Commanding Officer's Quarters (HS-8)
Historic Structure Report
Historic Furnishing Study
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As described by Asst. Surg. W. H. Forwood in 1870, the commanding officer's quarters contained a hall, four rooms, and a kitchen on the lower floor. A sevant's quarters over the kitchen was the only second-story room in the building. [1] Maj. Meredith Helm Kidd and family--the first inhabitants of the structure--have been designated as the featured occupants for purposes of the furnishing study. No mention of furniture used by the Kidd family exists save one brief item. At the time of his appearance before the Hancock Board in December 1870, one officer testified that he saw Kidd frequently gambling with his junior officers while seated at a round table. [2] Without solid evidence of the Kidd family's furniture styles, speculation combined with comparative data will form the basis for an authentic furnishing restoration study.

Some data on the Kidd's economic background have been established. The 1860 census, which listed estimated real estate and personal property values, revealed that Meredith Helm Kidd fell below the median level of personal worth for the Wabash, Indiana, area. In contrast his father-in-law, Stearns Fisher, was one of the wealthiest individuals in the region. Consequently, Kidd's wife Millicent undoubtedly possessed an awareness of the finer things of life. Stearns Fisher might have provided some financial aid to his son-in-law. Another source of funds came in 1861 with the death of Kidd's father, Edmund. Kidd, who left a 340-acre farm valued at $15,000 to him. So, by the time Meredith Kidd arrived at Fort Larned, he probably had acquired a higher standard of living than that reflected in the 1860 census. He certainly possessed the wherewithal by 1871 to purchase Texas cattle and drive them to Kansas. [3]

Since Fort Larned was Major Kidd's first assignment after rejoining the army in the post-Civil War period, he came to that appointment directly from his home in Wabash, Indiana. He apparently either brought a sizable quantity of furniture with him or acquired it after he arrived at Fort Larned, because when he left that post on April 1, 1868, Kidd used an ambulance drawn by six mules to transport his family and furniture to Fort Harker. [4] If he had brought furniture with him, it would have reflected styles prevalent in northern Indiana, which were undoubtedly similar to those of St. Louis or Cincinnati, for after 1850 the Indiana furniture industry had become extensively mechanized into a factory system which mass-produced furniture. [5] If Kidd obtained his furniture after he arrived at Fort Larned, it undoubtedly came from the St. Louis/Leavenworth/Kansas City area. Since the railroad had arrived at Fort Harker by that time, he would not have incurred excessive freight charges hauling the furniture the approximately 40 miles between Harker and Fort Larned. As in Indiana, factory-made furniture in the Missouri area came into increasing use after 1850. [6] Consequently, whether he brought furniture from northern Indiana or purchased it after he arrived at Fort Larned, the general style would have been similar. Even the wood used in the two areas was comparable. Walnut an cherry seemed to predominate in Missouri, while walnut and poplar were favored in Indiana, with cherry as a second choice. [7]

Other factors would have influenced the furnishings in the commanding officer's quarters. Since the Santa Fe Trail passed the fort, trade goods from New Mexico and Texas moved eastward over that route. Items such as Indian pottery, baskets, blankets, and rugs from New Mexico would have been available, while wine from El Paso also entered the area. [8] Since several Indian tribes, mainly Arapaho and Cheyenne, inhabited the area, items such as bows and arrows, and shields, would also probably have been displayed in the quarters.

