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.

Operating as usual

Big shout out to Alan Butcher! He donated this new carpet! It is in the reading room. It is just beautiful! No more swee...

Big shout out to Alan Butcher! He donated this new carpet! It is in the reading room. It is just beautiful! No more sweeping up the failing bottom of the old carpet!


Recently, we have had the museum inspected following the collapse of the building in downtown Douglass. Our building was deemed safe. However we do have some exterior issues that must be dealt with in the very near future.

While the masonry between the stones in our building remains very good, the south wall of the museum is exposed to water and the other elements. In the past, stucco was added to cover and protect the rock wall. However, the stucco is almost entirely broken and missing from the south wall. So, we must remove the stucco and cover the wall with metal siding with adequate flashings to carry the water away from the wall itself.

Further, the brick facia on the from of the building is pulling away from the original front wall of the museum. Working with a structural engineer, we have developed a plan using large beams in the southwest corner of the facia to rectify this problem and keep water from entering the space and eroding the original front wall.

I know this seems like a lot of repairs, but the engineer told us that our building was in remarkable good shape given its age. I am here to tell you that we were pretty darned thrilled to hear that!

Big shoutout to Mike Powell for arranging the inspection, helping us develop a plan, and getting bids for the work that must be done. He is really committed to the preservation of the museum, and we thank him for his work.


I am so sorry it has been so very long since I have posted! Donna and I are currently cleaning the museum and finishing projects we started before we shut the doors due to Covid-19. We were a little surprised and chagrinned to find out how much dirt and cobwebs we found from being closed for months.

The museum will not be open during the October 3rd Douglass Frontier Day. We simply cannot allow for social distancing, and we don't want to have to turn people away waiting their turn to visit the museum.

The museum will be opening with regular house in the next month. Because we do not often get many visitors at any one time on the same day, we feel this will allow for social distancing in the museum.

When we open for regular hours, we will be requiring masks be worn while in the museum. Masks will be provided by the museum.

We recognize that wearing as mask in a personal choice. We really do not want to debate the value of masks or your right to choose whether or not to wear a mask. Our policy requiring masks and social distancing while in the museum is firm and has been arrived at after discussions with our insurer.

Thank you for hanging in there with us during this time. Everyone has been nothing but supportive.

More on Olivia Martin:She met her future husband, John T. Martin while visiting her sister in Douglass. When she and her...

More on Olivia Martin:

She met her future husband, John T. Martin while visiting her sister in Douglass.

When she and her family arrived in Kansas, they occupied a 12-foot square cabin.
“There were 10 of us and we slept on shelves built around the walls, climbing a ladder and rolling onto our beds.” “A skillet in those days was food for anything from making a venison roast to baking bread.”

Olivia Martin taught school in Burlington, Kansas where she recalled swimming across the Neosho River on her pony so she could read the schoolbooks so that she might stay ahead of her pupils. Her pupils were three grown men.

Mrs. Martin recalled there were some Indians left in the area when she arrived here and said, while she was teaching school, she turned down an invitation to have dinner with an Osage tribe “because they were not too friendly yet”.

More than 200 friends from far and near visited Mrs. Ollie Martin in her home Friday, August 13, 1954 to celebrate her 100th birthday.

At 95 years of age, Olivia Martin found nothing unusual about the fact that she cleaned the house, cooked, washed, canned, upholstered and repaired furniture in the house, walked six blocks to do her shopping, cleaned up the yard, and took care of the chickens. At the time she said, “What else would I do?” I always have done those things – I feel like I’m taking life pretty easy now, anyway.”


Wichita Eagle, January 1955

Mrs. Olivia Martin, who died recently at an El Dorado hospital, had attained the remarkable age of 100 years. Her home was in Douglass, where she had resided for 77 years. Members of her family said she had suffered no illness. She had just worn out. This can hardly mean that Mrs. Martin was tired of living. Only last August she was Queen of the Quad County Old Settlers Reunion at Mulvane and was really the life of the party. In fact, she spent the whole day on the streets of Mulvane, declaring she didn’t want to miss anything.

That was Mrs. Martin’s philosophy of life. She didn’t want to miss anything that life could offer. She even found pleasure in the early days of Kansas, when life must have been a bit rugged. But, not for her. “ I enjoyed every minute of it,” she once told an Eagle reporter. Her 100 years covered the entire history of Kansas as a state and territory.

The sphere Mrs. Martin occupied was bright and warm because of her remarkable personality. Her zest for living, her loyalty to family and friends, her long citizenship, combined to make her an outstanding personality. She found life good because of the kindness in her heart. Mrs. Olivia Martin not only lived unusually long but also exceedingly well. Her memory will be cherished.

Douglass Tribune,  January1955Death came about 5 p.m. Monday at Allen Hospital in Ed Dorado to Mrs. Olivia Weimer Martin...

Douglass Tribune, January1955

Death came about 5 p.m. Monday at Allen Hospital in Ed Dorado to Mrs. Olivia Weimer Martin of Douglass’ oldest resident here. She would have been 101 years old August 13. She was taken to the Hospital Thursday, suffering from uremic poisoning.

Thus passes a woman who enjoyed life at its utmost, who liked people and was loved by people and who staunchly refused to grow old.

Olivia Weimer, daughter of Gabriel and Lydia Weimer, was born August 13, 1854 at Massillion, Ohio. She came to Kansas with her parents at the age of 13, settling at Burlington. Later, they came to Douglass.

