Wagons Ho! Quinter, Kansas.

by admin

Go West, young woman. Bring your samsonite. Paula à la Horace Greeley Adams.

I know that if I was ever on a Wagon Train across the Prairie in a former life, I most certainly would have had a large trunk labeled “outfits west.”

This is a story to be added to, for the good Kansas girls for whom it was a rite of passage are climbing out of the sideboards. So far, Sally Malley Stevenson, Barb Goolsbee Bollier, Ginna Getto, Linda Warwick Manco and Terry Beach & R. A. Edwards daughters with whom I have to follow up.

I only know how I got there. My grandmother, Mildred Evelyn Lee Ward grew up in Hays, where her father was a professor at Fort Hays State University. This was one of numerous Kansas History outings we took, a few others being the Garden of Eden in Lucas and fishing at Juan Madden Lake though I think it now has another name. There were two other driving trips to southern California and Texas, but many, many to Santa Fe and Taos.

If you’re new to Kansas, skip this next.  Unless, as my father Dean Graves would say, you like to follow Kansas family history as you would a sporting event. He’s very good at it, I might add. I do it because my mac tech guru understands better than I that perhaps my only “point” is in fact some people and relationships and places recorded at a given time in Kansas through the eyes of one woman, though who really cares?

The first year we went with Marianna Kistler Beach of the Museum with the beautiful Chihuly chandelier at Kansas State University. She and Millie were friends and friends of art. My grandfather was the young lawyer partner of Ross Beach, Sr. and then Marianna’s husband Big Ross who passed away last spring. Ross was, among many, many other things, Jerry Moran’s first campaign manager. Anyway, Marianna’s grandgirls were a bit older and we didn’t know them before, but Terry Beach married R.A. Edwards, Lawrence. For the SMEasters, Senator Harry Darby’s four daughters were Radar Evans’ mom, Mary Alford’s mom, Harriet Darby Gibson who’s husband my father worked for at Darby Steel Corporation in college, and Joanne Darby Edwards who married Roy whose family owned Rudy Patrick Seed Co.

Millie Ward, Marianna Beach, and the Graves and Edwards girls.

Millie Ward, Marianna Beach, and the Graves and Edwards girls.

Gina Graves, Millie Ward, Paula Graves

My grandmother looked like this all the time, though this was a “sport” dress of sorts. I mean, we all slept in a covered wagon in sleeping bags, so how she pulled this off I’ll never know. I don’t think she was wearing any pantyhose, though. The Lee women were pretty ahead of their time on that one, ask my mother.  I don’t think she had a pair of slacks until she was in her 90s. More about Millie later.

But, she has that determined look on her face and I know she was thinking, “I’ll see to it that one of these girls ends up in Western Kansas working in the arts and history before she moves to her apartment on the Plaza (or house in Santa Fe) to watch the lights and go to parties with artsy people.”

Already trying to get attention from the wrong men.

But enough about me for a bit and a little about the clothes…we’ll see how wordpress likes this, may have work out the quirks….you could also re-post these in the blog or be guest poster bloggers but that’s a lot of attention to ask of you for posterity.

Ginna Getto I was about 12 or 13 also and went with my mom and a family friend. I remember there was an old, old cowboy who had a horse who did tricks. There were people from all over the world on our trip. I remember feeling kind of sorry for the folks on the trip who weren’t actually from Kansas. I wore a dress and sunbonnet and whole deal one day, but what I most liked was riding along side of the wagon train on a horse.

8 hours ago · 

Sally Malley Stevenson I went in 73 and I wore the “little House on the Prairie Dress I really thought I was Laura Ingalls!!!!! Remember how scarey the Indian raid was??????

11 hours ago · 

And below, just for the record I got like triple mileage out of my prairie dress with the Hays Centennial, Wagons Ho! and some other historic event I can’t remember. I’m hoping Ginny saved it so my great granddaughter can wear it for the parade by the Toon Shop when Prairie Village celebrates its centennial in the marketplace in 2057.

But enough about me for a bit, the Hefners were the family who started Wagons Ho! primarily Ruth Hefner.

