Fort Larned National Historic Site in Pawnee County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
A Soldier Town
For travelers arriving on the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned must have looked more like a small town than a fortified place. In the early years, about 150 soldiers lived here in the summers. During the Indian Wars, as many as 400 troops called Fort Larned home.
In the open spaces around this post, civilian travelers, freighters, craftsmen, Santa Fe traders, and sutlers mingled with government Indian agents, scouts, cavalrymen, infantry soldiers, and commissioned officers.
[Text around inset photos follows]
Many of the common soldiers in these barracks had recently come to America from Germany, eastern Europe, France, and Ireland. These bunkhouses were open living spaces for many soldiers. Enlisted men had no right to privacy.
Skilled civilians - wheelwrights, tinsmiths, painters, and blacksmiths - worked to keep the hundreds of government wagons on the Trail rolling. After hours they could work on civilian wagons. Carpenters also made furniture for the post and coffins.
Officers and their wives lived in the best quarters amid fine furnishings and servants brought from the East. They aimed to keep up their upper-class lifestyle, as best they could, in what most considered primitive and dangerous surroundings. Unmarried officers often hired "strikers" (personal servants) from among the enlisted
...we were expected to entertain all strangers...passing through...at [our] table and many is the time I had the Paymaster and his clerk at dinner [and]...parties for the forlorn young bachelor officers who had no home comforts to speak of...It was indeed a work of art and genius to get up a respectable meal at this forlorn isolated place, nothing but the Commissary and Sutler store to draw upon, and variety...limited.
Alice Dryer, commandant officer's wife, 1865
Post surgeons, commissioned Army officers, served as the "town" doctor. They took care of military and civilian patients alike. Sometimes Plains Indians also sought "modern medicine" from the Army's doctors.
Sutlers were civilians with a permit from the military to sell non-government-issue retail goods - and offer recreation. Here soldiers could play pool, bowl, and buy small luxuries. Sutlers' stores served as frontier melting pots. Santa Fe Trail travelers might find scouts like Buffalo Bill, journalists, Hispanic and Anglo teamsters, and even Cheyenne and Kiowa inspecting the sutler's goods.
Erected by National Park Service.
Marker series. This marker is included in the National Historic Landmarks marker series.
Location. 38° 11.271′ N, 99° Click for map. Marker is at the picnic area, near the park entrance. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1767 Kansas Highway 156, Larned KS 67550, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Frontier Army and the U.S. Mail (here, next to this marker); Santa Fe Trail (here, next to this marker); Fort Larned (here, next to this marker); The Great Wagon Road to the Southwest (approx. 0.2 miles away); Soldiers Who Died At Fort Larned (approx. ¼ mile away); Third Infantry Honored Dead (approx. 0.3 miles away); Well, Adobe Hospital and Hospital Steward's Quarters (approx. 0.3 miles away); Doesn't Every Fort Have a Wall? (approx. 0.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Fort Larned National Historic Site.
More about this marker. Marker was moved from 38.185219N 99.218999W, where a parking lot kiosk was formerly located.
Also see . . .
1. Fort Larned National Historic Site. (Submitted on February 8, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Santa Fe National Historic Trail. (Submitted on February 8, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Pawnee County, Kansas. (Submitted on February 8, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
1. Mrs Hiram Dryer
I am currently in the final stages of a biography on William S. McCaskey who married Alice Dryer's sister, Eleanor Garrison of Detroit MI. I believe that the photograph of Alice Dryer in photo number 5 is a much later one than 1865. After her husband, Major Hiram Dryer died in 1866 at Fort Randal, Alice returned to her hometown of Detroit and later joined the convent. The photo of her shows her in a nun's habit.
— Submitted October 17, 2013, by Dennis Farioli of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
Categories. • Entertainment • Forts, Castles • Patriots & Patriotism • Wars, US Indian •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 721 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 2. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 13. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on July 22, 2016.