Officers stationed at many Great Plains posts in the 1867-70 period seemed able to furnish their quarters with quality furniture. The surgeon at Fort Harker, B.E. Fryer, reported in the spring of 1870 that furniture "in the officers' quarters, with the exception of a few articles made by the quartermaster, is brought from the east." [9] By "east" one can presume that Fryer meant the Missouri area. Although the surgeon at Fort Larned neglected to mention the furniture in the officers' quarters there, one can assume that the same situation prevailed as at Fort Harker, for the two garrisons were near each other. When Margaret Carrington, an officer's wife, moved to Montana in 1866 (accompanied by other army wives), she wrote that the group took rocking chairs, sewing chairs, churns, washing machines, and canned fruit. Mrs. Carrington would have taken more furniture with her, but some of her best chairs, bedsteads, and mattresses burned a few days before she left when a fire destroyed her house. [10] After Philippe de Trobriand arrived at Fort Stevenson in August 1867, he purchased the furnishings of a departing officer, which consisted of a chest of drawers with mirror, a washstand, some chairs, a table, clothespress, carpet, china, and glassware. He had his own rocking chair, camp bed, cigar case, hand mirror, and writing case. [11] Luther Bradley wrote to his wife from Fort D.A. Russell in 1869 that he had begun to prepare for her arrival by laying carpet in three rooms of the quarters. [12] In a letter to his wife in November 1867 Capt. Albert Barnitz told her that he had gone to Leavenworth and bought carpeting for two rooms, a bedstead, chairs, a round center table, a rocking chair, lamp, toilette set, washstand, bowl, and pitcher. (See appendix A for a list of the items which Barnitz purchased.) He said that they still needed a stair carpet and matting, rugs, a bureau, and a sofa, but these items could wait until she arrived to select them. Barnitz also told his wife to bring some counterpanes (bedspreads), sheets, pillowcases, and a feather bed. Finally, he informed her that they would have a hair or moss mattress. [13] In an earlier letter that Barnitz had written his wife from a camp near Fort Wallace he said that he had lit a candle and put it in one of his little brass candlesticks. Barnitz, in his diary, also described the Fort Larned quarters of Colonel Wynkoop. In this very useful and illuminating depiction, he wrote:

Have just returned from a visit to the residence of Col. Wynkoop, Indian agent for the Cheyennes and Arapaho. He is very comfortably situated in a little building of boards. . . . His parlor is elegantly carpeted and furnished. His library contains some valuable and entertaining books, and his walls are hung with photographs and Indian trophies. [14]

Marion Russell, whose husband left the army in 1866 to establish a trading post on the Santa Fe Trail at Tecolote, New Mexico, described some of her furniture at their trading post home in the late 1860s. She had Navajo rugs on the floor, but she desired a flowered Brussels carpet. Gilt-framed pictures adorned her walls. She had several pieces of red plush furniture bought in Leavenworth and a claw-foot center table with split-bottom chairs. [15]

Transportation expense proved a problem in some army garrisons farther from population centers. In the spring of 1870 the assistant surgeons at Fort Dodge, C.S. DeGraw and W.S. Tremaine, reported, "the furniture of officers quarters consists principally of plain bedsteads, tables, and chairs, made at the post. The cost of transportation from St. Louis and Leavenworth makes it difficult to obtain other furniture except at a very great expense." [16] Frances Roe found the same situation at Fort Lyon, Colorado. She wrote that much of the furniture in Captain Phillips's house had been made by soldier carpenters at the post. Officers with the rank of captain and above, she observed, had the services of post carpenters. [17] Frances Carrington had the quartermaster carpenters at Fort Phil Kearney make her a large double bedstead. The mattress for the bed was stuffed with dried grass. [18] Since it was almost impossible for Meredith Kidd to transport enough furniture to entirely equip his Fort Larned quarters, he undoubtedly had some post-quartermaster-made items in the house.


Upon entering the front door of the commanding officer's quarters, one was confronted with a hall which dissected the quarters. A door at the far end of the hall led to the rear porch. The walls in this area were undoubtedly white, unpainted plaster. This space was not heated, so there was probably no stove here. Several rugs, perhaps of Navajo origin, probably were on the floor. An unpretentious table of quartermaster origin, most likely painted quartermaster red, was most likely there. A cloth was probably on the table and a period-style kerosene lamp as well. Several simple, quartermaster-made benches or chairs, perhaps painted the same color as the table, were probably placed there. If any quality furnishing was located in the hall, it no doubt was a mirrored hall rack. Some items obtained from local Indians, such as bows and arrows, and beaded bags, were probably used for wall decorations.


