Historic Structures Report
Part II — Historical Data Section
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Chapter 2

HS 5, Enlisted Barracks

When Capt. Thomas Swords arrived at Fort Scott in 1842, there were two companies of dragoons at the new post. Knowing that one company of infantry was due, Swords planned three barracks, two for the dragoons to be located on the east and west sides of the parade ground, and one for the infantry to be situated on the south side of the parade, next to the hospital.

In December he outlined his general plan for the barracks. On the exterior they would be somewhat similar in appearance to the officers quarters, being framed and weatherboarded and having an above-ground basement. A 10-foot verandah across the front of the main floor, supported by six pillars, was also similar to the officers quarters; however, it had but one flight of stairs in the center as contrasted to two flights at the extremities of the officers quarters. The dimensions of each of the three barracks were 65 feet by 32-1/2 feet.

Swords wrote that the ceilings of the basements of all barracks would be 10 feet high, and that the basements would serve as "cook and mess rooms, store rooms for company clothing, etc. and rooms for laundresses." Altogether there were six rooms on this floor. The main floor, containing the squad rooms, would have twelve foot ceilings. The 1848 plan shows HS 5 as having two squad rooms separated by a hall and a small room. The hall opened onto the porch. The small room possibly served as an orderly room and sergeants' quarters. The chimneys and fireplaces were located at both ends of the structure. [1]

By the fall of 1843, this barracks was "under roof," but Company A, 1st Dragoons, did not move into its new home until May, 1844. [2]

Two months later, Col. George Croghan, one of the Army's two Inspectors General, visited Fort Scott and carefully examined the new barracks. While he decided that the interior arrangement was good, he noted that neither the bunks nor the arms racks had yet been built. [3] The quartermaster noted in October 1845 that this barracks still did not have its permanent flooring. [4] By 1848, the main floor had its permanent boards at last, but the ground level was still temporary. Also still missing in 1848 were the bunks that Croghan had discussed four years earlier. The post quartermaster now requested that he be allowed to hire a joiner to build them. [5]

After the Mexican War, the Army increased the number of men per company. This caused a small flurry of correspondence at Fort Scott because the barracks had been designed for the 50 men of the pre-war dragoon company. There was enough space for the moment, but should another company be added, Fort Scott would need a fourth barracks. In the end, no additional structures were erected although the three barracks were well filled with the arrival of two companies of Mounted Riflemen toward the end of the fort's existence. [6]

During the early town period, HS 5 served a number of public uses—in contrast to the officers quarters' continuing use as residences. The most important business in the building was the U. S. Land Office, located on the main (or second) floor. [7] For a short time the post office shared the main floor with the Land Office. There is a possibility too that the first issues of the Fort Scott Democrat, the town's first newspaper, were published on this floor. [8]

In the basement floor, D. W. Johnson opened a wine and liquor store around 1858. One of his neighbors was R. Blackett, who established a tailor shop in the southeast corner Also located on this floor for a short time was an attorney named John C. Sims. [9] By 1859, a portion of the basement floor had been converted into the Ashland Saloon under the management of a Mr. Rashe who offered his customers "fresh oysters and choice game." In 1860 he changed his establishment's name to U. S. Land Office Saloon and announced the fact by hanging an immense sign on the west side of the building. Rashe sold his equipment and furniture in February 1861 and moved to Kansas City. Whether or not a new management continued to operate a saloon in this building is unknown. [10] One other office was established somewhere in the barracks in the fall of 1859 when Dr. John S. Redfield, Physician, rented a room there as a place of work. [11]

Sometime before the Civil War, the U. S. Land Office moved to a new structure in the town proper. Its old room in the barracks was then converted into a barber shop. Peter Slavens, "a free colored gentleman," was the new proprietor; his pride and joy was "an 8x10 looking glass." [12]

HS 5 was rented by the Army during the Civil War, but for what purpose has not come to light. [13] An 1871 lithograph of Fort Scott shows this barracks still standing and apparently in a good state of repair. However, the structure's later history is unknown. The building had disappeared by 1900, when Charles Goodlander identified its site as being then occupied by Brown's lumber yard. [14] A lumber yard still occupies the site.

HS 6, Enlisted Barracks

Also designed as a dragoon barracks, HS 6, as described in the Army's 1855 advertisement and in the 1848 fort plan, appears to have been identical to HS 5. Although Fort Scott began with two companies of dragoons and one of infantry, this ratio was reversed by mid-1843. From then on, HS 6 was occupied by infantry rather than the intended dragoons.

Construction of this barracks did not get well underway until the fall of 1843. At that time, Swords reported that its frame was ready for raising, "the stone work of the chimnies cut preparatory to being put up, the foundation walls are built, and part of the sashes are made." [15] When Croghan made his inspection in July 1844, the building was on the verge of being ready for occupancy. He noted that Company D, 4th Infantry, would move in that week, although "the quarters will not be completely finished . . . but sufficiently so for comfortable accommodation." [16] Like HS 5, this set of quarters still lacked bunks and permanent flooring on the ground level in 1848.

