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Prosperity Junction

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Prosperity Junction

Prosperity Junction is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town built in an area of the museum where a 40' high ceiling allows two story structures. The town has its own history and its own location ~ somewhere in the West. The railroad arrived a few years ago and the days of the raw frontier are fading as goods and services from the East transform it into a settled community. At its northern edge lies the town's industrial section, including a railroad depot, blacksmith shop, and livery stable. At the south end are the social elements ~ the school, the church, and residences. Between those two extremes lay the bulk of the town's business structures.

There are 19 buildings in Prosperity Junction. All of them are built as historically correct as possible. The lumber is rough-cut and circular sawn with dimensions true to 2 x 4 or 2 x 12 sizes common to the era. Doors, window frames, and trim work are milled to circa 1900 specifications as indicated in millwork catalogues of the day. Interiors have metal ceilings, wallpaper, wood treatments, paint, and other design elements all done in period style. All structures are furnished with authentic circa 1900 artifacts in secure areas and a combination of reproductions and authentic artifacts in public access areas.

The time of day in the town is just after sunset. Most of the buildings stand two stories tall with light streaming from doors and windows illuminating the dusty main street. Thirteen of the structures can be entered by the public, and all are well lighted inside by a combination of gas fixtures and kerosene lamps and lanterns. The only electric lights are hanging streetlights that are powered by a brand new generator which is the pride of the town and a portent of the prosperity to come.

Sounds lend life to the town with the mournful tones of a distant train whistle, the faintly heard barking of a dog, the rushing of the wind across the prairie. Meanwhile, the tinny noise of a piano in the saloon contrasts with the peaceful strains of religious music coming from the church organ. This balanced combination of light and sound enhance an already dramatic setting designed for the visitor's return to a bygone era.

More Information About Prosperity Junction  

Livery Stable

Prosperity Junction is entered from the marble and glass of the main museum through the doors of the livery stable, which serves as the transporter or visual vehicle from the present to the past. The livery is a large structure with board and batten walls painted red and covered with a cogitate metal roof. On its simulated dirt floor sits an authentic 1880s stagecoach complete with harness, tools, and other gear associated with the stagecoach business. Also within the stable are several stalls containing horses available for rent to the public and for pulling the coach. Additionally, the structure has a hayloft, feed troughs, and other materials used in the livery business.

O'Brien's Blacksmith Shop

Upon leaving the stable, visitors enter a small open area bounded by the blacksmith shop, saddle shop, and train depot. Patrick O'Brien's blacksmith shop joins one side of the livery stable to provide a repair facility for the livery as well as producing a variety of ironwork utilized by townsfolk.

A blacksmith was necessary for any community in the late 19th and early 20th century. The smithy repaired a variety of tools and equipment, shod horses, and, in the case of Prosperity Junction, was also a skilled wheelwright, which gave the added luxury of getting wagon and buggy wheels repaired or replaced without sending them out of town.

The blacksmith shop is of a plain, rough-sawn, board construction. Although the public cannot enter the shop, visitors can peer in at the open door and see the glowing forge and hear the blows of the blacksmith's hammer against metal as he goes about his work. The smithy contains a forge, bellows, anvil, and various other tools necessary to the trade, as well as wheelwright equipment not ordinarily found in most blacksmith shops.


Across the way from the smithy and close to the depot stands a 35' high wooden windmill that provides a public water supply for the town. The mill atop the tower is a Star brand machine with a ten-foot diameter wooden wheel and a wooden tail. This machine was very popular in the 1900 era, and, in Prosperity Junction provides a public water supply for horses and other draft animals, as well as a ready supply of fresh water for the blacksmith, livery, and other closely related businesses.

Garrett's Saddle Shop

To the west of the smithy, stands J.J. Garrett's saddle shop which is of board and batten construction. The interior has a varnished bead board ceiling, wooden flooring, and painted walls. Adjacent to the saddle shop is the saddle show room, which has the same exterior finish. But its interior is more in keeping with a formal exhibition space with a suspended latticework ceiling containing track lighting that illuminates several examples of period saddles.

The saddle shop is indispensable to the community's well being. It is here the cowboys get their custom-made leather gear such as saddles, bridle, spur straps, and the myriad of other leather items they need. Of a more mundane use, but just as important, it supplies harness and other gear used by the townspeople of Prosperity Junction.

