open house at Monticello Historical Station museum at Floyd Cline Hall, 23860 W. 83rd St., will last from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, with a dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. Admittance and refreshments are free.
The society was founded in 1988, but it wasn’t until 2005 it was able to occupy the building deeded to it in 1999: Floyd Cline Hall, 23860 W. 83rd St., which was the home of the Monticello Volunteer Fire Department and was then rented by the Lenexa Fire Department until it built a new fire station to the south.
Since then, the society has been hard at work to preserve the history of the township. It faced the challenge of renovating the former fire station for use as a museum — while leaving it intact as a fire station for historical purposes — and documenting the historical items it has gathered over the years, all with a volunteer work force.
Thanks to a grant from the Johnson County Heritage Trust fund in 2006, the society has built a climate-controlled office in the bay area to protect its library documents. A grant in 2007 allowed the society to purchase new insulation in the bay area.
Another grant in 2008 allowed the group to buy a computer and software to document all archives, paperwork and artifacts. Swanson said volunteer society members have documented more than 1,500 items so far.
“We make good use of it because every piece of paper, every photograph, every artifact has a whole page to describe that item,” she said. “Without the grants, we wouldn’t even be close to what we’ve gotten done.”
The society also created the monticelloks.org website, which already has helped people across the country contact it for genealogical information.
But there’s still work to do. The society hopes to make the bay area of the station climate controlled, since hot and humid temperatures could damage artifacts and displays.
The museum has had some past exhibits but has been hard at work to create better displays and more interactive exhibits.
“So people who have been here before will see quite a change,” Swanson said.
Exhibits are separated into different categories, including recreation, schools, post offices, pioneer trails and cemeteries.
One area features artifacts found in the township, from arrowheads to pottery.
“The pottery pieces and lantern were found near where we think a campsite was along one of the trails, near a spring,” Swanson said, pointing to the pottery. “So, we think it was something left behind from early pioneers.”
The museum also has a 150-year-old bison bone found by a doctor while he was walking along Mill Creek. At the time there was concern it was a human bone, but once tests confirmed it was from the animal that once roamed the area, the doctor donated it to the historical society.
“And what we’re saying is you never know what you’re going to find in your backyard,” Swanson said.
The post office area includes items that were postmarked at Monticello Township post offices, the earliest from the Wilder post office in 1875.
The agriculture area features items used on farms in Monticello, from cow-milking implements to a “washing machine.” The recreation area includes books from the 1920s and 1930s for the Wilder Neighborhood Social Club and a uniform for the Zarah baseball team.
One display will feature biographies of different prominent Monticello residents. Featured residents will rotate; now, the display features Hickok, with a copy of the census that showed him as a resident, and Thomas Anderson, a Union soldier during the Civil War who escaped from a Confederate prisoner of war jail and then settled in Monticello.
A resident who is on permanent display is Solomon Coker, who owned the general store on Monticello’s main street, where Hickok liked to hang out. Coker was a wagon boss on the Santa Fe Trail in addition to owning the store.
The society has put together a small table for children’s activities, where they can learn how to put together a log cabin like the ones found in early Monticello or color a picture of a bison. The society also plans to have some historical items out that children can touch.
“It’s sort of an instructional area, but it’s also a play area to engage the younger set,” Swanson said.