Years ago, Harvey and Velma Orcutt collected articles from around Humboldt, Kansas, that reflected Humboldt's early to late settler lifestyle from the 1880s to 1930s. This exhibit of carefully crafted rooms was place in the Orcutt back yard. Now it is a museum.
Harvey and Velma Orcutt's Humboldt, Kansas, history collection was in buildings in their back yard. The Orcutts generously invited locals and visitors to "Take a step back in time," sharing Humboldt's social and cultural history. Afer the Orcutts' passing, Gertrude Leitzback Finney, a leading entrepreneur in Humboldt, provided funds to purchase the collection and gifted it to Humboldt Historic Preservation Alliance (HHPA), which moved it to its current location.
In addition to the Orcutt collection, several related items, including a knife sharpener, were donated to HHPA by the late Junior Gerken, descendant of Henry H. Gerken (Junior's grandfather).
Henry Gerken was born in Germany, on March 18, 1841. His obituary appeared in the Humboldt Union newspaper in January 1928. In an oral history interview, Junior shared a story from his Grandpa Henry. It is depicted in a mural painted on the east wall, near the museum entrance. HHPA member Jan Coykendall's daughter, Meaghan Thompson, created the mural with assistance from local artist Harvey Peck. It is a remarkable study of courage and common sense.
The mural shows Rufus Anderson, a black neighbor and friend of the Gerkens. Anderson was a former slave and trained translator in Indian languages. He was in the Union Army during the Civil War. In the scene depicted by the mural, Anderson used his language and translation skills to intervene in a situation that could have become a tragedy when two hungry Indians with knives frightened Magdalena Gerken, Henry's wife, and her newborn baby.
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