Historic Structures Report
(Part II — Historical Data Section)
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Chapter 3
The Structures

Having discussed the reasons for rebuilding Fort Larned, army construction policy in the 1860's, and the general physical development of the post, the report now turns to the structures themselves. Before doing so, however, a few introductory remarks are necessary.

These buildings have been classified as historic American buildings because they comprise the physical remains of Fort Larned, and not because they are of great architectural interest. Being at best examples of frontier American military architecture, their function is more important than their form, use of material, or workmanship. It is function which joins the structure, the part, to the whole, Fort Larned. In interpreting the buildings emphasis should be placed on function, e.g., the role of the quartermaster and quartermaster storehouse in the routine of Fort Larned operations. Although clearly much subordinate to the themes of the meaning of the West in American history, westward expansion, the Santa Fe Trail, or the Indian Wars, the theme of post life and routine is a small stroke in the larger picture.

This is not to contend the structures as such are in no way interesting. They are. The buildings as structures do represent historical change. As a mode of human habitation and shelter one finds the structure replacing the Indian dwelling as dominant in the area. The path of settlement and civilization can be traced in them; from crude adobe hut, to sandstone army structure, to modern farm, to national historic site; from the past to its preservation. It is also interesting for the western historian to note that it was the United States Army which first introduced the structure to the area. The quartermaster-designer may have had no concern for the relationship of space, volume, planes, masses, or voids. His intention was completely practical and in no way aesthetic, with function and desired capacity determining form and economy of available material and labor the execution. The structures are handwork, the work of craftsmen. They are not architecture; i.e., they are not art. But handwork is also a mark of culture and it was the United States Army which transmitted it to the Kansas plains.

The Structures — Collectively

With the exception of the blockhouse, all the structures covered by this report were built during the years 1866-1868. Six were part of a single construction program in 1867, one was built in 1866, and another in 1868. In that they were built at approximately the same time, a number of factors are common to them all. These factors are discussed under the headings: environment, plans, available materials, methods of labor, and economy of means.


Of the various factors influencing the construction of Fort Larned, environment, in the sense of climate, was among the most important. From 1859 to 1866 the principal building materials had been adobe brick for the walls and viga—earth for the roofs. Such structures were suitable to the climates of Arizona or New Mexico, with 7.2 and 11.6 inches of annual precipitation. However, they were poorly adaptable to central Kansas, where the annual precipitation is 28.4 inches and where winter winds have been known to reach 60 MPH. By 1866 the adobe structures were literally falling apart, the wind and rains having washed away the earth coverings, rotted the vigas, and eroded the walls. The climate dictated the choice of a different material. Due to the absence of wood, the quartermaster department turned to stone.


The story of the design of the Fort Larned stone structures began in May 1866, when Maj. Cuvier Grover submitted plans for new buildings to the Quartermaster General. As already noted, Major Grover's poorly drawn plans (see Plate 8) and the absence of cost estimates, caused them to be rejected by the Quartermaster General.

Regulations concerning new construction were explicit. Col. James J. Dana, in charge of the sixth division within the quartermaster department, which until August 1867 had jurisdiction over barracks and quarters construction, informed Colonel Baston, Chief Quartermaster for the Division of the Mississippi, that paragraph 1060 of the regulations must be followed before any Fort Larned plans would be approved. [40] This paragraph stipulated that:

No permanent buildings for the army as barracks, quarters, hospitals, storehouses, offices or stables, or pier, or wharves, shall be erected but by order of the Secretary of War, and according to plan directed by him, and in consequence of appropriation made by law. [41]

Paragraph 1092 stipulated that the plans would be accompanied by estimates. In addition, Major Grover had not complied with Quartermaster General Order No. 3, January 21, 1864. This order stated that the drawings would embrace a ground plan, vertical sections showing the general style and mode of construction, and, if possible, a sketch. Grover's plans embraced only a crude floor plan. Dana suggested he hire a draftsman and start all over.

Major Grover's difficulties were typical. Although the Quartermaster General periodically published standard plans for army structures, they were not followed by frontier officers. Not only did local conditions make it impossible to follow plans designed for settled areas, but it is also probable that many Quartermasters did not know such existed. Almost all post quartermasters were detailed from a regiment to serve as acting assistant quartermaster. They usually held the job for only a few months, it then being rotated to another officer. The necessity for such an arrangement came from the personnel restrictions imposed on the quartermaster department. The 1866 Army reorganization act permitted a total of 90 quartermaster officers. This included 17 positions which would be eliminated as officers retired in addition to 18 store keepers. This left a grand total of 57 men to conduct department business. Naturally, the department could not staff every post and the position of acting assistant quartermaster was instituted. Many of these acting quartermasters, who had not touched a tee square or triangle since West Point, and who knew nothing about structure design, were called upon to be both architect and draftsman. The result was plans similar to those submitted by Major Grover.

Fortunately, he did not wait until the plans had been approved but proceeded to build a badly needed commissary storehouse. In the meantime the post's location had become an issue and the construction program was shelved until 1867.

Extensive and exhaustive research in the National Archives did not uncover the plans for the buildings constructed at Fort Larned. Fortunately, the condition of the structures plus other sources indicate that the lack of plans will not hinder the proposed restoration and reconstruction. The designer and place of design remain unknown. It is probable that detailed plans and estimates were submitted from Fort Larned, approved by the Secretary of War, and followed by Rockwell in 1867. It is also possible that the plans originated department headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.

In March 1867, when the high estimates for the Department of Missouri construction were being brought to Meigs' attention, Colonel Baston informed division headquarters that one of the reasons was the lack of standardized plans for the department. "Every variety of building imaginable in plans and construction," he said, "is now being erected at the different posts in this department." [42] He reported that this regrettable state of affairs would be remedied at the department level by instructing the corps of engineers officer to draw up standard plans for all structures. These plans were subsequently sent to Washington and filed in General Meigs' office. They have been lost. In that they were drawn in March or April, and the construction at Larned did not begin until August, it is possible that these plans were followed.

Fort Larned was not the only post where large-scale construction took place in 1867. At Forts Harker, Zarah, Dodge, and Lyon, to name those most directly associated with Larned, new buildings were going up. Plans for two buildings at Fort Lyon, quartermaster and commissary storehouse and officers' quarters, are included in the illustrations, Plates 11 and 12. It is the writer's opinion that they represent the standard department plans drawn under Baston's direction. The commanding officer's quarters at Larned resembles the plan for officers' quarters. In addition, the storehouses at Larned were probably similar in floor plan to the Fort Lyon plan, although the dimensions are different.

Another design consideration is worth noting. Six of the eight buildings covered by this report were built at the same time, with one being constructed a year later. Since the same men supervised the work and the same mechanics carried it out, the buildings should contain a great many structural similarities. As architectural data pertaining to each building is gathered, the task of inferring original design will be easier. This information should also be of considerable help in actual restoration.

