The Museum is housed in the 1915 Bates County Poor Farm and sits on 34 acres of land on the outskirts of Butler. Artifacts from Osage arrowheads to Minuteman Missiles trace the history of the area.
Bates County is home of the Battle of Island Mound that was fought in October 1862 and marked the first time African-American soldiers fought in the Civil War when the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry fought local guerrillas. A large mural and three interpretive panels tell the story of that battle and of Federal Military Order No. 11, issued in 1863 mandating the total removal of the entire population followed by burning towns and farms by Union soldiers. The Museum also provides research assistance into their archives and genealogical family records.
Eight exhibit rooms and a large TimeLine Room show how people lived and worked: American Indian artifacts, Civil War, coal mining, pioneer memorabilia, Veterans, Cold War missile silos and other displays. Sci-Fi legend Robert Heinlein, born in Butler is highlighted. A one-room schoolhouse (Nyhart School) can be toured. There is a barn with agriculture displays. A threshing crew cook shack wagon is also on the grounds.
Open April-October. Closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.