Day 76, Saturday, September 29, 2018
Have you ever heard of Wamego, Kansas? What? No?!? I hadn’t either… But there is a small town in Kansas called Wamego, and it is home to the Oz Museum. As in the Wizard of Oz. Why Wamego? Was it Dorothy’s hometown? Nope. Apparently somebody felt that there needed to be an Oz Museum in Kansas and they created one! There was a guy who loaned his Oz collection to the museum and it opened in 2003.
There was just one issue. You see, the collection was only available for five years. Fortunately for the museum, they were contacted by a second collector before the five years was up, and he happened to have an even larger collection of Oz memorabilia than the first one.
There are memorabilia items from Oz’s entire history, from first editions of the Oz books to a reproduction pair of ruby slippers, made for the 50th anniversary of the movie. There are displays featuring the characters from the movie, life-sized and perfect for selfies, and even some characters from the book series that didn’t make it into the movie. You know that Oz was a book series long before it became a movie, right?
The displays and items include more recent memorabilia too, even featuring Michael Jackson’s The Wiz version of the movie. All in all, it’s a small museum that will please Wizard of Oz fans, and takes about an hour to see (unless you stay to watch the movie, which plays on an endless loop).
Next door was the Oz Winery, and I stopped in to do a tasting of their wines, and found a couple that I liked. I bought a bottle of the Emerald City Lights and they had all sorts of Oz themed items for sale, so I got a friend a t-shirt that she loves!
Before I left Wamego, I wandered around a little bit to see a few of the Toto statues that are placed around town; each one is painted differently and they were fun to see. There was even a Yellow Brick Road!
On the way out, I saw a sign for the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. Of course, I had to check this out. What the heck is a Rifle Church?!? As it turns out, the town of Wabaunsee, Kansas, where the church is located, was founded in 1855 by emigrants from New Haven, Connecticut who established the Connecticut Kansas Colony. The colony then became known as the Beecher Rifle Colony, due to the following history. These abolitionist settlers heard a sermon by abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother) and he also helped supply rifles for the men to defend themselves. Remember, at this time, there was a heated debate about whether Kansas Territory would become a free state or a slave state and tempers were high. As legend goes, the rifles were smuggled through pro-slavery areas in crates marked “Beecher’s Bibles,” and later the guns themselves were called Beecher’s Bibles. Wabaunsee became part of the Underground Railroad in late 1856 and helped Lawrence, Kansas after Quantrill’s Raid. How’s that for some pre-Civil War history? Of course, none of this history was explained at the church so I had to look it up later on the internet.
I also learned that the church was finished in 1862, made of local limestone with stone accents, and built by church member Robert Banks. It is built in a style known as Plains Vernacular and the church has designated men’s and women’s sides. How interesting! The church was closed, so I took a photo outside and continued on my way.
It was time to continue on the road west. I drove for a few hours and then stayed the night at the Ellis City Campground, in Ellis Kansas, just off I-70. It was a small campground on the shore of the Ellis City Lake, and a quiet place, even on the weekend. And for $15, it was a steal! It was cold and windy that evening, so after my dinner of leftover BBQ ribs, I nestled early into my car cocoon. One of the perks of having the bed in my car, rather than having to sleep in the tent!