Fort Leavenworth
Round Grove/Lone Elm Road

The Army's First Link to the
Santa Fe Trail

     On May 15, 1829, four companies of the Sixth U.S. Infantry under the command of Bvt. Maj. Bennet Riley were greeted by a 15-gun salute as they disembarked from the steamboat Diana at Cantonment Leavenworth. Dispatched from Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Riley's troops were to spend the next 19 days at Leavenworth in preparation for their assigned duty, the escort of the annual spring caravan to Santa Fe. While other officers were deployed to procure provisions and draft animals for the expedition, 2nd Lt. Robert Seiver was ordered to reconnoiter two routes from the cantonment to Round Grove, the well known campground on the Santa Fe Trail at which Riley's command was to rendezvous with the traders assembling at Independence. [1]

     Round Grove, known as Lone Elm after 1844, was located thirty-five miles southwest of Independence on the Santa Fe Trail. This campground is not to be confused with Elm Grove, another campground located two and a half miles northwest of Round Grove on the so called Westport Road branch of the Santa Fe Trail. [2] On May 28, Seiver made his report. The western route running south from Leavenworth through rough terrain crossed the Kansas River without the benefit of a ferry. The eastern route, some fifty miles further than its western counterpart, followed the east bank of the Missouri River to a ferry located twenty-five miles downstream from the cantonment. Regardless of the difference in distance, Riley chose the latter route.

     Departing Cantonment Leavenworth on June 3, Riley's men camped on the east bank of the Missouri, and the next day they continued along the river to the confluence of the Little Platte. Following a difficult crossing of the Little Platte, the troops proceeded on to the ferry located about 10 miles from Independence. Two days were consumed in ferrying the men and equipment across the Missouri, and two more days were required to reach Round Grove. There, as planned, Riley's command met with the 38-wagon caravan captained by Charles Bent; and on the following day, June 12, the column marched southwest in advance of the traders. Such was the origin of the first and well documented military escort of the Santa Fe Trail. [3]

     In subsequent years, expeditions from Fort Leavenworth [name changed in 1831] would use the shorter, western route to Round Grove, thus avoiding the difficult crossing of the Little Platte River and time-consuming ferrying of the Missouri. Such was made possible by the 1831 establishment of a ferry on the Kansas River by a 21-year-old Kentuckian, Moses Grinter. Located 24 miles from Fort Leavenworth, this place came to be known as both Grinter's Ferry and Delaware Crossing. The Latter designation was in reference to the 2,208,000 acre Delaware Reserve located north of the river. [4]

     The first documented expedition to use the western route was that of Capt. William Wickliffe in May 1833. Reaching Round Prairie [another name for Round Grove] on May 23, Wickliffe's Sixth Infantry escort continued on to Council Grove where it rendezvoused with the annual spring caravan from Independence. Two years later at the conclusion of a 1,645-mile expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Col. Henry Dodge and his First Dragoons passed both Elm Grove and Round Grove Before turning north to trace Wickliffe's course to Grinter's crossing and back to their point of origin at Fort Leavenworth. [5]

     In 1837, the route used by Wickliffe and Dodge was greatly enhanced by the establishment of the Fort Leavenworth/Fort Gibson Military Road. Surveyed by a party under the command of Col. Stephen W. Kearny, the military road replicated the course followed by Wickliffe for its first twenty-nine miles before veering southeast to follow the border of western Missouri to the site later occupied by New Santa Fe and then southward to Fort Gibson. Such was the route taken by Capt. Philip St George Cooke and his First Dragoons in their celebrated escort of an American and Mexican caravan in 1843. Leaving the military road south of the Kansas River, Cooke's command continued southward to strike the Santa Fe Trail a little east of Lone Elm on May 30 and thence proceeded on to rendezvous with the traders at Council Grove. [6]

     Returning form an exploratory expedition up the Platte and homeward by way of the Arkansas in the summer of 1845, Col. Kearny and 280 dragoons departed the Santa Fe Trail near Willow Springs in present Douglas County, Kansas, to blaze a new trail to Fort Leavenworth. Turning northward, the troops crossed the Kansas River near the confluence to the Wakarusa River at present Eudora and continued on through rough and broken country to strike the military road about ten miles south of Fort Leavenworth. [7] Kearny's new road was to accommodate the bulk of the Santa Fe traffic at the onset of the Mexican War with two notable exceptions. Preceding troop movements to New Mexico, one hundred supply trains were dispatched from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's Fort by way of Round Grove [called Lone Elm by this time] by mid June 1846. On the 29th of the same month, the Laclede Rangers, assigned to Col. Kearny's personal command, mistakenly took the road to Lone Elm, crossed the Kansas at Grinter's, and turned east to strike the Santa Fe Trail at Westport. Subsequently, the Rangers arrived at 110 Mile Creek on Independence Day, being joined by Kearny's dragoons on July 5. [8]

