Old-fashioned fun: Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop offers kids hands-on history lessons

·2 min read

Summertime at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm has brought a variety of weekly programming in the form of Days Out with Frank and Ella. Named for the two youngest children in the Mahaffie family, the series of programs has been providing 1860s activities of all kinds for visitors to the site.

“Our goal was really to provide an opportunity for daycares and large groups to explore the farm with different activities every week. We want to show them there’s always something new on farm,” said Katie Lange, daily programs coordinator for Mahaffie.

Some of the topics have included the Civil War, the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail and 1860s public safety. At press time, the series was to wrap up July 29 with a Christmas in July theme.

For the Santa Fe Trail anniversary, visitors could learn how to make tortillas on an open fire, how to crack a whip and how people would spin wool to trade.

Another wrinkle to the Santa Fe Trail week was that as each group of visitors stopped at the various activity stations, they got to roll the dice to see what would have happened to their party had they really been on the trail. The potential outcomes were similar to what you might encounter playing the Oregon Trail video game.

“We do our very best to target our programming for kids of all ages. History is a really hard topic for little kids to understand, so we’re happy to be able to offer fun and games and animals while also talking about things like the Industrial Revolution with older kids,” Lange said.

Katie Lange, daily programs coordinator for the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, makes tortillas the way travelers on the Santa Fe Trail would have done.
Katie Lange, daily programs coordinator for the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, makes tortillas the way travelers on the Santa Fe Trail would have done.

Some of those authentic time-period games have included croquet, nine pin, stilts and thaumatropes.

Sixteen-year-old Isaac Stenberg, a volunteer at Mahaffie, was teaching visitors how to crack a whip during the Santa Fe Trail program.

“It takes a little practice. You need height as well. If the whip’s longer than you, it’s hard to get a good crack,” he said.

The farm has been holding this summer series since at least 2014, but they often switch up the topics. One that often comes back because it’s such a big hit is cowboys.

“Lots of kids love Woody from ‘Toy Story.’ Older folks like John Wayne,” Lange said.

Some activities, like potato farming, are more of a hard sell.

“Most of our guests aren’t interested in spending five hours with us in the dirt when it’s 100 degrees,” Lange said.

Still, it’s all part of the authentic experience.

Olathe resident Renee Bower brought her grandsons, who were visiting from Minnesota.

“The boys loved making tortillas and doing laundry (with a washboard),” she said.

John Franklin of Kansas City was also fascinated by the tortilla-making process.

“I had no idea about the complexity of how you break down hominy,” he said.

For more information about Mahaffie and future programs, call 913-971-5100.

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