Letter from the Hefners delivered by pony express expressing concern for the "little pioneer friend" carried off by Indians to "still be with us at the end of our trail."

I just googled and it is interesting when I think that she was just a bit older than I am at 53 in this picture. I wanted to be their beautiful daughter Barby who played the guitar. What they provided in terms of capital outlay in wagons alone, access to private property, assembling the cast, music, food, sweat equity, family, and love cannot be described in pictures, just people whose lives they influenced.


Deceased Name: Ruth C. Hefner
Ruth C. Hefner, 89, Oakley, died Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005, at Logan County Manor, Oakley.

She was born Feb. 28, 1916, in Dighton to James and Angeline (Wristen) Coberly. She graduated from Dighton High School and attended Fort Hays State University.

She married Frank C. Hefner on Aug. 13, 1939, in Gove County. He died May 6, 2004. She was a homemaker and founder and operator of Wagons Ho, Gove.

Survivors include two sons, John Hefner, Newport Beach, Calif., and David Hefner, Gove; two daughters, Ann Bowman, Hutchinson, and Barbara Hefner, Santa Fe., N.M.; a brother, Glenn Coberly, Gove; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Monday at United Methodist Church, Gove. The body was bequeathed to the University of Kansas Medical School for anatomical research.

No visitation is planned. Memorials are suggested to the Wagons Ho Historical Record, Quinter, Logan County Manor, Oakley, or Modern Homemaker’s Club, Gove, in care of Schmitt Funeral Home, Quinter.
(Hays Daily News ~ September 16, 2005)

Yes, Sally, that Indian Raid was super scary.

As I said on facebook, the picture still scares me.

I have this note from the first trip in my sketchbook with the Indians.

Blounds have more fun.

Secretly, I was dying to get carried off by those ethnic bad boys….took me a while but I got’her done.

I've never received anything like this kind of attention from cowboys.

Watch out for that one, Millie never warned me that cowboys can dress up like Indians.

And last here’s a picture that my Grandfather Paul took of me with Rosie, he was ever the photographer with trusty Leica.

This makes me sad because I rode her when I was 5 and then again later in this picture. My old friend that I'd returned to has long since died but we will meet again.


It was my pleasure. Thank you Hefner Family for that moment in time.




28 comments on “Wagons Ho! Quinter, Kansas.

  • Love, Love, Love this post! Weren’t the Hefners the most awesome people? I went on a 3 day trip, but I know that they offered longer ones too. One thing I know they did was offer (probably at very low cost) the experience to Girl Scout troops around Kansas. Several of my friends over the years tell me they went on Wagons Ho! with Girl Scouts.
    Here is a little trivia: Ruth Hefner was once on “To Tell The Truth.”
    I also had a sense of deja vu while I was out on the prairie. I truly loved it. It is one of the best memories I have of my mom too. The whole thing was so out of her comfort zone, and yet, not. She loved Kansas and its history, even though she was a transplant.
    I have very few regrets in life, but a BIG one is that I had the opportunity to work for Wagons Ho! between freshman and sophomore years of college and I didn’t do it. I guess I was sort of homesick or something and wanted to spend the summer in Colorado with my mom. Still kicking myself. They shut down Wagons Ho shortly after that. I remember the reason was that with the huge cost of insurance, the Hefner’s couldn’t make it pay, and just couldn’t keep it going.

    • Ginna, thank you so much for sharing all of this. So fun to hear she was on “To Tell the Truth”, I can’t remember the show. Did she tell the truth about how grueling running that show must have been? I feel like they were always so positive and up, but when I think about it…I wish I had met your mother and I don’t know where she was from. I won’t do the “tell your daddy I said hey!” thing here (I’ve got him on facebook, I’ll tell him myself) but want to ask him about his dad and Eldridge, the hotel and travel tourism tradition in your family that you have continued with your career and recent post from Paris, wasn’t it? I guess in America and 21st c. we’re all in the travel industry at some level or we wouldn’t be here, stay with the roots…”Come to Kansas!” is what I’m finding lots of Frenchman are doing, worlds collide.