Entrance to the parlor, the first room off the hall to the left, was through a columned doorway. The walls in this room were probably painted a chrome yellow color. An open-grate heating stove, probably manufactured by Empire Stove works of St. Louis, Missouri, was to be found in the southwest corner of the room near the flue in that corner. Fragments of six stoves, all manufactured by the Empire Stove Works in the period 1854-68, were uncovered by Douglas Scott during archeological excavations at Fort Larned in 1973. [19]

A large, flowered Brussels carpet was probably found in the center of the floor. A round center table was likely placed on the carpet, probably with a period-style tablecloth. Items on the table would logically include a kerosene lamp, perhaps several photograph albums, and undoubtedly a deck of playing cards, since Major Kidd had a proclivity for gambling. In addition, one or two popular novels of the period might be placed there. In the 1867-68 period, officers at Fort Harker purchased a number of albums from the post sutler at Christmas time. [20] Other furniture probably comprised a period-style sofa and several upholstered chairs. In addition a rocking chair with cane seat and back similar to that shown in figure 4, could probably be found in the room. A brass spittoon might be placed in one corner. Although written ten years after the date selected for furnishing, the "Ett" letter mentioned two organs and two pianos at the fort. [21] Therefore it might be appropriate to include a piano in the parlor.

4. Rocking chair, Fort Hays Frontier Historical Park, Kansas

Wall decorations would undoubtedly be comprised of a clock, painting and pictures, and maybe several civilian guns, such as a shotgun and hunting rifle, since the hunting of buffalo antelope, deer, and prairie chickens proved to be a major sport of army officers. If the photograph of Major Kidd in uniform (figure 3) could be enlarged, it might be a suitable subject for one of the pictures. Another popular picture used in that period can be seen in figure 5. Window curtains, as shown in figure 3 of the "Historic Structure Report," could be made from calico material.

5. 1860s style picture, Grinter House State Museum, Kansas City, Kansas


Through a wide doorway in the west parlor wall, one entered the dining room. Here, too, the walls would probably be painted chrome yellow. A heating stove similar to that in the parlor would be found in the southeast corner. Another carpet, probably flowered, could be on the floor. The dining room table would be on the carpet, undoubtedly covered with a period-style quality tablecloth, for which there would be matching napkins. [22] There would be at least six chairs in the room. These seats might be "Grecian" chairs (figure 6), which were popular in the Midwest during the 1860s and 1870s. [23]

6. "Grecian" Style Chairs. Charles van Ravenswaay, The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri.

Place settings on the table, and also cream pitchers, sugar bowls, butter dishes, gravey boats, bowls, and platters, would undoubtedly be all-white ironstone china. (See appendix B for a list of the types of tableware purchased by officers at Fort Harker in the 1867-68 period.) The all-white color for tableware was the most popular style between 1855 and 1880. [24] Since Scott's archeolgoical excavations uncovered a preponderance of British-made, all-white ironstone, England was the probable origin of the tableware used in the commanding officer's quarters. The most common brand which Scott unearthed was Royal Patent/Ironstone/George Jones. The second most common ironstone was made by Bridgewood and Son. Other brands included Royal Patent/Ironstone/Turner Goddard and Company, and Ironstone/Harvard Moor Brothers/Cobridge. [25] Drinking glasses recovered by Scott were clear glass, while 4- and 12-ounce tumblers were cut glass, with either a diamond design, fluted design, or a fluted with cut-glass design. Goblet fragments indicated five different bowl styles: fluted, bulbed, faceted, small faceted, and cut-glass diamond and panel. [26] Silverware uncovered had either a bone or wood handle. [27]

