Crossroads: Change in Rural America

The Butler County Historical Society and Kansas Oil Museum wants Butler County residents to become part of the traveling Smithsonian/Humanities Kansas exhibit “Rural Crossroads: The Changing Faces and Places of Butler County”. 

By contributing to this exhibit  citizens can help tell the story of Butler County.  Two areas of specific interest are Butler County towns and Farms & Ranches that are no longer in existence. 

Crossroads: Change in Rural America

In 1900, about 40% of Americans lived in rural areas, By 2010, less than 18% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. In just over a century, massive economic and social changes moved millions of Americans into urban areas. Yet, only 10% of the U.S. landmass is considered urban.

Many Americans consider rural communities to be endangered and hanging on by a thread—suffering from brain drain, inadequate schools, and a barren, overused landscape. Why should revitalizing the rural places left behind matter to those who remain, those who left, and those who will come in the future? Because there is much more to the story of rural America.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is a traveling Smithsonian exhibition and is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils nationwide. 

The exhibit offers small towns a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition will prompt discussions about what happened when America’s rural population became a minority of the country’s population and the ripple effects that occurred.

Here is how you can be a part of this exhibit:

Search through your photos for any images of Butler County’s past (1850’s – present). Topics include, but are not limited to: specific & identifiable buildings; streets; roads; places; events; activities; etc. 

Replicate that scene or take a current photo of the same topic.

Haberlein’s at Central and Main in 1955
Specs in 2020, formerly Haberlein’s.

Scan the photos & download the photo release form that can be found on the Kansas Oil Museum’s website.  

Email the photo(s) and the completed photo release form to Please include any pertinent information you have regarding the photo, such as location, when it was taken, individuals in the photo and who took the photo. 

Photos must be submitted by July 31, 2020

All photos, old and new, must be of Butler County people, places, activities, or events.

While no monetary compensation will be given for the scans of these photos, the museum will acknowledge the proper parties based on information provided in signed permission forms.

Release forms, as well as additional information, can be found by visiting and clicking on the “Rural Crossroads” tab.

Belle Vista Cemetery Tours 

A fun and unique alternative to the haunted houses typically reserved for this time of year was hosted by the Butler County Historical Center and Kansas Oil Museum and spearheaded by historical consultant to the museum, Ken Spurgeon. 

Historical Consultant and tour organizer, Ken Spurgeon.

On Saturday, October 26th, cemetery tours at Belle Vista were given.  Complete with tour guides and re-enactors, early citizens of El Dorado and Butler County were brought to life.

General Alfred W. Ellet portrayed by Randy Edens.

General Alfred W. Ellet, brought to life by Randy Edens, shared his military history and how he came to El Dorado.  

Nathan Frazier, brought to life by Tom Penning, tells of his adventures us exploits while tour guest Scott Glaves listens.

Nathan Frazier, whose storyteller was Tom Penning, told of his risk taking spirit and love for adventure that ultimately led him to become a leading banker of El Dorado, and one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Kansas 

Matilda Friend was portrayed by Debbie Edens.

Tour guests listen to Matilda Friend’s courageous life story.

Matilda Friend, embodied by Debbie Edens, shared her harrowing story of bravery in the face of a Comanche attack, her survival and migration to El Dorado.  

Mark Mannette, portraying former El Dorado Mayor, Charles Selig.

Charles Selig, brought to life by Mark Mannette, told of his experience of enlisting to fight in the Civil War at 11 years old.  He made his home in El Dorado where he became a leading businessman and served as Mayor form 1907-1909.  

Tour guides Deanna Bonn, Carol Turner, and Suzanne Walenta lead guests through the cemetery giving a brief history about its founding. 

Tour guide, Deanna Bonn, at the grave of Edward and Eugenia Stevenson. Edward killed his wife and then himself in his 67th birthday. He wanted to “give the old town something to talk about.”

They shared local folklore regarding the cemetery’s haunting by a ghost named Too Moons, as well as stories of the famous, and infamous, citizens of Butler County’s early days.   

One of the tour groups at the memorial for Rolla Clymer.

The tours ended at the Belle Vista Mausoleum with stories of influential Butler County residents.  Rolla Clymer, an El Dorado newspaper editor who was called “the Sage of the Flint Hills,” was the President of the Butler County Historical Society from 1959-1976.  

Also buried in the mausoleum is Frank H. Cron, the first President of the Butler County Historical Society.  In his will, Mr. Cron gave an endowment which made possible the establishment of the museum.  

At the time of the writing of his will in 1957, he wanted to provide educational benefits to Butler County citizens in perpetuity and desired to preserve the heritage of Butler County by declaring in his will that “said institution shall be operated and maintained primarily as a museum or gallery devoted to the collection and exhibition of historical objects of particular interest to Butler County, Kansas.”


Orin Friesen Shares History of Music in Kansas

The Kansas Oil Museum will hold the final presentation in their Summer Speaker Series “The History of Music in Kansas”  by Orin Friesen. 

Orin Friesen

This lecture will explore the rich history of music in Kansas and highlight songs and performers from the early days of the state up to the present time. 

After the lecture, the last “Concert on the Green” will feature Orin Friesen and the Diamond W Wranglers.  An ice cream social will be held prior to the concert and food trucks will be on hand. 

Call ahead or purchase tickets at the door: $10 admission for members, $15 for non-members.


Covering the news, as it happens, at the Board of Butler County Commission meetings may not always seem like breaking news or sexy journalism…but it is our elected officials making fiscally responsible decisions with Butler County Tax Dollars.  It is a lesson in civics and meeting decorum. It is a lesson in local government policy and it is a lesson on county history.