     In June of the following year, Lt. Col. Alton R. Easton's infantry battalion initiated the long march to Santa Fe via the Lone Elm road as did the First Illinois Infantry under the command of Col. Edward W. B. Newby in the following month. One of the most detailed itineraries of the Lone Elm road was recorded by Ben Wiley, a 26 year old private attached to Company B of Newby's regiment. [9] Wiley's diary entry for July 7, 1847, read: "This day at 2 o'clock P.M. all was completed and Co. B marched out five miles on the military road where we found the other two companies who had gone out before us, and camped for the night near a good spring and plenty of stock water. This night sentinels were posted for the first time."

     Departing Fort Leavenworth at the southeast corner of the post, the road ran south through the present city of Leavenworth to cross Three Mile creek near the corner of Cherokee and Broadway. From that point, the road continued slightly southwest to present day Buffalo Bill Park. [10] There, Wiley's company camped at what the diarist described as "a good spring with plenty of stock water." Thomas Lester, another member of Newby's Regiment, described the water source in more accurate terms, "a small stream." [11] The stream was Five Mile creek, like Three Mile Creek, named for its distance from the flag pole located in the center of Fort Leavenworth's parade ground. Still flowing, Five Mile Creek runs about three-fourths mile southeast of Pilot Knob, long a landmark in the Leavenworth area. Not a single summit as the name implies, Pilot Knob is rather the eastern end of a high ridge which extends westward for about one-half mile. When Kearny's troops pioneered the new road from Willow Springs in 1845, they were aimlessly led north of the Kansas River by an inept Shawnee guide through dense undergrowth before catching sight of the well-known landmark five miles in the distance. In a better publicized incident, Pilot Knob served as the setting for a secret wedding. There on horseback, Lt. Thomas Clark Hammond and Mary A. Hughes were united in marriage by an unnamed clergy man on
January 25, 1845. [12]

Wiley's diary entry for July 8 reads:
     "This morning were up early, got our breakfast over, and started in regular column of marches. Our route today was through a beautiful rolling prairie, enlivened occasionally by bitts of timber. We sometimes saw the small huts & patches of the Del. Indians. We camped this day at 3 o'clock p.m. after marching 14 miles, at a place called Gum Spring. Heavy clouds and thunder this evening." From Five Mile Creek, the road pressed southward past present-day Muncie Elementary School to parallel State Road 7 through present Lansing and crossed the appropriately named streams called Five and Nine Mile Creeks."

     At the latter, a group of gold seekers from Peoria, Illinois, in route to California camped on May 14, 1849. Waiting for another detachment of the party, the gold seekers spent the following day surveying the countryside. One of the their members, John Forsyth, described the view in a style typical of his day: "This day we waited for our Peoria friends to come up who arrived towards Evening all in good health. We spent the day in viewing the surrounding country which was beautifully diversified. Round Large Hills covered with the richest verdure a Creek of pure clear water Swept round the base of our wearied oxen all placed in the most picturesque positions rendered our situation one which would have pleased a Landscape painter-" [13] Two miles south of Nine Mile Creek, the road reached a point now occupied by the Wallula Christian Church. There, it turned southeast for eight miles to a campsite called Gun Spring near the present Wyandotte County Fairgrounds. [14] Wiley's diary entry for July 9-10 reads: "This morning after we were ready for a start, word was brought that some of the wagons belonging to the train had broken down. Consequently we were obliged to stack our arms, pitch tents again and remain here until the next morning. In the afternoon the train came up. The weather very hot and dry.

     "After the rest which we enjoyed yesterday we make an early start and at ten o'clock A. M. reached the Kansas River and were immediately ferried over by the Delaware Indians who reside at this place. After a march of 4 miles through a finely improved part of the country we camped at a delightful place where there was one of the finest springs I ever saw."

     Leaving Gum Spring, the road continued southeast four miles to the Kansas River and Grinter's Ferry. In 1834, the Indian Intercourse and Trade Act forbade the settlement of whites in Indian Territory. To circumvent this prohibition, Grinter, in 1836, married Ann Marshall, the half-Delaware daughter of Indian trader William Marshall. In 1857 Grinter replaced his original log domicile with a two-story brick house. This fine structure was occupied by the Grinter's until the death of the old ferryman in 1878 and subsequently by Mrs. Grinter until her death in 1905. The home, now known as the Grinter House, is operated as an historic site by the Kansas Historical Society.

