Cowtown program fosters future volunteers

Go to Old Cowtown Museum this summer and chances are you will see a new generation of volunteers.

Madeleine and Nathaniel Smith are a sister-brother team who have stepped back in time — nearly 140 years — to explore what life was like for Wichita children in the 1870s. The two are participating this summer in Kids of Cowtown, an effort to not only interest children in Kansas and western history but, in a sense, to cultivate and grow the museum’s future volunteers.

So far, Madeleine Smith, 13, has learned to weave a basket, make a braided rug and purse, sew and crochet. This past week, she was showing her brother how to make a rag doll.

Nathaniel, 10, said one of his favorite parts “is going to the print shop and watching how they work the presses. I like watching how they put the letters away.”

They have learned children in the 19th century had to work.

“They had a lot more chores than we do,” Madeleine said. “At home, my only chores are to do the dishes, laundry sometimes and keep my room clean.

“The kids in the 1860s and 1870s had to empty the chamber pots before they went to school. And they had to do a lot of stuff on the farm, like dig trenches around the garden to keep bugs out of plants and weeds away.”

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