This tour describes the development of the Santa Fe Trail in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. Included is information concerning the geographical and political influences on the trail as well as key events in the area's history.
The National Trails Sstem Act of 1968, and subsequent amendments provides Congress with the authority to designate Scenic and Historic Trails that are nationally significant to be a part of the National Trails System. The purpose of the Act is to commemorate and preserve these national resources for the enjoyment of the American public.
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail was authorized by Congress as one of the twenty-three trails in the National Trails System in 1987, because it was a "Highway Betweenn Nations" at a time when trade was important to our country.
In addition, the Santa Fe Trail is a member of the Partnership for the National Trails System, which is the family of support groups that comprise this national partnership. We remain nationally significant!
Let's Get Started Down The Old Road to Santa Fe
One of the key issues to the trail system in the Kansas City area is that both the Independence and Westport Routes were part of the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail and the California Trail. The two routes came from the two outfitting towns and met just west of Gardner, Kansas. At approximately the same point, the Oregon-California Trail branched off the older Santa Fe Trail.
Interestingly enough, both Independence and Westport, the key outfitting towns in this area, were not on the Missouri River (Independence was about three miles south of the river and Westport about four miles south). Their locations were established by other criteria; Independence because of its high ground, watered by springs and intersected by early Indian trails. Westport was located one mile from the border of Missouri on an early road from the Indian Agency near the border to take advantage of the Indian trade after the 1830 Indian Removal Act which relocated tribes west of the border and which put money into their hands.
The Independence Route of the Santa Fe-Oregon-California trails came diagonally across the southeast corner of the Bannister Mall parking lot heading southwest through the 'Grandview Triangle' toward the Big Blue River Crossing near the 'Red Bridge' at about 110th Street.
In the valley to the south is Hart (Heart) Grove Creek, which was a trail camping area. The Donner-Reed party camped here in 1846. Hiram Miller, a member of the party, wrote in his diary "Camped on Heart Grove Jackson County near the Indian line twenty-five miles from Independence on the Big Blue."
Marion Park is in the valley and is named for Ewing Kauffman's original company called Marion Laboratories, whose home office was the buildings to the east. The company now is part of Hoechst Marion Roussel. New trail interpretive panels have been installed with help from the National Park Service.
The Big Blue River
The Big Blue River valley to your left was the first hurdle for wagon trains starting at Independence. The Independence Route of the Santa Fe, Oregon, California Trail went basically south on the ridges between the Little Blue River east of Independence and the Big Blue River, both of which came from the south and a little west to drain into the Missouri River. They had to decide where to come off the ridge and cross the Big Blue River. The early crossing of the Big Blue was 151st St. at the state line. Later, the preferred crossing in the 1840's and 1850's was at the 'Red Bridge' crossing' at 110th St.
There was a difficult crossing near 27th & Topping used as a local road from Independence to the Indian Agency at 45th and State Line starting in the late 1820s. Until it was bridged about 1850, wagons avoided it. After the bridge was built, it continued to be used as a local road.
The Ridges Between The Two Rivers
Between the Big Blue River and the Square at Independence is a series of ridges between the two rivers. At the top of the Blue Ridge looking east on any of the three main roads into Independence from the west (23rd Street, Truman Road or Highway 24), it is easy to see the hills and valleys ahead. This is why the trails do not run east-west in our area. All the streams run south-north to drain into the eastward flowing Missouri River.
At Rock Creek is Hill Park with Frank James' grave (d. 1915). After his trial and acquittal, he married a local school teacher, Ann Ralston. This was their family farm; in fact, Frank and Ann lived in the large white family farmhouse on Sterling just north of 23rd Street. She is buried with him in the small stone cemetery in Hill Park (d. 1943).
After passing Ralston St., notice Westport Rd. running at an angle. This is the Independence-Westport Road that crossed the Big Blue at 27th/Topping.
The Battle Of Westport In October, 1864
The Battle of Westport was the focal battle of Confederate General Sterling Price's attempt in 1864 to divert the Union's attention from the siege around Richmond. Pricee (known affectionately by his troops as 'Old Pap') had been Governor of Missouri from 1853 to 1857. By 1864, he weighed about 350 pounds and wasn't able to sit on a horse, and instead rode all summer and fall in a carriage. Nevertheless, he recruited a ragtag army of Arkansas Volunteers and headed north into Missouri in an apparent attempt to reach Ft. Leavenworth.
Price crossed the Little Blue River in eastern Jackson County on Friday morning, Octover 21, 1864. He battled his way across Independence, up and over every ridge as discussed above, against General Blunt's troops and camped on Rock Creek Friday night. The Union thought Price might try to cross into Kansas City at the 27th and Topping crossing discussed above, or maybe near Truman Road (15th St.) on Saturday, October 22, 1864. But he crossed down at Byram's Ford (63rd St.) under extremely heavy fire, with General Alfred Pleasanton in pursuit. Price sent Jo Shelby, the magnificent Cavalry General, toward Westport to hold the Union Army, while he made his escape Sunday afternoon to the south on the Military Road with all his wagonloads of booty. Thus ended the three-day Battle of Westport.
The Independence Route
The Independence Route used Independence as the outfitting point and then headed south on the Blue Ridge. Since Jackson County streams and rivers run south to north to drain into the Missouri River, going straight west would have meant going up and down and crossing all these streams, inclucing the very difficult Big Blue River, within a couple of miles of its mouth. By going south on the Blue Ridge that runs between the Big Blue and Little Blue Rivers, no streams would need to be crossed.
The first crossing was at the Big Blue. In the early Santa Fe Trail days in the 1820s and 1830s, the crossing was basically at about 151st and State Line. By about 1840, the crossing was at about 110th Street at the 'Red Bridge'.
The Upper Independence (Wayne City) Landing
Founded soon after the startup of Independence in 1827 (although the exact date is obscure), the Upper Independence Landing was one of two landings serving Independence; the other being the Blue Mills or Lower Independence Landing to the northeast. However, by the early 1830s the Upper Independence Landing dominated over the Blue Mills Landing for traffic bound for the new county seat ot Independence.
The Upper Independence Landing (also known in later years as the Wayne City Landing) saw many of the people destined for the west climb its rocky bluff over the three decades of its existence. In 1833 Jotham Meeker, Baptist missionary, brought the first printing press used in the state of Kansas (then Indian Territory) ashore here at this landing. In 1838, Missionary Cushing Eels and his group stepped ashore here on their journey to their mission near Walla Walla, WA. Thousands of emigrants for Oregon and California started their journey west right here in the 1840s. '49ers struggled up this bluff in the great exodus to California in 1849.
The great flood of 1844 caused some damage to the landing, although it continued to receive considerable use throughout the 1840s. Through the 1830s, Independence was the main outfitting point for Santa Fe traders. But through the decade of the 1840s, as the opportunities for commerce continued to expand to Santa Fe and the stream of emigrants headed for Oregon and California increased, Westport and its river landing at the foot of Main Street eight miles west of here began to provide serious competition for Independence. By the 1850s, the Westport Landing largely supplanted the Independence landings.
The landings along the Missouri River competed vigorously. The Upper Independence Landing competed with the older Blue Mills Landing (ca. 1832 - 5 miles east and much easier), Liberty Landing also east of here, and especially with Westport Landing at the Town of Kansas. The 1844 flood washed everything away, but the Landing built back.
In 1849, Independence merchants financed a mule-drawn railroad around the bluff through Sugar Creek, to make it easier for emigrants and freight, called the Independence and Missouri River Railroad. This was the first railroad in Missouri; it was not a successful operation and shut down in 1852.
Wayne City was platted in 1847 on the bluffs, but never amounted to much, especially after cholera victims were housed in the so-called 'Pest house'. Foundations of some of these structures still exist on the bluff.
The actual landing area was near the Lafarge Cement buildings down to the east of the overlook where the marker is. The trail went up in a draw between the overlook and LaFarge. Today's road is constructed on a sidehill, which the wagons could not do.
The Missouri River was much different 150 years ago. It was not channeled or leveed into a straight clear channel as it is today. It covered much of the flood plain as pools, channels, oxbow lakes, with a main channel that was full of sandbars, tree stumps and other debris. In the spring it flooded violently and during some years in the fall and winter, it could be waded and crossed easily. The water was slower moving, dirtier, shallower, and usually froze over in the winter, which it could never do today.
Francis Parkman in 1846 said "Parties of emigrants, with their tents and wagons, were encamped on open spots near the bank on their way to the common rendezvous at Independence."
William G. Johnston arrived in the spring of 1849 aboard the Sacramento and said ". . .we reached a diminutive village glorying in the name of Wayne City, the landing place for the town of Independence, which lay four miles inland. Two hours later, having deposited us and our goods on shore. . . . . we busied ourselves in putting the wagon together, as for convenience of transportation they had taken it apart when shipped at Pittsburg".
A person known only as 'C. M. S.', writing from Independence on March 31, 1853 (at about the end of the Oregon-California Trail migration from here) said "[Independence Landing is. . . . ] graded and set with stone, and accessible at all stages of water. The road up the bluff is also graded, and now nearly McAdamized." (Note: 'macadam' is an early name applied to road surfaces that were hard packed and contained broken stone or gravel.)
The Liberty Street Route From The Upper Landing
This was the early route to the Square from the Upper Independence Landing (also known as the Wayne City Landing). This street also was the connection up to the town of Liberty on the north bank of the Missouri River, thus its name. Liberty was founded in 1821, before the strip south of the River that contains Jackson County all the way down to Arkansas was purchased from the Osage Indians in 1825. Independence was founded in 1827, and settled on a name that was noble sounding like Liberty. Liberty's county was Clay County, named after Henry Clay, architect of the 1820 Missouri Compromise which allowed Missouri into the Union. Not to be outdone, Jackson County was named for the hero Andrew Jackson, who was elected President in 1828.
The River Boulevard Route From The Upper Independence Landing
This was the main route down to the Square in later years after the trees were cleared and the route improved. The horse/mule railroad entered onto the trail down near the Square after circling around to the west through Sugar Creek. The Trail makes a wide sweep from River Boulevard toward the Square. It goes close to William McCoy's house on Farmer Street, built by him in 1856. He was Independence's first mayor in 1849, when Independence was finally incorporated.
Harry Truman's Early Homes
At Waldo and River Boulevard at #909 was one of Harry Truman's boyhood homes. Built in 1886, it was bought by John and Martha Truman in 1895 when Harry was eleven. They lived here until Harry was 18, so Harry's teenage years were spent here.
Harry was born of John Anderson and Martha Ellen Truman in Lamar, MO May 8, 1884 in a house that is still open for tours and diedf December 26, 1972 at age 88. His paternal grandparents were Anderson Shipp and Mafy Jane Holmes Truman, who had come from Kentucky. When he was small, the family moved to Grandview and lived with his maternal grandparents Solomon and Harriet Louisa Gregg Young on a farm that is owned by the National Park Service and is currently open for tours.
From age six, Harry's family had lived in a two-story house abuot a half mile south of here at 619 Crysler. After leaving this Waldo home, the family moved briefly to 909 Liberty before moving to Kansas City.
Elizabeth Virginia (Bess) Wallace
Bess was born to David Willock and Margaret Elizabeth (Gates) Wallace in 1885 just south of the Square on Ruby Street just west of Main Street. When she was two, the family moved to a more upscale location on Delaware at #608. This was only a couple of blocks from where Harry lived during their teen-age years. Harry met Bess in a Sunday School at First Presbyterian Church on Maple Street when he was eight, so they were neighborhood kids together. However, Bess was part of the upper class and was always invited to the best parties; but not Harry.
Bess was the only girl that Harry ever had affection for. It is one of the great love stories. Hundreds of Harry's love letters survive and are in the Truman Library.
When Bess was eighteen in 1903, her father, who was an alcoholic, committed suicide in the Delaware house. On this lot today is a brick replacement house with the number 610. His suicide was a terrible blow to the family and Bess and her mother Madge moved to the presidential home with her grandmother Elizabeth Emery Gates.
The Truman Home
On the southeast corner of Delaware and Truman Road at #219 is the President's large three-story house. It was built in 1867 by George Porterfield Gates, Bess's maternal grandfather. Although Bess Wallace came from a well-to-do family, Harry did not. The Gates family were part owners of the Waggoner-Gates Mill which is now the National Frontier Trails Center. This was the only home Harry ever owned. He was famous for taking his daily walk along the surrounding city streets.
The Square was platted in late 1826 by John Bartleson (the Bidwell-Bartleson party), Richard Fristoe and Abraham McClelland. It was situated on the highest ground in the eastern Jackson County. Water supply was no problem because this hill is surrounded by springs. For this reason it was an intersection of early Indian trails. When the road around the square was built, it called for the tree stumps to be no more than eight inches high, which was the normal road building specification of the time.
The trail from the Blue Mills Landing and both the Liberty and River Boulevard routes came to the Square. From the Square, two routes went south. One went on down Main Street on the east side of the Square, veered to the east onto Noland Road, and made a sweep to the west to join the other route at about 41st and Crysler. The most used route went south along Liberty Street toward the Bingham-Waggoner House and south along McCoy Street. However, the entire area was full of campgrounds and wagon trains forming up, because there were springs all around. A large spring was located between the Square and the National Frontier Trails Center. A grist mill operated by John Overfelt, whose 1850 brick house at Pleasant and Walnut still exists, was on the creek which emanated from that spring.
The square was surrounded by blacksmith shops and stores of all kinds that met the outfitting needs of thousands of emigrants and Santa Fe Trail traders and freighters. The Aull brothers, Lexington merchants, had a store on the west side of the square.
George McKinstry in May of 1846 said "I find that the best place to fit out is at Independence. Oxen can be had at $25 per yoke, mules or horses from $30 to $40 per head, flour this year $4 per barrel."
Francis Parkman in May 1846 said "The town was crowded. A multitude of shops had sprung up to furnish the emigrants and Santa Fe traders with necessaries for their journey; and there was an incessant hammering and banging from a dozen blacksmiths' sheds, where the heavy wagons were being repaired and horses and oxen shod."
Andrew Duhring said on May 5, 1849 "In Independence I was lucky to meet what is considered here with very good accommodations, a room and part of a bed, a table, what is good enough for me a 75 cents per day board. The last two nights, we have been sleping six persons in a small room with two beds."