On September 25, 1877, she was married to John T. Martin, pioneer, who owned the farm that is now the north part of Douglass, and on north of that. This had been the Martin family home for these many years. Here her five sons were born and raised and here she met myriads of friends throughout the years.

At 100 years old, she was adult queen of the Douglass Centennial Celebration last November and was queen of the Quad County Reunion at Mulvane last August.

Her husband preceded her in death quite a number of years ago. One son, Francis, an oilman in Venezuela, is deceased. Surviving are four sons, Walter and Charley, Douglass, Harry, El Dorado, clerk of the District Court, and Virgil, an architect in Santa Rosa, Calif, and who designed the Copeland Memorial Library building here. There are 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 2:00 p.m. from Hilyard Funeral Hone. Burial in Douglass Cemetery, Hilyard in charge.

Business places will close for the services Friday afternoon.


An interesting story. John Martin worked for three years as an apprentice to a blacksmith in his home state of Maryland, for which he received $30 per year plus room and board. It was a hard life, so he headed to the Northwest.

Searching for a better climate, he arrived in Topeka in 1868, as that was as far south he could get with the cash he had on hand. While working in Topeka shoeing horses for the grading gang, he heard of the wonderful Walnut Valley, and decided to get 160 acres of that land where you could plow all day and not hit a rock, and where the grass grew as high as a man on horseback.

He arrived in Douglass in 1869. While looking about fora suitable claim he was called upon by a committee of vigilantes, who informed him that he was to be the blacksmith until another arrived. Mr. Martin never found out how they knew he was a blacksmith, but an order from the Vigilantes was final.

They furnished him with a wagon and team, which he drove to Emporia. There he purchased an anvil, a hammer, and some iron rods with which to make some tools. A pair of tongs that he made is in the museum.

Mr. Martin worked at blacksmithing until Mr. William Zahl, a blacksmith, came in 1873.

In appreciation of his cooperation, Mr. Martin was able to secure the 160 acres from First Street, north one-half mile; and from Maple Street. east one-half mile. Later, the 80 acres from First Street north to the present city limits of Douglass was taken as an addition to the city.

And, that is how Douglass obtained its first blacksmith.

Douglass Tribune, January 28, 1965Written by J.M. Satterthwaite, EditorWe shall attempt to record this week something ab...

Douglass Tribune, January 28, 1965
Written by J.M. Satterthwaite, Editor

We shall attempt to record this week something about one who was one of the founders of Douglass, and who remained here the greater part of his life.

He was a native of northern Maryland, near the Mason and Dixon line just south of the famed field and historic town of Gettysburg, and also near the famed field of Antietam. He was rather too young to take up arms in the conflict but old enough to witness and well remember it.

He walked from his Maryland home to the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery, on November 19, 1863, having the opportunity to see Lincoln there, and hear that wonderful address made by him, that is going down in the annuls of oratory as one of the most heart-touching, and classical utterance of the ages. Lincoln was not the chosen orator for the occasion. The President had only been incidentally invited there be because he was president. Little was expected of him, and at the time, that classic address was cooly and indifferently received.

Having become proficient in the blacksmith art, and having arrived at the estate of manhood, he decided to push out into the new West. He first tried the Northwest. Changing his mind, he decided to come down into a salubrious climate. He came to Topeka in 1868 and down to Douglass in 1869.

He came into this country when Topeka was the nearest railroad station and El Dorado the nearest Post Office. He took as his claim the southeast quarter of Section 17, joining on the north the claim that Capt. Joseph Douglass had taken, and upon which he was laying out the town site of Douglass, with so man natural prospects. His first claim home was located where Forrest Street crosses the section line, where First Street is now. When Douglass needed more territory to accommodate its growth, he gave the south eighty of his original claim, thereby maintaining a square 160-acre farm reaching from the Douglass town site to the Little Walnut to the north.

He was co-founder with Capt. Joe Douglass on the city that bears the name of the latter, and from the beginning and all through his life, was one of the stand-by citizens of the community. When Douglass Township was organized in January 1873, he was chosen as treasurer of the first township board. He was held in the highest confidence and esteem.

When he first came, his blacksmith coal had to be hauled to him all the way from the distant railroad, and the drinking water to the few busy people here had to be carried in buckets from a newly-dug well nearly half a mile beyond from the Uhl pond.

In 1877, he married Miss Ollie Weimer. Her father was not an ordained minister, but coming from an ancestry of ministers, capably led in religious services with instruction in truth and righteousness.

Mr. Martin built a commodious farm home (he later referred to it as “the shanty”) upon the south line of his farm, facing and looking down Forrest Street.

Mr. and Mrs. Martin reared a family of five capable and successful boys: Charlie in the management of the home farm; Walter, living on the farm east of Douglass and working at the K.T. Service Station; Harry, Clerk of the District Court of Butler County; Virgil, now residing in California; and Francis, who after surveying oil lands throughout New Mexico and Central America, has located in Caracas, Venezuela, with the Socony-Vacum Oil Company, but who flies back each year to his boyhood home, his mother, and his old friends.

As in everything that he was a part of, Mr. Martin was a substantial member and sustainer of the Congregational Church in Douglass. On March 23, 1933, his busy career ended, but all who knew him accord to him the honor his life merited.

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.


318 S Forrest
Douglass, KS


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Are there more pictures of the Opera House-inside as well as outside?
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.