Available Material

By the end of the 1870s the Indian problem in Kansas was all but settled. Local journalists, awakening to the economic potential of their state, worked hard to dispel any misconception of Kansas being uninhabitable. In a hymn of praise entitled Kansas As It Is, the author informed the prospective settler:

Building stone is one of the grandest resources of Kansas. It is almost as universal as the grass and running waters. It goes into mills, churches, school houses, court houses, bridges, hotels, banks, stores, shops, dwellings, fences, corrals, and everything in the building line. . .It is probable that no state in the union has so large and fine a supply or such equable distribution of building stone as Kansas. [43]

Perhaps the almost total absence of timber influenced the above remarks. In any case, Pawnee County, where Fort Larned was located, was described as "1% forests and balance rolling prairie." [44]

Army construction policy had always stipulated that local materials be used. At Fort Larned the choice fell on stone. There was no other acceptable material. As General Hancock informed General Sherman in May 1867, "There is an abundant supply of stone along that route, and it is so easily worked that I think the post should be built without delay. They would be permanent if built of stone and probably could be constructed as cheaply as if they were erected of more perishable material which would have to come from a distance." [45]

The army worked several quarries in the area of Fort Larned during the years 1865 to 1868. Stone for the blockhouse, 1865, came from a quarry at Lookout Hill. Lieutenant Brown's 1867 map (Plate 4) shows three quarries. Although it is probable that all three of these quarries were worked at one time or another, it is difficult to determine which one supplied the stone employed during the construction program in 1867. In the sources the distance of the quarries from the post varies from three to six miles, indicating more than one was exploited. These quarries may still be visible.

Lime was used in preparing mortar. In 1866, at the time of the construction of the commissary storehouse, the post commander reported that one of the reasons for a delay in construction was the lack of lime. It was not found in the area and had to be shipped from Fort Riley. However, during the construction program of 1867, lime was secured from a quarry 35 miles north of the post (see Brown map). In addition to use in cement, lime was employed in plaster and whitewash.

The source of the lumber is uncertain. Because neither the quantity nor quality of the required timbers were locally available, it is certain that lumber was shipped to the post. Some contend it originated in Minnesota. This is possible. However, it is more probable that the immediate source, the dealer, was located in Kansas at either Council Grove, Fort Leavenworth, or Topeka. In 1866 Major Grover had requested permission to purchase large quantities of black walnut at Council Grove. In all probability standard quartermaster (and commissary) procurement practice was followed. The quartermaster placed advertisements in various local newspapers for bids to supply the required amounts to the post then under construction. The bid was to include the costs of delivery to the site, thus saving the army the necessity of arranging transportation (also contracted). Competitive bidding reduced the cost. An analysis of the wood in the structures in addition to further research might be able to determine exact origin. Such was done during the restoration of Fort Laramie.

Hardware, such as glass, nails, tin, oils, etc., was also shipped to the site. These items might have come from quartermaster depots at Fort Leavenworth, Fort Riley, or even from as far away as St. Louis. However, like lumber, it is probable that hardware supplies were purchased from local merchants and then shipped out onto the plains. Further research might determine exact origin.

Forts Zarah, Dodge, Harker, and Larned were all constructed during the years 1866-1867, and involved considerable government expenditures. Although not to be compared with today's defense contracts or the economic significance of defense industries to some cities and states, one can be certain that army spending was welcomed by the Kansas merchants. Army expenditures played a pump-priming role in the economies of such towns as Fort Leavenworth.

Methods of Labor

In April 1867 General Hancock demonstrated the might of the United States to hostile plains Indians by burning an empty Cheyenne-Sioux village near Fort Larned. The action ignited reprisal raids by the Indians. Throughout the summer and fall of 1867 every available soldier was either excorting wagon trains or chasing the elusive enemy. This meant that troops could not be detailed to construction crews, much to the displeasure of the Quartermaster General. The army was forced to hire civilian employees, who, in addition to demanding high pay also received free room and board, to perform the work at posts under construction.

At Fort Larned Captain Rockwell assembled a crew that averaged 191 men between August and January. These men were attracted to the site by ads placed in local newspapers. Some probably came from as far away as St. Louis. The incentive to work in a "combat zone" was, as always, pay. As the list of employees in September illustrates (see Appendix B), wages at Larned were high. General Meigs' dissatisfaction with civilian employees is understandable, when the monthly wage of a laborer, mason, or teamster is compared with the $13 a month paid to a private in the army. In that room, board, and transportation were furnished, a worker could save a tidy sum in six months, provided he did not spend his free time at the "ranch" located just east of the reservation. This place specialized in cheap whiskey and was frequented by tireless pioneer women dedicated to providing moments of rest, relaxation, and amusement for the weary conqueror of the plains—at a price. While at the post the construction workers lived in tents and dugouts along the banks of the stream. Plates 11 and 12, sketched in July 1867, show these dugouts and the post. Those who stuck out the long hours and hard work were able to leave Larned with enough money to think about a small farm or finance a sustained fling in Leavenworth, Topeka, or Wichita.

The division of labor during the program is indicated on the statement of employees. Unskilled workers, laborers and teamsters, made up two-thirds of the work force, whereas skilled craftsmen comprised only a third.

Today the army would simply let a contract on such a project. On the frontier the quartermaster department not only hired the workers, it also supplied all equipment. A total of 216 mules, purchased through advertisements in local newspapers, and 46 wagons were employed at the site. Further research would be necessary to determine the equipment used in quarrying the stone. Examples of the hand tools employed in finishing it are on display in the present museum at the post (they should be retained, when the historical society moves out). In general one can say the post was constructed by muscle power, with pulleys, block-and-tackle, and saws serving as the major mechanical aids.

Economy of Means

Available material, number and skill of the work force, types and efficiency of equipment, and quality of the supervision, all influenced the economy of means in constructing Fort Larned. One would expect that all concerned would have been satisfied with the results. Such was not the case. Dissatisfaction with cost ran all the way from division headquarters to Quartermaster General Meigs.

As Captain Rockwell reported in April 1868, the total cost of the project between August 1867 and January 1868 was $104,519.84. [46] Broken down into two rough categories, costs were: labor, excluding rations and transportation, $86,583.87; and material, $31,583.35. Although material was expensive due to transportation costs (the stone was free), labor dominates the total figure, being almost three times as costly as material. The cause of the high labor cost was the choice of stone as the principal material. It was not that Captain Rockwell didn't employ his men and equipment efficiently—he did—but rather that it took large numbers of men to extract and work the stone. Quarrying operations required masons, laborers, and teamsters. How the stone was prepared for placing in the walls also influenced the size of the work force. If it was rough, i.e., put up in chunks without squaring or smoothing the surfaces, fewer men were required than if it was dressed, i.e., squared and smoothed. When Inspector General Randolph B. Marcy visited the post during the construction program, he was shocked by the rising costs. Writing from Larned, he decried the practice of dressing the stone, pointing out that "Captain Rockwell. . .informed me, that the new Commanding Officers quarters, the stone which is dressed on the exterior, will cost three times as much as if the stone had been laid up rough." [47] After Rockwell had read Marcy's report, he quickly informed higher authority that he had found the stone cut this way and the practice would immediately be discontinued. This is the reason why some of the stone work at Larned is of better quality in one building than in another and why Building 8 is the finest at the post.

When General Meigs became aware of the practice of dressing stone (it was also done at Dodge), he immediately convinced the Secretary of War and General Grant that such must immediately stop. It was also another reason why the Quartermaster Department must closely control all aspects of construction. New regulations were drawn up to eliminate any recurrence: "By judicious application of the material nearest at hand comfortable and durable buildings may be erected at no greater expense than those of a more perishable nature would cost without the exercise of proper judgement." [48] (In other words, if stone must be employed, don't dress it.) After 1868 this regulation was strictly interpreted to mean buildings at frontier posts were to be constructed as cheaply as possible. The result was inadequate quarters.

