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Architecture and History Make Magnolia Ranch a Fascinating Landmark

By Debbie Godwin

The Magnolia Ranch was originally purchased by three brothers named Lem, Pete and Bill Cook, around 1869. They later sold it to a man named John Keck, who lived there for two years and then sold it to a Colonel Green, a veteran of the Union Army. Colonel Green gave the ranch its name.

The ranch is located on the Walnut River near the center of Cowley county, about 10 miles southeast of Winfield.(Kansas) It is well described in one newspaper account as:

"The great Georgian pile with its tremendous stone barns..."

When Colonel Green lived there, orchards bordered the house, as well as, rows of hedges, formal gardens and stone barns. The outer buildings include two large barns, one used as a slaughterhouse and the other for grain storage. An ice house which store 10 to 12 tons of ice and a smokehouse which held up to 10 hogs, stood to the left of the house and were of small frame stonework. Set in between these two small buildings was a six-seater outhouse divided for men and women.

The ranch house itself is of Gregorian style architecture from the 18th century period in English history, which was popular in America from the 1700's to the time of the Revolutionary War and corresponds to the Renaissance in Europe. The stone of which the house and surrounding buildings are constructed was brought from bluffs near the river east of the ranch. In Colonel Green's day there was a veranda on the north, east and south sides of the house, with decorative shutters on the windows. The house still retains two cupolas on the roof. The date the house was built in inscribed on the east wall, set in the frame like the windows.

At present the exterior is somewhat different from the way Colonel Green had it. There are no orchards or hedges. These were not successful in adapting to the Kansas climate. The veranda and shutters are gone, but the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Jim McFarland, plan to restore them. The exterior buildings are still in original shape and original use.

The interior of the house has been remodeled, but wherever possible, the original woodwork was retained or matched. The attic has been enlarged to accommodate a recreation area, and is well lighted by daylight that enters through the two cupolas on the roof.

The upper floor had six rooms, but two were taken and converted into a master bedroom and bath, and two of the smallest rooms were converted into one large room. The hall extends from one end of the house to the other. The original bathroom was the first indoor bathroom in the county and had a copper bathtub with pipes that ran to the kitchen from where the water was pumped. It is also thought that there was a tank above the tub where water that was gathered from the roof and stored.

The walls of the house are two feet thick and originally there were 23 rooms and since remodeling, there are now 17 rooms. On the main floor there are nine rooms. In the drawing room, the windows are actually doorways which slide up like windows to pass through. The fireplace has been restored to its original appearance, and the walnut wainscoting follows the personality of the original woodwork.

The kitchen and dining area has been combined into one area for both purposes. There is a large bay window on the south wall and the fireplace has been restored also. The kitchen has been somewhat modernized with a microwave oven and a permanent grill-rack range. Leading off to the east side of the kitchen is one of the largest pantries I've ever seen and is still used as a pantry today.

McFarland's office has been attractively redone and at one time was also Colonel Green's office. There is a comparatively small fireplace and it, as well as three other fireplaces, still retain the original hearths.

There were originally two entrance halls, one which led to the kitchen and one to the dining area, for use by the field hands. The other entrance led into a formal foyer, which contained a beautiful stairway made of walnut.

Carpeting extends throughout the main floor, with the exception of the foyer, kitchen and utility room, which is adjacent to the pantry. The upper floor is also carpeted wall to wall. All of the woodwork that is original has been sandblasted and refinished or replaced due to deterioration. The ornate door hinges have been beautifully restored. One point brought out by Mrs. McFarland was the unique door pattern of the panels which was even followed to the doors in the barns and outside buildings. The pattern in the stone surrounding the windows is also followed similarly throughout the buildings.

The basement contains six large rooms; the floors are all stone and where there had once been dirt, the areas have been filled in with cement. There are very remarkable archways between the rooms and there is still a small area where a dumbwaiter had been. The purpose of this dumbwaiter was that when the field hands brought in produce from the fields, it was set in the dumbwaiter and lowered to be stored in the coolness of the basement.

The recent improvements made by the McFarlands involved a nine-month reconstruction period. The house is presently registered with the National Historical Society.

