1930s Dust Bowl to Gas Exploration, Historic Adobe Museum, Ulysses

Dust storm descending on the north edge of Ulysses in 1935. Photo courtesy Historic Adobe Museum

Aftermath of a dust storm. Photo courtesy Historic Adobe Museum.

Hampton children in Grant County by their 1927 Chevy truck. Photo courtesy Historic Adobe Museum.

Rabbit drive, 1930s. Photo courtesy Historic Adobe Museum.

Address: 300 E. Oklahoma, Ulysses, KS 67880
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Phone: 620.356.3009

The Historic Adobe Museum's display of the 1930s from the Dust Bowl Days to gas exploration is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas History because it tells the story of human survival to industrial boom.

The premier Historic Adobe Museum in Ulysses is steeped in history right down to the building it is housed in. The adobe building was constructed in the 1930s, at a time the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, wheat prices had plummeted and the misery of the Dirty Thirties was wrecking havoc on the struggling southwestern part of the state. The adobe building provides the perfect setting for exhibits that tell the stories of the 1930s era.

The quilt room with its raw adobe walls, contains an impressive collection of depression era quilts; including scrap quilts, feed sack quilts, and friendship quilts. The scrap quilts were made from bits of fabric taken from the scrap bag, hence the saying "Use It Up, Wear It out, Make It Do, Or Do Without".  It was also during this time period that resourceful women began to use feed and grain sacks to make quilts and clothing. The 1930s friendship quilts evolved from the neighborhood quilting bees, a social time for the rural women to gather.Each woman would make a quilt block and include her signature. By concentrating on making something beautiful the quilter could block out the poverty and deprivation.

The Dust Bowl, often referred to as the Dirty Thirties, is said to have been the worst ecological and human disaster in modern times, lasting not minutes, but years.

A photo exhibit of that time period includes an extensive collection of photographs taken by early photographer, Royal Gray.  Included is an image of Ulysses, a desolate dusty town, being engulfed by a wall of black dust. The date was Sunday, April 14, 1935, 3:10 p.m. when it went from daylight to total darkness in one minute. 2010 is the 75th anniversary of what is now known as Black Sunday.

Also included are photos of deserted farmsteads and fence rows covered with dirt. There is little or no vegetation. The trees are bare, the leaves stripped away by the wind and the static electricity. Windows and doors were covered with wet sheets and blankets in order to be able to breathe, there was hysteria over dust pneumonia. House cleaning was done with shovels instead of brooms. Then there are the faces, some show despair, some show determination and finally they begin to show hope.

A collage of 1930s artifacts makes a colorful and informational exhibit that tells the story of the era. A dental chair and other essential dental fixtures from Dr. Coffey's early dentist office, early camera equipment used by Royal Gray, period furniture and accessories, a treadle sewing machine, sewing accessories, a scrap bag and depression era quilts and clothing are included in this exhibit.

In 1936, the local newspaper editor wrote: despite the drought and dust of the last few years, the loss in population and the discouraging business conditions, "Ulysses is coming out on top". A group of Grant county men, knowing about the potential for the Hugoton gas field went to the panhandle of Texas to look at carbon black plants, with the hope of developing similar action in Grant County.

The announcement was made December 17, 1936 in the local newspaper that Grant County was to become a manufacturing center. Early in 1937, Peerless carbon black plant became the county's first gas related industry. This sparked off drilling, with about 40 wells completed by the end of that year. Grant County was moving into a new era.

Open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Source: Historic Adobe Museum

Photos: Historic Adobe Museum