Economy of means, then, imposed its dictates on the Fort Larned structures. If Fort Larned was in this respect extravagant and indirectly influenced the quality of future posts throughout the west, today's visitor admiring the handwork of frontier craftsmen can be grateful for the decision to finish the stone.

The Structures — Individually

The historical base map (Plate 5) lists 44 structures as having at one time or other comprised the historical scene at Fort Larned. The preceeding narrative attempted to discuss them in the context of Fort Larned as a whole. This section turns to the parts, the individual buildings.

Only eight of the individual structures are covered. This is due to the master plan for Fort Larned, which envisages the restoration of the existing nine buildings and the reconstruction of one. The two barracks structures, Historic Buildings 1 and 2, are covered in a separate report. Although the master plan reduces the number to ten, one should bear in mind that these ten buildings constituted only the heart of Fort Larned. Interpretive devices will enable the visitor to conceptualize the total historical scene.

The treatment of each building is organized under three headings: structural data, original appearance, and functional history. The information under the first two is intended primarily as data relevant to architectural considerations. Although a floor plan and elevations are presented, they are intended only as possible assistance to the architects, who have the final responsibility of determining actual historical appearance.

Two subdivisions are entitled Utilities and Furnishings. Both will be objects of special studies in the future as each building is restored and eventually furnished. Some evidence is presented here in order to provide information for those presently involved in interpretive planning (particularly, those meeting visitors and conducting the fort tour).


Structural Data

Dimensional Form: The structure was a simple one-story rectangle with exterior measurements, 84 feet (north-south) by 30 feet (east-west).

Materials: During the winter months of 1868, when the weather and General Meigs' order to discharge civilian employees brought an end to the construction program, Major Rockwell spent his time compiling a detailed account of the programs cost. As of January 31, 1868, the following materials had been employed in the shop building:

520 perches stone
515 bushels lime
2,725 bushel sand
20,000 feet lumber
50,000 shingles
7 kegs nails
3 boxes glass
10 lbs putty
50 lbs white lead
3 gal, boiled oil
5,180 bricks
11 window sashes
4 iron doors
1 paper glazier points [49]

Floor Plan:

A. Bakery
B. Saddler Shop
C. Wheelwright Shop, Carpenter Shop
D. Blacksmith Shop

This floor plan is based on the following sources:

a. The post bakery stands on the east side of the parade and is a building 27' x 18' with 12' ceiling. It is the end of a building containing in different compartments the wheelwright, carpenter, paint and blacksmith shops. [50]

b. Bakery is large and ample to supply 500 men. It is in a building with the wheelwright, saddler, and blacksmith shops. [51]

A major question is the location of the bakery and blacksmith shop. In which end of the building was each located? Dwight Stinson interviewed Mr. Walter Frizell, a former owner, on June 7, 1966. Mr. Frizell stated that there were two caved in bake ovens in the south end of the structure. "He believes that the blacksmith forge built by the Fort Larned Society was originally one of these bake ovens which had fallen into disrepair." [52] Although there is no conclusive proof that this statement is wrong, it it questionable. The large door in the southeast elevation would be more appropriate to a blacksmith shop than to a bakery. Wall sections were usually incorporated in a bake oven. The northeast interior corner is not plastered and, in addition, there appear to be three holes in the wall, which might have been for the oven tie rods. Broken brick or stone might still be identifiable.

The saddler required little space and no large door. Both these requirements are met by placing the saddler's shop between the obvious partition and the beginning of the bare stone. The wheelwright shop required a large double door, and such is next to the saddle shop. It is suggested the blacksmith shop occupied the south end. A thorough architectural examination of this structure is necessary, before final designation of the compartments is possible.

Original Appearance


a, North elevation: as now.

b. South elevation: as now.

c. East elevation: Plates 13 and 14 indicate the present door-window distribution is the same as during the historical period, although the doors may have been slightly altered.

d. West elevation: It is suggested the west elevation originally contained eight windows. Rockwell's list of materials shows eleven window sashes and four doors. This would be appropriate to three windows and four doors in east elevation, with eight windows in the west. The four windows and one door in the south end of the west elevation were cut some time after the army period. Again, architectural examination may provide a positive description.

e. Roof: The original roof was shingled and shows three chimneys (see Plates 13 and 14). They would be flues for the blacksmith forge, the bake ovens, and heating stoves in the wheelwright and saddler shops. The north and middle flue were ripped out after abandonment by the army, with a ventilator cupola appearing as of 1886 (see also Plate 15).

Interior: The architectural examination will determine extent of plastering. A 12 foot ceiling probably ran from the bakery (up to bake oven) to the blacksmith shop. Wooden floors were laid in the bake house and saddler's shop, but the wheelwright and blacksmith shops might have not been floored. There was no sleeping compartment for the baker in the bake house. He and his helpers quartered with their company.

Utilities: Heat came from the oven in the bakery, the forge in the blacksmith shop, and heating stoves in the wheelwright and saddler shop. Open fireplaces might have heated the later two compartments.

Light was provided by adamantine candles and/or coal or lard oil lamps. Water for the bakery, blacksmith shop, drinking and fire protection came from the creek or various post wells. It was stored in barrels and water coolers.


a. Bake House. The principal feature of the bake house was the oven. When originally constructed there was probably only one oven with a capacity of 340 rations per bake. In 1873 a new oven was built. Since no standard plans for bake ovens were published until 1882, the Fort Larned ovens were the products of the oven builder. Their reconstruction will present a difficult task. Other furnishings included a water barrel, work table, kneading trough, dough trough, yeast tub, and proof rack. Utensils included knives, rasps, brushes, and peels (long poles with 10-by-20 inch blade for placing and removing loaves).

b. Saddler Shop: Space does not allow a complete listing of the saddler's tools and equipment. Knives, needles, pliers, buckles, gun slings, and strips of leather—in short, all those tools and supplies necessary for maintaining the garrison horse and mule equipage in addition to the mens' accouterments were found in the shop. If he was a good leather worker, the room also contained saddle trees.

c. Wheelwright: The wheelwright and, later, carpenter shop contained the tools and supplies required to keep the post vehicles in condition and the post repaired.

d. Blacksmith: Many of these items are presently on display.

Functional History

This structure replaced four small adobe or picket structures. The bake house had been dug into the side of the bank of Pawnee Fork and resembled a field-type bake oven. The saddler, wheelwright, and blacksmith also had inadequate work areas, The structure functioned as shop building throughout the historical period and probably stood empty from 1878 to 1883.

The bake house was the responsibility of the post treasurer, who was usually the commissary officer. The bakers were detailed daily duty enlisted men from the companies. It was not until the 1880s that knowledge of baking became a qualification for the job. These men worked very hard, as the bake ovens were usually kept fired seven days a week. In addition to supplying the bread needs of the post, the bakery had another important function. It was a major source of income for the post and company funds. Each company was allowed to sell unused portions of the regulation subsistence allowance. Flour was usually a surplus item. The money from the sale went to the company fund, which in turn was used to purchase items not supplied by the army, such as fresh vegetables and fruit for the company mess, chinaware, a clock or water cooler, newspapers and periodicals, and even a company cow or some pigs. All those at the post not entitled to draw an army ration could purchase bread, the receipts going to the post fund for use in buying such things as musical instruments for the band or books for the library.

