HISTORY OF MEDICINE LODGE General George Armstrong Custer, the flamboyant Civil War soldier and not always successful Indian fighter, wrote in his memoirs "My Life on the Plains": "Our march was completed to Medicine Lodge Creek, where a temporary camp was established while scouting parties were sent both up and down the stream as far as there was the least probability of finding Indians. The party, consisting of three troops, which scoured down the valley of Medicine Lodge Creek, proceeded down to the point where was located and then standing the famous "medicine lodge", an immense structure erected by the Indians and usd by them as a council house, where one in each year the various tribes of the southern plains were wont to assemble in mysterious conclave to consult the Great Spirit as to the futhre and to offer up rude sacrifices and engage in imposing ceremonies, such as were believed to be appeasing and satisfactory to the Indian Deity....The Medicine lodge was found in a deserted but well-preserved condition. Here and there, hanging overhead, were collected various kinds of herbs and plants, vegetable offerings no doubt to the Great Spirit; while, in strange contrast to these peaceful specimens of the fruits of the earth, were trophies of warpath and the chase, the latter being represented by horns and dressed skins of animals killed in the hunt, some of the skins being beautifully ornamented in the most fantastic of styles peculiar to the Indian idea of art." That is what Custer found at Medicine Lodge in 1868. Four years later a follower of John Brown and instinctive frontiersman, Derrick Updegraff left eastern Kansas and going by the way of Hutchinson and Pretty prairie arrived at the present site of Medicine Lodge late in December. He decided this was where he wanted to build his trading post. He returned home and in January, 1873, came again to this area, this time with four wagons filled with lumber and provisions. He constructed a one-room log house, the first building erected on the site of the present city (where Eaton's service station is now). This sturdy log cabin became the source of food and shelter for the many cowboys on the range and for the steady stream of immigrants to this new country. The single-room cabin soon became to small for the crowds, so Mr. Updegraff built a two story house in front of it from native lumber. There were six new rooms upstairs and a large dining room with office downstairs. The new hotel was never without guests. Events progressed rabidly and in February, 1873, the town site was laid out by Bemis, Hutchison & Company on a quarter section of land pre-empted by Updegraff at $1.25 per acre. Although Bemis, Hutchison & Company turned out to be sweet-talking swindlers, the town of Medicine Lodge rose above its disappointments and financial disasters. Businesses began to pop up here and there. D.E. Sheldon opened a general store during the summer of that first year. Soon there was a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, and three residences. Standiford & Rogers established a general store; the Lebrecht store and the Morris blacksmith shop became part of Medicine Lodge. During this early period from 1873 - 1879 Medicine Lodge was primarily a trading post where the Indians could barter game and hides for flour, wearing apparel, beads, and whiskey and where hunters could get their provisions and chewing tobacco. By 1879, however, the town had achieved a population of 250, and after a petition was cirulated and signed by a majority of the electors, the legal necessities were fulfilled and on May 21, 1879, Medicine Lodge became incorporated as a city of the third class. W.W. Cook was elected mayor, and S.J. Shepler clerk. SOURCE: Barber County Kansas - Chosen Land
Nestled in a valley east of the spectacular GYPSUM HILLS is the historic town of Medicine Lodge, so named for the "medicine lodges" built by the Kiowa Indians when they discovered the healing qualities of the Medicine River. A reproduction of these lodges can be found in the STOCKADE MUSEUM. The museum displays a multitude of photographs and artifacts which help tell the fascinating story of Medicine Lodge and the surrounding area. Adjacent to the museum is the CARRY NATION HOME, rich with memories of the zealous woman who led the campaign agains the evils of liquor.
Each year, this community of around 2500 people hosts a number of events. Here are but a few of the highlights:
The state's top high school rodeo stars compete in the exciting KANSAS HIGH SCHOOL RODEO during the last weekend of April. Impressive horsemanship and athleticism combine as these young people vie for top honors in traditional rodeo events.
Every May, hundreds of people from across the country gather for three unforgetable weekends on the scenic GYP HILLS TRAIL RIDES which take them over the same paintbrush region where the Indians roamed. Imagine stark red bluffs and buttes, flecked with white bypsum and capped with deep green cedar trees. Hear the legend of Flower Pot Mountain, see the rugged Twin Peaks, and cross creeks bearing names like Little Bear, Deadman, and Little Mule.
The second weekend in May also spotlights the vivid colors of the SPRING WILDFLOWER TOUR. Mother Nature surprises and delights at every turn. Whether you choose to take the organized tour or to strike out on your own, be sure to bring your camera and plenty of film.
As summer winds to its end, the pace picks up in Medicine Lodge. The last weekend of September celebrates INDIAN SUMMER DAYS with a wide variety of activities which may range from an arts and crafts fair, to a melodrama by local performers, to the Western Art Show which features many of the finest western artists in America. Also that weekend is the KANSAS CHAMPIONSHIP RANCH RODEO, a showcase of the best working cowboys from twelve of the oldest ranches in Kansas. This rodeo leaves you with a deep appreciation of the talents these cowboys possess as they compete in events which depict their rigorous everyday work.
To see a panoramic history of the area, dont miss the INDIAN PEACE TREATY PAGENT. The pagent reenacts the signing of the 1867 Peace Treaty between the United States Government and the five Great Plains Indian tribes; the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Apache. Held once every three years during the last weekend in September, the pageant and its related activities become truly a community event. From early in the morning until late at night, there is something going on: Indian dances, parades, craft shows, street dances, night shows, food sales and lots more.
While traveling the area, primary and secondary roads provide access not only to spectacular scenery but also to the opportunity to observe an abundance of wildlife in its natural habitat. This region of Kansas is the home to whitetail and mule deer, pheasant, quail and the largest population of wild turkey in the state. Native and migrating birds make the Gypsum Hills a bird watchers paradise. Keep the camera handy because the perfect photograph may be in the field or grove of trees just around the next bend in the road.
In addition to the exciting places and events listed above, Medicine Lodge boasts of the Barber County State Fishing Lake, a nine-hold golf course and a spacious park with pcinic facilities and a swimming pool.
Come for a few hours or spend the rest of your life. You are always welcome in Medicine Lodge.