Council Grove, populated by some 3,000 persons who thrill to the opportunity of combining retention of the irrevocable events of history allowed their city even before it became the birthplace of the Old Santa Fe Trail in 1825 with the gloss of newness and modernity now in greater evidence, is the county seat of Morris county, Kansas and is the capital of the Flint Hills section that provides the best pasture land found any place in the world. The city in retrospect is quickly revealed to the hundreds of visitors to the shrines of its yesteryears each year, but the same rate of progress that allowed development in the trying times of pioneer days is noticeably prevalent.
Serving as a shopping center and outlet to one of the most prosperous and diversified farming areas in the state, Council Grove is flushed with progressive pride in its Fairmont Creamery plant which serves a large portion of Kansas, its Missouri Pacific railroad terminal, its Missouri-Kansas-Texas railway service, its two outstanding banking institutions, its new post office, its three modern school buildings and educational facilities, its daily newspaper, its two modern motels, its seven churches, its Rotary, Kiwanis, Business & Professional Women's clubs and other service organizations, its Carnegie Library, its high school athletic field and stadium, its golf course and Country Club house, its miles of paved streets and cement walks, its neat and comfortable homes and its many modern improvements, all of which blend with natural surroundings. It has a municipal water supply reservoir costing a quarter of a million dollars and impounding 10800 acre-feet of pure, soft lake water, and a municipal swimming pool that was constructed in 1947. A new grade school was completed in 1950, which was the 100th anniversary year of schools in Council Grove.
Approaching.the substantial, little city either from the east or from the west on United States Highway 56 the traveler, and the native as well, is impressed by the fact that he is following the course of the Santa Fe Trail that was established as a wagon route to the new west, and the ruts left by those slow moving trains that lumbered over the prairie are still visible in this vicinity in many places. In Council Grove he can see the Council Oak tree under which the agreement was signed on August 10, 1825, by commissioners for the government and by Chiefs of the Osage Indians to establish the Trail for "freighters" through the Indian lands, and he is interested also in the "Last Chance Store," which provided the last chance for the Pioneer travelers to supply themselves with bacon and beans before departing on the long trek to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Things To See In Historic Council Grove
- Father Padilla's Monument: 1545
A historian, Moto Padilla, writes: Starting from the Quiverian village, the good priest, after ignoring the advice of his friends and guides was more than a day's journey from the village Quivera when from a hilltop, he saw a band of warlike Indians approaching, and sensing the danger of attack, he urged his companions to escape, as they were on horseback, and take with them the ornaments and oblates of the church. Kneeling in prayer, he met his death Christmas night, 1545. His attendants returned to the scene and buried him and covered his resting place with innumerable stones which form a crude monument. First Christian martyr of North America - first missionary to the natives of Kansas, made the great sacrifice 65 years before settlement of Jamestown and 78 years before landing of Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
- Council Oak: 1825
Because of the need for a marked road, the government signed a treaty with the Osage Indians under the Council Oak for a right-of-way, thus giving birth to the Santa Fe Trail. In 1827 Kit Carson cut the name of "Council Grove" on a buffalo hide and nailed it on the Council Oak and from this Council Grove received its name.
- Post Office Oak: 1825-1847
Mammoth Oak tree with a cache at its base. This crude but definitely satisfactory post office served the pack trains and caravans from 1825 to 1847. In later years sweethearts used this cache to leave messages for each other.
- Indian Reservation: 1847
Kaw Indians were brought to the reservation surrounding Council Grove. This reservation was the boyhood home of Charles Curtis, former vice-president of the United States.
- Old Kaw Mission: 1849--First Indian and White School
1847 government moved the Kaw Indians here beside the Trail from their reservation near Topeka. 1849 Methodist Episcopal Church, South, from funds furnished by U. S. Government constructed a mission of native stone. 1851 first all-white school in Kansas was organized and also under supervision of Mr. and Mrs. T. S. Huffaker, the First Sabbath School between Shawnee Mission and Denver, Colorado was taught here.
