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Forging ahead
Historical Village, Wetlands Center share Robl papers
new slt blacksmith forge
Original blacksmith shop equipment is on display at the Barton County Historical Society Village and Museum, south of Great Bend. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Telling the story

Workers continue to go through items from the Blacksmith Shop, a stone building used primarily for storage at the Historical Village. The first building added to the village was the former St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, followed by a one-room school house from old District 50.
The Blacksmith Shop was built for the museum and was finished in 1990. Until now, it hasn’t really been used to “tell the story” of Barton County, Komarek said. Since there is a real blacksmith’s forge stored in the stone building, Komarek said she hopes that will change in the future. “It will take some time and some thought,” she said.

Telling the story of Barton County requires good information, and sharing information helps spread the word. Now the Barton County Historical Society and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center are working together to share information about Cheyenne Bottoms.
Curtis Wolf, site manager of the KWEC, will talk about this joint venture at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, during the BCHS meeting in the Ray Schulz Research Library at the Barton County Historical Society Museum. It’s located just south of the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend on U.S. 281. The public is invited, said Beverly Komarek, executive director of the historical society.
Wolf’s topic will be, “What’s Up at Cheyenne Bottoms ... Besides the Water,” an overview of what to expect at the wetlands this fall and winter. But he’ll also discus how the two public attractions have been allowed to borrow and digitally reproduce material for their Frank Robl collections.
Frank Robl of Ellinwood was known as the Duck Man of Cheyenne Bottoms. In 1923, this self-taught naturalist started banding ducks and geese in Cheyenne Bottoms as a hobby. Within five years, he was getting letters from people as far away as Canada and Alaska, Mexico and Central America, letting him know where those birds landed. Thanks to his years of record keeping, naturalists learned of the central flyway and Cheyenne Bottoms eventually was recognized as a Wetlands of International Importance. The state of Kansas acquired the 19,857-acre Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, part of a 41,000-acre natural land sink just northeast of Great Bend.
Earlier this year, Great Bend resident John Miorandi bought a box of photos, clippings and other items that once belonged to Robl. He contacted Wolf about allowing the KWEC to use the items, Komarek said. Karen Neuforth at the historical society has completed digitally scanning the items, and on Thursday Wolf and Komarek signed a standard museum agreement with Miorandi that gives both attractions permission to use the material. “It can’t be sold or reproduced for sale,” Komarek said, but it will be available for researchers.
The BCHS has also acquired some Robl memorabilia, donated by Michael LoBurgio, a descendant of Frank Robl, Komarek said. Items include a jacket, a framed group of wildlife stamps from the U.S. Postal Service and “a stuffed bird that talked.”