Douglass Historical Museum

Douglass Historical Museum The Douglass Historical Museum is a hidden gem in a small town in Butler County. Come by to see what it was like in the early days of Kansas Pioneer Life.

The Douglass Historical Museum is located in the small town of Douglass, Kansas. A small town with a big history. From movie stars of the silent film era, to Presidents of the United States, Douglass has hosted a fair amount of well-known people. The Museum is jam packed with history from not only the City of Douglass, but surrounding towns and pioneer life in Kansas too. Stop on by and see for yourself.

No story today, but I thought I would share with you some pictures I had at home. I like these pictures because they hav...

No story today, but I thought I would share with you some pictures I had at home. I like these pictures because they have given me a feel for where things were and how things were in the early 1900's Douglass. The street scene with two people crossing the street and the photo of the Opera House with the salt barrels stores outside the store were taken in 1909. The birds-eye view of Douglass was taken in sometime between 1912-1918. I hope you enjoy them!


A big shoutout to Kevin O’Crowley and Mike Gash for their generous donations to the museum! Guys, you have no idea how very much we appreciate your generosity!


The Douglass Historical Museum now has 654 followers! Thank you to all that have followed our page and have shared your stories with us! Every time we have visitors to the museum or comments on a given post, we learn more!

If you are a new follower, we urge you to go back through previous posts because we think you will enjoy them. We have posted some photos in past posts that we think you will really enjoy.

We also have ongoing projects, like the Tribune Project, you might want to consider making a donation in support of. We are wanting to convert over 100 years of the Douglass Tribune from its current microfilm to a digitized version. This allows anyone to access, search, and print any picture or article by name, subject, and date anywhere there is a internet connection. This is not only an important project for the museum, to use in display and sharing on social media, but a project that will preserve these stories and pictures for the future.

Again, big thank you to all that have visited the museum, brought us information and artifacts, follow our page, and have donated to our operating fund or Tribune projects. We appreciate your interest more than you can know.

Today, I want to share with you the life of Neil and Alma Wilkie. They are, as Dr. N.E. Wilson is, examples of the fine ...

Today, I want to share with you the life of Neil and Alma Wilkie. They are, as Dr. N.E. Wilson is, examples of the fine people who settled and lived in our small town.

Tribune February 24, 1922:

One who had been a very prominent character in Douglass for more than a half century, and who at one time was one of the leading men of the county, passed away last Sunday afternoon, aged 81 years, ten month, and three days.

Neil Wilkie was born in York County, Ontario, April 16, 1840. He came to the United States in 1862, going to California, spending seven years there in mining. (Mining for Gold) In 1869, he came to this locality, being one of the very early settlers. He first engaged in the mercantile business, but did not continue in that line very long.

In the fall of 1872, he was married to Miss Alma Henderson of Newbury, Vermont, a lady of superior eduction and refinement, who survives him.

He came into possession of a considerable fortune compared with the residents of this country in those early times. He engaged in the banking business in El Dorado, and then at Douglass, but was over generous with his loans, and all to optimistic in his hopes of rapid development of the country. He was a booster for the county and town, but could not weather the depressing times of the latter 1800's since which time he has lived in comparative retirement.

He was one of the county commissioners of Butler County in the early settlement of the county. In 1880, he was elected to the Kansas Senate from this district, then composed of Butler and Harvey Counties. He was instrumental in securing the extension for the Walnut Valley branch of the Santa Fe Railroad from El Dorado to Douglass, the city remaining the terminus of that branch for several years. In the days of his vigorous life and financial ability he did very much for the development of the city and county.

He kept up his interest in public affairs until a few years ago when both his mental and physical powers began to fail. For a few years his mind was almost altogether dwelling in the past, with little appreciation of the present. But, he was ever kind and friendly.

The funeral was held at the home, Tuesday afternoon, the services being conducted by Rev. Weimer. Many there have been, in the 53 years of his residence in this community were benefitted by his kindly generosity. The burial was in Douglass Cemetery.

Miscellaneous Entries in File Notes:

Neil Wilkie came to Butler County with two or three yoke of oxen and was breaking the prairie sod for new settlers before Joseph Douglass finalized his his "Change of Intent" on his claim from farm use to townsite.