The saddler was also an extra duty position usually occupied by an enlisted man. He received more pay than the normal private. If he was a skilled leather worker, he could earn a nice income on the side custom-making saddles and bridles for the officers.

The wheelwright was usually a civilian quartermaster employee. He maintained the wagons and was also the post sailmaker, i.e., he repaired the wagon covers and army tents. The carpenter was also a civilian quartermaster employee.

The blacksmith could be an extra duty enlisted man detailed from a company, but he was usually a civilian quartermaster employee. Most of the men who enlisted in the army were either newly arrived immigrants, who saw in the army an institution for adjusting to their new homes, or those broke and in need of employment. Since a good blacksmith could make a comfortable living in civilian life, few enlisted. The army had to hire their services and, as the list of civilian employees testifies, they were well paid.

During the farm period at Fort Larned the structure functioned as barn or storage shed. The Fort Larned Historical Society has turned the south end into a blacksmith museum, which is its present use. The master plan falls for the restoration and refurnishing of the building to the above named functions.


Structural Data

Dimensional Form: The building is a simple one-story rectangle with exterior measurements 84 feet (north - south) by 30 feet (east - west).

Materials: This structure was started in the fall of 1867, when the foundations and floor joists were set. However, completion did not take place until August - September 1868, when "about 70 citizen employees arrived at the post and commenced work on the new buildings. . .erecting an additional commissary storeroom." [53] Unfortunately, Major Rockwell was by this time no longer at Fort Larned. His successor, Lieutenant Thompson, did not record a list of materials. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that the materials employed in this structure resembled those in the 1867 buildings. The materials were prepared the previous year.

Floor Plan:

A. Storeroom
B. Officers' Storeroom
C. Office

This floor plan is based on the following sources:

a. The Commissary storerooms are two in number and stand one on the east side of the parade and the other on the south. The one is 154' x 27' and the other 80' x 23' [dimensions wrong] and are without ceiling except two small rooms, one for the office, the other for officers' stores. [54]

b. In September 1870 an epidemic hit the post. The hospital being full, the post surgeon wrote the Commanding Officer requesting that, "office and adjoining storeroom on the easterly side of the parade may be given up for the temporary use of the medical department." [55]

The architectural examination of the structure may be able to determine the exact location of partitions.

Original Appearance


a. North elevation: No photographs of this elevation during the historic period are available. Architectural examination will have to determine whether the windows were original. If they are original, they further document the above floor plan.

b. South elevation: as now.

c. East elevation: One door (north end) and three windows are here conjectured. The present south door is clearly a window later converted to a door. (See plate 15.)

d. West elevation: Unfortunately, the block house blocks this elevation in Plate 14, except for a door in the north end, which might have originally been a window. The large double window was originally a double door, i.e., commissary supplies were unloaded through this door into the storeroom. Excavation of the "tunnel" covering should be able to determine whether this wall was originally free.

e. Roof: It is suggested that only one flue surmounted the roof, which was shingled, and that it was located in the north end. It was the flue for a heating stove for the office. Commissary stores were usually stored in a cool area to prevent spoilage, thus there was no reason for heating the storeroom. The ventilator cupola is a later addition.

Interior: As noted above, except for the office and storeroom, there was no ceiling. The office and storeroom were probably lathed and plastered. Wooden flooring extended the length of the building.

The tunnel was dug by Boy Scouts and was not an historical feature. It is possible, however, that a cellar was located under the storeroom.

Utilities: Heat for the office was provided by either an open fireplace or more probably a heating stove. Water for drinking and fire protection was stored in water barrels, which were never left empty. Light came from candles or lamps. Open Flames in the storerooms were never left unattended, fire being a constant threat at all frontier posts.

Furnishings: The office probably contained two desks, one for the commissary officer and one for the commissary sergeant. There were also a couple of chairs. In the storeroom one found shelves along the walls and there might have been a couple of long tables for use in issuing rations or selling commissary items.

Functional History

The building's major function throughout the historic period was as commissary storehouse. In 1870 and again in 1871 it was briefly used by the post surgeon as emergency hospital and isolation ward. There is a notation in the medical history that the ordnance sergeant used the structure in 1870 as a magazine. After abandonment by the army, the structure stood empty until 1884.

During the long period of civilian ownership the structure served a number of functions associated with a modern farm. The Fort Larned Historical Society converted the building to dormitory for visiting Boy and Girl Scout troops and added toilet facilities. In 1968 a crane boom accidentally fell across the roof, springing the south gable. That damage has subsequently been repaired. The function of a commissary storehouse will be discussed under Building 5.


Structural Data

Dimensional Form: The structure is a simple one-story rectangle with exterior measurements 157 feet (east - west) by 27 feet (north - south).

Materials: The principal materials employed in this structure are stone and wood. It was constructed in 1866; therefore, there is no detailed list of materials. However, Captain Rockwell did alter the building during the 1867 construction project and listed the following materials in "building office, cellar, and flooring":

120 perches stone1 lock
130 bushels lime2 papers brads
650 bushels sand3 kegs nails
9,978 feet lumber10 lbs white lead
4,363 feet flooring2 lbs white lead
1,200 laths2 lbs burnt umber
1 door1 gal. oil
10 lbs butt hinges1 gal. copal varnish
3-1/2 gross screws1 window sash

Like the lists of materials for the other buildings, inferences from this list are possible; e.g., Rockwell floored the building and painted the woodwork white.

Floor Plan:

A. Storeroom
B. Issueroom
C. Office

The source for this floor plan is:

The storehouse is 150' x 24' inside measurements, in the clear, divided with three compartments. Two of these will be used for subsistence purposes. [56]

This floor plan is conjectural. It is possible that the partitioning for the three compartments was different than that shown. However, such a floor plan was typical, as shown on the Fort Lyon commissary storehouse plan.

Original Appearance


a. North elevation: The three doors are original. However, the windows present a mystery. They were at one time obviously doors. The following explanations are possibilities:

In that there is no foundation under these windows, it is possible that they were originally doors and at some later time, perhaps during 1867, were converted to windows. Rockwell reported using 120 perches of stone on the building and it might have been employed to raise the walls to form windows. The functional reason for numerous doors in this elevation is pure conjecture. It has been suggested that the building was a stable. There is no documentary proof for this assertion. The structure is always referred to as commissary storehouse. Corrals and stables have been identified at other locations. Another possibility is the structure's function as blockhouse. Perhaps Major Grover felt it was necessary to place numerous doors in the building to move the defenders quickly in and out in case of attack. Unfortunately, the 1868 photograph, Plate 15, is too unclear to allow a definite identification of this elevation.

Another possibility is that they were originally windows, at some later time converted to doors, and then altered to windows. The absence of plaster under some the windows would support this hypothesis. Perhaps the Pawnee Valley Stock Breeders Association converted the structure to a stable with a later owner converting it back to barn or storage area. The architectural examination should provide more information.

b. South elevation: It is suggested the south elevation originally had neither doors nor windows, but only the loopholes. Plate 15, 1886, shows a large door in this elevation. It is possible that this door was cut sometime during the army period. Such would have been appropriate to a commissary storehouse. However, the door and windows could also have been cut out after the post was abandoned by the army.

c. East elevation: as now.

d. West elevation: as now.

e. Roof: No flue is discernible in Plate 18, 1868; however it is very probable that one or two of the compartments were heated. The roof was shingled.

