Tampa, Kansas
Marion County, Kansas

Santa Fe Trail Rut in Tampa, Kansas Cemetery

     Any history of the caucasian in and around Tampa, Kansas, must begin with the Santa Fe Trail. The American Indian freely roamed these prairies for many centuries prior to the 19th Century. In 1822 the Santa Fe Trail was established. It cut across northern Marion County from Lost Springs to Tampa to northwest of Durham and thence southwesterly to the McPherson County line. Ruts of the trail are still visible northeast of Tampa on what was the Fritsch Farm, now owned by the Leonard J. Bezdek family and west of Tampa on the farm that was owned for many years by Pat and Mayme Patterson.

     The Trail cut through the middle of what was later to be the Tampa townsite. It entered at the northeast corner of town, cut across the ball field, the high school property and proceeded southwesterly through what was the P. H. Meehan homesite (now Thomas P. Duggan home) and westerly through the Patterson property.

     A Santa Fe Trail marker stands at the northeast corner of Tampa and has the following inscription:

Old Santa Fe Trail, operated
1822-1872. Purchased from the
Indians, August 10, 1825.
Surveyed 1827 from
Independence, MO. to Santa Fe,
New Mexico. Erected by old
settlers and citizens of Marion
County. October 3, 1914

     The following history of the Trail was taken from VanMeter, Marion County, Kansas, Past and Present:

Santa Fe Trail
     "Of all the trails which crossed Marion County, the Santa Fe Trail was the most widely traveled for the longest duration. The Indian trails, especially the Kaw Trail that crossed the northern part of the county and the trail passing by Peabody were used for many years by Indians going west or south into other hunting grounds. The Chisholm cattle trail from Texas through Kansas to Abilene had a brief, but busy history in the mid and late 1860's."

What means this faint mark on the broad rolling prairie,
All but lost in the lapse of swift passing years?
What tale of wild life does its winding ways carry
As we seek to unfold what man always reveres?
So let us then pause while the swift years are fleeting,
E'er the Trail disappear 'neath the overturned sod.
And mark with a tribute of memory's greeting
The tract where the faithful old pioneer trod . . .
(Scott C. Siegle, Marion Record, Jan. 12, 1911)

     "As early as the late 18th century the French and Spanish explorers traveled between St. Louis and Santa Fe, sometimes following the same route of the Santa Fe Trail of the next century. A few Americans were quite interested in opening trade with the oldest city in North America. Manuel De Lisa, the Missouri fur trader, had wanted to, but did not. The Santa Fe Trail was not opened up as a trade route until 1821 when merchant William Becknell of Missouri led a wagon train to Santa Fe. His expedition was small, but very profitable. Others heard of his good fortune and prepared to outfit wagons the next year. Within five years the trade had become important enough to receive Presidential attention."

     "On March 3, 1825, Congress passed a bill authorizing the President of the United States to provide for a survey of a road from Missouri to the Province of New Mexico, Mexico. The act provided $10,000 for survey costs and $20,000 for bargaining with the Indians. The Santa Fe road commissioners were Benjamin H. Reeve (Missouri), Pierre Menard who was replaced by Thomas Mather (Illinois) and George C. Sibley (Missouri)."

     "Several treaties were signed in 1825 with various Indian tribes, the tribes agreeing not to molest American citizens who traveled the Santa Fe road. While the forty-man survey party camped in a "large and beautiful grove of fine timbers" (Council Grove), they met with about fifty Osages in August to sign a treaty giving the United States the right to mark the Santa Fe road through their land, and granting free use of the road forever. The Indians were given $800 in trade goods. The survey party also made a similar treaty with the Kanza Indians who lived in the lower Kansas River Valley."

     "In 1868 the Kansas legislature passed an act declaring the Santa Fe road from eastern to western boundaries of Kansas, a state road. The trail was not as definite as a paved road. Its width varied from a few feet to several hundred yards. Occasionally, travelers would seek a short cut or vary the route slightly because grass became scarce close to the main trail."

     "Along the trail were places designated as stops, or if a cabin were there, the place could be called a station. From the beginning, Lost Spring was an important stop because fresh water from the large, main spring could be obtained there."