A period-style sideboard would undoubtedly be found in the dining room. Perhaps an ironstone tureen and platters could be displayed on it. These pieces need not be all-white ironstone, but could have a floral design. Scott uncovered some fragments of ironstone that had orange-and-green floral designs and some that showed a green-and-pink floral design. [28] In addition a wine carafe and whiskey or sherry decanter could be placed there. Officers at frontier military posts as a rule consumed alcoholic beverages in great quantity. Those at Fort Harker purchased wine (claret and catawba), shickey, sherry, and champagne. Major Kidd's drinking habits are now known when he was stationed at Fort Larned, but if he did consume alcoholic refreshments, it was most likely in moderation. Officers who tesitifed at Kidd's hearing in December 1870 never mentioned that he drank while gambling. By the time of his second marriage in the 1880s he probably no longer imbibed, for his second wife was president of the Wabash County Women's Christian Temperance Union. [29]

Wall decorations could include several pictures, which might consist of still-life paintings. Window curtains would in all likelihood be made from the same or similar calico material as found in the parlor.

Lighting would consist of several candles in brass candlesticks on the table. In addition a period-style kerosene lamp could be placed in a wall fixture.

A brass spittoon might be appropriately located in the room.


The kitchen was just west of the dining room. The walls were without doubt white, unpainted plaster. A rug would not be on the floor. The cooking stove, probably manufactured by the Empire Stove Works of St. Louis, would be against the west wall, since the chimney was there. Perhaps a teakettle would be on the stove. A woodbox with wood, the common fuel at Fort Larned, would be next to the stove. It could be a small packing crate, like one discarded by the post quartermaster. A match safe with matches would be fixed to the wall near the stove.

A dry sink, probably of post quartermaster construction, would be in the room. Water would be obtained from a metal bucket sitting on top of the sink. The bucket would contain a tin dipper.

Perhaps some unwashed dishes could be in the sink. A work table made by the post quartermaster would be near the sink, probably covered with oilcloth. Several common kitchen items, like mixing bowls, wooden spoons, colander, cake pan, muffin pan, grater, dripping pan, and knives, might be on this table. (See appendix B for a list of other kitchen utensils.) A garbage bucket in all likelihood would be nearby.

Other items in the kitchen would include a period-style food safe in which fresh and leftover food was kept. One or more chairs of a simple design made by the post quartermaster would be distributed throughout the room. In addition, a high chair, made at the post and used by the Kidd's two-year-old daughter, might be kept in the kitchen.

A small washstand with an attached towel rack would be near the rear door. It would have a basin, pitcher, and soap in a soap dish sitting on top. Behind the stand, a linen towel would be tacked to the wall for a splash cloth.

Since evidence indicates that originally there was no pantry or storage room in the kitchen, the nonperishable food must have been stored on shelves. As a result considerable shelf space should be provided to accommodate the storage of those food items, and also cleaning material and cooking equipment. (See the appendix B for lists from which shelf items can be chosen.) In addition to the above objects, one shelf could contain several recipe books and a small clock.

Cleaning and polishing equipment would include sponges, a whisk broom, floor broom, dust pan, and stove polish and blacking. The two latter items would probably be stored on a shelf.

Since clothes washing, in all likelihood, occurred in the kitchen, the necessary equipment would probably be stored there. These items would include a large pot to heat water, a washtub, a washboard, cakes of soap, washing soda, blueing, starch, and clothespins. In addition a period-style ironing board and flatiron would be kept in the kitchen.

Commissary-supplied butter often proved unfit for human consumption. If fresh milk was available from which to obtain cream, the Kidds would probably have made their own butter. Therefore, a crockery butter churn could be in the kitchen.

Since the Kansas prairie contained an abundance of mice, these animals would have been attracted to the quarters. Inasmuch as officers at Fort Harker purchased mousetraps from the post sutler to alleviate that problem, the officers at Fort Larned obviously followed suit. Because mice would have been attracted to food stored in the kitchen, it would be appropriate to place several such contrivances in that room.