Interior: The structure was floored throughout. It was also plastered; however, the architectural examination will have to determine how extensive this was. It is also possible a ceiling ran the length of the building. In 1867 Major Rockwell dug a cellar in the east end for storing more perishable supplies. It was filled in sometime after the army abandoned the post (the cement is post-army).

Utilities: same as Building 4.

Furnishings: same as Building 4.

Functional History

When Major Grover submitted plans for constructing new buildings in 1866, one of the most pressing needs was a new commissary store house. The old no longer protected commissary supplies, and, in that a portion of the structure was used as a squadroom, it was of insufficient capacity. Construction of this building started in July, but was not completed until November. "General (Brevet) Grover hopes to complete his storehouse by the 1st of November," wrote a visiting officer in October 1866. "It would have been completed now but for the delay in procuring lime. It has been demonstrated by repeated trials that lime cannot be made economically from the stone here. It must be obtained from Fort Riley." [57]

The structure functioned as commissary storehouse throughout the army period. The function as blockhouse was superflous. Not a single shot was ever fired through the loop holes in anger. After the post was abandoned by the army, it became a barn. Plate 15 shows a corral at the rear of the structure. The local historical society placed a harness display in the west end of the building. It now also houses the maintenance shop for the historical site.

There are two reasons for the existence of two commissary storehouses at Fort Larned. During the 1860s Fort Larned served as a distribution point for Indian annuities. These gifts (or bribes) of the government were shipped out to Fort Larned, where they were stored until the Indians came in to collect them. In 1866, Edward W. Wynkoop, a hard-pressed Indian Agent, who while in the volunteers had attempted to prevent the Sand Creek massacre, wrote the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and requested that "I may be furnished with transportation, quarters, and storage from any U. S. Post in this section or particularly Fort Larned; my Indians still being in a nomadic state, it becomes necessary for me to have my HdQrs on the plains." [58] The Army, although disagreeing with the "dove-like" objectives and tactics of the Office of Indian Affairs, assisted the Indian agents. As a result, storage space in a commissary storehouse was placed at Agent Wynkoop's disposal.

In October 1867 the annuities stored at the post almost brought the construction program to a halt. The Office of Indian Affairs requested that twenty wagons loaded with annuities proceed from the post to Medicine Lodge, where a peace commission was to meet with several tribes and sign a treaty. Major Rockwell protested, pointing out that without the wagons work on the structures could not continue and he would be forced to lay off some of his crew. The post commander agreed and hired civilian transportation.

The second reason for two commissary storehouses was the need to stockpile quantities of supplies to be used by cavalry columns operating in the area. More than once a column hard on the heels of fleeing Indians had been forced to come into the nearest post to replenish depleted supplies only to discover that the commissary storehouse was empty. The expedition ended right there. In General Sherman's plans such "snafus" would not take place. The posts along the trails would serve as the logistical base; therefore, storage space was required to stock pile supplies.

The commissary officer (sometimes the quartermaster also held this position), assisted by a commissary sergeant and at times a civilian clerk, was responsible for subsistence, i.e., food. He, like the quartermaster, was not a staff officer but rather a line officer detailed to the position for a short period. The commissary sergeant was a veteran enlisted man and a member of the post's noncommissioned officer staff.

In providing subsistence, the commissary department followed a standard procedure. A commissary staff officer assigned to the department would place advertisements in local newspapers calling for bids from ranchers to supply the soldier's basic staple, beef. The rancher would then deliver a herd to the post, where the animals would be butchered as required. A problem in this supply arrangement arose when the rancher delivered scrawny animals. The men would grumble and the commissary officer complained to higher authority. The location of the beef corral at Fort Larned is shown on Plates 2, 3, and 4. Other items in the meager diet, such as vegetables, canned fruit, salt, coffee, hardtack, and salted pork, were purchased at Fort Leavenworth and shipped to the post in wagons belonging to a local transportation company which usually had a year's contract to deliver army supplies. At the fort, rations were distributed by company to be prepared by company cooks and served at common messes. In addition, the commissary officer maintained a store where all those not eligible to draw a ration could purchase supplies. This group included civilian employees, the laundresses, and officers' families.

Due to the long distance between Fort Leavenworth and Larned, supplies often arrived spoiled. Then the red tape began. A board of inquiry was called together to hear witnesses and determine responsibility. Naturally, the army attempted to place the blame on the transporter.

Between army supplies and Indian annuities the commissary storehouses were usually full. The task of accounting for their distribution kept the commissary officer busy, especially when army supplies were issued to Indians. The hardworking officer was required to keep an accurate account of each item so that the army could recover the costs from the Office of Indian Affairs.


Structural Data

Dimensional Form: The dimensional form of this structure was a simple one-story rectangle with exterior measurements 158 feet (east - west) by 40 feet (north - south).


1,100 perches stone
1,143 bushels lime
5,629 bushels sand
4-1/2 bushels hair
37,152 feet lumber
7,850 feet flooring
78,000 shingles
3,600 laths
1,000 bricks
13 kegs nails
8 pairs butt hinges
11 pairs strap hinges
4 gross screws
305 washers
4 store door locks
4 common locks
4 paris staples
44 grate bars
4 door bolts
3 boxes glass
200 lbs white lead
20 lbs putty
2 libs burnt umber
1/2 gal, varnish
14-1/2" x 10' bolts
28-3/4" x 15" bolts
112-3/4" x 8" bolts
5 doors
2 flue thimbles

Floor Plan:

A. Storeroom
B. Issueroom
C. Office

This floor plan is based on the following sources:

a. "The quartermaster storehouse stands on the southside of the parade and is 158' by 40' and without ceiling except the office." [59]

b. The Fort Lyon plan for a quartermaster storehouse, Plate 9. The office and issueroom are located in the west end of the building due to the location of the chimney in Plate 13.

Original Appearance

Exterior: No attempt will be made to determine the original appearance of the elevations. The structure has been substantially altered. The walls have been raised, large barn-type doors have been cut into all elevations, and windows have been added. An analysis of the list of materials and the photograph should assist the architects in determining the original appearance. In that the structure was a quartermaster storehouse, it is probable that there was a large door in the south elevation. The north elevation had six windows and two doors (see Plate 16). It is also suggested the two windows in the west elevation were original.

Interior: The office and issueroom had ceilings, but the storeroom did not. The entire length was floored. It is suggested that the Fort Lyon floor plan be followed when restoring the structure, i.e., that the office be divided into office and sleeping compartment and an issue rail or table be built in the issueroom. This would present a variation from the other two storehouses and closely resemble the army's standard plan.

Utilities: Heat came from two heating stoves, one located in the issueroom and the other in the office. The same flue vented them both. The three flue thimbles in the list of materials indicate there was only one chimney.

Water for drinking and fire protection was kept stored in water barrels and a water cooler. The water barrels were constantly kept full and a couple of axes hung near each. Light came from candles or lamps.

