FORT WALLACE — Nearly 100 people filled a lecture room at the Fort Wallace Museum on Friday morning as part of “The Great 1867 Fort Wallace and Western Kansas Exposition.”
Friday’s event was a history symposium which featured authors and historians who highlighted significant events of 1867.
“1867 was a very significant time for the fort and the region,” said historian Deb Goodrich, event coordinator.
Fort Wallace — which served as a U.S. Cavalry fort until 1882 — was a key military outpost on the Great Plains.
The presentations Friday discussed everything from the battle at Fort Wallace, Gen. Custer and cholera to the discovery of a fossil near the fort and the American railroads.
A few other events took place prior to the symposium Friday.
“Last week, Dr. Jake Bauer and three of his buddies attempted to retrace Kidder’s steps,” Goodrich said. “They started in Julesburg, Colo., and rode their horses down. They had to quit after 105 miles because they were having a real hard time finding water.”
On Monday, there was a program at the High Plains Museum in Goodland discussing Lt. Kidder, and then there was a re-enactment of the Kidder Massacre in rural Sherman County. It was a joint event between the Sherman County Historical Society and the Fort Wallace Memorial Association.
Kidder’s Massacre refers to the attack on Lt. Lyman Kidder and his party by members of Lakota and Cheyenne tribes. This was just one incident during the period known as the Indian Wars.
Thursday’s event was the Western Vistas Historic Byway Bus Tour. The tour, which began in Oakley and included museums, historic sites and landscapes in Logan and Scott counties, was a success.
“It was awesome,” Goodrich said. “We had a bus full, so 60-plus people. We actually had more people following us, too. We talked history and the landscape and how that had shaped the actions of people over the years.”
The re-enactors for the encampment — which served as a living timeline of the region —were setting up equipment Friday, and participants were treated to a dinner that evening.
Dr. Jake Bauer was in charge of the encampment re-enactment Saturday.
“He pulled together all the re-enactors for the encampment, and all the wagons are his,” Goodrich said.
Approximately 70 re-enactors were involved in the encampment Saturday.
One of those was Marla Matkin, Hill City, who portrayed Libby Custer.
“Of course Gen. Custer was here, so we’re part of bringing history to life and preserving the history of the American West,” said Matkin, who has been portraying Libby Custer for more than 20 years all across the country.
“Two of my greatest loves are theater and history, so this was a great marriage of both of those,” Matkin said of how she began portraying Custer. “If you’re really passionate about this, it comes through.”
Don and Janet Geist, WaKeeney, came with their camper to stay and participate in the cavalry re-enactment.
“Saturday he’ll be in his Civil War uniform, and I’ll be in my bonnet and long dress,” Janet said. “We really enjoy it.”
Saturday also included the unveiling of a bronze statue of Scout William Comstock by artist Jerry Thomas and the grand opening of the new Milford Becker addition of the Fort Wallace Museum.
Sunday will feature a memorial service at Fort Wallace Cemetery at 10 a.m. Mountain time.
“The cemetery is really the only thing that’s left of the fort,” Goodrich said. “We’ll have a horse-drawn procession from the museum that goes out to the cemetery on Sunday morning.”
The memorial service will honor those who served at Fort Wallace and throughout the west.