Muller-Schmidt Home, county records part of organization's mission.
In 1932, prominent Dodge City businessman Ham Bell helped found the Southwest Kansas Historical Society and became its first president.
The organization was revamped in the 1950s to become the Ford County Historical Society.
Then in 1965 Ford County purchased a stone home at the corner of Vine Street and Avenue A.
The home was originally built in 1881 by the Mueller family.
The house warming for the new home, which took place on Oct. 30 of 1881, was a social event of the highest order. Chalkley Beeson's Silver Cornet Band played. Fifty guests were served out of the basement kitchen. And Bat Masterson danced there.
"It's interesting that here you had a huge mansion owned by a prominent family and just a block away you had what is now called the Hinkel house, built and occupied by the local sheriff, which would have been a fairly upper class position, and he lived in a three-room house," said George Laughead Jr., president of the Ford County Historical Society.
The home was turned into a museum shortly after the county purchased it. A number of pieces of furniture in the home were included in the purchase.
The home, now known as the Mueller-Schmidt Home, is open daily during the months of June, July and August, with two tour guides on hand to explain the home's history and answer questions.
Four rooms, including two bedrooms, the living room and the kitchen, are furnished as they would have been when the home was inhabited.
And a fifth room, the dining room, houses artifacts from women who would have visited the house at one time or another.
In addition to managing the Mueller-Schmidt home, the Ford County Historical Society curates an archive of documents relating to the history of the county.
"We have scanned and indexed the county records from the 1880s to the 1900s," Laughead said.
One of the archives most valuable items is an original journal kept by Josephine Marcus Earp, common law wife of Wyatt.
"Glenn Boyer, who recently died, was a major donor and we owe our possession of that journal to him," Laughead said.
A number of historical authors have used the society's archives for research.
"The Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp," by Ann Kirschner, drew heavily on the journal.
The society would like to collect other artifacts, photographs and documents relating to Dodge City's history, but they face space constraints.
"The lack of a county museum — Ford County is the only county with a sizable population that has no county museum — makes the task of saving our history difficult," Laughead said.
Boot Hill Museum collects Dodge City history primarily from the 1875 to 1885 cattle drive period.
"There's no collecting of modern history begin done," Laughead said.
Preserving the past
The Ford County Historical Society operated the house with $14,000 annually from county coffers.
"That pays for utilities, insurance — the things you need to run a house," Laughead said.
In addition, the society uses organizational funds from the Why Not Dodge? sales tax to pay for the summer staff and improvements to the archival collection of documents. The society has been approved for $10,000 in organizational funding in 2013.
"Everything in the house is 100 percent real. We have people stop by and spend hours looking, but the space is limited so it's hard to accommodate larger crowds," Laughead said.