"The town is mixed up and full of people I believe from every state of the Union, all dressed in the different equipments for California. Indeed, it looks more what I have imagined like a Mexican town. Many are old, hardy mountaineers that go as guides or teamsters to the different companies. . . ."
"Coffee houses and groceries are crowded, and the many intoxications I meet with is really distressing to a great extent. This place must reap a great harvest from the long delay all have been subjected to, on account the weather having been long and very cold and the grass not sufficiently grown to justify any to start before the 10th of May."
Ironically, our two principal outfitting towns of Independence (three miles) and Westport (four miles), were located away from the Missouri River. Westport was located on the road from Independence to the Indian Agency at about 45th and State Line.
Some say the Courthouse Rock in western Nebraska on the Oregon-California Trail was so named because of this courthouse, but everyone else's hometown courthouse probably looked similar.
This final structure was completed in 1933 during Harry Truman's term as Jackson County Presiding Judge (Chair of County Commissioners), after many additions through the years from the original in the early 1830s. The original 1827 log courthouse still exists, which was built as a temporary structure a block southeast of here.
The Oregon Trail Markers
At the northwest corner of the square is the magnificent granite Oregon Trail marker erected by the County in 1948. Not quite as magnificent, but still meaningful, is the small Oregon Trail National Park Service logo marker facing west, dedicated in 1986 by the Trails Head Chapter of OCTA as the first one on the trail. It has been subsequently replaced by Trails Head Chapter.
Andrew Jackson Statue
There was some sentiment to call Jackson County 'Blue County'. But Richard Fristoe, one of the early leaders here, had served under Jackson in New Orleans, and his brother Thomas married Andrew Jackson's daughter Nancy. Who says blood is not thicker than 'blue water'!
The Daughters Of The American Revolution Santa Fe Trail Markers
There are twenty-eight 1909 DAR Santa Fe Trail markers in Missouri from Franklin to the Kansas state line. They are similar in size, but there is one large special DAR/Missouri Highway Department marker in Buckner on Highway 24. This highway was built in 1913 which is the date on the marker. The multiple marker notes the boundary of the 1808 military reservation and also the 1876 date of the 'cross state highway' designation. It is made of three granite blocks from an old Santa Fe Bridge on the ATSF Railroad.
The Daughters of the American Revolution have marked countless historical sites and trails across the country in their 100+ years of existence. The DAR Santa Fe Trail project began in Kansas just after the turn of the century to mark the trail while it was still reasonably fresh, having been used into the 1870s. Money was raised by the Kansas Chapter and 96 stones were placed all across the state in the 1906-1908 period. Soon after, the Colorado Chapter placed 32, and New Mexico placed about 20 on the Santa Fe Trail. The Missouri Chapter in 1909 had 28 of these larger rectangular stones (plus one special one in Buckner) made for the Santa Fe Trail and they were all placed from its starting point in Franklin to the Kansas border by 1912. They were all dedicated on the same day in May, 1913. Similar markers were placed on the Boonslick road from Franklin to St. Charles and were dedicated in October, 1913. Also, similar markers were placed on the El Camino Real which was the early road along the Mississippi River from St. Charles to the 'bootheel' near Carruthersville. They were dedicated in 1917. Thus, the DAR has placed a continuous line of markers from the southeast corner of Missouri all the way to Santa Fe.
Only two of the Missouri markers have been moved over the years, because they are very big and heavy, unlike the Kansas DAR markers which are easier to move. The Tabo Creek Crossing maker was moved into Lexington at the Madonna. In recent years, it is now back at the crossing; on top of the hill to the east on Hwy 24. The other one is the Ish marker east of Levasy.
Jackson County Pioneers Marker
Joseph Boggs - Part of the Boggs family
Isaac Drake - Later the coroner
William Moore - Early settler in Little Blue valley
Ledston Noland - Part of a family of early residents in Jackson County that included Smallwood Noland who bought the log courthouse in 1831 and sold it to Mormon Algernon Gilbert the next year. Smallwood led, unsuccessfully, a party of men in 1849 to find gold 160 miles west on the Kansas River. Smallwood also owned the Noland House Hotel on the north side of the square where Clinton's Drugstore is today.
Maj. George Champlin Sibley - Factor at Ft. Osage and completed the Sibley survey of the Santa Fe Trail for the U. S. Government in 1825-27
Mary Easton Sibley - George's young wife.
Wm. Miles Chick - One of the earliest residents of the county. Bought John Calvin McCoy's trading post in Westport in 1836 and built a residence and warehouse at Westport Landing (Town of Kansas) in 1843, and was the first postmaster of Town of Kansas.
Richard Fristoe - One of three first county judges, state legislature, grandfather of Cole Younger.
Lilburn Boggs - Early governor of Missouri, who said in 1838 that he would not 'protect' the Mormons any longer. They immediately fled from north central Missouri to Nauvoo, Ill. In 1842 he was mysteriously shot and wounded through his house window. His son Thomas founded Boggsville on the Santa Fe Trail near Las Animas Colorado, which has now been substantially restored.
Jacob Ragan - One of the fourteen founders of Town of Kansas.
Lynchburg Adams - Born in Lynchburg, VA, his farmhouse still stands near Atherton
Samuel Lucas - Helped lead an expedition to Santa Fe in 1827 that included fourteen-year-old Kit Carson. Later was a county judge.
Harry Truman Statue & 1859 Jail
On the east side of the square, national politicians often speak in front of it. On the northeast corner of the square is the Clinton Drugstore, where Harry had his first job as a boy. in 1898 sweeping and cleaning bottles. He made $3.00 a week. On down the street to the north is the 1859 Jail on the right where Frank James and William Quantrill were held prisoner.
Robert Weston Blacksmith Shop
At the southeast corner of Kansas and Liberty Streets, this was the last surviving blacksmith shop from trail days. It was built in the 1830s and torn down about 1920. Robert Weston, son of the builder ran it for many years and it was typical of the extensive wagon-building operations in Independence.
Hiram Young was a Tennessee slave whose master paid him for his work. He bought not only his own freedom, but also his wife's and they came to Independence. He built a carpenter shop for building wagons on north Liberty Street and became famous among the westward travelers for the quality of his wagons. His shop was burned in the Civil War as he sought safety in Fort Leavenworth. He rebuilt and became wealthy enough to begin a school for black children. A park and street are named for him.
He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery with the inscription: "After leading a useful life, d. Jan 22, 1882, aged 59 years". His wife Matilda is also there, d. Feb. 23 1896, aged 72 years.
The 1827 Log Courthouse
Now located on Kansas Street just west of Main, it was built on the southeast corner of Lexington and Lynn Streets in the fall of 1827 for $150 by contractor Daniel Pennington Lewis and his slave Sam Shepherd, who later escaped and died in Lawrence at 105. It was a 2-room 18' x 36' structure with a 'puncheon' floor (split logs hewed one side). 'Temporary' until a permanent one on the Square could be built, it had a tall metal steeple on top, which made it unique locally.
Mormon Algernon Sydney Gilbert purchased it in December, 1831 from Smallwood Noland and lived in it and ran an attached store. The store was burned by locals in 1833 during the Mormon purge. The original structure survived and it was moved to its present location in 1916. A schoolhouse was later attached to the back, and this addition still remains. Harry Truman (as Jackson County Presiding Judge) had county meetings in it in 1932-33.
The Mormon Properties
On the various corners of Walnut and River Boulevard are properties of various branches of the Mormon Church that speak of the history of the Mormon Church in Jackson County.
The Mormon Church under Joseph Smith Jr. migrated here in 1831 from Ohio and bought 63 acres from Jones Flournoy, whose house (1826) is across the street to the north (moved there from another location). Smith dedicated this site as the new Temple site. However, the Mormons were run out of Jackson County in 1833 to north Missouri and all their farms and property including this site was essentially forfeited. They were run out of there and went to the east bank of the Mississippi at Nauvoo, Illinois. Smith was killed in the Carthage jail in 1844 and many of the Mormons (LDS) went to Salt Lake under the leadership of Brigham Young in 1846-7.
After the Civil War, a group of Mormons called the Hedrickites returned and bought this Temple site property and began an independent branch called 'The Church of Christ, Temple Lot', which still exists on this property today. In recent years, an arsonist burned the wood frame building and this is a replacement building. Many of the Hedrick family is buried in a small family plot in eastern Independence. The original cornerstones have been relocated and marked on the square block of the Temple site lawn, which is the northwest corner of Walnut and River Boulevard.
Independence is the National Headquarters of the Reorganized Latter Day Saints Church (now known as the Community of Christ). This is the branch that remained loyal to the founder Joseph Smith family after his death, and didn't go to Salt Lake in 1846-47 from Nauvoo, Ill. The Reorganized Latter Day Saints Church was organized in 1873. The cornerstone of the Stone Church on the north side of Lexington was laid by Joseph Smith III in 1887. On the northeast corner of Walnut and River is the Reorganized Latter Day Saints Temple, completed in 1994. On the southwest corner is the Reorganized Latter Day Saints Tabernacle, finished in 1962.
On the southeast corner of the intersection is a Utah Mormon (Latter Day Saints) Visitor Center and Church.
The National Frontier Trails Museum
Dedicated in 1990, the Museum, along with the water tower, is what remains of the old Waggoner-Gates Mill that was famous for making 'Queen City Flour'. A series of fires decades ago decimated the structure. The wing not destroyed has been renovated and is now operated by the City of Independence as the museum.
It is one of the best trail research libraries on the westward movement and the historic trails. The library includes various collections including the Merrill Mattes collection. Exhibits inside interpret the Santa Fe, Oregon, California and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trails. In recent years, the Chicago and Alton Depot has been moved to the site which enables the museum to also interpret railroad history. A wonderful film, trail artifacts, wagons, murals and a staffed gift shop are part of the visitor experience. John Mark Lambertson is the archivist and director.
Swales South Of The Bingham-Waggoner House
These swales were first noted and documented by Jackson County Historical Society archivist Pauline Fowler of Independence, Missouri in the 1970s--Pauline marked out the various survey points of the trail as it left the Square and used a court case that attempted to stop wagons from crossing private property in the area. Though fairly faint, nearly a dozen adjacent swales are located in the right place and apparently on a lot that has not been cultivated.
By the early 1840s, the trail had been directed along Osage, Linden and McCoy streets, but before that time the wagons were not prevented from taking this short cut across private property. At that time, the city limits of Independence were Pacific Street on the south side of the Museum.
The Bingham-Waggoner House itself was built ca. 1856 by John Lewis, who had owned the property since 1845. Artist George Caleb Bingham bought it in 1864 and had his studio in a small separate building here (now gone) where he painted his famous painting Order #11. He sold the property in 1870. It was bought by the Waggoner family in 1876, owners of the Waggoner-Gates Mill across the street where the Museum is today. The City of Independence bought it from the family in recent years and it is open for regular tours.
Swale Near Santa Fe Trail Park
South of 31st Street just south of the park on a vacant lot owned by Reorganized Latter Day Saints Church is a swale going up to the southwest. About 100 yards farther southwest there is a faint swale visible down toward Santa Fe Terrace into the trees, merging with Santa Fe Trail Street. Before a couple of houses were built in recent years, this was a continuous swale 250 yards long.
The Trail On Blue Ridge Boulevard
Starting on about 44th Street the Independence Route of the Santa Fe, Oregon-California Trail is essentially on Blue Ridge Boulevard. Blue Ridge Boulevard is located on the Blue Ridge which comes from the north-northwest. The trail comes in riding the ridge from Independence Square. At this point the ridges meet and the trail follows the Blue Ridge for the next forty blocks or so (about five miles).
In recent years, several green Boy Scouts Santa Fe Trail signs (only 5-6 left) have been erected all along Blue Ridge Boulevard. Just recently, the City of Raytown has installed some new blue Santa Fe Trail 1849 street signs as well.
The William Ray blacksmith shop site (built ca. 1849) was located near 63rd and Raytown Road. It was the beginning of the City of Raytown, named of course for Ray.
On the southeast corner of 66th and Blue Ridge Boulevard is one of the oldest wood frame houses in the Kansas City area. Built in 1844 by Archibald Rice on this 160 acre claim he had owned since 1836, which grew to 700 acres, it was a frequent stop by trail travelers to camp and buy goods.
Matt Field, stopping at the 1839 house (that preceded this one by a few years) on October 30, 1839 wrote ". . . . took lunch of corn bread and milk at Farmer Rice's. . . ."
Amos Josselyn wrote in his California Trail diary on April 25, 1849 "Left camp at 8 1/2 o'clock and drove to Mr. Rice's (6 miles) where corn was pleanty at 1.25 per bll."
A lot of 1849 diaries mention the house, but when Archibald died in 1849, the son Coffee owned it from 1850 on, and he discouraged emigrants from stopping here. He blamed a couple of 1849 cholera deaths on the emigrants. So there are no more mentions of emigrants stopping here after 1849.
Coffee raised his family here. His wife Kitty had a slave named 'Aunt Sophie', who did the cooking in her cabin. She was highly thought of by the community and died in 1896. The log cabin on the property is called 'Aunt Sophie's cabin'. As a result, for many years, the property and house was known for Aunt Sophie.
Coffee died in 1903 and Judge Joseph Lowe owned it. He was the first President of the National Old Trails Road Association and was instrumental in supporting the DAR in marking the Santa Fe Trail across Missouri. Harry Truman became President of the National Old Trails Road Association in 1924 and served several years.
Dr. Louis Tremonti bought it in 1930, had his medical practice here, and added some rooms onto the house. The Friends of Rice-Tremonti was formed to raise funds to purchase the house from Dr. Tremonti's widow in 1988 and preserve the home. They continue to operate it. Now a Raytown City Park, it is a Certified Site on the Santa Fe and California National Historic Trails.
Cave Spring Park & Interpretive Center
The Park was originally a part of the Barnes farm. The Barnes farmhouse was located about 100 yards east on about 72nd Street. It may have been operated after 1849 by Col. Grant as a store and tavern. The house burned in the early 1920s.
William Henry Glasgow, on his way to Santa Fe with his merchant brother Edward James, wrote on Thursday June 4, 1846 "On Sunday morng (June 1) we started and got on pretty well until dark overtook us at Mr. Barne's place 8 miles from town where we encamped and placed our animals all in his pasture."
Just a few days later, Susan MaGoffin in her wonderful Santa Fe Trail diary recorded that on June 9, 1846 ". . . between the hours of 3 and 4 we left the little village of Independence for the residence of Mr. Barnes, a gentleman some ten miles this side of that place. Here we procured a night's lodging preparatory to a final departure. They were very kind to us. Mrs. Barnes claims a relationship with me through the Harts; be it so or not I can't tell."