Union Pacific Train Depot

Thus far, the visitor to Prosperity Junction has only glimpsed at its possibilities. But, as he passes between the windmill and the blacksmith shop and steps out to look down the length of Main Street, he sees the town in all its two-storied glory. At the far end of the street, the iridescent stained-glass windows of the church offer a peaceful solace. Behind him, a cattle car of the Express Cattle Company blocks the street, and right beside the car is the train depot.

A part of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, this clapboard-sided structure, which features the Union Pacific logo, contains a ticket sales space, waiting room, telegraphers work space, and an adjacent freight room. The depot structure is furnished with all the appropriate accouterments necessary to operate the facility. Visitors may enter the depot and lounge on the reproduction benches and bask in front of a potbellied railroad stove, while perusing the various maps and advertisements on the walls for land sales.

Express Land and Cattle Company

Directly across the street from the Depot is the Express Land and Cattle Company's office. This business is located near the tracks because its primary business is acting as agent between the local ranchers and the eastern stockyards for the buying and shipping of cattle. Since the establishment of solid rail links to the East, the company also has gone into the real estate business by selling land to the farmers entering the area.

That time period around 1900, saw the increasing breakup of many large and medium-sized ranches, which were subdivided into farm-sized tracts and sold to eager purchasers from afar. This practice would accelerate for about 20 years as land promoters assumed a greater importance in the semi-arid West. Prosperity Junction is just beginning to experience this boom time, which will bring greater numbers of people to the community.

Thompson House Hotel and Restaurant

Next to the Express Land and Cattle Company is the recently renovated Thompson House Hotel and restaurant. G. L. Thompson originally built it as a hotel to serve railway travelers, but he recently refurbished it to include a nice restaurant when he bought an interest in the livery stable. In the late 19th and early 20th century, hotel owners in western communities generally established their facilities as full service entities, which provided railway travelers with food, lodging, and local transportation.

Although it cannot be entered by museum visitors, the inside of the Thompson House contains a restaurant area, which boasts linen-covered tables set with fine china, silver, and crystal. The hotel lobby is furnished with a check-in desk, a settee, grandfather clock, and other period appointments, while a stairway leads to the second floor. The upper level of the hotel provides several rooms that open onto a balcony. Glimpses of the upper level accommodations are seen from the street level through the partially open curtains of the rooms.

The Dispatch Newspaper Office

Next door to the Thompson House, but separated from it by an outside stairway, are the offices of the Prosperity Junction Dispatch, one of the first businesses to locate in town when the community was only a dusty little cowtown prior to the railroad's arrival. The newspaper is a strong booster of anything that will help the town prosper. Copies of the Dispatch can be found in various places throughout the town and visitors are encouraged to pick them up and learn more about his growing community.

The gray-weathered clapboard-sided newspaper office is well furnished with a Washington press and all the attendant cold metal type and typesetting equipment necessary to operate a turn-of-the-century newspaper. The publisher has a small cook stove in the newspaper office where he cooks an occasional meal, but he sleeps in the room above his business. Unfortunately, he has retired for the evening and his office door is locked, but his entire operation, ready to go to press the next day, can be observed though the windows.

Silver Dollar Saloon

Perhaps the publisher has not retired for the evening, after all. Maybe he just locked up and went next door to the Silver Dollar Saloon for some much-needed refreshment. The saloon has rinky-tink music coming from an old player piano, and the bar sets ready to serve its thirsty customers.

As weary museum visitors enter the Silver Dollar through glass paned doors, they are able to pause at one of several tables in the establishment amidst the splendor of a Victorian drinking emporium as it was done in the West. There, relaxing beneath bright gaslights, looking at buck heads mounted on a garishly papered wall, and listening to the music of the player piano, visitors can feel how a tired cowboy, fresh off the range, must have felt on a Saturday night after spending weeks in some isolated cow camp.

As might be imagined, there is often trouble at the saloon where cowboys and railroad men mingle for entertainment during their free time. There is a movement in town, led by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, WCTU, and supported by the Dispatch, to close the saloon. They maintain a growing community should not have such a blot on its reputation. Their efforts have not made significant progress toward closing the establishment, although they have managed to provide quarters across the street for the U.S. Marshal's office to help control any unruly outbreak that might occur.

