Issue Preview ~ Summer 2004
Ingall's Santa Fe Trail Museum Chronicles Gray County History
By Lynne Hewes
Just off the beaten path of Highway 50 between Dodge City and Garden City sits a small town with a big history.
Before Ingalls was even a town, the Santa Fe Trail passed through the site, and since its beginning as an actual town, Ingalls has been involved in some of the most fascinating events ever recorded in Kansas history books. Those include a grandiose plan for a lengthy irrigation ditch called the Eureka Canal in the late 1880s and the infamous Gray County Seat War in 1889. History of those events and others somewhat lesser known is on display in the Santa Fe Trail Museum on Ingalls' Main Street.
In an effort to preserve some of Gray County's colorful history, Ingalls residents moved their Santa Fe Railway station, built around 1892, to city property south of the railroad tracks and began a call for memorabilia. Later they expanded by adding the old Montezuma depot to their lot.
In addition to relics such as a 7,500 year-old fossil found near the town, the centrifugal pump actually used for the Eureka Canal, and a large mural depicting the irrigation project, the museum is also home to prints from Gray County burial records, local family histories, a 45-star American flag which flew during the Spanish-American War, an issue of the New York Herald which came out the day after President Abraham Lincoln was shot, and pictures of Western Kansas during the Dust Bowl days.
"A lot of people come in and go over the burial records and family histories," says Debbie Milne, who serves as museum tour guide. "They'll spend whole afternoons pouring over them or even check them out for research. And the Dirty 30s photos are also really popular with people. Many of them can remember those days."
There's a wealth of local history in those two railroad depot buildings, just waiting to be discovered by the traveler going off the beaten path. The Santa Fe Trail Museum is open May 1 through October 31, 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.