This is the 'Blue Prairie' area mentioned by some diary writers.
The spring itself is not mentioned in any diary accounts, but perhaps was familiar to trail travelers. The name Cave Spring was applied to the area around 1900 and the DAR marker on Blue Ridge Boulevard carries that name on it, having been erected in 1913. The trail is on Blue Ridge running between the Park and the Barnes house location.
This property was owned in the 1870s by Solomon Young, Harry Truman's maternal grandfather, who had earlier been a freighter on the Santa Fe Trail, and from whom Harry undoubtedly learned to appreciate frontier history.
85th & Manchester Swale
This swale is story of both a defeat and a victory. Until recent years this swale was part of a continuous swale for nearly 1/4 mile through this property and running diagonally across the soccer field on the east side of Manchester, where there used to be trees and walking paths, and the gully was natural. However, the owner, the Blue Ridge Bible Church, has bulldozed the remaining swales on their property in several stages ending in 1999, leaving only this swale west of Manchester.
This 1 1/4 acre property with the spectacular swale on it is now owned by Cave Spring as a result of their fund raising effort and the generosity of Gwen Holt, the executor of her mother's estate. Completed in 1999, the three-year effort to purchase this sit3e began before the last destruction of the swale by the Church, so this segment becomes even more meaningful now. It's now a Certified Site on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California National Historic Trails, the only such site in the nation that carries all three National Park Service Certifications.
Schumacher Park is now a Kansas City Park on land donated by Lou Schumacher, a former member of Santa Fe Trail's Board of Directors and recipient of Oregon & California Trail Association's 1990 Friend of the Trail Award. There are no trail remains on the property, but the early trail went diagonally across the property to the southwest.
The exhibits now on display are the result of a cooperative project between the National Park Service and Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. They depict the various cultural and social groups using the trail.
Heart Grove Campground
Located just southwest of Bannister Mall in the 'triangle' formed by I-435 and Highway 71, the campground was located on the Heart Grove Creek which passes through this picturesque valley.
Hiram O. Miller, en route west with the Donner party, May 14, 1846 wrote "Camped at "Heart Grove" Jackson County near the Indian line twenty two miles from Independence on the Big blue."
The trail at this point came off the continuous line of ridges running south from Independence. The trail comes up from Heart Grove Creek near the communications tower and near the overpass over I-435 heading southwest toward the Big Blue (Red Bridge) Crossing. In fact, some diaries mention they are coming off the ridge. We have recently found considerable lengths of swales in the woods east of Blue River Road as the trail comes down through that undisturbed ground toward the Red Bridge Crossing.
The Big Blue River (Red Bridge) Crossing
East of Blue River Road the trail came down off the system of ridges that runs between the Little Blue River valley and the Big Blue River valley and descende toward the southwest down a big hill that is undisturbed timber and contains several swales. West of Blue River Road, the trail ran east-west about 100 yards north of Red Bridge Road and bends back to the northwest and crosses the Big Blue River about 250-300 yards north of the Red Bridge. There has been a 'red' bridge at this site since the first one was built in 1859 by, according to one source, George Todd and his father. George was one of Quantrill's chief lieutenants. This is at least the third red bridge at this site.
Issac Wistar, May 6, 1849 recorded "There is a large camp below us on the Blue, badly afflicted with cholera, of which five have died, two of them last night", and on May 7th he wrote "There is quite a populous graveyard at the crossing of the Big Blue, and numerous single graves along the trail."
Calvin Graham, May 1st, 1853 said "Left camp went 7 miles to the Big Blue River crossed went one mile and encamped. . . . . plenty of wood & water. . . . . here is blacksmith shop. . . . . the Blue is pretty high but ford able."
Edmund Hinde, April 26, 1850 wrote in his diary "About 7 o'clock we decamped on our way for the Blue River. On the road we discovered the Hind Axeltree had given away which was in one sence fortunate had it broke when out from all timber we would have been in a nice predicament. Altho broke we took in our food and crossed Blue River and sent back for a new one. . . . . We are now only three miles from the plains and then we leave all settlements."
Minor Park Swale
From the Big Blue River Crossing the trail went along today's Kansas City Southern railroad tracks and turned southwest up the swale in today's Minor Park. This swale is probably the most magnificent one in the Kansas City area and runs for about 150 yards up the hill.
There is a DAR marker at the top of the swale placed about 90 years ago. The interpretive exhibits were placed in the spring of 2000 and were a partnership project of the National Park Service and the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department.
New Santa Fe
Located just east of State Line on Santa Fe Trail Street (about 122nd), this village sprang up in the 1840s as a 'last chance' entrepreneurial effort for trail travelers before they entered Indian Territory. This was not an outfitting village in the usual sense, but there was an assortment of businesses here including a blacksmith shop, tavern, etc. Here the Independence Route of the Santa Fe-Oregon-California Trail crossed into 'Indian Territory' until 1854 when Kansas Territory was established and opened for settlement. Emigrants were essentially leaving their country by crossing this line; and besides that, they were entering 'Indian Country'. Nearly all diarists mentioned this poignant event.
New Santa Fe was incorportated in 1852 but absorbed into Kansas City about 1900.
The Cemetery contains what appears to be a faint swale plus the graves of Dabney Lipscomb, who owned the land here, and the graves of son Nathan, who died in 1846, and wife Susan, who died in 1849.
The interpretive exhibit was placed in the Spring of 2000 and was a partnership project of the National Park Service and the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Dept.
John E. Brown on his way to California in 1849 recorded "May 16th we crossed the line of the U. States."
Joseph Sedgley on his way to California in 1849 recorded on Tuesday May 22 "We forded the Big Blue River, crossed the Missouri State line, and camped on the prairie, in the Indian Territory. We passed five wagons bound to Santa Fe, and met one wagon bound home, the men having died of the cholera. We have passed many graves of the victims of that terrible scourge, which is raging all around us."
William G. Johnston, also on his way to California in 1849 recorded on Saturday, April 28th "At six o'clock we reached the frontier line of Missouri, which marks the separation between civilized and uncuvilized life." "Here alongside the farm of a Mr. Lipscomb we encamped, & by permission used an enclosure near his barn for confining our animals. . ."
W. W. H. Davis on his way to Santa Fe in 1853 recorded that they encamped on the prairie at a small settlement called New Santa Fe near the western border of Missouri.
Present-day Kansas was a portion of what was designated as the Permanent Indian Frontier in 1817 by the U. S. government ('permanent' lasted less than four decades, because it was opened for settlement in 1854). The purpose was to solve 'the Indian problem' by segregating them out west of the Missouri border in what was being called 'The Great American Desert'. Many Indian supporters and missionaries agreed with this concept. They said it would provide the tribes with their own land way out on the prairie where they could have their own culture and be left alone.
In the next few years, a few Indian tribes moved out here, but not many. Andrew Jackson in his 1828 presidential campaign promised a final solution to this problem. In 1830, Congress passed the 1830 Indian Removal Act which called for all tribes in the Eastern U. S. to move to west of the Missouri Border, forcibly if necessary. Non-Indians were prohibited from living west of this line, therefore there were no towns west of here. Until 1854 no towns could exist west of the border, which is the reason why Independence, Westport and the Town of Kansas prospered as the last places to buy wagons, animals and outfitting supplies for the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails. This 'wall' existed until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 which opened the Kansas and Nebraska Territory for settlement.
nbsp; The Indian Treaty money and annuities also greatly fueled the growth of Westport, Town of Kansas and even Independence.
When the tribes were moved to Indian Territory, their reserves were long and narrow strips of land extending west from the state line for 100 miles of more. The Indians preferred to have access to the trading posts such as Westport, but also wanted access to buffalo hunting grounds farther west.
The state line is the same today as when it was surveyed by Joseph Brown in 1823 as the western border of the state of Missouri.
The Fort Leavenworth Military Road
The Fort Leavenworth Military Road went from Fort Leavenworth south to Fort Scott and Fort Gibson as part of the road connecting a string of forts from Fort Snelling near Minneapolis to Fort Jesup in Louisiana, which were built after the 1830 Indian Removal Act to keep the Indians on the west side of the border and the whites on the east side. Contracts were let for road building between the forts, so the Military Road was actually a constructed road.
The Military Road is different from most of the frontier trails. The other trails, although called 'roads' by the people that used them, basically went to the natural way along the ridges, etc. on the easiest route. This road went between geographical points; therefore it was not free to necessarily go the easiest way. It had to cross creeks and go across some hilly country between the forts. Also, no construction improvements were made on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails until their latter stages, like some bridges, for instance.
The original Military Road, however, was built according to military specifications by contractors who bid for the contracts. The surveys for the roads were completed in 1838 and the Commission, which included Zachary Taylor (Mexican War hero in 1846 and elected President in 1848), Stephen Watts Kearny and Nathan Boone (son of Daniel), advertised for construction bids for various segments of the Road. Bids were received in September 1839 and one of the contractors for the 85-mile long segment from Fort Leavenworth to Trading Post was Daniel Morgan Boone (brother of Nathan) and John Bartleson.
The specifications for the Military Road called for "timber to be cut down to a reasonable width, wet and marshy places to be rendered passable, cheap bridges to be erected where fords did not exist, the center to be built up as necessary, and the tree stumps to be cut to no more than eight inches high." Not exactly a superhighway! But is was typical of road building specifications of the time.
The Fort Leavenworth Military Road later became a part of the Santa Fe Trail, especially as a connection to it for troops destined for the Mexican War starting in 1846. The early connection to the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Kansas River at the Delaware (Grinter) Ferry at about 78th Street in Wyandotte County at the 1857 Grinter House. That trail then went to Gum Springs and southwest to about 92nd and Barton where it met up with the Westport Route.
Private Philip Gooch Ferguson on July 9, 1847, upon leaving Fort Leavenworth on this road with his unit heading toward the Mexican War, wrote in his diary "We accordingly started about ten o'clock today, having drawn our arms (a musket and holster pistol each) at the fort. . . . The first night we camped on the Kansas river the clear, swift stream, and being embarked on our long and dangerous journey, our thoughts lingered on the scenes we were leaving behind, the comforts of civilization, the friends of youth, and the pleasures of home. To these we were bidding farewell, perhaps forever. But the excitement of the march before us and the novelty of all around us served to drive away gloom and melancholy. . . . ."
It also became a part of the Oregon-California Trail. The Military Road, in place by 1839, served very quickly as another route for emigrants to go west to Oregon or California. They would outfit at Westport and go west to Gum Springs (today's Shawnee, KS), catch the Military Road to Fort Leavenworth and then go on the Military Road from the Fort that led to Marysville, KS and on to Fort Kearny and Fort Laramie. A second alternate route went from Fort Leavenworth straight west to catch the main Oregon-California Trail north to Topeka near Papins' Ferry on the Kansas River. This alternate was also used by the Fort Leavenworth military as a portion of a connection to the Santa Fe Trail.
This route for Oregon-California Trail travelers was used more than is commonly known. In addition to notables like Francis Parkman in 1846, many others recorded traveling this route:
Abram Krill, in 1850 recorded traveling this route.
Hugo Hoppe, in 1851, recorded that their party of twenty-seven wagons went overland from Independence to Fort Leavenworth and saw an assemblage of Russell, Majors and Waddell bull trains there.
Celinda E. Hines, in 1853, landed at 'Kansas' and crossed the Kansas River at the Delaware (Grinter) Ferry.
David Auguste Burr, in 1855 on his way to Salt Lake City to assume the duties as surveyor-general of Utah Territory, recorded that they went from Westport, crossed the Kansas River at the Delaware (Grinter) crossing and went through Leavenworth City and the Fort and joined others to go on the Fort Leavenworth route.
James W. Denver, who would later become Governor of Kansas Territory and have Colorado's Capitol named for him, wrote in his 1849 diary on May 31 on the Fort Leavenworth route ". . . . passed 500 teams and packing parties. . . . "
The Military Road became of less importance after the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the area for settlement. Now the Military opened roads running to the new forts (Riley, Hays, Harker, Wallace, etc.) farther west, and the north-south roads were not needed. However, it was used as a route to Oregon and California north from Gum Springs through the mid-1850s and as a local and regional road after that.
The 'Treeless Prairie'
The flat land of the 'treeless prairie' becomes obvious by the time the Independence Route crosses the state line and the Westport Route crosses the I-35 and I-435 interchange. Stephen Long and others in the early 1800s called this land the 'Great American Desert'. Just west of Gardner, the flatness of the prairie would allow the Oregon-California Trail to split off the older Santa Fe Trail and head northwest toward Nebraska.
The first prairie system all the way across Kansas and into New Mexico is what made the Santa Fe Trail one of the best wagon roads in the world, according to some historians.
It was deemed to be of questionable value and this is one of the reasons the prairie was designated as Indian Territory.
Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association Markers
As you travel watch for Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association markers on section lines on the Independence Route, the Westport Routes, the California Road and the Fort Leavenworth Military Road in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties in Kansas. These markers, totaling about 360, were precisely placed using information researched by Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association members, principally Lee Kroh, from the original survey field notes and maps done by the U. S. General Land Office in 1854-56 after Kansas Territory was established. These trails were noted very precisely as they crossed each section line. The section lines are one mile apart in each direction and are still the exact same survey lines by which all land ownership is described throughout most of the United States.
The U. S. Rectangular Land Survey System
As the fledgling United States was beginning to expand into new territories in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, a new way of surveying the new lands was proposed by Thomas Jefferson in the Continental Congress in 1785. Except for about fifteen of the original states, most of the United States is surveyed with this rectangular system.
Beginning in Ohio, arbitrary 'initial points' have been progressively established. Through these initial points, a north-south 'meridian' passes and a 'base line' passes through from east to west. Missouri, Arkansas and Iowa were surveyed from the 5th Principal Meridian in eastern Missouri from an initial point in northern Arkansas. Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and parts of Colorado and Wyoming were all surveyed from the 6th Principal Meridian that passes through the initial point located on the 40th parallel of latitude, which is today's Kansas-Nebraska border. That initial point was located approximately 108 miles west of the Missouri River on the 40th parallel.
When Kansas Territory was created in 1854 and opened for settlement, land survey was immediately necessary to establish land descriptions for filing land claims. The U. S. General Land Office, which handled all land claims, initiated this survey. That is the survey referenced above and used by Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association to locate the trail markers.