     Adjacent to the Grinter holdings on the north side of the river, a blacksmith shop was established by the Indian Agency in 1832. Interestingly, the first blacksmith assigned to the Delaware's was Robert Dunlap, the same Reverend Dunlap with the Methodist Delaware Mission located one and a half miles north of the crossing. [15]

     In time, a road was developed on the north side of the river from Grinter's to another ferry two miles upstream. Established by Charles Toley, a noted Shawnee chief, its south landing was located within the confines of the 1,600,000 acre Shawnee Reserve. [16] The advent date of Toley's Ferry is unknown, but it was in use by the time of the Mexican War. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the ferry was used extensively by the military during the late 1840,s So stated William Barnard, partner with A. J. Boone in the Indian trade and later a well-known freighter on the Santa Fe Trail:

     "After the beginning of the Mexican war, government stores destined to New Mexico were required to be shipped from Fort Leavenworth. This was an inconvenient point for the freighters. The Santa Fe Road, as it existed at that time from Fort Leavenworth, ran down across the hills, striking the Kansas river at what was called Toulee's [or Moses Grinter's] Ferry a short distance above the present town of Argentine." [17]

     When Forsyth and his fellow gold seekers reached the Kansas on May 17, 1849, they swam the oxen across the 250-yard-wide river but ferried their equipment at the cost of $1.25 per wagon. [18] Forsyth failed to mention which ferry was used, Grinter's or Toley's.

     From Ginter's Ferry, the military road proceeded southeast through the Kansas River bottom land and ascended a high ridge to present 6608 Woodend, Kansas City, Kansas. In the lawn of this residence, one lone rut remains. Another road ran from Toley's Ferry paralleling the original route from Grinter's. The two roads merged at a point near 51st Street and Quivera and continued on as a single artery to the corner of Macanay Drive and Nieman Road in present Shawnee. At this intersection, a granite marker with a bronze plaque commemorates the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Gibson Military Road. From the marker location, the road proceeded southeast one mile to a spring where Willey's company camped on July 10, 1847. [19] Arriving at the same location [near 59th Street and Blue Jacket in present Shawnee] in previous month, Col. Alton Easton wrote,"…found a beautiful spring…known as gum spring among the people." [20] In fact, there were six or seven springs in the immediate area, "each spring having a large "Gum" placed in it to retain the water," so published the Westport & Kansas City, Missouri, Weekly Border Star, December 17, 1859. Gum was a colloquialism referring to a trough hollowed from the bole of a gum tree. [21] Wiley listed the stop as Missionary Station in the table of distances he compiled in his diary at a later date. That designation was meant to distinguish this gum spring campsite from the campsite of the same name occupied by Wiley's company on July 8 nineteen miles from Fort Leavenworth. To further differentiate between the two campsites, Wiley's table of distances identifies the July 8 location as First Gum Spring.

Wiley's diary entry for July 11 stated:
     "This day we lay by & devoted the fore part of it to washing our clothes. At 11 o'clock A.M. in company with several of our officers and volunteers I went to church, which was situated near our camp in a beautiful grove, and is as fine and comfortable as any meeting house which I have seen anywhere in this country. This congregation was composed [of] the Wyandots who resided here."

     Wiley was wrong about the Wyandottes. Their reserve of 39 sections purchased from the Delaware in 1843 lay north of the Kansas River. [22] Rather, the 20 X 40-feet hewed log building situated fifty yards from the springs was constructed in 1840 as a Methodist meeting house for the Shawnees. [23] The church became the nucleus of a settlement in preterritorial Kansas known as Gum Spring or Shawneetown, a designation which continued in use long after the settlement was incorporated as the town of Shawnee in 1857. Following a raid on Shawnee by Quantrill in 1862, the church was used as a fort by members of the Kansas Militia. Toward the close of the Civil War, the building was razed for firewood. [24]

     South of the church was a cemetery which comprised the bulk of five acres deeded to the church in 1854. Today less than one acre of burial ground remains. However, the extant portion of the cemetery contains the grave of Joseph Parks who came to the Shawnee Reserve from Ohio in 1832 as an interpreter. Literate and well respected, though only one-fourth Shawnee, he became a principal chief of the tribe and later commanded a Shawnee regiment in the Seminole War. Dying in 1859, Parks was buried from the nearby church. [25]

Wiley's diary entry for July 12 reported:
     "This morning got an early start & marching 12 miles camped on a beautiful plain on the banks of a fine clear stream of water, with plenty of wood near at hand. This day we [saw] several volunteers returning home who had gone out under Gen. Kearney last summer. They did not look like "men in Buchram" but real "Rough and Readys."

