Topeka was the first stop on the Oregon Trail after leaving Kansas City and heading into the State of Kansas itself. If you want to take a step back in time to see what life was like for the very earliest settlers here then highly recommended is the Old Prairie Town (Ward-Meade Historic Site).
The Prairie Town truly is an experience to see back to the very beginning of the City of Topeka but also to see into the lives of the early settlers. The buildings feature the build up over time from the very first home through the build up of a community.
Way back before 1854 Topeka did not exist, it was wide open prairie. In 1854 a Mr Anthony Ward and his wife bought this piece of land from the Native Americans and the first home here came to be. He was a very skilled carpenter and he built and expanded the wood cabin home to fit his family and life. The home is still there to be seen today.
The building still stands proud showing the very start of the City.. but step inside and you can see much of what they had in furniture, tools and what we would call hardships.
The carpentry of Mr Ward comes to the fore. wooden cribs, beds, laundry tub, milk separator and much much more. Water of course was scarce, and had to be brought from way down in the River, heated in the fireplace and then used for laundry once a week in the tub above. hanging on the wall behind is the bathtub!
Being on the Oregon Trail it was always a place for people to stop. Mrs Ward often left a candle burning in the window that signified that guests were welcome.
Then Mr Ward began work on building the great white mansion. A much larger and grander house for the family.
Just across from the old wooden cabin the difference is astounding. All self made mind.
Inside here you can feel the way of life had become more than basics but still a fascinating insight into how it was back then. Clothing, decor, heating, furniture, pictures.. all left pretty much as it was.
The fashion of the day for men was to have a great big moustache. Tea cups were made accordingly to avoid a beverage full of hair
Back outside to you wander through and see how the community would have grown into the 20th century with turn of the century buildings. Must say they do a remarkable cup of tea in the cafe (pot win Drug Store) that is also a candy shop.. Around the room you can see the pharmacy goods and sweets of the old days.
Back out into the street you can see buildings that were moved here at later dates and other signs of community through the ages. Take the school building for example…..
It only ceased as a school in the 1950s. The rules for teachers and children on the walls gives an idea of the discipline back in the late 1800s. Don’t dare write left handed!
The 19th Century church was the most recent building moved here in 2001.
A truly fascinating place to stop by on the Oregon Trail. See into the way of life for the early settlers. Learn about much of the whys and hows. Topeka’s Old Prairie Town.