Note the 'M' plates in the intersections, especially in Johnson County. These plates cover the pins locating these section corners, which are unchanged from the original 1856 General Land Office Surveys. 'M' stands for the surveyor's word 'monument' which denotes a section corner. These section corners in Johnson County are exactly in these intersections because the survey was done before roads were built and the roads were built right on the section lines. Not so in Jackson County, which was settled in the 1830s and surveys were done early, in segments, by different groups.
In fact, Jackson County, Missouri is different from any county all along the Santa Fe, Oregon or California Trails, because it was substantially settled before the trail was in heavy use. The trail was not free to go where it wanted to like all through the west in Indian Territory or open lands. There were settlers, farms, fences, and a county court that designated streets and roads. The court was petitioned often by landowners who objected to the trail coming through their land. The court also changed the designated streets and roads for the trail quite often. That is why many maps will show the trail making 90 degree turns in many places. That is where the county roads were, and the farmers were farming and fencing their farm land.
The choice of whether Kansas Territory would be slave or free was a provision of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. This policy of choice, called 'popular sovereignty', was an outgrowth of the California Compromise of 1850. Within months after the beginnings of the gold rush, California had tens of thousands of residents. For this reason and for control of the gold, the U. S. government was very anxious for California statehood. The complication was that since the 1820 Missouri Compromise called for states to come into statehood in pairs, one free and one slave, no viable slave territory was available for statehood to balance the free soil of California.
The balance between free soil and pro-slave votes in Congress was of the utmost political importance throughout the early 19th century. So a compromise was struck to abandon the 1820 Missouri Compromise and admit California alone. The southern senators however demanded something in return. Therefore, the Territories of Utah and New Mexico were created in 1850 with a choice of whether to be slave or free. Obviously Utah would be free, but New Mexico Territory might have a chance of being slave territory in the future, because of its being south of the 36 degree 30 minute line of the north border of Arkansas, which was the line defined in 1820 as the northern limit of future slave territory.
Politically, this choice became both an important regional and national issue. Lawrence's settlement in 1854, as well as other towns, was due to waves of families migrating under the financing and leadership of abolitionist groups such as the New England Emigrant Aid Company. The motive was to preserve this new territory as free soil. Missourians were apprehensive about being surrounded by free territory, because Illinois was on their east and Iowa on the north. Missouri 'Bushwhackers' or 'Border Ruffians' raided across the border. Kansas 'Redlegs' or 'Jayhawkers' were doing the same in Missouri.
Illegal 'cross-border' voting in 1855 by Missourians, partly by Missouri Senator David Rice Atchison's Blue Lodge members, elected the 'Bogus Legislature', a pro-slave legislature, although Kansas Territory was occupied predominately by free-soil residents. At one time, Kansas Territory had two legislatures, one pro-slave, one free-soil, until the issue was finally resolved by 1857. Kansas became a state in 1861 as free soil, the same year the Civil War began. When the war was over in 1865, this issue essentially became moot because slavery was abolished.
Feelings ran high along the border and danger was everywhere. This struggle went on for over three years until the issue was settled in 1857, but the violence continued into the 1860s. These were bloody years and many people died in these local skirmishes in this 'border war', which gave rise to the name 'Bleeding Kansas.'
Some historians claim the seeds for the Civil War were sown here. The local violence did not stop when the Civil War began, but continued up to the time of the Quantrill Raid in Lawrence in August, 1863 and the resulting Order #11 issued by General Thomas Ewing of the Army of Missouri, which vacated several counties along the border in Missouri.
Lone Elm Campground
On the southeast corner of 167th and Lone Elm Road is the location of one of the most mentioned campground along the entire Oregon-California Trail by diarists. Lone Elm was one of the most famous frontier trail camp sites and rendezvous points, and for a good reason. In the almost four decades of its use, starting in 1821, thousands of Santa Fe traders, Oregon and California emigrants, soldiers, mountain men, 49ers, and missionaries came this way. . . William Becknell, John Fremont, the Donner party, Kit Carson, Francis Parkman, all spent time here at Lone Elm.
This trail camp was first known as Round Grove, named by the earliest traders to Santa Fe. By 1827 it shared duty with Elm Grove 2.25 miles northwest on the same Cedar Creek. (And often mistaken for each other). By the mid 1840s the great old tree was gone, used for firewood, but such was its fame that sporadic reports continued through the 1850s of its existence.
Some of Lone Elm's fame is attributable to Newton Ainsworth, the first owner of this land in post trail day, and a tireless promoter of Lone Elm and his farm. In fact, he called his farm 'The Lone Elm Farm'. He was instrumental in the placement of th DAR marker here in 1906, which continues to grace the spot today.
June 11th, 1846 Susan Shelby Magoffin records in her magnificent diary "There is no other tree or bush or shrub save on Elm tree, which stands on a small elevation near the little creek or branch. The travelers always stop where there is water sufficient for all their animals. The grass is fine every place, it is so tall in some places as to conceal a mans waist."
Samuel Rutherford Dundass, April 30, 1849 recorded in his diary "We arrived before sunset at lone elm encampment, and stopped for the night. The encampment is so called from an elm tree that stands almost in the bed of the small stream affording water of tolerable quality. It is the only tree for miles around, and is an object of curiosity to all who pass by. . . . the night was very cold and windy, but our days labor had prepared us. . . . with bedding of Buffalo skins and blankets."
The reason why the Lone Elm Campground and Elm Grove Campground were so popular was not because they were magnificent locations or had a lot of water or forage. The reason was that trees were there. Elm Grove was first known as Caravan Grove and Lone Elm was first known as Round Grove. These names explain the uniqueness of these sites: they had groves of trees in this treeless prairie.
Several years ago, the City of Olathe purchased the 160-acre farm on which the Lone Elm Campground was located. About half of the farm has been cultivated and this area will be used for softball and soccer fields for the city. The remaining 80 acres or so, which comprise the riparian area and the basic campground area are being preserved in their natural state. By the end of 2004, walking paths, interpretive markers and kiosks will be in place to interpret the trail story to visitors.
Francois Chouteau's First Trading Post/Warehouse
The first (1821) Chouteau Landing and Trading Post was at the foot of the Randolph Bluffs just east of the I-435 Bridge on the north bank of th Missouri River. It was the first significant commercial venture of any kind in the Kansas City area.
Francois Chouteau brought his 19-year-old bride, Berenice, to this first post when he was 24 years old in 1821. Francois was the son of Pierre Chouteau and nephew of August Chouteau, the founder of St. Louis. August Chouteau sent his nephew west in 1819-20 to find trading post sites for the family's fur trading business, the American Fur Company. When Francois returned here in 1821, he brought his French wife, Berenice, a rich, cultured, musically-talented, convent-educated daughter of the prominent Pierre Menard, and built her a home here. In 1826 both the house and the warehouse flooded out and the couple moved across the river and 4 miles to the west. The Chouteaus raised 8 children. Francois died in 1838 at age 41 of heart trouble, but Madame Chouteau lived another 50 years, until 1888, and died at 87 as a leading lady of Kansas City Society.
Bvt. Major Stephen Watts Kearny on his way upriver with the Atkinson expedition to punish the Arikara Indians on October 12, 1824 wrote "Started at daybreak; morning cool, frosty & a heavy fog on the water, made 3 1/2 to breakfast came up to Mr. Chouteaus Trading House to dinner, where we found the Kickapoo, & the Kansas were expected to-morrow made some purchases. . . "
Frederick Chouteau (Reminiscing in 1880) "I came to Randolph, Clay county, Missouri, about two miles below Kansas City, on the opposite side of the Missouri river, in the fall of 1825, October or November. . . . . My brothers, Francois and Cyprian, were trading there."
Mountain man James Beckwourth worked there in the winter of 1825.
The post washed away in the huge flood of 1826 and Francois Chouteau rebuilt it on the south bank in what would later be known as the 'Guinotte' area near the Pasco Bridge four miles to the west, just this side of where the Westport Landing would begin in the early 1830s.
A ferry was near here in 1828 operated by the Younger brothers' grandfather.
Chouteau's Second Trading Post/Warehouse
Francois Chouteau's second trading post/warehouse was built on the Missouri River just east of the Pasco Bridge after the 1826 flood destroyed his 1821 trading post four miles east of here at Randolph Bluffs. This second post was located about two miles east of the mouth of the Kansas River and was the main landing for Westport through much of the 1830s.
The road from this landing ran up the hill near Paseo and Forest Ave. about like Paseo does today up the natural cut, then ran west-southwest to about 16th and Main and on south to Westport. The Peter Roy road through the trees from his ferry near Westport Landing and along the 'gully'. It intercepted this earlier road at about the 15th or 16th Street area.
John Calvin McCoy wrote in his reminiscencs of June 1879 ". . . . (Chouteaus was ). . . . .one of the largest and best farms in the county, with a steamboat landing, warehouses, and costly dwellings, and outhouses. . . ."
The American Fur Company rendezvoused here in 1837 and 1839 before their trapping expeditions to the Rockies. John Fremont launched his first exploring expedition to the west from here in 1842. John James Audobon visited here and recorded on May 2, 1843 "We . . . .stopped at Madame Chouteau's plantation. . . . . .The water had been two feet deep in her house, but the river has now fallen about six feet."
The giant flood of 1844 destroyed this second post. John Calvin McCoy later recollected ". . . . . the flood left not a vestige of the entire homestead (dwellings, warehouses), and (when the water receded) the surface of the entire farm was a wide expanse of sand in many places five feet deep."
Francois Chouteau had died in 1838 and his brother Cyprian took over running the operation, along with Francois' widow Berenice, who became the 'grand dame' of Kansas City society through most of the rest of the century.
The Westport Landing had its beginnings in the mid-1830s when John McCoy needed a landing for his goods for his new trading post of Westport, built in 1833. In his first year he had to bring goods from Independence, which was difficult. The Westport Landing 'rock' is still there today and the trail from it led up 'through the woods', as he said.
The early Westport Route trail from the Landing came around under the Grand Boulevard ramp (before the Main St. and Delaware St. cuts were built) and followed the west bank of the creek up the gully which came from the center of downtown at about 10th and Main. There was at one time a bridge east and west across this creek near its mouth. In the early days these bluffs were much higher and were not only cut through like the 1850s Main Street and Delaware Street Cuts, but cut down as well.
Peter Roy had a ferry at the Landing starting in 1837 to handle travel demands across the river. The Platte Purchase completed that year by the U. S. added the six counties in northwest Missouri.
William Miles Chick built a residence/warehouse at about 1st and Main in 1843. It was the only structure to survive the 1844 flood. The next year, Chick became the first Postmaster of the Town of Kansas and his building was the first post office. The Town of Kansas area at Westport Landing was rebuilt after the flood of 1844 and by 1846 was a strong rival to the Independence Landings. Santa Fe trade was conducted here by both American and Mexican freighters. Oregon-California emigrants began to use this landing heavily also.
The remains of the Gillis Hotel and other Town of Kansas buildings are down at the Landing area and will be a part of the Town of Kansas Archeological Park being developed. There is presently a new pedestrian bridge down the Main St. Cut all the way out to the river's edge to link up with the Riverfront Heritage Hiking/Biking trail that come from Berkley Park and runs through the downtown area south to Penn Valley Park and also over to Kansas City, Kansas.
The Main Street Cut was built in early 1850s and quickly became the preferred route of the trail. A similar cut was built one block west on Delaware St. in the late 1850s.
William Gillis built his hotel in 1849 near here. 2nd Street was the Town of Kansas city limits until 1846. By 1848, diary writers were saying this landing would easily become the focal landing of the future.
On October 29th, 1848, an employee of Shawnee Methodist Mission, Allan T. Ward, wrote in a letter "The town of Kansas. . . . .now contains I think upwards of 300 houses & is rapidly improving. It is one of the best landings on the river, and the town is founded on a ledge of rocks that are as permanent as gibralter; it is also destined to be the starting point to Santa fee California Oregon & c. A considerable portion of the goods for the Santa fee market are now landed at Kansas, besides all this it is as good a point for the Indian trade as can be found in this country. . . . "
Appearing in the April 7, 1848 Liberty, Mo. Tribune was this description: "This is going to be quite a flourishing town. Within a few months, it has been gaining fast, both in trade and population. Some of the heaviest Santa Fe traders start now from this point. The landing is one of the best, if not the very best, on the Missouri river; there is a good road to the prairie, a good ferry, and a clever ferry-man-namely Mr. (John) Calvin McCoy."
The St. Louis Union printed this letter in its columns, by a certain "H", on March 14, 1848: "Kansas (is) one of the most thriving towns on the Missouri river. . . .The accomodations for strangers are fully equal to those of any town on the Missouri river. . . . Many of the largest traders for Santa Fe, all the Indian traders, and nearly all the mountain traders, already make Kansas their starting point, and the time is not distant when Kansas will be the main point for the great Western Prairie trade."
Finally, in March, 1848 the St. Louis Reveille commenting on the Santa Fe trade and St. Louis, reported: "The Messrs. Leitsendorffer have shipped their goods to Kansas landing by which they save 40 miles of travel. Messrs. Webb & Doane, traders intend traveling in company with. . . . (them)."
In 1849, upwards of 20,000 to 30,000 people left for the Pacific shores on the Oregon-California Trail, which created an enormous boom for "Town of Kansas and Westport Landing. However, perhaps not all of it was good, because Father Bernard Donnelly, an early religious and civic leader, blamed the '49ers for introducing to his flock "cholera, fevers, whiskey, bad habits and disreputable women."
The River Market
This area has always been a market square since the French days in the early 1800s. This parcel was owned (as was all the land from Broadway east to Troost, and from the river to about 6th Street) by Gabriel Prudhomme, who was killed in a tavern brawl in 1831. His heirs fought over the property until 1838, when the Town of Kansas Company bought it, which consisted of fourteen men including Wm Sublette, John McCoy, Wm Gillis, Wm Chick, Fry McGee, Sam Owens, etc.
However, due to title irregularities, development did not accelerate until 1846 after the destructive 1844 flood. At that time, it was resurveyed and additional lots were sold.
As an aside, Fry McGee later went to 110 Mile Creek on the Santa Fe Trail and built a stagecoach station. His daughter America Puss McGee married a Mr. Harris and after Fry died in 1861, the site was known as the McGee-Harris Stage Station.
