Editor’s note: This is a
monthly commentary column by staff writer Julie Fiedler called, Beyond the
Gates. In Beyond the Gates, Julie helps Soldiers, family members, civilians and
retirees discover Kansas by highlighting local destinations, fun and easy day
trips, as well as quirky Kansas attractions.
Marysville is a charming little
Kansas town located about an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of Fort Riley. Along the
way, you’ll pass rolling landscapes, cross rivers and go by an abandoned stone
farmhouse that is so picturesque, I had to pull over.
Marysville’s foremost claim
to fame is the Pony Express Home Station No. 1. The station, a stone barn built
in the 1850s, is the only home station still on its original site. Today, the structure
features the historic station, along with a museum.
I’m not much of a
video-watcher at museums, but the introductory video – despite making me
chuckle at its 1980s-style production value – was worth watching. Because of
its legendary status in American history, I simply had not realized what a
short-lived, spectacular business failure the Pony Express was.
In addition to the original
barn, the museum houses a variety of artifacts making it seem like several
small museums in one. From minerals to dolls to military uniforms to guns to trains,
the artifacts on display include more than just the Pony Express and its place
in postal history.
While at the museum,
someone recommended we have lunch at The Wagon Wheel, and described it as “the”
place where locals go for a good burger. I had the tri-tip sandwich, which was
nice and smoky, along with well-seasoned curly fries. Alas, I did not save room
for homemade pie.
Across the street from The
Wagon Wheel, you’ll see the “lifetiles” murals. The mosaic holograms appear to
move when you walk by them. They are pretty neat, although there aren’t many.
As you drive around town,
see if you can spot some of the area’s black squirrels. While we have a handful
here at Fort Riley, the population in Marysville is more substantial. And, they’re
On Broadway, you’ll find
two gold lions guarding the entry to The Koester House Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The building dates back to the 1870s and is appointed with period furnishings.
The lush grounds boast a number of statues, including animals and figures, as
well as several charming outbuildings, like a garden shed and detached kitchen.
Driving into Marysville,
you probably saw the top of the Historic Marshall County Courthouse. Its
majestic red brick spire juts above the tree line. Definitely head a few blocks
further along Broadway to visit this beautiful building, which has been
reconfigured as a museum.
The museum preserved
several original courthouse rooms and created themed rooms showcasing the area’s
history. Displays, including war artifacts, women’s fashion, a kitchen area, agricultural
tools and more, are set up in some of the smaller rooms.
Given that I work for a
newspaper, I was especially intrigued by the printing press area. Another room
depicting a doctor’s office, including a very intimidating looking basal
metabolism machine, made me especially grateful for the advances of modern
medicine. In the gypsum mining display, a photo depicting two men checking a
mine for falling rock also struck me. The caption read they were testing for
safety, and that one man died from falling rock two days after that photo was
taken. What lousy luck!
Those little glimpses into
history are what make small towns like Marysville so appealing to me. There may
not have been major wars waged or discoveries made there, but such slices of
the everyday get me mentally traveling back in time.
Speaking of traveling back,
as you head home consider stopping at the old steam engine, school house and sod
house. All three are located side-by-side along City Park and are worth taking
a quick peek at.
About a mile outside of
town, the Historic Trails Park boasts a replica of a rope ferry. In the
mid-1800s, a rope ferry was used for people crossing the Big Blue River. The
park includes information about eight historic trails in the area, however, they
are not meant for hiking.
If you’re interested in
going on a hike, head to Alcove Spring in Blue Rapids. The short walk takes visitors
to a site along the Oregon Trail where pioneers passed through.
Another brief detour at
Blue Rapids – to the town’s round square – is worth the extra five minutes or so.
Located on a roundabout at Sixth Street is a monument to the Ice Age and
historic Holm Cabin.
Coming across a monument to
the Ice Age in the middle of Kansas seemed a bit odd at first. But in a land rich
with frontier history, learning fossils of extinct animals and deposits of a 1.5
billion-year-old mineral have been discovered nearby added a new, or old, perspective
to the area’s history.
Read about the mammoths,
glaciers and more at the small display. If you’re tempted to press the button for
the audio presentation, I highly recommend it. It’s only a few minutes long and
includes some fun facts and sound effects that really make the experience unique.
Just across the street,
Holm Cabin, built in the 1870s, depicts one family’s frontier experience. The log
cabin, which measures 12 by 26 feet, includes two rooms and a loft, which once
housed the Swedish family of 10. Step inside and marvel at the Spartan living quarters.
Each attraction can be enjoyed in a fairly short amount
of time. Visiting all of them made for a relaxed, yet interesting day trip.