Furnishings: The issueroom contained shelves and issue tables, similar to those shown on the Ft. Lyon storehouse floor plan. The office had a desk, a couple of chairs, perhaps a picture or two, the water cooler, and a table or cabinet for files. The sleeping compartment contained the commissary sergeant's bunk, a foot locker, a table and chair, probably his commission hanging framed on the wall, and a picture or two. In the store room one found shelves.

Functional History

When Major Marshall I. Ludington, a staff quartermaster officer, visited the post in October 1867 to see how work was going, he was impressed by the Quartermaster storehouse:

A stone building . . . for use as a quartermaster store house was about ready for occupation at the date of my visit. The storehouse is a substantial and suitable one and, as work in its erection was commenced only about August 7, its rapid construction is in my opinion highly creditable. [60]

A year later, however, the post quartermaster complained about limited space:

The quartermaster storehouse is not large enough to contain a years supply. The corn and oats are at present piled a hundred sacks deep thereby causing it to heat to such an extent that unless a grain house be built the greater portion of it will be unfit for issue. [61]

Such were the troubles of the quartermaster. Usually a line officer detailed to the job for a short time, he was assisted by a quartermaster sergeant, a veteran enlisted man and member of the non-commissioned officer staff. The quartermaster's responsibilities included: clothing, camp, and garrison equipage, wagons and mules, forage, fuel, and construction and repair. As the above quote indicates, in the summer of 1868 one of his major worries was forage supplies for the troops on the move throughout the department.

The list of materials includes 44 grate bars. They were used for barring the windows in order to safeguard the clothing, camp and garrison equipage. As the designation indicates, this group of items included everything from uniforms to tents and axe handles. Each enlisted man received a cash clothing allowance. He did not have to spend this money on pieces of the uniform, if his old were still wearable. Moreover, if he was willing to risk time in the guardhouse he could steal from the quartermaster. Petty thievery among men earning $13 a month remained a constant problem for the quartermaster.

Maintaining the transportation was a constant job. He hired a wheelwright to repair the wagons which had broken down on the long hauls between Harker, Dodge, or Lyon. During periods of construction and repair, when civilians could not be hired to do the work, the post commander detailed enlisted men to work under the supervision of the quartermaster. In addition, daily duty enlisted men worked in the storeroom unloading wagons, issuing, and inventorying supplies.

Fuel was supplied either by contract with local entrepreneurs of by wood-cutting parties sent out from the post. The department quartermaster officer secured forage. Once again advertisements for bids were placed in local newspapers and the farmers delivered the grain or corn to the post. Once there it became the acting assistant quartermaster's responsibility to see that forage rations were issued. He also received new vehicles from the department as well as horses and mules.

The structure functioned as quartermaster storehouse throughout the army period. When civilians bought the post, the storehouse was converted to a barn. The walls were raised and a large hayloft constructed. Since the local historical society took over the building, it has been used to display early day wagons, carriages, farming equipment, and other odds and ends.


Structural Data

These structures are identical buildings; therefore, they shall be handled collectively.

Dimensional Form: Each structure was a single-story rectangle with kitchen wings attached at each end. In the sources the dimension is given as 53 feet (north-south) by 84 feet (east-west, including wing).


Stone, perches928928
Line, bushels1,073873
Sand, bushels4,9654,165
Hair, bushels16Not Listed
Tin, feet6464
Flue Thimbles1010
Lumber, feet36,11831,500
Flooring, feet3,7524,600
Laths15,800Not Listed
Plaster, lbs5Not Listed
Glass, boxes1010
Window sashes2424
Doors2Not Listed
Locks26Not Listed
Hasps4Not Listed
Closet Latches8Not Listed
Nails, kegs158
Wrought Nails, lbs10Not Listed
Brads, papers396
Brass bolts, pairs8Not Listed
Bolt hinges24Not Listed
Putty, lbs6040
Glaziers points, papersNot Listed2
White lead, lbs27550
Boiled Oil, gal.124
Raw Oil, gal.1/2Not Listed
Turpentine, gal.52
Burnt Umber, lbs.7Not Listed
Copal Varnish, gal.3Not Listed

At the time Rockwell compiled this list, March 1868, the south quarters were nearer completion than the north. The materials not listed for the north building indicate that much interior work remained to be done, i.e., lath and plaster, hardware, painting. As an inspecting officer reported in April 1868, "The officer quarters are large and well built, and all except one set furnished . . . three need plastering and the balconies are all to be finished, except the commanding officers, which is complete." [62] Plate 13 shows both quarters without porches. A careful examination of this list should allow many inferences.

Floor Plan:

A. Servant's room
B. Kitchen (1867-1870)
C. Captain's Quarters (bed and sitting rooms)
D. Lieutenant's Quarters (two men to a room)
E. Hall

Original Appearance

Exterior: The exterior elevations of both structures, including the railed porches, are amazingly little changed since the historical period. Minor changes that have taken place are the alteration of windows in the west wing elevations to doors; the addition of toilet facilities; and the addition of windows at the end of the two interior halls.

Interior: The interiors are also little changed. In his description of the post in the first volume of the medical history, the post surgeon describes the buildings and gives room dimensions:

The two longer buildings are divided into four sets of quarters two with kitchens and two without. There are two rooms in each set of quarters, 14' x 16', and the kitchens are 19' x 10-1/2, with servant's room 16' x 8-1/2 at side. The buildings are plain and substantial with long porches in front and small porches in rear at side of the kitchens. The ceilings of all these rooms are 14' high, there is no ventilation except by door or windows and the rooms are heated with stove fire. All the quarters have large yards in rear with high fence and comfortable sinks. The water is brought by wagon from the creek and placed in barrels in the yard. Officers have their stables in the rear of their yard. [63]

An addition in 1869 and another in 1870 gave the lieutenants additional space:

Under the kitchen is a cellar which, within the past year, has been deepened and floored, and been thus transformed into a kitchen, leaving the kitchen for use as a dining room. On the opposite side of the hall two lieutenants are presumed to live in one room each, without kitchens. At this writing (February 1870) frame additions are being erected to the subalterns quarters, which will give to each two lieutenants three other rooms, although neither has the superficial allowance of a room proper; so that hereafter two lieutenants will have between them a kitchen, a dining-room, and a servant's room, instead of none as at present. [64]

A small section of one of the frame additions is visible in Plate 17, a photograph dated April 1879.

Utilities: As noted above, the structures were heated by means of heating stoves. The chimneys on the ends served as flues for the captains' quarters (each flue meeting at the roof line) with a center chimney serving the four lieutenants' quarters. Water was stored in barrels and water coolers. Light came from "student" and other lard or cool oil burning lamps for which the commissary supplied the fuel.

Furnishings: Officers furnished their own quarters. The bachelors usually asked the quartermaster to knock together a table and a couple of chairs, or they purchased the furniture of the officer they replaced. Married officers attempted to furnish their quarters with a few pieces of manufactured furniture. Furnishings will be the object of a special study. A list of the belongings of a lieutenant who died while visiting New York is found in Appendix C. The list gives the reader an idea of how an officer furnished his quarters.

Functional History

Both structures functioned as officers' quarters throughout the historical period. Although crowded for a couple of years, they soon became comfortable quarters as the size of the garrison dwindled.

