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Historical Society holds annual meeting
The former St. Pauls Lutheran Church is part of the Barton County Historical Village and Museum at 85 South U.S. 281. It is a popular venue for weddings. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO


Title: President of the Barton County Historical Society

Q: How long have you lived here? Tell us about your family:
A: “I’ve lived in Great Bend the biggest share of my life. I taught in the school district for 57 years (including 17 years as a substitute).” She has a daughter Debhra Fegan, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Q: Tell us about your hobbies and other memberships:
A: “I love to read.” She serves on the board of directors for the Great Bend Public Library and Central Kansas Library System. Kelly is also past president of the Great Bend League of Women Voters and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Q: What first drew you to service on the Barton County Historical Society board?
A: “I taught history, and I’ve always been interested in history and the preservation of facts about Barton County. To see them tear down a building just kills me.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about serving on the board?
A: “To see the growth of the museum and the number of things that we have. I go on bus trips all the time and visit other museums. Our’s is head and shoulders above a lot of Kansas museums.”

Q: How has it changed over the years?
A: “When it started we didn’t have the main Museum Building. We’ve added four buildings that we built and the Lustron Home.” (Editor’s note: Promoted as the most modern advancement in post-World War II housing, Lustron houses were constructed of metal panels. The one at the historical village is complete with authentic period furnishings.)
Q: What changes do you anticipate in the next 5 to 10 years?
A: “I would like to see the museum maintained the way it’s maintained now. It’s a huge effort. People like Ray ‘Jiggs’ Schulz and Charles Hulme were far-sighted. ... It takes people with that vision. People have to have a love for that.”

Some 3,000 people visited the Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village in 2015, Executive Director Beverly Komarek reported at the annual meeting in January. That includes visitors from Canada, Spain, India and Mexico, 34 U.S. states and 59 cities in Kansas.
Rose Kelly presided over the meeting and was elected to a two-year term as president of the historical society. She noted that 2015 improvements included the addition of heating and air conditioning at the historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Now the popular venue for weddings can be used year round.
In addition to the HVAC system in the church, she said a new heating and air conditioning system was added in the back of the museum, “so we can be better stewards of our collections.”
The church building was built in 1898 south of Albert, and was moved to the village grounds in 1967. It is one of several authentically furnished period buildings that house the historical society’s collections.
“We had monthly speakers or activities in 2015,” Komarek said. Two hundred third graders attended Pioneer Day. Public schools from Great Bend, Ellinwood and Victoria visited the museum.
The historical society also participated in the Air Fest at the Great Bend Municipal Airport, and sponsored the Rolling Sculpture car show and the Ghosts of Christmas Past open house.
Conservators from out of state visited Barton County to help the historical society restore the B-29 Memorial at the airport and The Rifleman, a Civil War statue in the courthouse square.
“We’ll continue to work with the county on identifying monuments for preservation and conservation,” Komarek said. She hopes to organize a monuments and memorial preservation committee.

Plans for 2016
This year, the historical society is applying for a Kansas Humanities Grant in hopes of showing the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit,  “Water/Ways.”
The historical society has also agreed to work with the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau as that organization reorganizes. Komarek and crew hope to see bus tours return to the museum.
Former BCHS president Robert Parrish said fundraising should be a priority in 2016.
Kelly said new committees have been formed to share some of the burden of day-to-day operations. Historical society members can serve on the finance committee, building and grounds committee, or program committee.
Joe Boley, who leads the programming committee, said upcoming presentations include:
• Larned attorney Ronald D. Smith, author of “Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General (Shades of Blue & Gray),” will present a program at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, about Union generals of the Civil War.
• Dr. Donald Blakeslee, archaeological anthropologist from Wichita State University, will talk about music of the Civil War, and on military band music, at a future meeting.
• Karen Naylor, volunteer coordinator at the village and museum, will hold an orientation program for returning and prospective volunteers at 1 p.m. on April 7.
“Our volunteers are instrumental in keeping the museum going,” Kelly said.
While people who are interested in becoming volunteers will need this training, anyone may attend the orientation without obligation.

About the museum
The Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village is located at 85 South U.S. 281, just south of the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend. Located on five acres, the village boasts several authentically furnished period buildings and collections which tell the story of this area from the Paleo Period through the Indian Wars to World War II and beyond.
Summer hours (April-October) are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. From November through March, the museum is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Admission is free to members, or $4 for non-members 16 years of age and older.
The Museum and Village began in 1964 on land donated by the Charles Hulme Estate. The Museum Building was constructed in four phases, starting with the completion of the original west wing in 1974. The latest addition to that building, the Ray Schulz Research Library, located on the south side of the Museum, was completed in 2006.