Unlike the other barracks, HS 6's history disappears with the abandonment of Fort Scott by the Army in 1853. It is known that the Army rented the structure during the Civil War and that it was still standing in 1871. However, its later uses and the date of its demolition are unknown. [17] Today the approximate site of this barracks is occupied by a 2-1/2-story brick house. To the rear of the present structure there are traces of stone foundations and walls; these have not yet been excavated sufficiently to establish patterns. There is also a stone cistern, presently covered with a huge single slab of native rock. The possibility exists that this cistern dates from Army days, although there is no supporting documentary evidence.

One additional note should be made with regard to HS 6. In the early 1870's, troops were assigned to southwest Kansas to protect railroad construction workers from settlers who believed the railroad was taking their lands. The commanding officer of these troops established his small headquarters at Fort Scott. One of these commanders was Maj. Lewis Merrill, 7th Cavalry, who was at Fort Scott 1870-71. When he received orders transferring him elsewhere, Merrill placed an advertisement in the local newspaper offering his furniture for sale. He informed his readers that they should "inquire at the house of Col. Merrill, east side of Carrol Plaza." At that time six houses besides HS 6 stood on that side of the old parade. Major Merrill might have lived in any one of the seven. [18]

HS 7, Enlisted Barracks

Designed from the start to be the infantry barracks, this structure differed slightly in its interior arrangements from the other two. The 1848 plan shows that the two squad rooms on the main floor, one slightly larger than the other, adjoined; while on each end of the building were two small rooms, probably used as sergeants' quarters and the orderly room. Each of these small rooms had its own fireplace. According to the 1848 Army plan, this building, like the other barracks had a porch on the front only. However, the 1871 lithograph discloses what looks very much like a porch on the rear of the structure as well.

The first note of the construction of HS 7 appears in Croghan's inspection report of July 1844, in which he stated that it would be far enough advanced to be occupied by August. [19] This prediction proved approximately correct; Company C, 4th Infantry, moved in on September 3. Like the other barracks, this one lacked permanent flooring and a floor for the verandah for several years. By 1848, it too was completed except for the flooring in the basement (ground level).

Shortly after the army structures were placed on sale in 1855, the infantry barracks became the Western Hotel, a rival to the Fort Scott Hotel across the parade ground. By 1858, the proprietors, William Linn and J. G. Harris, were advertising regularly that the building had been "repaired and furnished" as a "FIRST CLASS HOTEL," with "good stabling attached." [20]

During the troubled year of 1858, pro-southern sympathizers tended to gather at this establishment, and the local citizenry attached to it the tag of Pro-Slavery Hotel. Many believed that the gang that carried out the infamous Marais des Cygnes massacre plotted its crime in this building. Later that summer, a portion of Marshal Walker's posse surrounded the hotel in the search for George Clarke. [21]

In June, the hotel again entered the news when Montgomery's band of jayhawkers rode into town and attempted to burn the building. They rolled a wagon of hay next to the structure, set fire to the hay, and dashed out of town firing their weapons. The hay disappeared in flames, but the solid building survived the attack. [22]

Within a year, a delicate state of peace came to southeast Kansas, and the Western Hotel renewed its business of catering to the public. The newspaper noted several public dances held in its public rooms; William C. Roscopt set up his "taylor" shop in the building; and the Reverend Mr. Thompson performed a marriage ceremony there. [23]

During the Civil War, the Army rented the old barracks and converted it into a ward for the general hospital established at Fort Scott. Little is known of this period except that the hospital was an important one and undoubtedly a considerable number of patients received treatment here.

After the war, the structure resumed its role as the Western Hotel. In the early 1870's, however, after the arrival of the railroad, it faced increasing competition from newer and larger hotels in town. Gradually, it sank to the role of a boarding house. An indication of its decline ins the large number of successive owners during these years who attempted to make it a profitable undertaking. [24] The character of its advertisements also indicate the decline in its fortunes. In 1869, an article read, "The house is crowded to its utmost capacity, and the proprietors are making ample arrangements for the accommodations of all who may favor their house with a call." In contrast, an 1873 ad announced that "Mr. J. T. Parker . . . wishes a few more good boarders. Accommodations first class. Day board, $4 per week. A few boarders can be accommodated with rooms at $5 per week." [25]

The various advertisements also give a glimpse of the hotel. In 1867 the proprietor announced that he needed three "dining room girls," offering candidates a wage of $3.50 to $4.00 per week. Although the proprietor of 1870, C. F. Powers, announced in August that it was the "best $2.00 a day house in the West," he was ready to sell it one month later, disclosing that it had 22 rooms. [26] This is ten more rooms than is known to have existed in Army days, suggesting the squad rooms may have been sub-divided.

A Fort Scott editor noted a near-disaster that occurred to the structure at the end of 1870: "The floor of the Western House took fire underneath the hearth yesterday and was finally extinguished by tearing up about half the floor. The building had one of those 'narrow escapes' which are so disgusting as item-izers, but so pleasant to property holders." [27] Reduced to the role of a boarding house, "with or without furniture," by the 1870's, HS 7 slipped from the historical record. The date of its demise is unknown. The site is occupied today by a modern brick building.

2. Officers Row about 1900. HS 2 has become a home for boys.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2009