Neil Wilkie eventually had a store, like many others, and over the following years he built a reputation as an honest and upright man.

In 1882, he began to build buildings along Forrest Street. Wilkie's Bank opened and attached to the north side of the bank were two more buildings.

Neil Wilkie's bank suffered bankruptcy because he helped finance the Cheese Factory and the Sugar Factory neither of which succeeded. He and his wife, Alma, tried very hard to pay back the money the locals had invested in the bank and other enterprises. Wilkie's Bank eventually merged into the Exchange State Bank.

Neil Wilkie was the President of the First National Bank of El Dorado, and afterward, in coordination with S.L. Shotwell, organized and established the Exchange State Bank of El Dorado.


A big thank you to Mike Clay for his very generous donation to the Douglass Historical Museum! It was a timely donation for sure!

Finally! Here are pictures of the Opera House and playbills. The Clark Brothers had their dry goods store on the first s...

Finally! Here are pictures of the Opera House and playbills. The Clark Brothers had their dry goods store on the first story. They were known for their creative window displays.


Hey, friends and followers! This post is about the Wright's Opera House. The file I have on the Opera House is a bit thin. I will share what I have, and I hope that you might share any information that you have and memories of the Opera House shared with you by your parents and grandparents.

Here is what I know:

The original Opera House was built by Levi E. Wright in 1884. He was said to have suffered from "melancholy" or what we might term severe depression now. He took his own life by hanging himself in the Opera House.

In 1900. a fire destroyed the Opera House. That fall, C.M. Ranger, a half-brother of Mr. Wright, began reconstruction. the funds required to rebuild the Opera House totaled $26,000 and were raised among the community and other patrons of the Opera House. In terms of current dollars, the reconstruction cost about three-quarters of a million dollars.

The Opera House was the finest opera house in Butler County and the surrounding area for many years. The building measured 150 ft. X 80 ft. and the Opera Hall was 50 ft. X 80 ft. and had an 18 ft. ceiling. The Opera Hall seated 450-500 people. It was steam heated.

This building burned down November 3, 1963.

Pictures to follow if I can get them to upload on my home computer!

Terrible glare, but this is a picture of a young Dr. N.E. Wilson.

Terrible glare, but this is a picture of a young Dr. N.E. Wilson.


The last Friday Donna and I worked at the museum, I was cleaning the pictures in our portrait gallery. Many times, I have had to completely take them out of their frames to get the picture and frame clean.

The last one I finished was the portrait of Dr. Newton Edward Wilson. He preferred N.E. Wilson. As I often do, I pulled the file to find out more about the person in the portrait. I was so very glad I did it with this one.

I want to share his story because he is just one example of the fine people that settled or lived in our little town. Often when I read a file on a family or person, the generosity and public spiritedness of these people has genuinely moved and humbled me.

Dr. Wilson’s obituary from the February 9, 1917 Tribune:

Newton Edward Wilson was born August 19, 1877, at Preston Iowa. In April 1890, he moved, with the rest of his family, to Winfield, Kansas where he made his home until 1901 when he told a position in Pawnee, Oklahoma. In the fall of 1903, he entered University Medical College at Kansas City and graduated with honors in 1907, being class president one year. In July 1907, he moved to Douglass, purchasing office and practice of Dr. Brown. In his ten years in Douglass he had built up, one of the largest, if not the largest practice of any general practitioner in the state.

In spite of being in great demand his practice made upon his time, Dr. Wilson found time to actively associate himself with every movement having for its object the betterment or upbuilding the town of the town and community. He served as Mayor, as Councilman, on the Board I’d Health, as a member of the School Board, and as trustee of the M.E. church.

After the death of his parents, he brought his younger brother and sister to Douglass, made a home for them, sent them through school, and in every way, was a father to them. He was to have been married to Miss Alberta House in June, and they had just started the erection of a home on Maple Street.