U. S. Marshal's Office

Although usually a rented administrative facility from which federal district law enforcement activities are coordinated, the U. S. Marshal's office in Prosperity Junction combines several features of local and national law enforcement.

The Marshal's office, through which visitors can pass, contains all the gear a U.S. Marshal might have in his office. However, behind the office is an original jail cell constructed circa 1900. It is made of metal wagon tires riveted together by a blacksmith. This cell, really nothing but a large cage, was actually used in turn-of-the-century New Mexico Territory. Today, it serves as a place of incarceration for Prosperity's lawless element. Be careful when you visit not to violate the law and find yourself confined to the jail cell.

Near the cell area behind the Marshal's office are a series of more formal museum exhibits relating to law and order in the West. These exhibits contain examples of handcuffs, badges, firearms, documents, and other memorabilia associated with law enforcement of a bygone era.

Osborn’s Photography Studio

Across the street from the Marshal's office is Osborn's Photography Studio. Itinerant photographers, like J.C. Osborn, take advantage of this relatively recent and very popular innovation in the late 19th century as they travel across the West and record the activities of a growing and exciting era in American history.

Osborn, like many other photographers of the day, has discovered a bustling new town and settled here where he is patronized by cowboys, railroad workers, newly arrived settlers, townsfolk, and the growing business community. The cowboys, in particular, like to have their photographs made when they get all duded up for a Saturday night in town. The townsfolk likewise flock to the studio to be immortalized in images of weddings, family groups, and other important social and family activities. The town fathers and business owners also pay handsomely for photographic proof of the booming economic possibilities of the town.

The weathered clapboard building is furnished with a vintage camera, photo portrait backdrop, and all the paraphernalia needed to operate a photography studio. Samples of the photographer's work are displayed in the studio proper where the casual visitor can enter as if he were about to have his portrait made. Passing through the back door of Osborn's establishment, visitors enter a formal photo exhibition space where the museum mounts a changing series of photo exhibits that illustrate life in the American West.

Cattlemen’s State Bank

The Cattlemen's State Bank is situated on the corner of Main Street just down from Osborn's. This imposing edifice, constructed of red sandstone, is the pride of Prosperity Junction. The bank is one of the more recently built structures and it represents the town's growing importance to the surrounding region. It is furnished with a complete set of banking fixtures originally installed in the bank at Hunter, Oklahoma in 1905.

Those fixtures include a long oak counter that houses both teller and bookkeeper windows separated by frosted glass and brass filigreed bars. In the lobby there is a check draft counter and a massive safe with the bank's name in gold lettering. The bank has already managed to rent the upper level space of this imposing structure to an attorney and other prominent professionals in the community.

Persimmon Hill District School

Around the corner from the bank, on a side street, is the Persimmon Hill District School of Prosperity Junction. It provides educational opportunities to the children of Prosperity Junction from the first through the sixth grade by means of fees paid by the parents of the children attending classes. The town does not believe it can afford educational opportunities beyond the sixth grade at this time, but plans are being made to hire an additional teacher for upper level education in the future.

The school is a white clapboard structure with red trim. It has a bell tower complete with a bell to call the students to class. It is furnished with 36 desks, is heated by a wood-burning stove, and contains a piano used to accompany songs that students sing to begin classes each day. At the front of the classroom is a blackboard and teacher's desk, while in the corner is an American flag with 45 stars. (In 1901, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii had not yet been admitted to the union.) The flag is used at the beginning of each day's classes in a short ceremony in which the pledge of allegiance is recited and a patriotic song is sung.

Actual classes, taught by a teacher in period costume, are held in the school. The 30 or so young scholars are seated with the boys on one side of the classroom and the girls on the other side. They do their lessons on the blackboard or on handheld slates provided at their desks. The lessons are taught from McGuffey's Readers and McGuffey's Speller, also provided at their desks. Subjects taught are penmanship, reading, arithmetic, geography, history, music, art, and spelling (orthography).

In addition to educational classes, the school, along with the church, is the focal point of official social activities in town. It serves as a polling place for elections and provides space for official town meetings. In its first days, it served as a meeting place for church services before the church was built.

More recently, social club fund-raisers, like cakewalks and community dances, take place in the school. Even town plays and a community Christmas celebration are held in the school. During the summer and early fall, county agricultural fairs use the school to display the fruits of a growing agricultural community. The school truly serves as the social center for the community.