Lighting in the kitchen would come from a kerosene lamp, which would probably be held in a wall bracket. In 1952, when Dwight Smith, a local carpenter, helped to remodel the house, he remembered seeing a black cast-iron bracket for a kerosene lamp fixed to the wall near the window that he changed into a doorway to the family room. [30] This bracket could possibly have been the original fixture from the military period.

Curtains for the kitchen windows would probably be plain, unbleached muslin.


The front bedroom was opposite the parlor, on the right of the entrance hall. The walls in this room were undoubtedly unpainted, white plaster. Perhaps several Navajo rugs or a buffalo-hide rug could serve as floor coverings. Window curtains could consist of calico or some other print fabric. Another curtain with tie-back could be used to cover the large doorway to the back bedroom. A heating stove, probably made by the Empire Stove Works, would be in the northwest corner of the room, where the flue was located.

A matching double bed, nightstand, and bureau would be found in the front bedroom. The bed would perhaps have a hair or moss mattress with sheets, a feather bed, down-filled pillows and cases, and a bedspread. A porcelain commode would be under the bed and a large trunk at the foot of the bed. The nightstand, covered with a scarf, would probably have a kerosene lamp on it and perhaps a Bible. The bureau would no doubt have an attached mirror. It, too, would be covered with a scarf. Items such as fine and coarse combs, hair brushes, hair nets, a clothes brush, a hand mirror, a nail brush and file, perfume bottles, and bay rum or pomade would be found on top of it. [31]

The washstand, made of quality wood, would have a fancy bowl and pitcher on it. In addition it would have a soap dish and soap (perhaps poncine soap), toothbrush tray with two brushes, Sozodent toothpowder, shaving mug, and razor. Behind the washstand there would be a splash cloth tacked to the wall. A small mirror would in all likelihood be fixed to the wall above the splash cloth. [32] In addition a razor strop could be attached to the wall nearby.

Several chairs and a rocking chair, perhaps with cane seats and backs, would be in the front bedroom. These seats could be used in conjunction with a small, period-style desk and sewing table. Since a major portion of a wife's day was occupied with sewing, knitting, and crocheting, she would spend considerable time seated near such a table. The small sewing table would be covered with a scarf, on which there would be a sewing basket containing needles, pins, thread, a thimble, buttons, and pieces of calico, silk cloth, muslin, flannel, and perhaps some velvet. [33] Ladies cuffs and collars might be laid next to the basket. In addition magazines containing sewing patterns such as Godey's Lady's Book or Harper's Bazaar, might be on the table. The small desk would be for the use of Major Kidd. Since he was a lawyer in civilian life, it might contain several law books as well as writing paper, memo book, pen and quills, and both black and red ink.

A wardrobe in all likelihood would not be found in the front bedroom since the room undoubtedly contained a built-in closet. If the closet door were open to display the clothing (see figure 7), visible attire could include a major's uniform and accoutrements, a civilian suit, shirts, pants, neckties, boots, and slippers. Feminine clothing could comprise everyday period-dresses similar to those shown in figure 7, as well as common and dress shoes. Frances Roe described the party dresses she and other officers' wives wore at Fort Lyon, Colorado. For a Christmas dance, she donned a Nile-green silk dress, while the post doctor's wife wore one made of London-smoke silk. At a New Year's party her attire was a pearl-colored Irish poplin. Another lady had a pink silk dress covered with white net which had artificial pink roses attached. [34] Dresses in a similar style to those described by Frances Roe can be found in the 1867-68 issues of Godey's Lady's Book.

7. Feminine Attire of the 1860s, Grinter House State Museum, Kansas City, Kansas


Entrance to the rear bedroom, where the children slept, could be gained either from the far end of the central hall or through a large doorway from the front bedroom. The walls of the rear bedroom were white, unpainted plaster. A heating stove, probably made by the Empire Stove Works, would be found in the northeast corner near the flue. Window curtains could be made from colored muslin cloth.