     At gum spring, the military road veered southeast to the Missouri state line while the road to Lone Elm pursued a southerly orientation through what Forsyth called "the large and boundless prairie." [26] Reaching a point near 92nd and Barton in present Lenexa, the Lone Elm Road merged with the Westprot Road of the Santa Fe Trail. [27] At that junction, according to Wiliam Bernard, much of the freight from Fort Leavenworth proceeded southwest on the Westprot Road instead of continuing on to the original route of the Santa Fe Trail at Lone Elm: "The road thence lay south and west, keeping on the west side of Turkey Creek, to a point about Lenexa, Kansas, Where it joined the main trail from Westport. It was probably thirty-five to forty miles from Leavenworth to the point of junction." [28] About four miles west of the Lone Elm Road/Westport Road junction, Wiley's company camped at a stream the diarist later called Clear Creek. Lester called the stream Wolf Creek. Today it is known as a tributary of Indian Creek. [29] Wiley's diary entry for July 13 reads: "We were considerably amused about 11 o'clock last night from our work cattle taking a Stampeed and breaking out of the blank with a noise like thunder, Some of the Men sprang out in their shirts and cried "Indians," "Indians." Hauled wood from here to "Lone Elm" and camped at 12 o'clock noon. Distance this day 7 miles.

     From Clear/Wolf Creek, the road continued to replicate the Westport Road for some two and a half miles to a point near today's 117th Street and Orchard. There, the road left the Westport Road and turned south southwest for about seven miles to the original route of the Santa Fe Trail, and thence one mile southwest to the Lone Elm campground. [30]

     Wiley's diary entry for July 14 stated" "This morning we buried John N. Collins, a private in Captain Turney's company. His grave is situated on the right hand of the road about 150 yards east of the "Lone Elm" the only tree to be seen on the prairie for miles around and I could not but reflect that his lovely grave would in the course of a few years be traversed by the plough shear of civilization and the last resting place of the poor soldier who went out to fight for the rights of his country and to secure to those very desecrators the rights which they value so highly, should be forgotten and the rank corn should rustle above and around this spot where a few moments ago were heard the muffled drum and discharge of firearms as his comrades fired their salute over the lone grave."

     The Lone Elm campgrounds, originally populated by a fine stand of timber, had been reduced by the time of Wiley's arrival to a single tree, the source of its name. Today the grave of Pvt. Collins is covered by a grove of second-growth timber, and the campgrounds, situated three miles south of present Olathe, Kansas, is indistinguishable from a hundred other locations in this area except for an unimposing DAR marker placed at 167th Street and Lone Elm Road. [31]

     Following Wiley's 1847 trek, the Lone Elm Road was used on three significant occasions. On June 10, 1848, Capt. Gabriel de Korponay's 150 Missouri recruits and a group of traders left Fort Leavenworth and reached a point seven miles south of the Kansas River on June 11. There they awaited the June 13 arrival of Bvt. Lt. Col. John Garland and Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton before continuing to Council Grove by way of Lone Elm, In May 1849, Forsyth's gold seekers followed the same route to Lone Elm. In the same month, Troops led by Bvt. Maj. Henry Kendrick, Bvt. Lt. Col. Edmund Alexander, and Captain Crogham Ker, along with assorted civilians, reached Lone Elm after a two-week layover at a spot Kendrick called Camp Kanzas, 30 miles from Fort Leavenworth or one mile south of gum spring, just west of Shawnee Chief Black Hoof's Home at 69th and Switzer in present Shawnee. [32] The location of de Korpornay's camp [seven miles south of the Kansas River] compares favorably with that of Kendrick's Camp Kanzas. In all likelihood, the same campsite was used by both parties.

     In 1850, another road was plotted from Fort Leavenworth to the Santa Fe Trail. Running southwest to cross the Kansas River at Papan's Ferry near present Topeka, the new route continued on to strike the established Santa Fe Trail west of present day Burlingame. [33] From that date forward, overland Santa Fe Traffic originating at Fort Leavenworth used the new route exclusively; and the route to Round Grove eschewed by Maj. Riley in 1829 and first traveled by Capt. Wickliffe in 1833 fell into disuse after 17 years of service.
Used With Permission of the Author:
David Clapsaddle

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