He died very suddenly at St. Mary’s Hospital in Winfield, Wednesday night from an abscess of the throat. (He has gone to the site of a railroad accident south of Douglass to tend to the injured. It was very cold and he made repeated trips to town to get more supplies. It was very cold and wet. He became very ill and died when an abscess that had formed in his throat burst.)
He left behind five brothers and three sisters: Purl Wilson of Winfield; Elmer Wilson, of Dexter; Fred Wilson of Van Burden, Ark; Ben Wilson of Kansas City; Jack Wilson of Douglass; Mrs. Howard Swan of Blackwell, Okla.; Mrs. Chas Gibson of Douglass; and Miss Mary Wilson of Douglass. He is also mourned as a brother and a friend by an entire community.

The funeral was held at the M. E. Church at Winfield, Saturday the 10th, and was conducted by the pastor, Rev. Wark assisted by Rev. Day of Douglass. About seven hundred from Douglass and vicinity attended to pay last respects to their friend and physician. At the end of the service, not a dry eye remained.

Dr. Wilson was an honest, upright citizen, open and above board in all his dealings, standing unflinchingly for the best things in life. He had an exceptionally strong personality, with great influence in the community and was loved by all, men, women, and children.

To those that knew him, words are inadequate to epitomize on the Doctor’s character and principles as a man in private life. The hearts of the community go out in sympathy to the family in their loss, while recognizing the consolation that comes in cherishing such a memory.


The Douglass Historical Museum will be closed until at least March 30th. This pains me greatly, but hopefully it will be short lived. I will continue to work at the museum, mostly on things I have needed to do that cause a great mess, and will continue to post about items we have in the museum and stories that I think will interest you.

Please know that we are praying hard for everyone affected by this virus.


Chapter 4: Another great Jim Durham story

Tribune September 20, 1962
Sidelight on Durham Pitching

An interesting sidelight on Jim Durham, former Douglass man and big-league pitcher comes from Arthur (Jake) Scott of Douglass, who was in Jim's battery mate in years long gone when they played fastball at Douglass.

Jake, who was Jim's catcher, recalls a couple of games in which Douglass met Atlanta.

In one of the games they were ready to start the eighth inning when a fan offered to bet that Atlanta would score in the two innings left.

Jim and Howard (Snack) Holmes got up $50 between them and called the bet -- then the fun began.

Jake says that Jim just wound up and threw the ball past the next six batters, not only without a score, but without anything that even looked like a hit, and they collected their $50.

Jim Durham 1902 and Dr. Brown.

Jim Durham 1902 and Dr. Brown.


Chapter 3: Jim Durham's first baseball game

Article by John Reed Published in the Wichita Eagle
October 9, 1927
Sent to the Douglass Tribune by Dave Peebler Augusta Kansas
Printed in the Douglass Tribune, December 6, 1962

I saw Jim Durham pitch his very first game ---not in organized ball, you understand, but the very first time he ever took part in a nine-inning contest as a pitcher. I also saw him pitch his last game in the Western League in 1916 when he left baseball to devote his whole time to business.

In 1901, Jim Durham came to the town of Mulvane to take part ion a ball game between teams representing that town and Douglass. Mulvane had a good little team, and it had been able too clean up on everything in the valley with the exception of Clearwater. Douglass had never been a tough nut to crack. But, on this particular day, the Butler County aggregation came into town with the light of battle in their eyes and a confidence born of some strange assurance.

Finally, it was whispered that Douglass had a new pitcher. And that was always the nub of a small-town ball game. The rest of the team didn't cut so much ice, but given a pitcher with a reputation --- one who could cut 'em loose occasionally --- and the opposing team would fold up and quit. But, when the "new pitcher" was pointed out, the huskies on the Mulvane team sort of turned up their noses and cast knowing glances in the general direction of left field. For the pitcher was just a kid of a boy, slender, and with the appearance of being scared about half to death. It was the first appearance on any diamond of James G. Durham of Douglass, Kansas at that particular time just 17 years of age.

Garfield Forney of Belle Plaine, who had already risen to considerable heights as a small-town pitcher, and who was present as a spectator, took me off to one side and whispered "Your bunch is in for a licking this time. That kid Durham has the stuff. I just saw him warming up over there. He'll trim you."

