Bissell Buzz 2015/08

August 3, 2015

The Kansas Biggest Rodeo has come and gone, and the whole of Phillipsburg was abuzz with visitors from all over.  This could also clearly be seen by all the extra visitors we had this past week.  We kept the Fort open on Saturday especially for these visitors, even though we would have loved to go and support our charity duck Freedom, sponsored for us by Blossoms and Butterflies.  Congratulations on the winning duck and their charity

1933 Rodeo Poster - Kansas Biggest Rodeo - up in our General Store

1933 Rodeo Poster – Kansas Biggest Rodeo – up in our General Store

We sadly had to withdraw our entry from the Rodeo parade, as we discovered way too late that the wheels of the beautifully restored wagon we intended using, were not greased.  And using it only for a few miles, even without any heavy load, would bring some unwanted wear and tear.  Unfortunately we did not have a backup plan and had to withdraw.  But there’s always another one next year to look forward to and plan well ahead of time!

We are excited to have a portion of our walkway replaced this week.  The wood has been delivered and once again we would like to thank the Phillipsburg Rotary Club for this sponsorship and also the hard work voluntarily done by Mike Erhart and his team, especially braving the hot weather.  This really will be a great improvement as that portion was very worn out and had to be hammered back in place virtually on a weekly basis. The new portions will also be much wider to accommodate wheelchairs and kiddie strollers.

Kansas Praise Radio’s campaign to find the top 3 Wonders of Midwest Kansas ended on Friday July 31st when the voting closed.  After the Garden of Eden and Bowl Plaza both from Lucas initially leading the first few days, we were at the top of the leader board for days and finally also won the first place!  This award gives us a plaque and a month of free radio advertisements.  Thank you to everyone who voted for us, some people even voting every day. This really makes us so proud, seeing we were competing against well known attractions, i.e. Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Dane G Hansen Museum in Logan, Home on the Range Cabin in Athol and Fort Hays Historic site to mention but a few.

Irv McDowell at the age of 89 riding in the 1948 Rodeo Parade

Irv McDowell at the age of 89 riding in the 1948 Rodeo Parade

Who knows the story about Irwin McDowell (November 4, 1859 –  September 22, 1955)?  He came to the Phillipsburg area in 1871 with his family in a covered wagon.  He helped build the first house in Phillipsburg and became the first County Clerk when Phillips County was organized.  He rode in the Phillipsburg Rodeo Parade on July 29, 1948 at the age of 89.  His saddle, chaps, spurs, leather collar and shirt sleeve protectors are on display at the Fort.   The following was published in the Phillips County Review Historical Edition in 1952:

“Born in Madison County Wisconsin in 1859 came to Phillips County in 1871 with his father.  In 1874 at 15 he hired out as a cowpuncher in Dodge City.  His boss was a Texas rancher by the name of Littlefield, who was driving 40,000 head of cattle to Ogallala, Nebraska. Irv picked up the trail at Dodge City but the next year went all the way to Texas to start the drive.  Experienced hands were getting $2 a day and the newcomers $1 a day.”

“Three more years driving cattle and he was ready to see more of the country.  The next five years was spent working around the Southwest including Old Mexico.  While there he became involved in five major Indian battles and many minor skirmishes with them.  ‘Usually these were small battles’ Irv recalled. ‘But one time 18 of us fought more than 800 red-skins at Kelley’s Ranch in Texas.  We only lost three men, but we got quite a few Indians.’”

“While he was in this territory Irv got to know Billy the Kid. They resembled each other quite a lot.  Both men were the same age and nearly the same weight and red haired.  Irv thought he was a pretty nice fellow, but of course he was an outlaw.”

“Irv decided to come home in 1882 when he and another fellow brought 3,500 head of sheep in New Mexico. They started driving the sheep back to Phillipsburg that year and it took them 13 months to get here.  He married November 23, 1884 to Miss Addie Blank. The McDowells had 3 children.  Roy  and 2 daughters Maude and Oressa.  Maude married a Vyzourek and Oressa a Brunt.  They all are deceased.”  Come see his saddle and photos on display at the Fort.

Our hours are Tuesday to Friday 9am – 4pm and Saturday 9am – 2pm.  Closed Sundays and Mondays. Regular updates and photos are posted on our Facebook page.  We can be contacted on (785) 543-6212 or by email at  Remember entrance is FREE. See ya at the Fort!!

Ruby Wiehman – Curator