Dr. Edward Calhoon Residence

Across the street from the school is the residence. This house serves as the home of Edward Calhoon, M.D., the town's only physician, who is also one of the more prosperous citizens of the community. As such, he lives in a home befitting his status in life. The house is well constructed of white shiplap with green gingerbread trim. The front door has a fine oval glass set into an expensive door, above which is a dormer window in the upstairs section. The roof has good cedar shingles brought in from afar by the railroad.

Peering through the front room drapes into the parlor, visitors see how those of better circumstances lived in the West in 1900. There is a nice velvet-covered settee, a beautiful wood- burning parlor stove, expensive oil-burning lamps, and other period accessories adorning the room.

Adjacent to the parlor, and also viewed through the home's windows, is Dr. Calhoon's office, which he maintains in his residence. It has a separate exterior door over which the doctor's shingle hangs and through which his patients enter. His office is furnished with an examining chair, desk, instrument cabinet, and a variety of medical instruments common to the era.

On the wall hang an eye chart and a series of colored threads used to test for color blindness. It was a common practice in small western communities at the turn of the century for physicians to conduct business in their homes. In reality, most of the early-day doctors did most of their work through house calls, and relatively few patients came to the office when compared to the size of the total practice.


Next to the residence at the south end of Main Street is the church. As was often the case in the West, a town's first church was a non-denominational group usually called a Union Church. In the case of Prosperity Junction, this has worked well until recently. But now the population is growing at such a rate there is a movement afoot to build at least one other church and begin to develop specific denominational churches in the community.

Viewed from the north end of Main Street, the church is a classic example of American church architecture. It is a wooden structure with a steeple soaring above a set of double doors that face anyone approaching from down the street. Two stained-glass Gothic arched windows flanking the door serve as a beacon to those entering the town. Beside the doors is the church bulletin, which provides information on the social activities of Prosperity Junction.

Inside the church, the ceiling soars in cathedral style, which is further accented by a large Gothic arch on the east side framing the space where the pulpit stands. To one side of the pulpit is an organ from which softly playing religious music flows. The interior of the church is lighted by two overhead gaslights and six wall sconces that reveal two rows of pews where weary visitors can relax and contemplate the importance of the country's western historical setting. At the back of the room is a wood-burning stove that provides warmth during the cold winter days.

Fleming Mercantile Store

Leaving the church and heading west, visitors encounter a large red brick building that houses the Fleming Mercantile Store. The mercantile is furnished with all the necessities of life in small town America at the turn of the century where it was almost always one of the most prominent buildings in town. In Prosperity Junction, the mercantile had traditionally served the ranching community, but now it has a wider customer base, which includes farmers moving into the area as well as a growing town population. It also serves as the post office.

Most of the ground floor of Fleming’s has glass windows through which the interior can be viewed. In the center of the store is a large wood-burning stove around which customers gather, sit, and visit. The shelf-lined walls are filled with merchandise including a variety of canned goods, lanterns, lamps, cloth, sewing notions, shoes, boots, hardware, and everything you can imagine to serve everyday life. Flour and pickle barrels are lined up along the wall and farm supplies of all kinds fill the counters.

One corner is devoted to the post office where numbered glass-fronted mailboxes adorn the space. Tobacco products and a commercial coffee grinder occupy prominent places in the store. Everything you might need is found in the mercantile where most business is done on a credit basis, dependent on ranchers shipping their cattle to market and farmers harvesting their crops.

Blake’s Feed and Seed Store

The exit from Prosperity Junction lies through Campbell's Feed and Seed Store. It joins the mercantile on the south and the closed lower half of a Dutch door separates the two structures on the inside. By leaning over the door and peering about, you can get another view of the mercantile, which gives you the impression you are inside the store. Once inside the feed and seed, the visitor leaves through its double doors to the exterior. This ends his sojourn in the peace and quiet of a bygone era and returns him to the marble and glass museum of the present.

Selected Images of Prosperity Junction  

Looking South Looking south down Main Street with the church at the far end of the street and the newspaper office, saloon, photo shop, and bank on the left.

Dispatch The exterior of the newspaper office, "The Dispatch."

Interior of the newspaper office Interior of the newspaper office showing the Washington press, typesetting equipment, and other furnishings.

