By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Civil War veterans came to Barton County
new slt vets RiflemanPlaque
This is one of the plaques that can be found with The Rifleman statue in the courthouse square. The plaques name Barton County Civil War veterans, the military units with which they had served, and their home states, as well as a listing of the United States Colored Troops. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Veterans invited to historical museum


The Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village is observing Veterans Day by offering free admission to veterans and their families on Friday, Nov. 11. Light refreshments will be served in the afternoon to all who attend.

The museum is showing its collection of military uniforms from the Spanish-American War through the Gulf War, Executive Director Beverly Komarek said.

Barton County veterans are also invited to bring copies of their military service records to the museum, to be included in museum archives.

The museum, located on South U.S. 281 just across the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend, began its winter schedule this week and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.


For years, a piece of Civil War history has, in effect, been hidden in plain sight in the Barton County courthouse square.

A bronze statue of a soldier stands on the north side of the park, vigilantly facing south to protect the Union. While many have admired the "The Rifleman," few know it was commissioned in 1915 by Ira D. Brougher, one of many Civil War veterans who later came to Kansas.

A recent visit from an expert from the National Park Service highlighted the importance of this monument, said Beverly Komarek, director of the Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village. Dr. Dennis Montagna, director of the Park Service’s Monument Research and Planning Office, inspected the monument on Oct. 24, and the Historical Society is awaiting his report on its condition and conservation needs.

The bronze soldier figure stands on a granite base that features plaques listing the names, units and states from which Union veterans served, as well as the names of regular army soldiers and United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Kansas sent relatively few troops to the war, but Montagna was impressed with the diversity of names, as veterans came from all over to homestead in Barton County in the years that followed, Komarek said. Many families in area communities today can trace their roots to these individuals.

Montagna also said the inclusion of the USCT is unusual for a monument from the period, since the issue of emancipation and military service had been intertwined from the onset of the Civil War.

Komarek noted that the Rifleman, like the B-29 Memorial at the airport, and other Barton County war memorials, was carefully designed by war survivors. "In each generation, the veterans’ legacy lives on in its memorials — whether in cemeteries, on courthouse grounds, or in public parks — because they wanted their service to be remembered long after they were gone," she said. "We honor their service when we remember their sacrifice for our nation and care for their memorials."

Ira D. Brougher, a Union soldier from Pennsylvania, was wounded at the battle of Antietam, Md., on Sept. 17, 1862, and lost his right arm. According to Karen Neuforth, research coordinator for the Historical Society, he moved to Barton County, where he had business interests and farmed south of Great Bend. He also served as county clerk, and he was the head of the state organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Union veterans, in 1915 when he commissioned the bronze statue.

Most Civil War monuments were erected in the early 20th century, often through the efforts of veterans’ organizations such as the Sons of Union Veterans, the GAR and its auxiliary, the Women’s Relief Corps. Like today’s American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations, they wanted future generations to remember the war and those who fought it.

A cannon or a standing soldier were the most popular monuments of the day. Many communities chose mass-produced soldier monuments that could be ordered from a catalog, but the Rifleman statue is a true work of art. It was created by noted sculptor Frederick C. Hibbard, who also sculpted major works for battlefield parks at Shiloh and Vicksburg, Komarek said.

The Historical Society will continue to observe the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The museum, located on South U.S. 281 just across the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend, began its winter schedule this week and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission for non-members over 16 years old is $4.