The Arabian Steamboat Museum, which opened in 1991, displays much of the 200 tons of goods salvaged in the winter of 1988-89 from the site of its sinking in 1856 in a cornfield near Parkville, MO about five miles northwest of here.
The Westport route followed the west bank of the creek/gully which came down through the Market Square in those days. The trail continued south near Main Street up over the ridge which is about 12th Street. The entire downtown and bluffs area was heavily wooded.
Kansas City Names
(French) - Kawsmouth & Ches Les Canses, Chouteau's Town.
Westport Landing, Kansas Landing, Kansas, even Possum Trot
1838- Town of Kansas
1853- City of Kansas
1889- Kansas City (officially); used unofficially earlier
Lewis & Clark Point
The principal reason Kansas City exists is because of the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers at what is called Kaw Point just to the west. This confluence was the defined western border of Missouri and became the boundary of Indian Territory in 1830. The confluence is the farthest southwestern point of the Missouri River, which determined the logical jumping off point for the early Santa Fe Trail.
The Missouri River today is much different than in trail days. It is channeled and leveed in many places. In trail days, it was all spread out, multi-channeled, alternately flooding and shallow, before the days of the six dams upriver in the Dakotas and Montana. The river was much slower then also, and full of sandbars, snags, tree stumps, etc. There were heavy floods in the Spring, because no dams existed upstream and in the fall it could sometimes be waded by a person.
The French first came up the River in the 1600s. The Missouri River was mapped by de Bourgmont in 1713 on his way to the Southwest. The French settled here about 1800. The giant flood of 1844 wiped most of them out.
Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark's Corps of Discovery camped at Kaw Point on June 26-28, 1804. Clark's journal said ". . . . . at the upper point of the mouth of the river Kansas. . . .". "The Countrey about the mouth of this river is verry fine." He also said on June 27 that ". . . . the waters of the Kansas is verry disigreeably tasted to me." They camped down at the Westport Landing area on the return trip, September 15, 1806 and climbed the hill and said this was good spot for a fort.
The Lewis and Clark Sculpture was dedicated Arpil 26, 2000; keynote speaker was Stephen Ambrose. It depicts six major figures of the Lewis and Clark expedition; Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Sacagewea, her papoose Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, York (Clark's slave) and Seaman, Lewis's Newfoundland dog.
Almost twenty years after Lewis and Clark, in 1823, this point figured again in history as surveyor Joseph L. Brown ran the western line of the State of Missouri due south from the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River. The border also went straight north until 1837.
Francois Chouteau and his brother Cyprian had several trading posts in the 1820s on both the Missouri and Kansas Rivers in this area. 'Four Houses' was about 20 miles up the Kansas River near today's Bonner Springs at Cedar Creek; Cyprian had another was just west of here at Muncie. The French first settled here about 1800 and the flood of 1844 wiped most of them out, basically ending the French influence here.
Probably the first not-French to settle here were Daniel Morgan Boone and James McGee in the late 1820s. Prior to that, Curtiss and Ely ran a trading post near the foot of Quindaro Street in the Fairfax bottoms of Kansas City, Kansas.
Note the Hannibal Bridge, which is a replacement of the first, which was built in 1869. This was the first bridge over the Missouri River, even though the railroad arrived from the east first at St. Joseph. This bridge established Kansas City as the future commercial center for the Missouri River valley.
Kansas City is not only at the confluence of major rivers, but was a central point for the frontier wagon trails, and later became a national rail center, and still later a central hub for airlines.
Lewis and Clark Sculpture At Lewis & Clark Point (basic text by Pete Cuppage)
As the Corps of Discovery traversed the Missouri River, crossed the continental divide, and proceeded on to the Pacific Ocean, six individuals stand out as contributors to this memorable expedition. All six are depicted in this commemorative statue overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers.
Capt. Meriwether Lewis, the leader chosen by President Thomas Jefferson, had been the private secretary of the president. At 28 years old, he had served in the Army with William Clark, whom Lewis chose as a co-commander. Lewis was the introspective scholar, who prepared for the journey by taking a crash course in medicine with Benjamin Rush, the preeminent US physician in Philadelphia. Lewis also received instruction in botany, astronomy, and surveying prior to leaving. He followed Jefferson's instructions for the expedition and wisely chose his prior Army comrade, Lt. William Clark, as co-leader. Lewis often walked alone on the banks of the rivers with his faithful dog, Seaman. This beautiful Newfoundland quickly endeared himself to the entire Corps. Seaman on several occasions helped the party; by frightening away a rampaging bison bull and chasing away both a grizzly bear and a wolf. The helpful dog retrieved waterfowl shot by the hunters. He completed the entire expedition returning to St. Louis in September of 1806. Lewis became Governor of the Louisiana Territory, but became despondent and died in 1809, on a return trip to Washington along the Natchez Trace, likely of suicide.
William Clark was the organizer of the men, and frequently performed the medical therapies of both expedition members and Indians along the route. He was 30 years old at the onset of the trip. His even-tempered disposition and constant awareness of the need to maintain daily journal entries left us with the most complete record of the journey. Clark made detailed maps of the course and accurately made observations of mileage and geography. Following the return of the Expedition in 1806, Clark was made Superintendent of Indian affairs and later Governor of the Missouri Territory.
York, the black slave of Clark, also played a major role. He fascinated the Indians with the color of his skin, with his fanciful dancing at campfires, and with his feats of strength. Clark promised York his freedom upon return of the expedition; however, York had to wait several years for this promise to be completed.
Sacajawea, the lone woman on the expedition, was added at Fort Mandan during the second winter. Her addition was justified by the fact that she could speak the Shoshone nation's language due to the fact that the Hidatsus, now living near Fort Mandan, had previously captured her from the Shoshone tribe. The Expedition would require horses, from the Shoshones in order to cross over the Continental Divide. When the Corps finally reached the mountainous divide, they were given ample horses, not only because Sacajawea could converse with the Shoshones, but also because the chief of the tribe turned out to be her brother. Sacajawea proved to be an excellent guide and friend of the Corps. Before leaving Fort Mandan (near Bismark, North Dakota), she gave birth to her first child, a son named Jean Baptiste. The difficult delivery was aided by the use of ground rattlesnake rattle give to the mother by the Corps upon the suggestion of a local trader. Both Sacajawea and York voted on the occasion of choosing a campsite on the shore of the Pacific. Thus an African American and a woman were given the right to vote years before present history.
Jean Baptiste, called Pomp by Clark, the last of the six to be depicted in the group of the statue, continued on the Expedition, returning with his mother to the Mandans in 1806. Pomp was later invited by Clark to come to St. Louis to be educated and also traveled in Europe. He went on to be a prominent figure in frontier history, including helping to guide the Mormon Battalion in 1846.
Duke Paul Wilhelm, June 21, 1823. . . (from the Kansas river) ". . . . scarcely more than a half mile further up on the right bank of the Missouri. . . .two large houses. . . . Curtis and Eley. . . . Neither of them was at home, but the wife of the latter was there. . . . The whole population of this little settlement consists of only a few persons, creoles adn halfbreeds, whose occupation is the trade with the Kansas Indians, some hunting and agriculture. Here I also found a youth of sixteen years of age, whose mother. . . had accompanied Messrs. Lewis and Clark, as an interpreter, to the Pacific Ocean, in 1804-1806. This Indian woman married the French interpreter, Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau later served me in the capacity of interpreter, and Baptiste, his son, whom I mentioned above, joined me on my return, followed me to Europe and has since then been with me."
The statue on the promontory overlooking the Missouri River is an appropriate commemorative to the great Voyage of Discovery.
Westport Route Through Downtown Kansas City
The trail came up from the foot of Grand Avenue (or the Main Street Cut in the 1850s) along the west bank of the gully creek. It was also called the 'Roy Road', because it went down to Peter Roy's Ferry after he established it it 1837. Isaac McCoy, John C. McCoy's father, bought and operated it later.
The Town of Kansas was officially incorporated June 3, 1850 by Jackson County; the town celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2000. On February 22, 1853, the City of Kansas was incorporated by the State of Missouri, and the first city government was elected. City limits were:
1859-20th St. (at OK Creek near the Union Station)
The 1820s-'40s trail from Chouteau's 1826 warehouse (also called the 'Fur Road') near the Paseo Bridge came across the 12th St. ridge and intercepted the trail from Westport Landing near 15th and Main. After the 1844 flood washed out Chouteau's Warehouse and Trading Post, the road still existed but it was not used as much. John McCoy maintained the road south of that intersection down to Westport and Peter Roy maintained it down to the river.
The trail went down Main until 1838 (B.H. McGee, whose farm ran from 12th to OK Creek at about 23rd Street, built a fence across it). The trail then went down Grand past his house at about 16th Street.
The 1863 Jail Collapse
The Quantrill guerrillas were an aggravation to the Union Army of Missouri, who occupied Missouri (a slave state) during the Civil War. They had a lot of friends in the countryside who helped conceal them. When winter came and the leaves fell from the trees, they would retreat to Arkansas. In the summer of 1864, the Army rounded up sisters, girl friends, and wives of some of these guerrillas and threw them into a 'prison', which was just the middle story of a building at 14th on the east side of Grand. The building had been owned by the father-in-law of George Caleb Bingham, the famous painter, who had his studio on the top floor at one time. For mysterious reasons, the building collapsed soon thereafter and several of the women were killed and injured. It was truly a tragic event. This was what Quantrill had been waiting for and he was able to fan their anger and convinced them to even a score Quantrill had been wanting to settle with the town of Lawrence and also with Free-soil leader James Lane. Within days, on August 21, 1863, the Lawrence Raid occurred and the town was burned and around 150 male citizens were killed. General Thomas Ewing subsequently issued the famous Order #11 which called for the evacuation of three and a half counties south of Brush Creek which resulted in homes being burned and possessions plundered. This also was a tragic time, but it put an end to the 'border war' which had lasted over eight years. Bingham painted his famous painting called 'Order #11' which depicted the tragedy of the evacuation.
Along with Independence, Westport was a principal outfitting point for all three major trails that many thousands of westbound people filtered through in the 19th century. Founded in 1834 by John C. McCoy and platted around the trading post he built the previous year on the road from the Shawnee Indian Agency at 45th and the state line to Independence, Westport's fortunes were directly tied to its namesake landing on the Missouri River four miles due north.
Through the decade of the 1830s, Independence was the main outfitting point for Santa Fe traders. But as the decade closed and as opportunities for commerce expanded to include outfitting for emigrant wagon trains bound for Oregon and California, Westport began to provide serious competition for Independence.
Westport saw its share of frontier 'movers and shakers'. Francis Parkman launched his famous 1846 journey here and Father Pierre-Jean De Smet followed several American Fur Company brigades out of Westport on his well known forays into the American West. De Smet was also with members of the Bidwell-Bartleson party when they started their 1841 journey to California from here. Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger, two of the greatest of the mountain men, lived here for a time in the 1840s. So did Kit Carson. Before his rendezvous with destiny in California, an unknown young man kept shop in Westport in 1837. His name was John Sutter.
In May, 1846, seventeen-year-old Lewis Garrard wrote in his Santa Fe Trail journal "Every morning we rode to Westport and saw the different Indians in fanciful dresses, riding in to trade and look around (on their handsome ponies). Some of the squaws were possessed of good features though gross forms; and both men and women were debased by liquor. The laws are not stringent enough on this point. The unsophisticated Indian, too much exposed to the seductive language of the unprincipled trader in liquor, soon barters away all his valuables and annuity money."
In the fall of 1846, when Francis Parkman returned to Westport, he wrote ". . . . .we saw the roof of a white mans dwelling between the opening trees. A few moments after, wer were riding over the miserable bridge that leads into the center of Westport. . . . . We passed the well remembered tavern, Boone's grocery and old Vogel's dram shop, and encamped on a meadow beyond."
Pioneer Park - Jim Bridger, Alexander Majors, John C. McCoy
Majors is looking west because he made his money freighting to the west and eventually lived most of his life in the west. McCoy is sitting down and looking down because he was a town builder, having founded Westport and also was one of the fourteen members of the Town of Kansas Company which started Kansas City. The plat map on his lap is an exact copy of the early Westport plat map. Bridger is sitting down because he lived here late in life and died on his farm near 103rd and State Line. But he is looking west because he remembers the good life there.
McCoy's Trading Post (northeast corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania)
John Calvin McCoy's father was Baptist Missionary Isaac McCoy, who was also a surveyor and helped survey the Shawnee lands. He built his farmhouse near where St. Luke's Hospital is today. Son John built his trading post/residence on the back side of this property in 1833 in order to take advantage of the trade with the Indians west of the border which was only a mile away. The Indians regularly traveled along this road between the Agency and Independence to trade, so John had what we call today location, location, location! John first hauled his goods from Upper Independence Landing (Wayne City), but by 1835 he convinced the "John Hancock" to land his goods at Westport Landing. In 1836, McCoy sold his business to William Miles Chick, who would later build his own warehouse in 1843 at Westport Landing-the only structure to survive the 1844 flood. McCoy married Chick's daughter Virginia in 1838.
McCoy's trading post was on the northeast corner of today's Westport Road (which was Main Street on the original plat) and Pennsylvania (which was called Main Cross Street).
A. B. H. McGee, whose family had come to the area in 1828, was the next owner of the post in 1846. McGee sold the property to John Harris, who built the Harris House Hotel. The log hotel was later replaced by a three-story brick building, which was razed in 1922. During the Battle of Westport, on the morning of October 23, 1864, Union Major General Samuel Curtis had his field command post there and viewed the action south of Brush Creek from the roof of the hotel.
On the southwest corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania is Kelly's Bar, which is one of the oldest brick buildings in Kansas City. This building was built in 1850 by Indian traders George and William Ewing. Albert Gallatin Boone, grandson of Daniel, bought it in 1854 for $7000 and ran it for five years as an outfitting store for wagon trains destined for Santa Fe, Oregon and California. It is on the National Register under the name of the Boone-Ewing Building.
Immediately west of the Boone-Ewing Building is the Chouteau-Bridger Building. Built in 1851 by Cyprian Chouteau, it was occupied by Westport's only newspaper, the Border Star. It was shut down by Union troops in 1861. The building was sold to Jim Bridger in 1866.
