In 1874, during a period of Indian raids in western and southern Kansas, the governor of Kansas, Thomas A. Osborn, organized the Kansas State Guards. Sun City and Medicine Lodge furnished the two companies for this section of the state.
The stockade was built by the militia and citizens of Medicine Lodge. The walls of the stockade were made of native cedar and cottonwood logs that stood about 9 ft. high. They were placed side by side and set on end in the ground. The drill ground was outside the stockade near the southeast corner.
The stockade was located in what is now the center of Medicine Lodge, and enclosed an area about one block wide and two blocks long. The southeast corner was at the southwest corner of the Barber County Courthouse. From there it went north to the Presbyterian Church, then west to the southwest corner of the old Barber County Index building, south to the Peoples Bank, then back east to the courthouse. There were gates in the center of the north and south sides, and watchtowers were strategically placed. Sentries kept watch at all times.
About 200 people gathered in the stockade, with wagons, teams, cows, and dogs. There were a few old stone buildings. These were used to shelter families; some sheltered several families. Some folks camped in their wagons. It was May when the people went into the stockade, and fall when they moved out.
Corn was ground on a coffee grinder for bread. A meat wagon stood near the center where everyone could help themselves to the meat. When the meat wagon went empty, two men were detailed to get a new supply.
In the summer the population began to dwindle in the stockade. Some people went back to their claims; others left the county to return when all danger was over; some never to return to their claims. By fall, most of the people had left the stockade.
The militia was commanded by Captain Ricker, and John Mosely was second in command. Young men continually scouted over 100 miles of state line. They guarded the territory from Caldwell to Dodge City, and south to the Cimarron River. The outfit and rations of a scout consisted of a Sharp’s rifle, a carbine, 100 cartridges, bacon, sugar, coffee, army crackers, a grain sack with five days’ rations, two blankets, a frying pan, and coffee bucket. The rations became pretty stale towards the end of their trip!
Today there is a historical marker at the approximate location of each of the four corners; each marker has different information about the stockade. The aerial map above shows the original stockade’s approximate location.
Aerial map from Google maps; historical information from the memoirs of William Osborn.
The current Stockade Museum was built in 1961 next to the Carry Nation Home. It is not an exact replica of the original stockade, but is built the same way. It is about 1/3 the size of the original stockade, with a corner taken out for the Carry Nation Home.
It began as a commercial, for-profit effort, so a corporation was formed. Starting October 1960, stocks and bonds were sold to raise the money needed to buy the desired property, build the stockade, and remodel the existing building into a museum. By January 1961 enough money had been raised to start construction. The first logs arrived April 22, 1961, and construction began soon after.
A log house was moved to the stockade grounds from a ranch south of Medicine Lodge. Built in 1877 by “Uncle Bob Smith,” it has two stories and four rooms. It was prepared for exhibition and completely furnished with period antiques. The Stockade Museum shelves were filled with historic items donated or loaned by area residents. Some antique farm equipment and other large items were placed in the Stockade yard.
The Medicine Lodge Stockade Museum opened Sunday, Oct. 1, 1961. Admission was 40 cents for adults and 20 cents for children; initial hours were 1 – 6 p.m. daily. On opening day there were 225 visitors from all area towns, as well as California, New York and Colorado.
The Stockade Museum opened just in time for the 1961 Peace Treaty, held October 13, 14, and 15. Between 4,000 and 5,500 people visited the Stockade during the pageant.
Over time, the Stockade Museum began to have financial problems. By 1981 the museum needed many repairs, some major, for which there was no money. It was closed in the fall of 1981 because of this. In 1982, John Nixon was elected president of The Medicine Lodge Historical Society (Stockade), and spearheaded a campaign to put the Stockade Museum back on its feet. He focused not only on raising funds but also on increasing community involvement. Once more, people in this community joined together, and the Stockade was reopened before the 1982 Peace Treaty. The Stockade Museum has always been, and continues to be, a community effort.