This week, Melissa Riley, Butler County Human Resources Director, appeared before the Board of Butler County Commissioners to seek approval for the purchase of a Human Resources Applicant Tracking System and Onboarding Enhancement.  Due to the number of employment applications received annually, Butler County requires the use of an applicant tracking system. In 2018, Butler County received 1370 applications and hired approximately 50 new employees.

The County currently uses Civic Plus for the county website and has been pleased with their services. The system would allow for the posting all positions directly to the website, attract more applicants, track and rank all applicants based on qualifications, produce relevant reports, and meet record retention requirements.  Butler County currently uses HRePartners, hosted by Sedgwick County, to post open jobs and receive employment applications. Sedgwick County will be shutting down the site effective 2/28/20, due to their transition to another system that incorporates with their current HRIS. The Board approved the purchase of Civic HR Applicant Tracking System and the Onboarding Enhancement, pending approval of the contract, for a cost not to exceed $10,313.

Darryl Lutz, DIrector of Public Works, brought the bid award recommendation for the annual purchase of PPE uniform shirts to the Board for approval.  The Public Works Department has an approved program for providing clothing or clothing reimbursement for field employees. As part of this policy, the County purchases 5 summer shirts and 5 winter shirts for each field employee.

Shirt bids are solicited from Butler County vendors that either reside in Butler County or have a place of business in Butler County.   The lowest overall and complete bid was received from Well’s Design. The recommendation was approved to the purchase the PPE uniform shirts for the Department of Public Works from Wells Design, Inc., El Dorado, KS in the low bid amount of $6546.00.

Mr. Lutz also presented the recommendation for the purchase of blades for motor graders and snow plows for the Public Works Department.  The inventory of snow plow blades is currently low. These items are budgeted for purchase each year in the Road & Bridge Fund. Bids were received and opened from 4 vendors for snow plow and grader blades. The bids were tabulated and evaluated for conformance to specifications and the lowest bid was received from Welborn Sales in the total bid amount of $16,849.18.  The Board approved the award of the bid to Welborn Sales.

The next presentation by Mr. Lutz was for approval to purchase five portable trash screens for the County Landfill.  The County Landfill uses portable trash screens to catch blowing litter around the operating face of the landfill. In the past, the County has built the trash screens and has been slowly accumulating enough trash screens for protecting at least one half or more of the face of the landfill. In 2017, staff requested adding at least 10 more trash screens for the landfill. At the time, staff had evaluated the cost of fabricating trash screens versus the cost of purchasing trash screens. The cost was similar, but, constructing trash screens on-site would tie up valuable employee resources and take several months, whereas, the delivery of trash screens could occur in a few weeks.   The County purchased 5 trash screens from Metta Technologies to evaluate their performance. The screens are considerably lighter than our screens, cover more area, are more effective at containing trash and are holding up very well. The screens also come with a 5-year warranty. “It’s a good product” Stated Mr. Lutz.

Commissioner Murphy asked if there would be a discount for buying 5 more as it would cost less to ship two separate orders together.  The goal is to eventually buy a total of 20 screens. The board approved the purchase of 5 screens with the option to purchase 5 additional screens if the transportation costs are less.  The screens are a budgeted item form the Capital Improvements Program (CIP).

Mr. Lutz also asked the Board to consider approving a planned major repair work to the Caterpillar 623 Elevating Scraper at the landfill.  The Butler County Landfill operates a Caterpillar 623E Elevating Scraper purchased new in 1991. The unit has approximately 15,000 hours on the meter and has had several major repairs made over the years to keep it in good operating condition. The only major component of the scraper that has not had major work done is the scraper bowl, ejector and elevator chains.  The estimated cost for the known parts and labor is $94,805.14. There are a few items in the estimate that may require an updated cost estimate once the component has been removed and inspected. The cost to replace this scraper is likely to be $800,000 – $1,000,000.

“The scraper is 28 years old, with 14,000 hours on a machine close to a million dollars to replace. It’s a solid machine…” he noted that a complete rebuild was a bargain.  Structurally, the unit is in good condition and could, in theory, be kept in service for a long time by rebuilding the major components as needed. Therefore, Mr. Lutz recommended proceeding with the proposed repair work. Major repair work had been previously proposed and budgeted in the equipment CIP for 2021 in the amount of $450,000. Sufficient funds have been accumulated to proceed with rebuilding the scraper bowl assembly at this time.  The Board approved the repairs for $94,805.14 with an additional $10,000 for unseen repairs.

Finally, Mr. Lutz presented a non-agenda repair item to the Board.  An older mowing tractor at the North Shop was parked at end of last season because it would not shift.  The Board approved repairs of the tractor, up to $14,000, with Wichita Tractor Co.

Vouchers were approved after discussion of the new Sleep Number beds purchased for the Fire Department.  Adds and abates were also approved.


Kansas Oil Museum | Family Fun Day

Kansas Oil Museum Family Fun Day, with the theme of the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ to help kids learn about 1920’s culture and style, was held on Saturday, September 15th.  The museum hosts the Free Family Fun Days for children of all ages and their families on the third Saturday of each month from 12-4p.  

Ardath Lawson, Museum Curator develops the monthly program with games and learning activities that center around a different theme each month.  

While regular admission rates still apply for touring the museum galleries, many of our free Fun Days showcase items from the museum collections for kids to look at and handle, providing a chance for unique hands-on encounters with history, nature, and science.

The next Free Family Fun Day at the Kansas Oil Museum is scheduled for Saturday, October 20th and the theme is “Spooky Spectacular” and will include Halloween and spooky things.