The Barton County Historical Society Village and Museum was originally conceived as a tribute to “man on the plains,” but the current exhibit pays tribute to women. There also an exhibit dedicated to African Americans with ties to Barton County.
March is Women’s History Month, so a temporary exhibit pays tribute to the our pioneer foremothers, featuring a quilt, spinning wheel and replica washboard. February was Black History month, which is celebrated in a second exhibit. Both of these displays have been up for several weeks and will be available for viewing for the rest of this month.
In April, the museum will have its annual exhibit of art from area schools, “Watching Young Artists Grow.”
Women’s History Month
Women in the exhibit include Elmina P. (Keeler) Spencer (1819-1912), who nursed the wounded at Gettysburg during the Civil War. She later homesteaded in Barton County with her husband. While not well-known in Kansas, her accomplishments during and after the war made her a legend in her home state of New York, according to Karen Neuforth, research coordinator at the BCHS.
Mrs. Spencer cared for the sick and wounded with what the U.S. House of Representatives would officially recognize as “great energy and remarkable devotion.”
Black History Month
The Black History Month exhibit includes a poster of a U.S. postage stamp issued in 2010 honoring Oscar Micheaux, who grew up in Great Bend and is buried in the Great Bend Cemetery.
According to the U.S. Postal Service:
“The 33rd stamp in the Black Heritage series honors pioneering filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, who wrote, directed, produced, and distributed more than 40 movies during the first half of the 20th century. ...
“This stamp features a stylized portrait of Oscar Micheaux by Gary Kelley. The artwork is based on one of the few surviving photographs of Micheaux, a portrait that appeared in his 1913 novel, ‘The Conquest.’”
The exhibit also has photos of Grant Cushinberry, philanthropist and humanitarian, and Damian Johnson, a former professional football player.
Cushinberry was born in Hoisington on Oct. 24, 1921, and died July 1, 2008. His obituary notes that he attended Hoisington High School then left to join the Army where he was with the Combat Media during World War II.
He moved to Topeka, where, according to Topeka.net, “(He) provided food, clothing and other necessities to countless people. His name was synonymous with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner and God’s Little Half Acre, the garden and donations clearinghouse he operated at 1835 SW Fillmore not far from his home.”
His slogan for God’s Little Half Acre was, “For the Needy Not the Greedy.”
As for Great Bend’s native football star, offensive lineman Johnson played for the New York Giants when they defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20 at Super Bowl XXI, played on Jan. 25, 1987.