Perhaps the most colorful character in the history of this mansion is Colonel Arther H. Green. Being an Englishman, this greatly influenced the architecture in the house. His previous occupation was as a coffee broker in New York; he arrived in the Cowley county area as a middle-aged man with a peg leg made of cork (he had lost his leg during the Civil War in the Battle of Bull Run) and deposited 20,000 dollars in the bank, which he used to build his own personal empire.

Many people speculated that the house was built on such a grand scale because the colonel was bringing a bride from the east to live there. However, no bride ever appeared, and it is more likely that the colonel was building a house to meet his financial standing.

During the beginning construction of the house, a tent city was formed. All of the walnut used in the house and buildings was cut from the trees in this area, as well as stones cut from the surrounding bluffs. The only imported material was white pine from Abilene (Kansas), used in the barns and various door and window moldings.

The colonel originally stocked Black Galloway cattle, thoroughbred horses and mules. He also had a beautiful magnolia grove from which the ranch got its name.

The colonel was well known for his many lavish parties he held on Saturday nights. The orchestra would be set up in the staircase in the foyer, while 16 squares went dancing through the door-like windows. The approximate cost of these parties ran between $800 to $2,000 dollars.

Many myths stemmed from the hermit-like life of the colonel. One item particularly subject to rumors are the twin cupolas on the roof of the ranch house. Many people thought that they were for the purpose of a lookout for possible Indian attacks, but a more logical reason is that the purpose of the turrets was for the one legged colonel to climb up into them by using a seat and pulley system, and watch the field hands from there.

One interesting story told to me by Mrs. McFarland was that one day a man who worked for the colonel had stopped to rest his mule and give it a drink of water. After watching this the colonel went out to the field to ask the man why he had stopped working. The man replied that he had stopped to rest his mule. Retorted the colonel, "Keep working. We can always get another mule!"

There is one story which reports the colonel supposedly kept slaves in the dungeon like basement, but this is easily disregardable since the house wasn't completed until 20 years after the Civil War.

One of the more popular stories concerns the only child born into the mansion and the queer ceremony that the colonel insisted on performing. It seems that when the child of a former farmhand was born, he instructed the grandmother to carry the newborn to the attic immediately, so that the child would be sure to gain a high position in life.

Colonel Green eventually went broke and moved to San Diego, California, where he died. The land was divided and the property, along with the buildings, was bought by R.D. McKowen of Atlanta, Illinois. McKowen rented the ranch out for several years and eventually sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Kent Chesbro who did some restoration. Then Mr. and Mrs. McFarland bought the ranch house from the Chesbros, and the house is still in the restoration process.

The architectural design and captivating history of the Magnolia Ranch makes it one of the most interesting landmarks in Cowley county.

In the E2 spirit and style of Node Your Homework! I present to you a rather modest claim to fame and a deep wish that someone would have told me that using a dictionary and a thesaurus was not cheating on papers; oh for heaven's sake 'disregardable' is not even a word and I was verily close to a c,onniption fit if I had to type 'also' or 'which' one more time! Oh to have had an editor to gently revise me.

This and one other paper I did, Home Is Landmark in City, was submitted to my course teacher for a class called The History and Architecture of Winfield Kansas. The local newspaper the Winfield Daily Courier published this in their April 14th, 1976 edition. It was a great surprise and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I discovered Ms Rhoads had submitted and the paper and published it. Unfortunately, I was quite exasperated when it appeared to a large degree plagiarized by a reporter for the Wichita Eagle Beacon a week later. Being a young college student I didn't know what recourse to take, but a publisher from the Western Prairie magazine did have the great courtesy to call me and ask permission to publish the article to which I was more that happy to say yes to.

The most memorable image that comes to mind when I recall visiting the Magnolia Ranch was seeing the great collection of live peacocks the McFarlands kept, as well as, the rather sad and ghostly image of Colonel Green perched lonely and high in the pulley seat of his cupola peering through a telescope over the grand driveway lined with fragrant magnolias awaiting the woman he wished to marry. Update December 15,202: I received a message from Mountain Hoople saying, "According to stories I've heard, the baby may have been Federal Judge. George Templar of Arkansas City. If so, Col. Greens attic trick may have worked."

This website accessed December 15, 2020, supports Mountain Hoople's claim. Many thanks!


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