When McCoy plattedd the town in 1834, Westport Road was called Main Street and Pennsylvania was called Main Cross Street. The South Branch of the Westport Route went south from this intersection in Westport and crossed State Line at about 69th Terrace and headed for Harmon Park in Prairie Village. It continues on to meet the North Branch at Strang Park in Overland Park.
At the bottom of the hill to the west flowed Mill Creek from north to south and a grist mill operated on it. It was operated by Allan T. Ward (see his quote in the Westport Landing topic).
Just west of the creek was Yoacham's Tavern, built by Daniel Yoacham soon after McCoy built his trading post. This tavern later had a second story and from the beginning was a meeting point for nearly all the famous names associated with Westport, the westward movement and the trails.
The Indian Agency
As part of the federal government's administration of Indian lands, Indian Agencies were established throughout the American west. One of the regular duties of the agencies were to distribute the annual annuities. The Ft. Leavenworth Indian Agency at about 45th and State Line was first started by John Campbell in 1829. Richard Cummins then moved it to 59th and State Line and was a long-time agent here until 1850 when he was replaced by Luke Lee. Then in 1854 Indian Territory closed and so did the agency.
2nd Lt. Philip St. George Cooke, June 1829 said ". . . . a light and airy grove. . . . was delightfully situated. . . . the house. . . .of the sub-agent of the Delawares--the hospitable old Major C(Campbell). . . . with ready joke and julep, did his best to make our long farewell to the settlements, a lively one."
The Shawnee Indian Methodist Mission
As a result of the Shawnee Indians removing to the west of the Missouri border, Thomas Johnson first established this Methodist Mission to the Shawnee Indians at about 53rd and Swartz in the Turner area of Kansas City, KS in 1831. But the location was too far removed from the Shawnees and he moved it here in 1839, which is present day 53rd and Mission Road. The west building was built that year, followed by the other two in 1842 and 1845.
This site was mentioned frequently in diaries on the Westport Route. Father Nicholas Point, May, 1841, while heading west with the Bidwell-Bartleson wagon train wrote "In the following days-after having passed through the territory of the Shawnee and the Delaware, where the only notable thing we saw was a Methodist college, which, for reasong easily understandable, had been erected in the midst of the best Indian territory-we arrived at the right bank of the Kansas River."
John C. Fremont came through here at least once, on May 28, 1842, and camped ". . . . near the Methodist Mission House."
Matt Field on the Santa Fe Trail in May, 1843 wrote "Within a half mile of this spot, were located the Methodist Mission lands and houses, the latter being excellent and well finished tenements of brick, and the former being a government grant of some six hundred acres. . . . "
Johnson was a controversial figure; missionary, Kansas Territorial pro-slave political leader, slave owner, and yet a Union officer in the Civil War. He was shot and killed at his front door by unknowns in January, 1865, and buried with others of his family in a small cemetery on Shawnee Mission Parkway just south of here. Johnson County, Ks is named for him as well as Johnson Drive.
This site has been owned by the Kansas State Historical Society for over seventy years.
Harmon Park Swale & Exhibits
This is the South Branch of the Westport Route. This is the route that comes south from Westport along the Wornall Road corridor and crossed the state line at about 69th Terrace and swings west-southwest to this point on its way to join the North Branch at Strang Park, near 88th Terrace and Farley in Overland Park. It was the preferred route for Santa Fe Trail freighters and for much of the Oregon-California Trail traffic because it followed a natural ridge.
Harmon Park, near 75th and Mission Road, contains a swale from the Santa Fe-Oregon-C alifornia Trail from Westport, and is a National Park Service Certified Site on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. The exhibits are a result of a partnership with the City of Prairie Village and the National Park Service.
Harmon Park is an excellent example of preservation and conservation through the cooperative efforts of private citizens, civic and federal authorities. In 1989 this land, totaling 4.3 acres was set to be sold to a private developer for apartment buildings. With the impetus of a pro-active citizen advocacy group, the City of Prairie Village passed a bond issue and taxed themselves $600,000 to repurchase the land, develop it as a park, and preserve the ruts. The City entered into a certification agreement with the National Park Service and set up cooperative funds to build the picnic pavilion, mark the course of the trail with limestone posts, produce a large bronze map of the trails for the pavilion, and ultimately to provide a wayside exhibit and overlook featuring a rendering by nationally recognized water color artist Jim Hamil. A Santa Fe Trail member provided the primary trail research and historical leadership that enabled the City to proceed with confidence with the citizenry. The swale here is not as deep or magnificent as countless other places along the trails, but this site is a wonderful example of how much a town can do with a small resource, if they are determined to preserve and interpret it for the public.
The Shawnee Baptist Mission
The Shawnee Baptist Mission, built near 49th and Nall in 1832, was the first of three Missions for the Shawnee Indians in present day Johnson County, Kansas. The Quaker Mission was founded in 1836 and the Methodist Mission mentioned above was moved to its present location in 1839. the Baptist Mission owned the land on the north side of the Westport Route and the Methodist owned the land on the south side.
The Shawnee Baptist Mission was founded by missionary and government surveyor Isaac McCoy, who was actually a key architect of, and driving force behind, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a plan carried out to move all eastern Indian tribes to the west of the Missouri border.
The first superintendents were Johnston and Delilah Lykins, followed shortly by Moses and Eliza Merrill, and by 1833 replaced by well-known missionary Jotham Meeker. Meeker brought with him a complete printing press when he landed at Upper Independence Landing. Brought overland to the Shawnee Baptist Mission, it was the first printing press in Indian Territory.
Meeker left in 1837 to found the Ottawa Baptist Mission, 50 miles to the south. He was succeeded by John G. Pratt, a missionary and printer. Pratt worked with the Meeker press until 1844, when he took it to a new assignment near Fort Leavenworth called the Stockbridge Mission.
By the early 1850s, Dr. Francis Barker was in charge of the Mission. In May 1854, in conjunction with the Kansas-Nebraska Act which opened this area to settlement, the Shawnee ceded most of their land to the government, and with that came the demise of the Missions here. Dr. Barker, however, did remain and administered medical service to the lingering Shawnee through the late 1850s from the remaining Baptist Mission buildings. Barker Street in Mission is named for him.
Newly arrived missionary Eliza Merrill wrote on August 10, 1833 "The past week we opened our day school with seven scholars. The second day we had eight. They are very wild. Some of them had nothing on but a shirt." By Sunday she wrote "This morning Mr. Merrill and myself walked to the Indian village. . . .we succeeded in gathering 14 children to teach. . . .The men, most of them, were out racing horses, or gambling or hunting, and the women were at work."
Jotham Meeker recorded in his diary on March, 1834 "Took an impression of Blanchards first form. Also printed a Shawanoe hymn (50 copies) for Br. Evans." These were the first items ever printed in Kansas Territory. A Shawnee newspaper in their own language was later printed called the Sun. Coincidentally, our Johnson County newspapers are called The Sun today.
Col. Shalor Winchell Eldridge (former owner of the Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence) reminisced about the 1850s and said "Further on (from the Methodist Mission), was a cluster of log buildings, a former Baptist Mission, occupied by Dr. Francis Barker."
The Shawnee Baptist Church
By 1848, the Shawnee Baptist Mission built a frame church, 28'x40', with a belfry, all erected at 55th and Walmer by their Shawnee Indian disciples. Their cemetery was also located here.
The Daughters of the American Revolution wanted to mark the Mission location, but could not get permission. So the marker was placed at the church site, which also was the location of the Shawnee cemetery. In 1854, Shawnees were allowed to keep two acres where their cemetery was, but now all is lost. Many of the graves (or at least the gravestones) were moved to the Indian Cemetery in Shawnee in later years.
Col. Joseph J. Johnson, May 18th, 1857 "Companies C and I crossed, the latter at the lower ferry, and joined the other four near the Baptist church on the California road, where we waited. . . ."
The Quaker Shawnee Mission
In the spring of 1836 the Society of Friends (more commonly known as Quakers) erected three buildings on this site at about 61st and Robinson ". . . .houses of hewn logs, twenty feet square, with a brick chimney on each end." By 1837 this Mission to the Shawnee Indians was up and running, and by the following year boasted 17 Indian "scholars." The first superintendents were the missionary couple Moses and Sarah Pearson. They were succeeded in 1840 by Henry and Ann Harvey, the first of many biennial replacements by the Friends Church.
In 1845 the large permanent Mission building was erected. Three stories high, 24'x70', constructed of stone and walnut timbers. This building remained for 59 years past the dimise of the Mission, until 1919. Several homes in this immediate area are reported to have fireplace mantels or other structural features using walnut logs from the old Mission building.
The 320 acres that encompassed the Shawnee Friends Mission property was bounded on the east by the Santa Fe Tral from Westport and on the north by the California Road. For the 32 years of its existence, from 1837 to 1869, imagine all the history that came this way. The Quaker Shawnee Mission was the longest lasting and most successful of the three Shawnee Missions. They had the best relationships with the Indians, which is why it lasted so long. The Methodist, Baptist and Quaker Missions attempted to work together at times, but each meeting always ended in arguments.
October 30th, 1847, missionary Richard Mendenhall wrote from the Shawnee Friends Mission ". . . .the existence of slavery here is not legal, and yet it does exist. . . .many of the Indians are decidedly opposed to slavery, but there are others who, no doubt, would own slaves if they were able to buy them. Some of them will take up slaves whenever they find them, whilst others will quietly let them pass."
Jotham Meeker, Baptist Missionary, August 29, 1834 wrote "Attend at the Quakers' building to witness the Shawanoe Councils, &c preparatory to their drawing their annuities on to-morrow."
Col. Shalor Winchell Eldridge (Continued from Baptist Mission Quote) "Some four miles out from Westport was the Quaker mission, a commodious wooden building. . . "
The DAR marker for the Quaker Mission was placed in 1923 a couple blocks west on 61st Street.
Sapling Grove, located at Comanche Park at 83rd and Grant in western Overland Park, is best known as the rendezvous point for the 1841 Bidwell-Bartleson party, generally recognized as the first organized overland emigration party to go to the Pacific coast. What is not so well known is that Sapling Grove had served Santa Fe traders and mountain men (such as the American Fur Company) on the trail out of Westport since the late 1820s. In fact, members of the Sibley survey of the Santa Fe Trail noted its specific location on that route as early as 1827.
Located eight miles southwest of Westport, Sapling Grove was far enough out for a first camp "shakedown", but still close enough in for a return to Westport for supplies or repairs.
On February 1, 1841, published Resolutions of the Western Emigration Society recorded ". . . it is recommended that all companies and individuals intending to so emigrate, rendezvous at the Sappling Grove on the old Santa Fe route, about nine miles west of the Missouri State line, against the 10th of May next. . . ."
Articulate and inciteful observer Dr. F. A. Wislizenus had this to say in 1839: Sapling Grove, Wislizenus said, was "in a little hickory wood, with fresh spring water." From Sappling Grove, he said the company "marched over the broad Santa Fe road, beaten out by the caravans."
Strang Park; The Junction Of The Westport Routes
The North & South Branches of Westport Route meet just west of Strang Park, located at 88th Terrace and Farley Street in Overland Park. William Strang was a visionary who was an early aviation pioneer who built the first landing strip west of Mississippi River near downtown Overland Park before 1910. He also built the Strang line, interurban railroad from Union Station in Kansas City through Mission and Overland Park to Olathe, following the Westport Route corridor for much of the distance. His plan was to bring people out here to the 'country' and sell lots for subdivisions, which he did very successfully, resulting in the founding of Overland Park, now one of the largest cities in Kansas. A small segment of the rail line has been preserved here in Strang Park.
First Rock Creek Crossing & Campground
At present-day 103rd and Noland Road in Lenexa, this campground was located at the crossing of Indian Creek on the Santa Fe-Oregon-California Trail from Westport. There are also indications that this campground was used by groups on the trail out of Independence also. They had to come off that trail to come north to this camping area, possibly to find grass and water.
The location was first noted as Flat Rock Creek and Campground by the Sibley re-survey of the Santa Fe Trail in 1827. The flat rocks for which the creek is named are still in evidence at the site. But by the 1840s, in the first days of the emigration west, the campground was simply known by the name of the stream it drains into; Indian Creek.
In 1829, Major Bennet Riley and the first military escort for Santa Fe traders crossed here at Indian Creek with 200 troops and 20 wagons. By 1838, four of the first white women to cross 'Kansas' and also the Rocky Mountains came through here-missionary wives Mary Gray, Myra Eells, Sarah Smith, and Mary Walker. In 1849 the California Gold Rush filled the trails with eager travelers, and contemporary guidebooks of the day describe Indian Creek as a good campground the first day out. The Civil War brought troops moving through this site as troops and militia moved between Kansas City and Olathe.
Through the 1880s the road across here was still used for local traffic. In 1906 the Daughters of the American Revolution put a red granite marker on the hill at 105th and Pflumm Rd., overlooking this Indian Creek Campground to the northeast.
July 2nd, 1854, Mormon John Davies, with his wagon train, wrote ". . . . . At Indian Creek my wife gave birth to a daughter between 12 and 1AM and at 8 o'clock we rolled out again."
George McKinistry, May 11, 1846 wrote in his diary "Camped on Indian creek. . . . . called a meeting to elect a captain and make laws the party numbered 120 wagons. . . . ."
The Mahaffie Farmstead & Stagecoach Stop
The Mahaffie Farmhouse was built in 1865 by Beattie Mahaffie on 570 acres of land he had owned for about eight years near the end of the Santa Fe Trail period and which was well past the Oregon-California Trail period. Several stagecoach lines went through here from Westport to as far away as Santa Fe during the 1865-1869 period before railroads supplanted the stage lines. It is open for tours on a regular basis. It is owned by the City of Olathe and a new visitor center and enlarged Living Farm facilities are planned.
Elm Grove Campground
Located near the Highway 56 bridge over Cedar Creek southwest of Olathe, Elm Grove Campground was an important frontier trail camp site for over three decades starting in 1827. Thousands of Santa Fe traders, Oregon and California emigrants, missionaries, mountain men, soldiers and '49ers camped at Elm Grove, including such frontier notables as John Fremont, William Bent, Tom Fitzpatrick, Francis Parkman and Philip St. George Cooke.
Elm Grove Campground originally named Caravan Grove, began in 1827 as a result of the Sibley survey of the Santa Fe Trail. Sibley was seeking a more direct route through present-day Johnson County, bypassing Lone Elm Campground, known then as Round Grove, which was 2 1/4 miles southeast of Elm Grove on the same Cedar Creek. These two campgrounds were often mistaken for each other.
