OPINION

Local columnist highlights the importance of museums in smalltown life

Lyn Fenwick
St. John News
Lyn Fenwick is a Stafford County author and blogger.

Recently, I was invited to speak at the Stafford County History Museum, where I did so much research for my book, "Prairie Bachelor, The Story of a Kansas Homesteader and the Populist Movement."  I chose for the theme of my talk, 'The importance of Small Town Museums.'   Michael Hathaway and the board members arranged a wonderful afternoon, displaying some of the reference sources at their museum that I used in my research.  Particularly important was having access to the actual populist newspapers from that era.  Part of that was seeing the political cartoons, and I shared one of my favorites, which is among the images included in my book.  It is called The Plutocrat And His Toy, illustrating the Populist opinion that the large newspapers slanted the news to favor the wealthy.  I surprised everyone by bringing one of my own childhood toys--an example of the toy used in the cartoon.

Of course, without the Lucille M. Hall Museum in St. John, I would never have found Isaac Werner's Journal or have written "Prairie Bachelor."

Another local history museum important to my research is the Pratt County History Museum, where I spent an afternoon searching through a box of unlabeled photographs from Pratt's early years, hoping to find a photograph of Isaac (who mentioned having his photograph taken in Pratt by a local studio) or photographs of some of his friends.  The box was filled with interesting vintage photographs, but I did not find any images of people mentioned in my book.  However, much later I received an e-mail from the museum director at that time, Marsha Brown, who amazed me by remembering that one of the names I had mentioned was Dr. Isaac Dix, who was one of Isaac Werner's best friends.  A box of old photographs had been recently donated to the museum, and Marsha remembered Doc Dix as one of Isaac's neighbors.  His image is now in my book.

Not only was I. H. Dix an important figure in Isaac's community, he moved to Pratt after he had matured his homestead and timber claim and resumed his medical practice there.  He became a significant member of the Pratt community, and as you can see, in 1909 when the engraved plaque at the Courthouse was installed, his is among the names of the County Officers.

This past month I am so very fortunate to have been invited to speak by the joint library and Filley Museum, the Larned Trail Center, the Ida Long Goodman Library in St. John, and the Stafford History Museum.  Plans to speak at other local museums and libraries have been discussed for future dates.  I have so many reasons to be grateful for such community support, but I must add how all of us in this region have so many reasons to be grateful for our wonderful resources.

Bravo to all of the wonderful directors, staff, board members, and volunteers who make our access to such resources possible.  And, don't forget the many people in the past who also contributed to creating and sustaining those resources.

I have only one more local program scheduled, which will be at the Nora Larabee Library in Stafford at 7 p.m. this coming Friday evening, June 18, 2021.  I am especially pleased that some of you have chosen to attend more than one of my book talks.  Each one is different, and at the Larabee Library I will  include a power point presentation, with some new images and highlights from the book.

I am so grateful for all of the community support--encouraging me for years to complete the book, and now reading it and supporting me with your kind comments, and in many cases, your participation in the wonderful arrangements for the book talks. 

Thank you also to The St. John News for the article about Prairie Bachelor being selected as a Kansas Notable Book by the State Library, and to the online Pratt Tribune for the recognition of the Award.