By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The historic “Little Red House,” officially has a new caretaker.
Co-owners David and Alice Clapsaddle passed over the deed to the property to Fort Larned Old Guard Colonel Rex Abrahams Saturday afternoon. Abrahams responded with a ceremonial plaque to thank the Clapsaddles for their generous donation.
The property at 2nd and State in Larned called “The Little Red House,” has been the Clapsaddles’ baby for 12 years.
Clapsaddle is a member of the Fort Larned Old Guard, which was formed to provide support for the Fort Larned National Historic Site beyond that given by the federal government. Fort Larned operated from 1859 to 1878 and was established to protect traffic along the Santa Fe Trail from hostile American Indians.
Abrahams said he accepted the responsibility and care of “The Little Red House,” in behalf of the Fort Larned Old Guard. He said it was appropriate that such a historic building would be taken care of into the future.
Clapsaddle, 77, acquired the property where The Little Red House resides 12 years ago. He cleared the property and did a reconstruction of The Little Red House.
“The Little Red House is one of the first links between Fort Larned and the city of Larned,” Clapsaddle said. “But we want to insure that care and maintenance of the building will be ongoing into the future. There is some amazing history involved with the building.”
Clapsaddle told a living history story to students about The Little Red House in first person giving the building the human qualities of speech and memory. The trunk that Clapsaddle uses represents the chest owned by James Worrell, one of the early residents of the Little Red House. Worrell was a former army officer during the Civil War. It is packed with items related to Larned’s first school taught by Worrell’s 16-year-old daughter, Isabel.
The Little Red House has been reconstructed to represent Larned’s first building constructed in 1983 as the Sutler’s mess hall at Fort Larned for $1,700. In the spring of 1872, the structure was moved by Post Trader Henry Booth to a site two blocks south of the present location.
In 1984, Tim Mccarthy moved the Little Red House to Fifth and Main Streets. It housed a carpenter shop, newspaper office, U.S. land office and baclksmith shop before it was razed late in the century.
The building served a number of functions — residence, post office, hotel, restaurant, saloon, dance hall, brothel, church, school and courtroom. Postmaster George Cox operated a sloon and resturant on the premises.
Isabel Worrell, Larned’s first schoolteacher, called, the building ‘The Little Red House.” The school shared cramped quarters with the Union Church and the Justice of the Peace Court. The back rooms of the building housed a stream of settlers immigrating to Pawnee County.
Other festivities featured Steve Schmidt, a Santa Fe Trail scholar from McPherson, will talk about surveying the Road to Santa Fe, beginning in 1825. The program is presented on site where the survey team camped.
The program moved to the Fort Larned National Historic Site, where an Indian encampment, buffalo hunters’ camp, Army Sutler’s Camp, and a pioneer photographer’s camp were set up.
Fort Larned Superintendent Kevin McMurry provided a welcome at Fort Larned. A program of “Music on the Prairie,” was staged by Chris Day and Janet Armstead (members of the Fort Larned Old Guard Board). An Old Guard membership meeting was conducted by Chairman Rex Abrahams.
Historian Louis Kraft from North Hollywood, Calif. wound down the evening talking about his new book about an Indian agent who served at Fort Larned.