Bissell Buzz 2016/14

Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…  I have started reading “Home on the Range” by Margaret A. Nelson.  In the introduction already one reads about the multitude of buffalo roaming the Plains, that welcomed the new settlers.  Although no one will ever know exactly how many bison once inhabited North America, estimates range from twenty-five to seventy million. William Hornaday, a naturalist who spent considerable time in the West, both before and during the most severe years of the slaughter, comments on the seemingly infinite bison population and the impossibility of estimating their quantity: “It would have been as easy to count or to estimate the number of leaves in a forest as to calculate the number of buffaloes living at any given time during the history of the species previous to 1870.

The Native Americans co-existed in harmony with the American Buffalo and there was an almost sacred relationship.  Whenever they did kill a buffalo, they used every part of it – absolutely nothing went to waste.  The interdependence between Indian and buffalo is exemplified in the beautiful words of John Fire Lame Deer: “The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our spoons, the bones our knives, our women’s awls and needles. Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread. His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children, his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake–Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian–the real, natural, ‘wild’ Indian

Uses for Buffalo

How the Native Americans utilized everything of a buffalo.  (Photo Credit


This is in stark contrast to the American Settlers, which included trappers and traders and hunted for an income.  Added to this there were contests where people were hunting buffalo just for the sport of it.   How the buffalo was hunted to the brink of extinction remains one of the sadder parts of the Plains history.  It is therefore so encouraging to see a herd of buffalo in our county again.  They can often be seen when travelling on hwy 9, just east of Speed.

BuffaloIn the Lutjeharms Cabin, now known as our Critter Cabin, where we display all our skins and antlers, we also have a mounted buffalo head.  This old chap was shot in 1874 by Amos Cole in the area where the Fairview cemetery now is, while they were busy laying out Phillipsburg town.  Amos was also the first settler within Phillips County.  The stories and legacy of the buffalo on the Plains can never be negated.

Very slowly our  2016 season at the Fort is winding down.  As the schools have reopened, the numbers of visitors have also turned into a trickle.  This is our very last week of being open daily to the public.  Our very last function of the year will be on Sunday September 25th and promises to once again be an evening of fun and frolic at the Fort when we will be hosting our 4th Annual Chili Cook-off.   We will have the photo booth again with props and will have confirmation soon about live music entertainment.  It is by free will donation and the funds raised will go toward the repairs of the roofs of our schoolhouse and mercantile buildings. If anyone wishes to enter a team, please contact H&R Block 785-543-2239.

Our hours are Tuesday to Friday 9am – 4pm and Saturday 9am – 2pm.  Our last day will be Saturday September 3rd.

Regular updates and photos are posted on our Facebook page.  We can be contacted on 785-543-6212 or on email at

Remember entrance as always is FREE.

Ruby Wiehman – Curator