BARTON, STAFFORD COUNTY — Community members from central Kansas and a few from even outside the state enjoyed seeing the sights, old and new unseen or seen in a new light in a whistle-stop tour of the National Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway through Barton and Stafford County
"It was awesome," said Stacey Bressler, director of the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce. "I learned a lot about what these communities have to offer."
She said that they want to keep tourists in the area for a couple of nights instead of just maybe one. By knowing, what activities that are available, related activities can be suggested. They received a lot of great comments, she said.
The Ellinwood Tunnels were the first stop on the tour. The tunnels were patterned after the tunnels in Munich, Germany where many settlers in this area were from. At one time, other communities such as Great Bend had tunnels, but they have been filled in for safety reasons.
Using the time-worn steps used by settlers, the group descended into the dank, deep darkness of the tunnels which were closed in 1925. The residents just walked away from them with the advent of gas to heat homes in that year.
The first shop, the bridle shop is exactly the same as it was when the doors slammed shut 86 years ago. There is still a pump for water in the corner, as well as tools of the trade.
For those who needed medical care, the barbershop was just down the corridor. With its twirled red and white barber’s sign, an individual could not only get their hair cut, but also have their tonsils removed. A jar of leeches was kept for excessive bleeding.
For complete one-stop shopping, the cowboy could have his shoes shined, get a drink and visit the soiled dove.
Bill Starr of Starr Antiques gives the tours.
At the Great Bend raptor center, Curator Marge Bowen took the group on a tour of the veterinary clinic located on the west side of the building. The center specializes in the medical rehabilitation of eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures. There is a laser scalpel, surgery room and exam room.
Calling the animals "kids," Bowen talked about some of the injuries the animals face. Thurston, the owl, was attacked by another owl, and is in recovery for his injuries.
Giving an update on alligators, she said, the zoo no longer has alligators because of the issue with injuries due to trash in the ponds. There are plans in place to drain the ponds, clean them and fill them back in.
Bruce Bitter was present at the Visitor’s Center to talk about his pole art. Amy Cole from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Denver said she had never seen anything like them.
The tour stopped in the WPA Post Office to see the Treasury Department Section Art created by Dorthea Tomlinson called "Wheat Central." It cost $550. Tomlinson had a difficult time getting back home due to flooding in rivers north of Hoisington. Buttermilk was used to coat the painting to preserve the painting. Twenty-three Section Art murals still remain in Kansas and hang over the postmaster’s door.
Deer sticks and deer bologna was available for snacks at the new hotel
Claflin sits on the geographic center of Kansas and has steadily producing oil fields. The downtown of Claflin is a reproduction of 1890s Main Street, so designed by the Miller’s of Claflin.
Claflin is also home to Jackie Stiles who played in the WNBA. Claflin was also home to Walter Hickel, former governor of Alaska.
In addition, the Claflin volunteer Fire Department is celebrating 50 years of service.
North of Claflin are eight WPA limestone bridges that are on the National Historic Register.
At the Henderson House in Stafford, participants got to sample Sand Hill Plum Jelly and syrup.
The 1945 theater, The Ritz has been restored. The community also has 29,000 glass negative documenting life in Stafford County from 1880 to 1920.
St. John sits near one of the oldest bicycle routes in the U.S., the Trans America Trail. The trail begins in Tennessee and ends in Oregon and is a series of dirt roads.
After the Civil War, 300-400 African Americans settled in St. John seeking a new way of life. Though very few of the descendents remain, the African American Martin Cemetery serves as a reminder of the history of the area.
The first building in St. John was a small Mormon church, known as the "Church on the Hill." A church elder blessed St. John and said that as long as a member of the Mormon faith lived there, the town would never be destroyed by a cyclone. It never has.
The flour mill in Hudson loads 18 semi’s per week with flour. A couple of times per year, a rabbi comes to bless the mill.
The Town Park and Community Center welcome bicyclists riding the TransAmerica Trail, and the Wheatland Care welcomes people from around the world for Sunday buffet.
Generations of Hudson children learned to swim in the salt water of the Rattlesnake Creek.