  • My grandfather Foard Darnall was the wagonmaster for Wagons Ho. I spent alot of time accompanying him on the trail. So many fond memories of the time spent with him and the great guests I met from all over the world. I got my first taste of Wagons Ho at the ripe old age of 2 weeks. My Grandmother Nellie also made appearences playing the organ for church on Sunday mornings. The Hefner’s are the most unique people.

    • Thank you so much for posting, Debbie. I’m so glad to have this name. I even remember taking notice of the different spelling. Was there a story with that? Anything else you have to offer, I know everyone would love it.

  • Ginna, the old gentleman you refered to with the trick horse was Shelton Darnall, my great uncle. The horse I remember him using was a paint horse named Red Feather. I also remember the old donkey Rosie, and all the kids that probably took their first ride on her.
    The patience she had to have had.

  • Hello everyone! If any of you are still out there, I’d love to connect with you. My email is barbiangel@earthlink.net.Here it is June 2012 & I was feeling homesick for the KS prairie so googled Quinter, my old hometown,& saw the website & scrolled down & saw all of these beautiful notes about Wagons Ho.I remember your names, and my heart is touched that you remember your wagon train experience & my family. My parents Ruth & Frank, brother David,& other siblings were truly blessed by all we met….guests and crew. I live in Santa Fe, NM. Blessings to you all! 🙂 Barbi Hefner

  • I took this trip with my family when I was 8 or 9, 1971 or so, and there was a camera crew filming for a TV show. Does anyone know what the name of the series that featured Wagon’s Ho as a unique American vacation?

  • I went on this wagon train trip in the summer of 1979, I was 15. My parents and I drove cross country from a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. What a great trip it was! To be out on the trail, in the wagons and feel like you were back in the 1800’s and then see the highway in the distance or a plane go overhead … it was surreal. And probably one of the best trips I ever had! 33 years later I still have fond memories!

  • I started out working on Wagons Ho as a driver at 14 with my own team of horses. I met a lot of wonderful crew members & guests in the 6 summers I worked there.
    Jim Gillespie

  • Judy Braddy, Memories, “Wagons Ho” I was in my late 20’s early 30’s and wanted an experience like the TV. 50’s wagon train. AND I got it. The first week was great, the teachers were wonderful, Food great, Entertainer, Cowboys, Indians. I wanted more. I asked to help the following week. Someone had died and the group “Wagons Ho” needed extras to drive the cars, and to get the food ready and move the pies.
    I quickly packed and went back up. This week went well for a day and then a8 year old young man got cow kicked by two horses. I was a witness and the Lawyer called for my thoughts. I told them the parents did not take care of the hipper kid. Told them that he jump from wagon to wagon and no one could catch he and two horse came up behind the 1st wagon, I was watching this child and the child slapped both horses on the side and the cow kicked him. I was a teacher at that time. The lawyer said they did not need my Testamony. I hope I helped we did and “Wagons Ho” did all you could do. The next day after he and his parents had left, there was a mean storm. The helpers had to push the wagons together so they would not blow over,we had to put dry blankets in the wagons, and the next morning we had to dig out the cars in the mud. The most exciting time I ever had and I still talk about it. I have written my story and hope to publish it. All names are kept silent and the name of the Wagon train and the Town, no one will know. Thank you for keeping the west alive. I keep thinking some day I will take another wagon train trip. I am 68 years young and in good health. I have 7 part time jobs. Went to K.U. Am an artist and still Love Cowboys Always, Thanks to you and the Wagon Ho group. Judy Braddy