Elm Grove was often used as a camp on the first or second night out from Westport. On July 2, 1841, Richard L. Wilson, bound for Santa Fe, recorded in his diary ". . . just at sunset on the second, we descended a precipitous declivity to a place of which nothing remained but the name Elm Grove, and one solitary logan of a stricken tree 'To mark where an Elm grove had been." A beautiful rivulet bubbled forth from the base of the hill, and as we wound our way down, we spied a single campfire. . . . .of an old Mexican hunter."
In that same year, the famous Bidwell-Bartleson party, the first emigrant wagon train to California, came through Elm Grove, as did a portion of the Great Migrations of 1843 to Oregon. The Mexican War brought the Laciede Rangers and other frontier military units through Elm Grove Campground in 1846-48. Many '49ers seeking California gold came through Elm Grove as well.
Lt. John Fremont, on his second exploring expedition and accompanied by guide Tom Firzpatrick, camped here May 30, 1843. One of the party, Theodore Talbot, wrote ". . . . . .only two elm trees remain of what was once a beautiful grove. . . . .".
By the mid 1850s the stagecoach from Westport crossed at Cedar Creek, and by 1857 David P. Hougland had bought the land and raised a cabin at Elm Grove. The land remains with the Hoagland family today."
Joseph Brown, government surveyor with the Sibley Survey in 1827 recorded "Caravan Creek 30 links wide runs northward & is a tributary of Kansas R. At this place called Caravan grove is excellent camping ground & plenty of timber for Shelter & fuel."
The reason why the Lone Elm Campgrounds and Elm Grove Campgrounds were so popular was not because they were magnificent locations or had a lot of wate or forage. The reason was there were trees there. Elm Grove was first known as Caravan Grove and Lone Elm was first known as Round Grove. These names explain the uniqueness of these sites; they had groves of trees in this treeless prairie.
Basically located on the low ridge a few hundred yards to the north of the Junction Park southwest of Gardner, Kansas at 183rd and Highway 56, this site is not only where the Independence and Westport routes come together, but also where the Oregon-California Trail branches off the older Santa Fe Trail.
It would be difficult to estimate the thousands (likely in the hundreds of thousands) of emigrants, freighters, mountain men, and others who traveled through that intersection, in all directions, on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails.
Dr. Frederick A. Wislizenus, May 24, 1846 wrote in his detailed diary "This morning we passed the road to Oregon, that leaves, about eight miles from Round Grove, the Santa Fe Road, and turns to the right towards the Kansas (river). A way post had been put there, marked: 'Road to Oregon'. . . . "
Edwin Bryant, May 13, 1846 said "About 4 o'clock, p.m., I reached the point where I supposed the Oregon Trail diverged from the Santa Fe' road. It was raining copiously. . . . . a bright rainbow was formed in the east. . . . ."
The Development Of The Kansas City Area Frontier Trails Network
The Santa Fe Trail went through two decades of change in the Kansas City area before evolving into its final form by about 1840. In the early years of that decade it also became the route of the Oregon Trail and California Trail.
In 1821 the young American Republic found itself extended from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, with a tenuous sliver of frontier extending cautiously westward along the Missouri River from its mouth near St. Louis. Along this string of small Missouri River settlements was Franklin, precariously situated in the Missouri River flood plain across from present day Boonville in the center of the state, and on the River in western Missouri was Fort Osage, established in 1808 as a government "factory" post set up for Indian trade. The area we know today as Kansas City (and Independence and Westport) was in a wild and undeveloped state in 1821. Fort Osage anchored the northeast corner of present day Jackson County. The Chouteau's small fur trading post near the mouth of the Kansas River anchored the northwest corner. The Missouri River meandered unrestricted along the north boundary and the Big Blue River flooded out every spring. By virtue of the 1808 Osage Indian Treaty which allowed Fort Osage to be constructed, Jackson County was still in Osage Indian hands and would not be available for settlement until the 1825 Treaty was completed.
In 1821, the year William Becknell and five companions from the Franklin area blazed the Santa Fe Trail, there were two routes in use in this area. One route proceeded south from near Fort Osage, following the ridge east of the Little Blue river, to a common rendezvous point for traders from the Franklin area called the "Blue Spring" (in present day Blue Springs). This trail continued south, crossing the Little Blue river near present day Grandview, crossing the Missouri border and the Big Blue River at present day 151st Street, and continuing to the famous Round Grove Campground in today's Johnson County, Kansas.
The other route of the Santa Fe Trail in this early era ran west from near Fort Osage, crossed the Little Blue River and turned southwest to run on the ridge east of the Big Blue River, stayed east of the latter (1827) location of Independence and continued southwest through present day Raytown. It finally turned west to cross the Big Blue River in today's Swope Park and crossed the State Line near today's 79th Street. It continued through Johnson County,KS where it met the other route near Round Grove (later, and more commonly known, as Lone Elm Campground).
By 1828 with the founding of Independence the previous year, the Independence Route of which we are more familiar had begun to evolve. Santa Fe traders began to bypass the "Blue Spring" route east of the Little Blue River. Instead they began to favor a route which followed the old northerly route out of the Fort Osage area, but instead of turning west in today's Raytown to approach the Big Blue River, the traders continued on south along the "Blue Ridge", continuing southwest and meeting the old route from the Blue Spring west of present day Grandview, effectively cutting off the old route east of that point. This new route continued to cross the Big Blue River like its predecessor, near the intersection of today's 151st Street and State Line.
By 1834 Westport had been founded four miles south of the Missouri River, and twelve miles west of Independence near the Missouri border. At about the same time the landing on the Missouri River was discovered by John C. McCoy near the foot of Grand Avenue and the levee in downtown Kansas City. With the discovery of this "Westport Landing" some twelve miles upstream from the Upper Independence (Wayne City) Landing, traders who chose to unload their goods here could avoid the troublesome and sometimes dangerous crossing of the Big Blue River that bisected the county.
The route from the Westport Landing ran south through present day downtown Kansas City, meandering generally between Grand and Broadway of today, and continued into Westport. Two routes exited out of Westport, one meandering south to meet up with the route coming off the crossing of the Blue River in today's Swope Park and crossed the State Line at about 79th, and the other route going west-southwest out of Westport continuing past the Indian missions located just west across the Missouri line.
By the early 1830s Independence had gained favor as the main outfitting point for Santa Fe traders, over other points to the east. But as the decade closed, and as the outfitting opportunities for commerce expanded to include outfitting for the Rocky Mountain fur trade and emigrant wagon trains destined for Oregon, Westport began to provide serious competition for Independence.
By 1840 the Santa Fe Trail had evolved into its final basic form in the Kansas City area, and by 1841 these maturing routes were sustaining traffic from Oregon and California emigrants, as well as Santa Fe traders and freighters.
The trail southwest out of Westport past the Indian missions remained essentially the same. However, the crossing of the Big Blue River in today's Swope Park fell into disuse in the 1840s. Thus the route that meandered south from Westport now crossed the Missouri line at about present day 69th street, cutting off the old State Line crossing a mile farther south.
The trail out of Independence also ran two routes. One coursed southwest out of Independence, merging with the other Independence route near today's 66th and Blue Ridge Boulevard. The other route ran south out of Independence, entering present day northeast Raytown, and continuing southwest, turning south again near today's 66th Street to follow the Blue Ridge. The trail continued down the Blue Ridge Boulevard corridor, meandering southwest to the crossing of the Big Blue River in today's Minor Park near Red Bridge Road. The trail continued southwest and crossed the Missouri line at present day 122nd Street, thus cutting off the old Blue River crossing at today's 151st Street in favor of this new "Red Bridge" crossing downstream.
In the main these were the routes as traveled after 1840, and in fact are the delineations by which these trails are most commonly considered. The great Santa Fe, Oregon, and California Trails marked these later routes as their traces until the Civil War drove the main trailheads north of the Kansas City area. With the end of the Civil War in 1865 the railroads moved the main trailheads farther and farther west.
The Oregon-California Trail goes on west from this junction for about two miles, then north for about six miles before turning west-northwest toward Lawrence, Topeka and into Nebraska. The Santa Fe Trail goes straight on to the west-northwest toward Council Grove and Santa Fe.
The State Line
The western border of Missouri was defined by the 1821 Missouri statehood legislation as extending from the midpoint of the confluence of the waters of the Kansas River and the Missouri River. It was surveyed in 1823 by Joseph Brown, who would be George Sibley's surveyor in 1825 on the Santa Fe Trail. The confluence has moved west about 200-300 yards today. Before 1837, this line was not only straight south to the 36' line of Arkansas, but also went straight north to the Iowa border.
What we now know as the state of Kansas was established as Indian Territory by the 1830 Indian Removal Act, passed by Congress May 28, 1830, which called for all tribes in the Eastern U. S. to move to west of the Missouri Border. Stephen Long and others in the early 1800s called this land the 'Great American Desert'. Non-Indians were prohibited from living west of this line, therefore there were no towns west of here. That is why the principal frontier trails all began here. Westport, Independence, etc. were the last places to outfit or to buy anything. The Indian Treaty money and annuities greatly fueled the growth of Westport, Town of Kansas and even Independence.
This situation lasted until the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854 which opened much of Indian Territory for settlement.
In summary, it was geography (the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers and the head of the Missouri River) that made it necessary for the trails to start here in the Kansas City area, but it was politics (the 1830 Indian Removal Act up to 1854) that kept the trail heads here.
The Delaware Ferry & 1857 Grinter House
Grinter House built in 1857 by Moses Grinter. Grinter arrived in the early 1830s and operated a ferry here on the Delaware Indian Reserve, which served as a connection between the Delawares and the huge Shawnee Indian Reserve to the south of the Kansas River. The ferry was known variously as the Grinter Ferry, Delaware Ferry and the Secondine Ferry (son of the Delaware Chief). The Delawares came here in 1829-30 and were one of the Indian Tribes removed here by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Ira and Mary Blanchard founded a Baptist Mission to the Delawares in 1837 about four miles west of here. It was washed out in the flood of 1844 and they moved it two miles north. These later foundations still exisst and are preserved in a thirteen-acre tract within the new NASCAR racetrack area.
Mary wrote in December, 1836 "We are 16 miles from Shawnee (The Shawnees came in 1825 and their Council House was located south of here at Gum Springs (present day Shawnee, KS) and the Kaw is 1/4 mile wide between us, and the fwriage for a single person 50 cents and for a wagon 2 dollars yet we are far better situated as to obtaining supplies than I had expected to be. I should think this the most healthy place I ever was acquainted with. . . ."
When the Fort Leavenworth Military Road was built in 1839, this ferry site across the Kansas River was a part of that Road. The Military Road goes up the bluff in the distance to the south of the river on its way to crossing the Independence Route at about 123rd and State Line and proceeded on south to forts Scott, Gibson, Towson and Jesup.
The Kansas River is substantially in the same place today as it was 150-170 years ago and the ferry site was essentially in front of the house, perhaps just a little downstream. The Military Road came down towards the river from the north at an angle from about 1/4 mile east of the house. There was significant ruts east of the house a few hundred yards.
The gravestone in the front yard says:
"Thomas Elliot, son of John and Sarah Elliot, Born in Highland County, Ohio April 26, 1814, Died May 30, 1849." The broken stone was found near the ruts east of here in 1950 and the remains wee moved to here when the highway was widened in 1964. Elliot was employed by Pierre Chouteau Jr. & Co. trading post as this site during the period October 2, 1846 to May 30, 1849.
Francis Parkman, 1846, en route west "A few hours' ride brought us to the banks of the river Kanzas. Traversing the woods that lined it , and ploughing through the deep sand, we encamped not far from the bank, at the Lower Delaware crossing. . . . .An old Delaware woman, of some three hundred pounds' weight, sat in the porch of a little log-house, close to the water, and a very pretty half-breed girl was engaged, under her superintendence, in feeding a large flock of turkeys that were fluttering and gobbling about the door. . . . . The river "Kanzas" at this point forms the boundary-line between the co untry of the Shawanoes and that of the Delawares. We crossed it on the following day, rafting over out horses and equipments with much difficulty, and unloading our cart in order to make our way up the steep ascent on the farther bank."
The Kansas State Penitentiary (completed in 1868) is on the east side of Highway 7 near Seven-mile Creek. A town named Lansing sprang up in 1878 around the prison which was located in farmland owned by James Lansing. The Lansing-Leavenworth economy depends greatly on the three area prisons; Lansing, the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth and the Disciplinary Barracks at the Fort, which is the only maximum security prison operated by the Department of Defense.
Leavenworth is the oldest town in Kansas, having been the first town to file a plat when the Kansas Territory was created May 30, 1854. Some other towns dispute this claim.
A person known only as "Out West", writing from Fort Leavenworth, July 17, 1854 said ". . . . . it has always been asserted that the Gov't land extended three miles South of here on the Missouri,. . . . . But now, a company composed partly of army officers and partly of citizens have entered upon the lower part. . . . . and laid out a town, nineteen workmen have been employed the past week to clear away the brush and bushes, who are paid $1.50 per day each, and boarded."
At 4th and Delaware, note the plaques on the building on the northwest corner. This was the location of Russell, Majors and Waddell's offices. They were the giant freighting firm of the 1850s and operators of the Pony Express during its short life in 1860-61. At one point they contracted for all the U. S. Army freighting on both the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail to Utah. They were bankrupt by 1861.
The cross streets are named for Indian Tribes.
This was the landing for the new town of Leavenworth beginning in 1854. Emigrants mostly landed here for outfitting in Leavenworth. Military freight continued to land at the Fort, of course. This was a busy landing for a long time; in 1865 400 boats landed here. In addition, in 1870 there were over 100 manufacturers of various sorts in Leavenworth.
Note the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the art sculptures of a wrecked train and wrecked covered wagon, and the very detailed circular trails map which shows not only all trails, but railroads and rivers as well (good and mostly accurate).
Across from the restored 1887 Leavenworth Union Depot is the site of the law firm ran by (William) Tecumseh (Camp) Sherman and his foster brothers Hugh and Thomas Ewing, Jr. (his future brothers-in-law). Sherman went on to fame as a leading USA General in the Civil War and after the war became the commanding general of the US Army. In 1881, he established the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, which is still the primary oficer training school for the US Army. Thomas Ewing Jr. was the Commanding General of the Army of Missouri and issued Order #11 after the Lawrence Raid in August of 1863 which cleared three and a half counties in Missouri which essentially put an end to the Border War. The famous Planters Hotel, where Lincoln stayed in December 1859 during his presidential campaign, was in the vacant lot just north of the Depot.