The duties, responsibilities, and daily life of the frontier officer have been romanticized in novels, movies, and television series. Unfortunately for all of us who left home on a Saturday afternoon with a quarter in our blue jeans watch pocket to yell through a double feature, the cavalry charging to the rescue of an encircled wagon train with a faithful first sergeant taking an arrow while saving his captain's life, whose daring and bravery naturally overwhelmed the wagon master's beautiful, shy and pure daughter, seldom if ever occurred in reality. It all took place in the screen writer's imagination, to our delight and his enrichment.

Most of the officers who served at Fort Larned had seen action during the Civil War and many carried a high brevet rank. The change from commanding a regiment in actions involving entire armies in the glorious task of saving the Union to leading an understrength company on escort duty called for a psychological adjustment that many officers found difficult. In addition to long, hot and dusty escorts, the officer's routine included worrying about the condition of the post, inspecting spoiled supplies or broken equipment, sitting on courts martial, or conducting routine drills with enlisted men who cursed the day they joined up and were either counting the days to discharge or planning to desert at the first opportunity.

Promotion was slow and difficult. An officer in a line regiment could not be promoted until a vacancy occurred within the regiment at the next rank. This meant that a young first lieutenant serving in a regiment in which all the captains were middle-aged could not look forward to promotion for many years. Moreover, it was very difficult to transfer to another organization or from the line to a staff bureau. The result was that many officers were forced to look for assistance in furthering their careers. The appointment, promotion, and commission files of many officers who served between the Civil and Spanish American Wars contain letters to congressmen or senators requesting assistance in securing promotion or transfer. A letter in one file written on behalf of an officer stationed at an Arizona post, who desired a transfer, bears the signature of James Garfield and is endorsed by William McKinley, Sherman, and Sheridan. With that kind of "pull," that particular officer's career was assured. When Garfield became President, the officer was assigned to the White House and later became Adjutant General. Other officers were not so fortunate. Most spent years on the frontier living and working under hard conditions.

Far removed from the fashionable salons of Washington, New York, or Philadelphia, the officer's social life consisted mainly of drinking and playing billiards with his fellows in the officers' bar at the sutler's store. If he brought his family with him, he and his wife tried to make their existence as pleasant as possible. This was hard. Not only was their social life limited to the families of other officers, but they had no opportunity to "get away for an evening," there being no place to go. School for the children, if it existed at all, was usually taught by an enlisted man and consisted of only the basic "r's." At Fort Larned there was only a Sunday school.

The life of the frontier officer at Ft. Larned was, then, like most, unexiting and routine. For some there was a sense of adventure and participation in securing a wilderness and many were impressed by the vast stillness of the plains. Nevertheless, army officers were neither poets nor thinkers and, like their contemporaries, their conception of the new lands was as an area to be exploited for individual gain and economic well-being. Soldiering on the frontier was a job to be done, and they did it.

When Fort Larned became a farm, the two structures became quarters for the ranch personnel. Building 9 still serves this function, whereas Building 7 has been converted to a combination museum and office space.


Structural Data

Dimensional Form: The structure is L formed measuring 36 feet (north - south) by 68 feet (east - west). The kitchen wing has two stories.


712 stone perches
757 bushels lime
4,299 bushels sand
36,440 feet lumber
3,540 feet flooring
28,000 shingles
14,200 laths
6 lbs, plaster of paris
5 boxes glass
15 locks
4 closet catches
10 kegs nails

4 dozen screws
2 papers brads
56 lbs putty
425 lbs white lead
8 gal. boiled oil
1 gal, oil
75-1/2 gal, raw oil
4 gal. turpentine
6 lbs yellow chrome
2 lbs glue

This list appears to be incomplete. There is no mention of chimney flues. The list also includes material for a well.

Floor Plan:

A. Kitchen with servant's room in 2nd story attic
B. Dining room
C. Parlor
D. Hall
E. Family room
F. Sitting room

This floor plan is based on the 1867 floor plan for officers' quarters at Fort Lyon, of which the commanding officer's quarters at Fort Larned is a slightly smaller version. The post surgeon's description of the building reads,

The center building is for the commanding officer. It is one story high with center hall and four rooms 14' x 16' each and kitchen 19' x 16'. The servant's room is over the kitchen and is the only 'upstairs' room at the post. [65]

Original Appearance

At first sight it would appear that this building has been substantially altered on the exterior. Such is, however, not the case. Frame additions have been made on the south side and rear. If one cuts off these additions, the original structure remains.


a. North elevation: as now,

b. South elevation: four windows, two first story, two second. The present alcove window is an addition.

c. East elevation: as now, including porch.

d. West elevation: as now, i.e. two windows and door.

e. Kitchen wing: north elevation, two windows 2nd story; one window, one door, 1st story; now windows west elevation.

f. Roof: three chimneys, two at ends of north-south section, one rear of kitchen wing.

Interior: The floor plan gives the room partitioning. It is the writer's opinion that the entire structure is a smaller version of the Fort Lyon plan (including closets). The major differences are:

a. Smaller rooms.

b. One flue at each end of north-south section served heating stoves in each room.

c. There was neither pantry nor storeroom in kitchen, but there was a cellar in basement.

d. There was no heater in the hall. The present fireplace does not appear to be historical.

Utilities: Water was stored in barrels and a water cooler. The commanding officer had his own well.

As mentioned above, the building was heated by wood burning heating stoves. Heating stoves were not standardized throughout the army until 1876, when they were produced at the Rock Island Arsenal. The stoves at Larned were purchased in the east and shipped out to the post. Light came from lard or coal oil burning lamps.

Furnishings: The commanding officer furnished his own quarters. The army allowed each officer so many pounds of baggage, for which it would provide transportation when moving from past to post. This allowance, however, didn't cover much more than household items such as kitchen ware, bedding, and clothes. If an officer wanted extensive furnishings, he had to pay for their transportation out of his own pocket. A standard practice was to sell furnishings to his successor and buy at his new post. In the end, it was his wife who decided how the quarters were to be furnished. She would usually exert great effort to make the quarters attractive, even if her interior decorating consisted only of cotton cloth and commissary packing cases. It was not unknown that she would bake something nice for the quartermaster in return for his detailing an enlisted man-carpenter to make a table, some chairs, or put up some shelves.

Functional History

The structure served as commanding officer's quarters throughout the historic period. The C.O. had an office in the adjutant's office, a frame structure built in 1867.

All post orders came from the C.O. through the adjutant and he received and answered correspondence. Although the post commanding officer commanded the troops at the post, he did not usually accompany them on campaign, escorts, or scouts. One of his primary duties was as listening post. He would immediately report Indian movements, rumors, and accounts of depredations to the department commander. Some of the most interesting reading in the Fort Larned correspondence consists of the commanding officer's interviews with Indian chiefs who had come in to pick up annuities or at the request of the post C.O. Although he rarely believed their claims of peaceful intentions, he never failed to send a detailed account of the conversation to higher authority. In short, the post commanding officer was a combination intelligence officer, police chief, and fort superintendent with management and administrative duties.

After the structure passed into civilian hands, it became the headquarters for the ranch. The Frizell family, who owned the buildings from 1902 to 1967, lived in the building throughout those years.


Structural Data

This structure presents a problem. It is gone and unfortunately, no plans or specifications for the structure were found in the source material. The reconstruction will be based on inferences.