A problem arises from the fact that of the three Kidd children, two were girls and one was a boy. Victorian morals of that day would not have permitted children of different sex to sleep in the same bedroom. Strict adherence to this code undoubtedly diminished on the frontier, so that perhaps this situation could be solved by dividing the room with a screen or curtain. If this answer to the problem is acceptable, then the girls' area could contain a cot made by the post quartermaster and a crib for a two-year-old child. Each would have a mattress, sheets, and a pillow and case, all covered by a patchwork quilt. A plain porcelain commode could be near or beneath the cot. A Navajo rug might be placed on the floor and there could be an appropriate children's picture on a wall. A small quartermaster-made washstand, undoubtedly covered with calico, would also be found there. It would have a plain bowl and pitcher sitting on top, as well as a soap dish, soap, toothbrush tray with children's brushes, and toothpowder. A linen splash cloth would be fixed to the wall behind the washstand, with a small mirror above it. The closet door could be open to display some children's clothing of the period. A small quartermaster-made bureau, the top of which could be covered with a scarf, might also be found in the girls' portion of the room. Several combs and a brush would also probably be found on top of the bureau. A small play table and several children's chairs of quartermaster manufacture could be placed in the room. The table would probably contain a kerosene lamp for lighting, toy dishes, and perhaps a period-style doll or dolls. A doll bed could have another doll in it. Nearby, a low shelf could hold some schoolbooks for an eight-year-old child, some children's books of the period, including a Mother Goose book, and perhaps several games such as tiddlywink and dominoes. [35] Since skating provided winter entertainment, a pair of ice skates could be displayed in the room.

The boy's portion of the room would probably have a similar type of bunk with mattress, sheets, and a pillow and case, but perhaps it would be covered with an army blanket instead of a quilt. A plain porcelain commode was probably placed beneath the cot. The floor might have a buffalo skin rug. There could be a small table and chair of quartermaster origin, with some adventure books on the table, and also a bag of marbles and a carved wooden gun. In addition a small bow and arrow made by local Indians would probably be located there.


Most officers' wives, especially those of higher rank, had a servant to help with the housework and children. Since the assistant surgeons at Fort Larned described the room over the kitchen as a servant's quarters, it would be appropriate to furnish the room for a servant. [36]

The surgeon at Fort Harker reported in the spring of 1870 that "great difficulty is experienced by officers here in obtaining servants, and generally it is necessary to send to the East for them." [37] Despite this difficulty, the 1870 census for Fort Larned listed five individuals with a servant occupation. These included:

Tomas Matlin (black) - age 20 - born in Kentucky
Losinda Sewell (mulatto) - age 23 - born in Missouri
Margaret Ellis (black) - age 28 - born in Missouri
Louise Winter (white) - age 18 - born in Massachusetts
Susan Filson (black) - age 24 - born in Missouri [38]

Since the name of the Kidd's servant remains unknown, one of the above individuals could be chosen if a servant's name was needed.

The room could be furnished in a very plain manner. Walls would probably be white, unpainted plaster. It probably would not contain a heating stove. Window curtains could be made of unbleached muslin. An unadorned post-quartermaster-constructed bed, with mattress, pillow, and quilts would be located there. A small trunk for personal effects could be at the foot of the bed and a plain porcelain commode beneath the bed. A quartermaster-made washstand, with towel rack, perhaps painted quartermaster-red, could be nearby, with a plain bowl and pitcher and soap in a soap dish. Behind the stand a linen splash cloth would be tacked to the wall, with a small mirror above it. Several items of clothing would probably be hanging from wall hooks. A plain, post-carpenter-constructed table, probably painted quartermaster-red, could be found in the room. A kerosene lamp for lighting and a comb and brush might be on top.

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Last Updated: 18-Sep-2009