Fort Leavenworth's Beginnings
Col. Henry Leavenworth chose the spot for the Fort in 1827 with the help from mountain man John Dougherty, who later built a mansion northwest of Liberty, MO. It was called Rattlesnake Hills. His mission was to find a spot on the east side of the river, but couldn't; he wisely rejected the area between the Platte and the Missouri.
On March 7, 1827, orders were issued to Colonel Henry Leavenworth and four companies of his regiment ordering him to "ascend the Missouri, and when he reaches a point on its left bank near the mouth of the Little Platte river and within a range of twenty miles above or below its confluence, he will select such position as in his judgment is best calculated for the site of a permanent cantonment."
On May 8, 1827, Col. Leavenworth wrote his commanding officer from his camp at the mouth of the Little Platte: "there was not a good location on the left bank of the Missouri for a cantonment within the limits prescribed, but that on the right bank 20 miles upstream, there was a very good site for a cantonment." The "slaiky" land near the mouth of the Little Platte that Clark described, is the reason that today we have Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and not Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.
Fort Leavenworth was located and established by Col. Henry Leavenworth on May 27, 1827 and was called "Cantonment Leavenworth" for about five years. It was founded primarily to help safeguard the new international trade route with Mexico, the Santa Fe Trail, which began in 1821 with Mexico's independence from Spain. It also was to help regulate Indian trade and to keep the peace in general. The first military escort on the Santa Fe Trail was in 1829, led by Major Bennett Riley, after whom Fort Riley would be named when it was founded in 1853.
Col. Henry Leavenworth died of a fever in 1834 contracted in Oklahoma (I. T.) while leading the first company of Dragoons on a military sweep to impress the plains Indians (Cheyenne, Kiowa, etc).
Col. George Croghan, March 31,1829 said "A great deal has been done (since 1827), much more in truth that could have been expected of a garrison so reduced by sickness; still the work is not half accomplished. . . . . a good hospital has been erected, and four houses originally intended to quarter one company each (though now occupied by officers) have been put up and nearly completed. . . . . I am. . . . at a loss. . . . . as to the operating causes of. . . . .sickness. There is certainly nothing apparently in its location to render it unhealthy, on the contrary, the site might be considered an admirable one."
"An Ohioan", writing from Council Bluffs, Iowa, June 10, 1854 said "Fort Leavenworth, K. T. --- the only things that look like forts being a pair of block-houses, with musket port-holes. The barracks are extensive and appear to be in fine order. . . . The landing is of rocks and is one of the finest and most substantial on the river."
Fort Leavenworth was never an outfitting point. It was an army fort and was not in business to sell wagons and animals to emigrants. Therefore getting off the steamboat at the Fort accomplished nothing. Weston was the outfitting town for emigrants wanting to use the Fort Leavenworth Oregon-California Trail. It was about five miles north on the Missouri side of the river. Emigrants would outfit in Weston and come down and cross at the Fort Leavenworth ferry, or the one at Rialto, and proceed from there. Weston became a thriving town after it was founded in 1837 after the Platte Purchase.
The following diaries are among those that recorded outfitting in Weston and using the Fort Leavenworth Route of the Oregon-California Trail: Francis Hardy, O. B. Nixon, Dr. J. S. Shepherd, Henry Wellenkamp, 1849; Gurdon Backus, 1852; Caroline Richardson, 1853 and William Hoffman, 1853; and John Casper Richard, Ohio, 1853.
Others apparently had their equipment and bought supplies at the Fort and proceeded on like: John Riker from Cincinnati in 1852, R. H. P. Snodgrass from Ohio in 1852, Andrew S. McClure in 1853, and Hans Hoth, a German Mormon, in 1854.
Of course, after Leavenworth town was founded in 1854, it became a thriving outfitting town and supplanted Weston, especially after the Missouri River changed course in 1858, leaving Weston high and dry.
There was a Mormon camp, called Pleasant Grove, near Fort Leavenworth, where a number of Mormons, and others, camped and began their journey on the Fort Leavenworth route like Jean Frederick Loba in 1854.
Corral Creek (essentially at the one-mile distance from the Parade Ground) was named for the extensive Russell, Major and Waddell ox corrals during the 1850s. The military contracted most of its hauling after the Mexican War and by 1855, Russell, Major & Waddell had exclusive contracts to haul all the freight out of Fort Leavenworth on the Santa Fe Trail. They had a similar contract on the Oregon Trail to the Utah Mormon War in 1857-8. In the first year of their 1855 contract, they hauled 2000 wagon loads of freight with each wagon requiring twelve oxen. In 1860-61, Russell, Major & Waddell operated the Pony Express out of St. Joseph, but it lost upwards of $250,000. Russell, Major & Waddell went broke in 1861, and their freight contracts were taken over by Irwin and Jackson.
Pass the Buffalo Soldiers Monument which was dedicated in 1992 with General Colin Powell as keynote speaker. The Black Cavalry units were created in 1866; they were later called 'Buffalo soldiers'. Various reasons are given for the name, but they served with great distinction.
Lewis and Clark passed by here on July 2, 1804, having camped just below the Leavenworth bridge the night before. They camped about five miles north of Leavenworth on July 2. The new Daughters of the American Revolution marker was dedicated on February 20, 1998 along with two others at Atchison and one at White Cloud.
By 1714, the French had mapped the Missouri River to about Omaha and in 1744 established one of their 'factory' forts to trade with the Indians at Fort DeCavignal, which was about three miles north of here overlooking the river. It was near a Kanza Indian village and was closed in 1764 as part of the treaty agreement with Great Britain to end the French and Indian War.
The Memorial Chapel was built in 1878 by prison labor to replace the first Sutlers House. the 7th Cavalry tablet markers for casualties from the Little Big Horn battle were put in then under approval by General John Pope, who also has a marker in the Chapel. So does Col. Henry Leavenworth (1836). There is a total of 89 tablets and over 100 names mentioned.
At the Parade Ground:
Note the Mormon Battalion marker. Under Philip St. George Cooke with Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (Sacajawea's papoose) as guide, they garrisoned here for two weeks in August, 1846 as they passed through from Council Bluffs to Santa Fe and on to California in support of Stephen Watts Kearny's Army of the West.
The 1834 brick Dragoon Barracks stood at the southeast corner near the Battalion marker. Just north of them are two cream buildings, ca. 1855-one supposedly housed Custer. Note the Rookery, the oldest residence in Kansas-1827 foundations, but not occupied until the early 1830s. Kansas Territory's first capitol building from October to November, 1854, was located just north of the Rookery. So was the flag pole, from which all distances were measured. Across the street north of the Rookery is the 1863 Quartermasters Building of Major Easton that was converted to the Disciplinary Barracks in 1877. It is the only Department of Defense Maximum Security prison in the U. S. Easton was quartermaster here for many years from the late 1840s.
At the swale from the Landing:
In trail days, there was a road from the ferry that went to Liberty, which existed from the time when the Fort was established (Fort-1827, Liberty 1821). Those that landed at the Liberty Landing, outfitted at Liberty and went overland to this ferry to use the Fort Leavenworth route of the Oregon-California Trail. There were warehouses at the river's edge in trail days which handled the military freight. Some of the freight was loaded our and went overland to other forts and some went directly to the Quartermaster facilities at the top of the hill.
A modern-day observer of this swale, John Keegan, the foremost British Military Historian, said in 1995 "I stared in bemusement at the scar for a long time. . . . The Leavenworth scar opens the story of the greatest event in modern American history, the departure of the migrants, from the temperate, forested territory of the Atlantic east to the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Eldorado of the Pacific coast. . . . . The scar. . . . .remains as the single most graphic relic of the westward movement. . . . "
The Oregon-California Trail from Fort Leavenworth
Kearny Street, which goes west from the southwest corner of the Parade Ground, is essentially the Military Road to Fort Laramie that later became the Oregon-California Trail from Fort Leavenworth. The trail goes through the Fort Cemetery along the foot of the bluff and goes through a saddle in the bluff to the northwest, as does an old railroad right-of-way. The trail then essentially follows old Highway 73 out to the 'Eight-mile House' where it splits into two alternate routes.
In 1849 a good number of emigrants left from Fort Leavenworth in order to avoid the congestion in St. Joe and Independence. However, the Fort was off-limits to the emigrants. In 1852 John Clark who was on a steamer bound for St. Joseph wrote: "a dull looking place on the Indian side, Garrison on the hill a short distance from the river."
William Frederick (Buffalo Bill) Cody
We will go up Cody Hill on the highway. The Isaac Cody family arguably filed the first claim in the new Kansas Territory after word was received about June 10 of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854. Their pre-built cabin was on the south side of the highway (the trail) on the lower part of the hill. The family had come here in April from Iowa and stayed with Isaac's brother in Weston and found the spot they wanted to settle on here in Salt Creek Valley. Young William Frederick Cody, having been born in Scott County, Iowa on February 26, 1846, was eight when they moved onto this 160-acre claim and easily fell in love with all the wagon traffic going by their house. Isaac, an outspoken abolitionist, was stabbed in an argument at Pierce Rively's store, a mile east of here on the trail near the Salt Creek Crossing, and died in 1857. Young eleven-year-old 'Willy', as the oldest son, soon found a job running messages from the downtown offices of Russell, Majors and Waddell to the Fort and herding their extra oxen. He continued to work for Russell, Majors and Waddell off and on for three years or so. He was in the Civil War with the 9th KS Cavalry as a scout and later was Chief of Scouts with the 5th Cavalry. At one time, he killed buffalo for the army, which gave him his nickname. It is difficult to separate fact from fiction about Bill Cody, but he later went on to fame and fortune. Eventually he lost most of his fortune and essentially died broke.
Cody's mother took in roomers in their house, which she called the Golden Rule House, to support the family. James Butler, (Wild Bill) Hickok as a young bodyguard for Free-soil leader James Lane came here a number of times. He was about nine years older than Willy, but they became good friends. Hickok proposed to Willy's older sister, Ellen, but she turned him down. Hickok later joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show along with Annie Oakley.
The Oregon-California Trail Split At Eight-mile House
As we said before, the Leavenworth Routes were frequently used by emigrants outfitting in Westport, who would then go west to Gum Springs, go north on the Ft. Leavenworth Military Road and go west on the earlier military route west from Fort Leavenworth toward Fort Laramie, joining up with the St. Joe Road near the Big Blue River near today's Marysville, KS.
Eight-Mile House still stands on the right at the top of the hill, eight miles from the parade grounds. It was built before 1857 because it appeared on the tax rolls that year. Hanna Haupt has lived there for about 35 years. This is where the Oregon-California Route to Topeka and Fort Riley branched off to the west-southwest.
Straight ahead to the northwest is the continuing route toward Marysville, the Big Blue River and Forts Kearny and Laramie. In 1849, James William Denver, who would later become governor of Kansas Territory and have the city of Denver named for him, took this route and remarked that in one day, he ". . . passed 500 teams and packing parties."
In addition to emigrants, military freight used both routes. After 1852, the route to the southwest went to Fort Riley. The Santa Fe Trail freight went on to the southwest and freight bound for forts along the Oregon-California Trail went north from there.
Concerning the route that went to Topeka and Fort Riley: A "Correspondent" wrote on June 15, 1853 as he traveled this route toward Ft. Riley, ". . . .it was the roughest and most disagreeable one that ever was traveled by white man. . . . .since the days of Moses. It was an incessant crossing of creeks, sloughs, quagmires, swampy bottoms, and rocky hollows, the entire route. . . "
Celinda Hines, in her excellent Oregon Trail diary, wrote in May, 1853 that after crossing the Grinter Ferry, a Delaware chief advised them to take "the divide route (Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley Road) instead of the government road (Fort Leavenworth to Marysvills Road), as it is nearer and they say a better road."
Major E. A. Ogden, January 12, 1855 wrote "Fort Riley. . . .is one hundred and thirty miles west of Fort Leavenworth. . . It is connected with Fort Leavenworth. . by a good road on the north side of the Kansas."
The Blue Mill
The Blue Mill location is about 1/2 mile north of Blue Mills Road on the east bank of the Little Blue River. The Blue Mill produced a variety of products including fine quality flour and a millstone is on display at the National Frontier Center. It was erected in 1832 by James and Robert Aull, the prominent Santa Fe traderws and Lexington merchants, who also operated a store on the Independence Square. Foundations still exist and are accesible by a dead-end road up from Blue Mills Road on the east shore of the Little Blue.
Virgil Pringle on his way overland from central Missouri to Oregon wrote in his diary on May 5, 1846 "Got underway for Blue Mills. The Blue Mills the best water mills I have seen in the state. Make flour that passes the Boston market, to which place they often freight. Went ahead with my wagons and commenced loading in my flour for which I pay $2.00 for Super fine and $1.75 for fine."
Lewis and Clark passed the mouth of the Little Blue River Saturday, June 24, 1804. They called it 'Hay Cabin Creek'. They camped a little farther upstream that night. On Sunday night, June 25, 1804 their campsite was about ten miles upstream near ". . . . .the mouth of the Big Blue River."
The Santa Fe Trail crossed about a mile north of the Blue Mills Road bridge. About a mile south of the same bridge, just south of Highway 24, was the beginning skirmish (against General James G. Blunt's Union troops) of the three day Battle of Westport on October 21, 1864.
The Blue Mills Landing
Located 1/4 mile north of a sharp 90 degree corner on Courtney Road, the Blue Mills Landing (Lower Independence Landing) was first begun as a landing for Santa Fe traders and perhaps was in use before the founding of Independence in 1827. The Upper Independence (Wayne City) Landing five miles upstream dominated by the mid-1830s. The lower landing may have been known as Owens Landing in the late 1840s.
The Missouri River has shifted about 1/4 mile to the north and the landing is on dry land today near the BNSF Railroad tracks. The original landing site is on property owned by the Jackson County Parks Department and is accessible on foot by a primitive road.
William H. Glasgow, May 24, 1846: "I left the landing (where we loaded our wagons) yesterday, and went out to the Generals quarters to pay him a visit. . . .Tuesday we will go to town, and On Wednesday morning cross the line of to pay him a the state of Missouri and bid farewell to people, houses. &c for 60 days."
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