  • Hey all!
    I was one of the lucky ones to work for Wagon’s Ho during the summer of our country’s bicentennial [1976]. I was just “discussing” how long donkeys and mules lived compared to horses and googled “Rosie + Wagons Ho” and came to this site. I drove a team, was one of the “Indians” in the attack and cooked for the crew between trips. I remember much. the squirrel eating sugar cookies out of my hand in the yard, Ruth telling me how to get to the farm where they had just relocated their house, by turning south at “the tree”, Foard’s mules Dolly and Kitty I think their names were. His brother had a couple of paint draft mules. One named Bell from the shape of the patch on her rump. His wagon was a trick one so he could do “runaways”. My team were Betty and Bess and I know one was an appy and I could ride them to the feed hitch up area after I unharnessed them. At first I wished I had a larger team but with the weight of the harness, was glad that they weren’t taller. I had driven my dad’s draft horses many times but always had a stool to step on at home to get the hames over their backs. No stool on the prairie. Even got to ride Hazel a time or two. The guy who usually rode him could stand on the back of her saddle while she lumbered along and she was terribly head/ear shy. Then there was the Green Palace. I think Bob Atchison from Hayes drove it that year. He and a guy named Verlan maybe played guitar. and one of them could snap the heads off of rattle snakes with a bull whip. Barbie played the organ that summer and David’s wife [sorry forget her name] sang a beautiful rendition of How Great Thou Art with her. Saw my first tornado [thankfully on a day off and inside AND at a distance] as well as a dust storm while in a car at drive in movie in Hayes with several of the crew. Met a lovely couple from McComb Il, Harry and Rosie Toland and so glad I didn’t get Harry’s team as a couple of real hard mouthed beasts. A couple of girls from Belleville with whom I spent a holiday weekend with. Becky maybe one of their names? A teacher working there for the summer, Willis? A farrier DJ Strodtman from Ashland, Frank and Laura Parks from Iowa. The Wertz’s. The one room school house which was the remote kitchen. One memorable summer. If any of the crew want to reconnect, jennifersusanmoore@gmail.com or look for me on facebook Jenny Krish Moore

  • One of the most memorable family vacations I remember. My wife, my daughter and nephew (ages 9 and 10). And, it was all commemorated in the National Geographic Monthly School Bulletin of November 1970 (a great surprise for the children when the magazine was distributed in their class room). That’s Jeff (nephew) looking out of the stage coach window (on page 132 . . . now a doctor in Florida) and me (page 131) leading the wagon train. Wonderful memories!!!

  • Hi everyone. Wagons Ho was a dream come true for me. I was 16 in 1971 when I won a competition to travel from England with my mum, dad and sister and experience life as an American pioneer. This was in August 1971 and a Daily Mirror journalist with his family travelled with us. Was anyone on the same trip? I have photos and video of all those who helped the Hefners and the guests who were there at the time. Wonderful memories!

  • I was googling Wagons Ho, Quinter Kansas and found your blog. I went on this trip probably 40 years ago. My father was a tall man with a flat top that many of the Japanese tourists (yes, there were quite a few) kept calling “the Rifleman, pow pow pow”. There was a similarity in stature. Anyway, this brought back a lot of memories. I was trying to see if they were still in business.

  • Steve,
    I was just driving to colorado,a week or so ago and of all things ran out of gas. But it was east of quieter and the AAA man who brought the gas to me had know the family and had a few stories I think I captured on the old iPad. It had a hotspot so I’m not sure how I’m going to transfer them as this hotspot will be put to rest in two days, but look for this to show up somewhere easy, like Facebook. Friend me, s’il vous plait, it’s paula Elizabeth Graves and I’m attempting a forearm stand in front of the Kauffman center. At least the backdrop is in perfect asymmetrical balance!

    I can do random stuff on fb and not feel as responsible ( probably should be actually more responsible here….:)…). I guess I mean as responsible for some edit, some art, and some value that I like to think I will strive for in my own site. I mean its only FB… What are they food to do, sue me!?. This is a joke, I think it could happen!, remind me when u do friend request that you are Steve from the relative at wagons ho who posted on blog. Isn’t that funny and maybe scary that Japanese patrons were on wagon ho way back them….at least they appreciate rural culture and history! Rural….it’s a thankless job!

