Baxter Springs, KS remembers it’s history and heritage during Encampment Days 2021

(Transcript is edited for clarity)

FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO (HOST) : It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. If you’re thinking about something to do this weekend, consider traveling to Baxter Springs, Kansas, where this weekend the Baxter Spring Heritage Center and Museum is holding their Civil War Encampment, Saturday and Sunday. Earlier this week I spoke with the Director of the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum, Mary Billington. I first asked her to describe the Heritage Center and Museum.

Baxter Spring Heritage Center and Museum

MARY BILLINGTON : We have a lot. The museum itself, the complex is a series of three buildings that are connected together to form one seamless museum. It was open to the public in 1979, during our Cowtown Days in August of 1979. And we’ve grown from there exponentially and it’s a fabulous museum. We’ve got exhibes for the Civil War, Cowtown Days, as Baxter Springs was the first Cowtown in Kansas. All of the wars from the Civil War forward, we’ve got a display on them. We’ve got our native American history of the area. We’ve got black history of the area, which it’s very rare to find a museum in this area that covers the experience of the African American after the Civil War moving and we’ve got a fairly extensive display talking about that movement plus the black soldiers of the area that participated in the Civil War. Our first Kansas colored volunteer infantry was the first colored troops to see service during the Civil War and we talk about them.”

FRED : Yea, you have a pretty comprehensive website also at that lists many of the exhibits and artifacts that you have, and it says you have something about baseball too.

MARY : We do. Baxter Springs has a long history of baseball in the area But with the added bonus of having Mickey Mantle playing here during his high school years with the Van Johnson League. And he was scouted by the Yankees through his time on the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids and when he turned 18 he signed his first major league contract with the Yankees in our Kianawa’s park where the baseball field used to be. And the rest is history as they say, but it started here with the Yankees in Baxter Springs. So we have a tribute to that.

FRED : It sure is, now moving on to Civil War Encampment Day, this Saturday, it starts at 8:30 in the morning. For someone that’s never been to one of these Civil War events. Whether it’s in Southwest Missouri, or Southeast Kansas or somewhere else. What should they expect when they come?

MARY : Well, expect groups of men dressed up in period appropriate clothing. They will be representing both the Confederacy and the Union units from around the area. For those who don’t know, we are part of the Trans-Mississippi theater of the Civil War and that is anything that happened during the Civil War that was west of the Mississippi. You’ll find us a part of that. And so, we deal a with the Battle of Carthage, the Sherwood Raider Farm, battles of Newtonia, Baxter Springs Massacre, Cowskin, and Fort Scott are all a part of our history and tied to this area and we see a tremendous amount of men who remember that and want to share that history.

So you can find these men in their appropriate uniform for the time. They will be camped out much like the soldiers would have been camped out at that point in time. They will be eating rations very similar to what soldiers would have had at the time. And so you can enjoy camp life, you can walk amongst the camp, visit with the soldiers and sometimes the women that are a part of the camp. A lot of time you had women following the camps because there was nothing left for them to stay at home so they followed their men into battle a lot of times. They were the cooks, the laundress and the seamstress, and basically they were there too and that story is not told a whole lot. So you’ll see women involved with this very often. I know that there will be several here.

There will be weapon firing, and battle engagements. We have cannons coming in, so they’ll be cannon firing during the battle engagements, we have two scheduled for Saturday and one scheduled for Sunday. So there is going to be a lot of activity. And then to finish off the night, Saturday night, we’ve got a band coming in who specializes in playing music from that era. So they will be playing the music, they will be calling dances and they will be teaching the dances and this is totally open to the public and we encourage everyone to bring their lawn chairs and come out and enjoy a night of music and it’s all free to the public.

FRED : Director of the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum, Mary Billington. Thank you for your time this morning.

MARY : Thank you so much Fred.

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