     The Western Journal of Commerce published in Kansas City, November 6, 1858, printed a list of the stops or stations along the Santa Fe Trail. Those in Marion County were:

     "Lost Spring . . . 13 miles from Diamond Spring . . . had buffalo chips, water and grass. Little Muddy Creek (Tampa stop) . . . 10 miles from Lost Spring . . . buffalo chips, water and grass. Cottonwood (river) . . . 7 1/2 miles from Little Muddy Creek . . . Mail station, entertainment, corn, hay, wood, water, grass, provisions."

     "In order to encourage the establishment of stations along the trail, the United States government gave a quarter section of land to anyone who would undertake to live on it. These stations were usually located at stream crossings, or where cattle and horses could obtain water. They were about a day's journey or, ten to fifteen miles apart. Not all stations owners' received government land. One of those who did, Charles Fuller, lived outside the boundary of Marion County in McPherson County. At one time his ranch was in Marion County, when the boundary extended to the Colorado-Kansas state line."

     "In 1859, a year after the Journal of Commerce printed the list of stations on the Santa Fe Trail, traffic became very heavy on the trail. Freighting had increased, Mexicans were hauling many loads of wood to the United States, and in the early spring gold seekers were on their way to the gold fields of Colorado. The disillusioned "Pike's Peakers" returned in June of the same year by way of the Santa Fe Trail. Between April to September 8, 1859, over 2,170 wagons and 8,000 tons of freight passed westward through Marion County over the Trail. This did not include the large number of immigrants' wagons, gold seekers or Mexican traders headed east."

     "Perhaps because of this increased traffic over the trail, George Smith built a cabin at Lost Spring and decided to offer the travelers more than water, grass and buffalo chips."

     "A distance down the trail west of Lost Spring, Little Muddy Creek was named as a stop, but it was never developed. Instead, about 17 1/2 miles (a wagon day) beyond Lost Spring was Cottonwood Crossing, also known as Moore's Ranch in the 1860's."

     "Journal of Commerce in 1858 indicated that it was a fairly important stop, providing supplies, corn, hay, wood, grass and water. It was also a mail station, which means that this was the first post office in Marion County. As for the type of entertainment provided, the best guess is gambling and drinking. Smith maintained the ranch until the Moore brothers bought it. The year 1865 (May 21 - November 24) was a busy year on the Trail. Most of the 4,472 wagons, 5,197 men, 1,267 horses, 6,452 mules, 38,281 oxen, 112 carriages, and 13,056 tons of freight crossing the toll bridge on the Trail near Council Grove also passed through Marion County."

     "Toward 1865 the Indians had become openly hostile because more and more white settlers were moving onto their hunting grounds and destroying the buffalo upon which they depended for food."

     "Traffic on the Santa Fe Trail retreated before the iron horse of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The railroad reached Emporia in 1870, was built through Marion and Harvey counties in 1871, and was finished a few yards beyond the Kansas-Colorado border December 31, 1872. The railroad provided faster, easier, cheaper transportation for all overland freighting and traveling. The stations by the trail were either abandoned or in some instances, as Lost Spring, villages grew up around them."

     "While wind, rain, dust and dirt leveled and filled in the ruts of the trail, for thirty-five years in Marion County no one made any effort to build markers or monuments on it."

     "The school children of Durham School District No. 57 were the first in the county to mark the important Cottonwood Crossing, or any part of the Santa Fe Trail in Marion County. They erected a monument one-half mile west and one mile north of Durham and helped dedicate it April 20, 1906. Addresses were given by County Superintendent Ray, J. S. Dean and old settler Alex Case. Another monument one-half mile west and one-half mile south of the first marker was placed there in 1906 by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the State of Kansas. Claude Unruh bought the land on which this marker stands. Early pioneers called the site "Cottonwood Grove" and Unruh fittingly named his farm "The Cottonwood Grove Farm." Mr. Unruh set aside a small picnic area around the marker. Later former Durham resident John Borton had the monument refinished and placed on two heavy bronze plates."

     "Other markers and monuments have been placed near Tampa and French Frank's (also formerly site of Waldeck)."

     From the above it is apparent that the present Tampa townsite never became an active stop or station along the Santa Fe Trail. The trail followed a ridge line from Lost Springs, to the Cottonwood Crossing north of Durham, and since there were no major streams to cross, the wagons could easily move the 17 1/2 miles from Lost Springs to the Cottonwood Crossing in one day.

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