Go back in time at the Butterfield Trail Museum
A visit to Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs, Kan., will take guests to 1963 and further back into the deeps of time. The Logan County Courthouse is stranded in time because of the last Kansas county seat fight. After a drawn-out county seat fight, Oakley won, and Russell Springs lost. In 1963, Oakley finally won the fight. The county offices moved away from beautiful Russell Springs. As a final insult, contractors ripped courthouse vaults from the wall and hauled them to Oakley.
Collections span eons of time
In 1965, the courthouse became a museum. Its collections span prehistory to the present day. From fossils to early Smoky Hill Trail artifacts to Logan County records and extinct local high schools, the museum contains a little bit of everything.
The Smoky Hill River below Russell Springs is well known for its limestone rock formations. Fossil hunters often comb the area. Bob Messamore’s family loaned his collection to the museum.
The town started as Eaton Station along the Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD). The BOD was a stagecoach line along the Smoky Hill Trail. A collection of BOD artifacts stands at the entrance. Another room features BOD maps.
Logan County justice
The courtroom is still extant on the second floor. The building is only air-conditioned in a couple of rooms on the first floor. In summer’s heat, visitors will be fully able to sympathize with jurors sweltering while they listened to trials.
“Trial” was a good name for what the jurors would have experienced in an era before air conditioning.
The walk from the courtroom to the jail was short. The jail sits to the side of the courthouse.
The original Logan County Jail had two cells with four bunks. When all four bunks were in use, the inmates could hardly stand in between them.
An unfortunate inmate is still incarcerated in the only Logan County Jail, 56 years after it closed. Time forgot him, too.
How to visit
The museum is an attraction on Western Vistas Historic Byway. Russell Springs is on Kansas Highway 25 south of US Highway 40.
When you visit, please make sure to fill your gas tank ahead of time. Russell Springs has no services. The museum has restroom facilities and snacks.
Kansas has so much to offer
The Sunflower State is full of fun times. Learn more about Kansas, especially Northwest Kansas. Battle Canyon, where the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork was fought, is just over an hour southeast of Russell Springs. The battle was the final Kansas battle between the US Army and Native Americans. It’s also on the Western Vistas Historic Byway.