Dimensional Form: The form of the blockhouse as of 1866 (see Plate 2) is given as,

Form: Sexangular. Each face 22 feet.

Height: 11 ft. 6 in. walls. 2 feet thick to height of 3 feet, from thence to top 1 ft. 6 in.

Diameter: inside, 34 ft.

The medical history states, "It is of sandstone 16 feet high in the form of a hexagon with 21-1/2 foot sides." [66]

Materials: As recorded on the 1866 fort diagram, the materials were listed as: stone, timber, poles, brush, hay and earth. This covering was replaced by a shingled roof and wooden watch tower. Major Rockwell did some work on the building in 1867. The materials used were: 1,100 feet of lumber, 4 pairs hinges, 1 gross screws, 25 lbs nails, 1 lbs wrought nails, and 15 lbs iron. Inferences may be possible.

The stone came from a quarry located at the base of Lookout Hill. In reconstructing the building, it may be possible to quarry the stone there. It is unknown how this stone was dressed, but it is probable that it was put up rough.

Floor Plan: The simple floor plan which appears in plate number two shows a seven-sided structure. The drawing is wrong. The building was six-sided. Its primary function was as guardhouse. Interior partitioning is unknown; however, it is possible that one or more cells might have been built in the prison room.

Original Appearance

Exterior: Plate 13 shows the structure as of winter 1867-1868. The "Medical History," written about the same time, states, "There are two rows of loop holes, one above the other around the building." [67] These loop holes are visible in the 1868 photograph. In the 1886 photograph, Plate 14, at least two elevations have been plastered over from the ground to just below the top row of loop holes. This occurred in 1870, when an officer discovered that "Careful investigation shows that liquor by the canteen and bottleful was passed through the portholes in side and rear of Guardhouse early in the morning to the prisoners inside." [68]

The door was probably located in the elevation facing the parade ground. In 1866 it was described as "Door-way arched. Entrance 5 ft. 2 in. in width. Double doors. Pine." A sketch of the door also appears on the 1866 diagram.

The 1886 photograph shows an opening above the plaster in a rear elevation. The purpose of this opening is unknown, but it is suggested it was not original. The loop holes and the door were the only openings in the elevations above ground. However, the structure did have a cellar. A tunnel extended from the cellar to a well and is described in 1866 as:

Well. 27 ft deep and 14 ft from house. Covered way or passage from cellar to well. 6 ft high x 3 ft 6 inches in width. Lined with pine boards, 2 inches in thickness.

The tunnel exit is visible in Plate 18.

There were two roofs during the historical period. The first appears in Plate 13 and the second on Plate 14. In 1866 the roof was described as, "Covering. Timber - poles, brush, hay, and earth. Roof supported by large post in center." The second roof was built around 1868. It was shingled and topped by a watch tower. Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence as to the structural characteristics of this roof except the 1886 photograph.

Interior: As was suggested above, the interior was probably partitioned into one or more cells. The guard did not have a room in the structure, but rather "there has been a small room built at the side out of rough lumber for the use of the guard. It stands at the southeast corner of the parade." [69]

There was probably no ceiling until the construction of the watch tower roof in 1868. The height of the ceiling is unknown. The building was floored, There was a cellar in the basement. In 1866 it was described as "Cellar: 14 ft. 6 inches, by 13 ft. and 6 ft. deep. Two inch pine floor above cellar." It is possible that this cellar was later used as a cell room.

Utilities: There are no flues visible in the two photographs. It is possible that the structure was not heated until 1868. After that a small stove provided heat for the prisoners. There was also a water barrel and a few candles or a lamp.

Furnishings: As a blockhouse, the structure was empty. However, its primary function was as guardhouse. The comfort of guardhouse prisoners was given very little notice. The prisoner brought his straw mattress and bedsack with him from the squadroom. When the officer of the day inspected the guardhouse in 1870, he became alarmed at the extent of prisoner coddling. "All articles," he said, "except overcoats and blankets must be kept out of the prison room. The present practice of allowing bunks, knapsacks, haversacks, and chests in the prison room must be discontinued." As he reported to the post commander, the situation was even worse. "The keeping of tools (I found a complete set of shoe maker's tools in one of the chests) and cups, plates, and knives and forks in the guardhouse prison room . . . could be used by the prisoners to escape." [70] He ordered them removed.

Functional History

During the historical period the structure served three functions. The blockhouse built in June and July 1865. Shortly before then, hostile Indians had run off the exposed stock herd and burned a bridge across Pawnee Fork. However, when no attack came, it was decided that the structure should not stand empty. It was employed as storehouse for clothing and ordnance supplies. The enlisted men couldn't easily steal clothing from the building.

During the 1867 construction program, Major Rockwell did some work on the building. It is probable that he either repaired or replaced the roof and might have added flooring. It became the guardhouse, replacing a picket hut in use until then. Foundations for a 48 foot square guardhouse were laid on the east side of the parade near the shop building, but this structure was not completed in 1868. The blockhouse continued to function as the guardhouse throughout most of the historical period. In later years, as the size of the garrison dwindled, a room in another structure might have been employed for housing prisoners and the blockhouse converted to magazine.

When the post passed into civilian ownership, the blockhouse was torn down. This occurred sometime after 1886. Local hearsay contends that the stone from the blockhouse was transported to the town of Fort Larned and employed in the construction of a private residence. This story can not be confirmed.

Although the watch tower might have been useful to observe movement in the immediate vicinity of the fort, it would be a mistake to portray soldiers firing from the loop holes at circling savages. Ft. Larned, like 99 per cent of other western forts, was never attacked. The Indian did indeed massacre small parties of travelers, but they rarely assaulted large, well-armed groups. Their tactic was the sneak, hit and run, guerilla attack. Not even the most ambitious sub-chief seeking tribal prestige attacked a well-armed army post.

The building was a storehouse for ordnance items. Its safety features, thick stone walls and location away from inhabited structures, made it ideal for storing ammunition.

The principal function was as the unwelcome home for those guilty of infractions against the military regulations. Frontier army justice was not mild. Drunken conduct, talking back to a superior, shirking work, and destruction of army property were among countless offenses that could lead to a court martial, forfeiture of pay, and time in the "mill." The company commander initiated a court martial action. If he was a hard commander and strictly interpreted the regulations, court martials were frequent. The devotion of his men depended not so much on their confidence in his ability as military leader, but rather on the degree of harshness in his distribution of punishment. The court martial usually consisted of officers from the post. A judgement of "not guilty" to both charge and specification was rare. The members of the court martial assumed that, if their fellow officer charged the prisoner, the latter was probably guilty. A display of leniency could be interpreted by the men as weakness, opening the door to all sorts of misbehavior. [71]

Once in the guardhouse, the prisoner had to perform the more odious police duties, such as cleaning out sinks or digging new ones. Sometimes, however, he just sat, idling away his one, two, or three months with nothing to do but prepare for the guard change, at which time his quarters were inspected. As the above quote indicates, there was a time at Ft. Larned, when the post C.O. allowed the prisoners some privileges. As the reaction of the officer of the day indicates, such practices as allowing a bunk or tools in the guardhouse were frowned on. The regulations made the enlisted man's already rough life even harder. The arbitrariness of military justice contributed greatly to the frontier army's number one problem, desertion.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2009