This was purchased by the Kansas legislature and is now a state museum. Objects in this Mission show of the early days of Council Grove. Also, objects of the old Santa Fe Trail are stored here. This beautiful building was one of the first erected in Kansas and it is indeed fitting that it today should be the display place of our early pioneer life. Mr. Huffaker taught the Indians and white children here and his son lives now in Council Grove.
- Old Indian House:
The government built these huts for the Indians on the reservation. This one has been moved in from the old reservation. This was the house for the Indians. But the Indians used the homes for their horses and lived in their tents. Many early settlers lived in these huts later on. Several of the huts still stand South of Council Grove.
- Last Chance Store: 1857
Opportunities of this store were very ably described by a pioneer as follows: Here the Kaws and other Indians traded buffalo robes, deer and wolf skins, and other peltries for coveted things. Here everything needed was kept from a cambric needle to complete frontier outfit and every luxury could be obtained from a cathartic pill to a cask of whiskey. Here was the last chance to buy sow-belly, beans and other supplies on the trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Hays Tavern: 1857
Seth Hays, great grandson of Daniel Boone and cousin of Kit Carson, built Old Hays Tavern, which is second oldest on Santa Fe Trail.
Erected on site of his first log cabin. With the exception of a tavern in Arrow Rock, Missouri this is oldest on Santa Fe Trail. It has been the scene of much colorful drama for within its walls court has convened, theatricals have been produced, church socials held, caravans outfitted, liquor dispensed, politicians have exhorted, besides all the good food that has been served to its varied clientele-Indians, hunters, plainsmen, freighters, cowboys, soldiers, and statesmen.
- Hermit's Cave:
Matteo Boccalini, "Hermit of the Trail" was a Franciscan friar. Upon his arrival here-to effect a bit of atmosphere for his temporary dwelling he immediately erected a cross. People who lived farther down the hillside have recounted hearing him strumming his mandolin and singing his vespers. Born on island of Capri, educated in Rome, was disheartened because the Jesuits interferred with his appointment as secretary to the Pope. To find solace in the world, he came to America and wandered from one Indian tribe to another teaching the gospel and administering the last sacrament to the people of the Trail.
- Custer Elm: 1867
General Custer bargained with the Indians for 160 acres surrounding the tree. One of largest Elms in the U. S. being over sixteen feet in circumference and approximately a hundred feet high. Under this Elm General Custer camped with his men shortly before his tragic massacre by Sitting Bull.
- Old Bell Monument: 1863
Brought here in 1863. For 40 years called people to church, summoned children to school, warned of approaching floods, fires, and Indian raids. In 1901, as a tribute to its service, it was placed on a permanent monument on Belfry Hill forever overlooking Council Grove on the Trail.
- Madonna of the Trail: 1928
Old Santa Fe Trail camp ground now known as Madonna Park. In each of the twelve states through which the National Old Trails Road passes, the D.A.R. erected a monument, the Madonna of the Trail. Council Grove on Santa Fe Trail judged most historical town in Kansas was chosen as the logical site for the marker in this state.
- Unknown Indian Monument:
Under this large monument, located southeast of Council Grove, is buried the unknown Indian. This monument stands on a hill where the old Indian reservation was located. The remains of the unknown Indian was found buried close to this spot. The monument commemorates the redman who made this valley his home.
- Jim Kansan:
Here in Council Grove has been developed the personage known as Jim Kansan or "The Spirit of Kansas." Kansan compares somewhat to Paul Bunyan of the north except that Jim Kansan was a lot rougher, tougher and better than Bunyan. He plowed the Mississippi River with the nose of Bunyan with the Blue Ox hitched to the ears of Paul Bunyan.
- Highway US 56:
This US 56 now follows the "Old Santa Fe Trail." This is the most historical route in the world being the "Original Santa Fe Trail." For the most and finest historical trip, travel Highway 56. This follows the old ruts of the Santa Fe Trail and Highway 56 is the safest, shortest, most historical, and fastest. It is the scenic route through Kansas.
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