It wasn't such a hot game once it got underway, however, Mulvane wasn't bluffed a great deal by the prowess of the Boy Wonder. But, after he had struck out one or two of the heaviest hitters, and held the Mulvane boys to one run in eight innings, while Douglass scored two, it seemed as though Forney's prediction was bound to come through. And it did. A ninth-inning rally by Mulvane, which put two runners on base, with two out, brightened things for a minute. But, Durham struck out the third man -- a pinch hitter--and when Dr. Brown of Douglass threw Durham a dollar for the feat, that young man has earned his first money in baseball.


Chapter 2: Tribune, May 1949

James G. Durham (b. 10/07/1881. d/ 05/07/1949)

James G. (Jim) Durham, former Douglass druggist, big-league pitcher, insurance man and oil man, came home to be laid to rest. He had passed away in a Coffeyville hotel from a heart ailment Friday night.

Jim had left Wichita only a short time ago and entered the drug business. He had followed the trade of pharmacist for years and owned a store in Douglass. His drug sign still can be seen on the west side of the building occupied by Belva's Café.

Jim was in the oil business for quite a number or years. He was working with Frank Bush in the Douglass oil field until shortly before his death. His big strike was in the Oxford field a few years back.

Jim's bid to fame came as a baseball player. He pitched for Douglass teams in years gone by when the city fielded some of its best teams. He pitched for the Chicago White Sox one season in 1902, played in the American League for Kansas City (4years) and Louisville (2 years) and pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1909. He also pitched for the Wichita in the Western league and was a mainstay of that team.

He was a member of the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame as well as the Wichita Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Old Time Baseball Association.

Jim was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Durham of Douglass. He attended Douglass schools and Southwestern College, coaching baseball at that college and Kansas University.

He leaves a wife, Sarah; a son Robert of Hollywood, Calif.; two daughters, Mrs. Aurora Nola Keene and Mrs. Barbara Laudermilk of Wichita; and a sister Mrs. Dorothy Smith of Los Angeles, Calif.. He also leaves four grandchildren.

One son, Jimmy passed away several years ago.

Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon from the Hilyard Funeral Home, conducted by Reverend Everett Mitchell. Burial in Douglass Cemetery in charge of Hilyard Funeral Home.


Are you aware that Douglass is the birthplace of a major league baseball player?  Yeah, I wasn't either until Jay Sander...

Are you aware that Douglass is the birthplace of a major league baseball player? Yeah, I wasn't either until Jay Sanderson came in and told me. I pulled the file with Tribune clippings and several pictures. I want to share what little information I have about James G. Durham's baseball career and life.

Chapter One:
Charles J. Durham, a pioneer, was a Civil War soldier from Indiana, who had campaigned with Grant in the Capture of Vicksburg and the opening of the Mississippi. He was a musician of natural talent, and after his fellow soldiers commandeered a violin from a Mississippi plantation, he enlivened the camp life of the soldier boys while in the South.

After the war, CJ Durham was on of those in the gold rush to Pike's Peak. However, he failed to find much gold, so came to Kansas and took a claim in the Osage Reservation on Rock Creek he later sold to a Mr. Tweedie, a breeder of Clydesdale horses

Mr. Durham's skill with the violin gave him exceeding popularity up and down the Walnut in the dances in those early days. He married the belle of the early-day ballrooms, a Miss Howell. The Howells, very early pioneers, had settled on the Walnut at the junction of Howell Creek just below Eldorado. And, the newlyweds made their first home near her parents. When the Osage Indians began negotiating with the government for the sale of the 30-mile strip of their reservation, the Howell's came south and took claims five miles below Douglass near Rock.

Charles and his wife had two children, a son, James. G and a daughter Dorothy. As a boy, James, or Jim Durham grew to love the game of baseball.

Pictures are of Mr. and Mrs. CJ Durham, parents of Jim Durham.


318 S Forrest
Douglass, KS


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Kathy, there is a guy on Kansas History Geeks looking for pictures of a farmhouse in the Douglass area. I'm going to try to share his post with you on this page, just in case you might be able to help him.
Kathy, thanks so much for the tour of the museum today! It is amazing! I definitely recommend it!
I have this memory that my brother Curt Cunningham and I painted the floor in the "new wing" of the museum in 1974-75 before it opened.
January 1914 - Additions of the Vawter Meetings, Douglass, Kan. Photo taken by Phillips.
What a hidden gem this museum is. Visited yesterday and was impressed with all the displays and wonderful exhibits.