It has long been known that Council Grove's West Main Street was platted along the actual route of the Santa Fe Trail, but with the passage of time and manmade alterations to the landscape, the actual location of the path of the Neosho River Crossing had been lost to history.
Recently, however, a Council Grove attorney drew together information from a variety of sources to reconstruct with some certainty the actual location of the path Santa Fe Trail travelers took in crossing the Neosho River.
In drawing his conclusions, he studied a number of plats of the area, engineer's drawings of the 1930's river dike project, aerial photographs, and early 20th century photographs. The final "puzzle piece" was his learning of an article presented to the Kansas Historical Society by George Morehouse in 1903. His analysis was later confirmed by a photograph taken in 1903 or 1904, showing a horse-drawn vehicle traveling the old route.
After the flood of 1903 destroyed the Main Street Bridge, Morehouse reported that travelers had to again use the old river crossing. In fact, although there had been bridges at that location since 1866, Morehouse noted that the City had always maintained the old crossing for those who wished to water their teams or cross the river the old way.
In the 1930's the Neosho River was straightened and dikes constructed. Previously the river proceeded Easterly behind the Hays House and the present Duckwall's store, then turned South to follow its present course under the Main Street Bridge. The water stream in the area of the bridge ran along the eastern portion of the riverbed, and the West bank sloped more gently to the East than it does today.
He has concluded that the Santa Fe Trail approached the riverbed from the North, entering the water stream at the bend of the river and crossing to the West side just East of the present Coffin Insurance Building. The Trail proceeded South along the West bank, climbing gradually until taking a turn to the West to come up over the top of the riverbank onto what is now the South half of West Main Street.
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