Letting Loos-a In Oskaloosa

Cue the soundtrack:

So I was driving around yesterday, getting some bugs embedded in my windshield on the rural highways of Kansas. Now is a time to do it: it’s not too hot to roll the windows down and let the smell of prairie spring fill the stuffy cabin of your car, turn the radio full-blast and hit full speed hoping that the local Barney Fife is relaxing after the church on Sunday. The sheer size of Kansas is hard to comprehend, several hours of driving is still a local trip and although it’s mostly endless farmland, there are many points of interest along the way.

But first things first – a Lawrence strip-club now features an Ed Hardy room. Gentlemen, start your engines!

Little further down the road there is an establishment called “Tee Pee”:

One of the “tee pees” is marked with flood marks from various years on the nearby Kansas River.

Turning North on Hwy 59 it’s a short drive to Oskaloosa, KS – home of the Old Jefferson Town – a collection of old buildings and structures moved to one place from all over Jefferson County.

There is a school and a church, a lonely bandstand replica…

…a rusty bridge…

…and a jail where a local Otis Campbell could’ve spent a night or two.

I had to take a second look at this work of art:


Turns out this sculpture commemorates a Wind Wagon builder from Oskaloosa – Sam Peppard.


This is how Sam Peppard sailed the prairie:

The ship hove in sight about 8 o’clock in the morning with a fresh breeze from east, northeast. It was running down in a westerly direction for the fort, under full sail, across the green prairie. The guard, astonished at such a sight, reported the matter to the officer on duty, and we all turned out to view the phenomenon. Gallantly she sailed, and at a distance …not unlike a ship at sea In front is & large coach lamp to travel by night when the wind is favorable … A crank and band wheels allow it to be propelled by hand when wind and tide are against them.

Today Sam Peppard would’ve been able to sail right to the next fence. Kansas ain’t what it used to be…
Oskaloosa City Square is not very different from other small Kansas towns like Burlingame or Ottawa.


People in the 19th century believed in stability so much that they didn’t hesitate to chisel the word “Bank” on the building. Bank wasn’t moving anywhere.

They would be surprised to see a “Chunkie Dunker’s” diving pig occupying one of the windows.

Although “lending with a heart” is still residing in the building.

An old water tower dominates every view.

Masons built this building in 1886.

HWY 92 is being guarded by the local post of the American Legion (brought to you by Coors).

Overlooking the shores of the Perry Lake , the city of Ozawkie,KS is mostly famous for its sign.

Nearby you can grab a monster burger…

… and get a New Kids on The Block -styled haircut from the stylist/owner Gail Dillenbeck.

HWY 4 takes you all the way up to Valley Falls.

Is it me or is it really the State of Texas hanging over the cowboy on the right?
Valley Falls turned out to be a neat little town, with its own downtown…

…where “Buy American!” turned into local “Shop Valley Falls 1st”.

No New Kids on The Block here, Punk cuts hair in this town.

Valley Falls has its share of historic buildings…

…but many are no longer in use…

…and wrenches are not clanging anymore behind the friendly window signs.

Here is a piece of unsolicited advice to the KC Star: you want people to buy your paper? Name it “The Vindicator”. You can’t not subscribe to “The Vindicator”.

Cows are peacefully grazing where the Battle of Hickory Point once raged.

Nowadays there is no time for battle, Kansas Farmers are busy feeding “128 people + you”, or did “Kansas Agri Women” figure this out when we were all still skinny?

And why fight if this is what you see out of your window every morning.

  • Joe

    I always enjoy your trips and pics of rural Kansas. My step bro was a deputy in rural Kansas for a while and visiting him was my first taste of the rural life. It was culture shock for a California Boy like myself.

  • I’m a sucker for small, decaying towns. Thanks.

  • Another great photo essay. Thank you for your continued fascination with small towns like these! I’ve been to/through all of these places, but…just didn’t take the time to do much looking around.

  • I really like the pictures. Tells the story of the town well.

  • Excellent photos and story… enjoyed immensely… it’s good to know also that when KC developers destroy our last old building there are other roads to travel.

  • I travel for JOOLS

    I just love these travel/photo shoots. When we first moved here over 30 years ago we drove out to Dodge City cause that was the wild west to a guy from Baltimore and a girl from Wisconsin. I hardly ever drive Kansas any more but it’s nice seeing it through your eyes.

  • Kansas Agri-Women

    Is this Kansas Agri-Women (Farmer Feeds Grocery Sack Sign) located near Oskaloosa? We are trying to collect data of all these locations so we can update the number to 155.

    • I want to say it’s on HWY 59 South of the Battle of Hickory Point historical marker.