Silver Dollar Saloon Exterior of the "Silver Dollar Saloon."

Silver Dollar Saloon Interior of the "Silver Dollar Saloon."

Thompson House Hotel and Restaurant Exterior of the "Thompson House Hotel and Restaurant."

Fleming Mercantile Interior of the "Fleming Mercantile" emphasizing seasonal merchandise.

Bank Interior of the "Cattlemen's State Bank" showing the original turn-of-the-century bank fixtures.

Livery stable Exterior of the "Livery Stable."

Schoolhouse Interior of the school which is set up for a class of youngsters to appear.

Suggested Readings & Links  

The following materials are available for review in the Research Center.

F689.H3H39 1959 Hays Chamber of Commerce. Story of the Early Life of Fort Hays and of Hays City. Hays, KS: Old Fort Hays Historical Association, Inc., [1959].

F354.A8 Atherton, Lewis Eldon. Main Street on the Middle Border. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, [1954].

PS1139.B4C3 Brown, James Cabell. Calabazas or, Amusing Recollections of an Arizona City. San Francisco: Valleau & Peterson, [1892].

F767.F8C48 Chisholm, James. South Pass, 1868, James Chisholm's Journal of the Wyoming Gold Rush. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, [1960].

F694.D4 1985 Debo, Angie. Prairie City: The Story of an American Community. Tulsa: Council Oak Books, [1985].

HT123.5.M57E36 1993 Edom, Cliff and Smith, Verna Mae Edom. Small Town America: The Missouri Photo Workshops, 1949-1991. Golden: Fulcrum Publishing, [1993].

F591.F57 Florin, Lambert. Ghost Town Trails. Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, [1963].

F591.F56 Florin, Lambert. Ghost Town Album. Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, [1962].

F804.M35J6 Johnston, Langford Ryan and Barrington, Jacky L. Old Magdalena Cow Town. 1st ed. Magdalena, NM: Bandar Log, [1983].

PN4899.V55T44 1971 Lewis, Oscar. Life and Times of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise; Being Reminiscences of Five Distinguished Comstock Journalists. Ashland: Privately Printed, [1971].

F689.D64L69 1940 Lowther, Charles C. Dodge City, Kansas. Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company Publishers, [1940].

GT3811.D46N63 1982 Noel, Thomas J. The City and the Saloon, Denver, 1858-1916. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, [1982].

F704.0399R88 1995 Rutland, Robert Allen. A Boyhood in the Dust Bowl. Niwot: University of Colorado Press, [1995].

F704.I54S55 1990 Shirley, Glenn. Gunfight at Ingalls: Death of an Outlaw Town. Stillwater, OK: Barbed Wire Press, [1990].

F819.T957S66 1982 Sonnichsen, C. L. Tucson, the Life and Times of an American City. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1982].

F819.T6S6 Sonnichsen, C. L and King, William Aurelius. Billy King's Tombstone: The Private Life of an Arizona Boom Town. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, Ltd., [1942].

F394.T48S67 1986 Spratt, John S. and Hinton, Harwood P. Thurber, Texas; Life and Death of a Company Coal Town. Austin: University of Texas Press, [1986].

HT371.U515 1987 Underwood, Kathleen. Town Building on the Colorado Frontier. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, [1987].

F689.D64V4 Vestal, Stanley. Queen of Cowtowns: Dodge City, "The Wickedest Little City in America," 1872-1886. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, [1952].

F849.V8W33 Waldorf, John Taylor and Bryant, Dolores Waldorf. A Kid on the Comstock: Reminiscences of a Virginia City Childhood. Palo Alto: American West Publishing Company, [1970].

F689.D64W75 1913 Wright, Robert Marr. Dodge City: The Cowboy Capital and the Great Southwest in the Days of the Wild Indian, the Buffalo, the Cowboy, Dance Halls, Gambling Halls and Bad Men. Wichita: Wichita Eagle Press, [1913].

F689.M4Y6 Yost, Nellie Irene Snyder. Medicine Lodge: The Story of a Kansas Frontier Town. 1st ed. Chicago: Swallow Press, Inc., [1970].

F689.D64Y68 Young, Fredric R. Dodge City: Up Through a Century in Story and Pictures. Dodge City: Boot Hill Museum, Inc., [1972].

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