History of the Franklin County Historical Society

The FCHS was founded in 1937, after a group of locals attended a screening of Gary Cooper’s movie, “The Plainsman” at the Plaza Theater in Ottawa, Kansas. Enthusiastic about preserving our local “Western History,” they incorporated and became the recipient of the museum collections and papers of the George H. Thomas Post #18 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the local Union Civil War veterans’ organization.

Members of the Franklin County Historical Society in 1942.

By the 1950s, FCHS activity had become sporadic and the historical society was inactive for a few years up until the Kansas Centennial in 1961. Thanks to the efforts of the Kansas State Historical Society, enthusiasm for local history blossomed, and the Franklin County Historical Society revived. Communities all over Kansas became involved in collecting their local histories, and many historical societies were formed at that time. FCHS was gifted the 1859 Dietrich Cabin, and it was moved to City Park in Ottawa just in time for the 1961 celebration. One year later, the AT&SF donated the 1888 Santa Fe Depot to the historical society. Today the depot serves as the Old Depot Museum.

Horse-drawn wagon during the 1961 Kansas Centennial Parade. Photograph by J.B. Muecke.

During Franklin County’s celebration and parade, historical artifacts were used to decorate store windows up and down Main Street. During the 1960s and 1970s, interest in collecting antiques was low, and many of those 19th Century and early 20th Century artifacts were donated to the Franklin County Historical Society after the celebration.

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Mission, Vision, Values

Mission Statement

To preserve the rich history of the area through the collection and maintenance of records and artifacts, through the encouragement of preservation and local historical research;

To present Franklin County’s history to the public by means of museums, archives, creative and educational programming and publications;

To promote cultural tourism as an effective means of communicating the lessons of history to visitors and citizens of Franklin County.

Vision Statement

The Franklin County Historical Society sees a future full of opportunities to share its information and artifacts with the public. Strategic planning goals affirm the need for continual progress toward quality programs, collections stewardship, promotions and marketing, well-maintained facilities, fundraising and appropriate governance.

The Old Depot Museum will be known as one of the finest small museums in Kansas, especially for its beautiful and well-maintained facilities and grounds. Its attractive and interactive exhibits, its diverse educational programs and contributions to research and publication concerning Franklin County will be recognized by the local community, visitors, and scholars.


The Franklin County Historical Society embraces preservation in all its forms. The Old Depot Museum engages its diverse audience, presents its collections and programs in ways that reflect honorably upon the stories and artifacts whose stewardship we accept. We place high value on nurturing the abilities of our staff and volunteers while fostering a strong community through strategic partnerships.

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IRS Form 990

As a tax-exempt organization, the Franklin County Historical Society is required to file IRS Form 990, which is open to public inspection. Click here to view.

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