  • I just finished scanning a photo of my grandfather, Ralph Douglass of Scott City, kneeling at a fire on one of the early Wagons Ho trips.
    He also played one of the Indians. I was about 5 at the time, which would make it around 1967 time frame.
    I saw the picture of the donkey and wondered if it was the same one that I rode and sure enough it was. Wow, I can’t believe that Wagons Ho lasted all those years. I probably would have known more about it but my grandfather passed away shortly thereafter and didn’t hear any more of Wagons Ho until now when I Googled it and found that it ran for many years.

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  • Thanks everyone for these memories! My grandparents, Billy and Laura McWilliams, were friends of the Hefner’s and a day of Wagons Ho! was the highlight of each summer. The mentions of Foard Darnell and Frank and Laura Parks (and Rosie!) brought a flood of memories. My first crush was a cowboy named Dave when I was about 5. Thanks again, Hefners, for bringing the past to life for us.

    • Sylvia,
      Thank you for taking the time to both read and mostly to share your stories about Wagons Ho! And Hefner family. Weren’t those cowboys just the perfect (finest!!) samples of what one would dream? And the real thing, taking that time for all of us. I wonder now about the logistics as it really was a labor of love, your parents probably know more having been friends. They made it appear effortless and fun, but we all know what that took, rural and urban attendees alike. Thank you for the note. Paula

  • I went on the Wagons Ho back in 1971, with our Girl Scout troop.. It was a trip I will never forget. Dressing up as a cowgirl, indian raid, outdoor fire with breakfast cooked in the morning.. Sleeping under the stars, or in the wagon. My first experience on a horse, and cowboy Joe.. oh was a sight or a early teenager. Thank you for the memories.

    • Thank you for posting. Do you have any pictures? I would love to post anything anyone has, not sure how but I am getting some help with this website, finally. I know what you mean about the cowboys! Paula

    • Yes, those men were handsome, weren’t they? I think we remembered the same things and I did go into Jr. High so ending up later for 30 years on a ranch maybe wasn’t such a stretch. Thank you for sharing. I was a Girl Scout, too, want to do more posts about that, but I really remember brownies more.

  • i grew up in the Chicago area. In november 1973, i won a family vacation to wagons ho on WCFL radio in chicago..my family took the trip in august of 1974 and 75…had a great time…and my mom remembers the church service we had a castle rock……..

    • Loved seeing this note. Castle Rock is a memory of mine, also. I went to other monument rocks in Kansas and should do a post on those, as they are spectacular. Thanks for stopping. Paula

    • How fun that you “won” the trip! I’m sorry for responding to this so late, just now seeing it. That’s pretty big time that they were advertising so far afield. Did it blow your mind? I think the top of castle rock finally tumbled, but don’t quote me on that. Thank you for posting and sharing.

  • I loved reading all these posts. I grew up in Quinter and cooked for Wagons Ho when I was just out of high school. I have wonderful memories. I was 18 I think, and and many others. Loved working with all these wonderful people and meeting all the quests from all over the world. I started out as a helper then ended up in charge of lunch and supper. what an experience driving that old school bus all over there country roads. Hold very fond memories of Frank and Ruth, Ford and Nellie, Dave and Virginia and Barb. My bother also helped out. He helped in transfer of the green palace form site to site and many other jobs. In earlier times 4-H square dance group provided part of the evening entertainment. Sharon a high school friend of mine prepared and cooked the breakfast at the campsite each morning. I remember my Molasses Crinkle Cookies were Dave Hefners favorite. I had the Pleasure of meeting up with Virginia a couple years ago at a historical presentation about Wagons Ho a couple years ago.

    • Verla,
      Thank you so much for sharing of your experience with Wagons Ho. I cannot imagine what a huge undertaking it would be to ‘be in charge of lunch and supper’. I just remember that huge cast iron cookware and still have this image in my mind of what seemed like a 24″ diameter saucer of floating fried eggs all bubbley and yellow. Do you have any pictures? I think I could post here if you could send to me. BUt, mainly sharing the stories if fantastic so appreciate. I don’t remember “the green palace form” at all, what was that? What is your molasses Crinkle Cookie recipe? sounds great! Nothing tasted as good as that food after the day on the trail. Good work, woman, keep Kansas history alive. Later, Paula

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