Interpretive Markers Placed
Santa Fe Trail
Wet/Dry Route Chapter
by Larry & Carolyn Mix
These quotations were gathered for the interpretive markers placed on the Santa Fe Trail by the Wer/Dry Routes Chapter. With their indepth research of the Santa Fe Trail, the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter felt some sites and trails needed more information. With this in mind the Chapter has placed in prominent locations along the Santa Fe Trail, "Interpretive Markers" to do just that. From the links to the site you will find a photo of the markers. Click on the links for more information about the site.
AUGUST 31, 1825 - CAMPSITE OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL SURVEY TEAM
Here on August 31, 1825, the survey team dispatched to map the road to Santa Fe camped. The setting is captured in George C. Sibley's September 1, diary entry.
"The Pawnee River is here about 40 yards wide, banks pretty high, bottom sandy, Water at present Muddy. Timber Elm, Ash, Elder, Cotton Tree, Willow, and Grape Vines. Yesterday I turned off from the direct course and struck the Arkansas at the mouth of this River, and then coursed it up about a Mile to the fording place near which we are now encamped, which is just at the foot of a high rocky Hill. The path leading up from the mouth to the ford passes between the Pawnee and some Cliffs of Soft Rock, upon the smooth faces of which are cut the names of many Persons, who have at different times passed this way to and from New Mexico. Some Indian marks are also to be seen on these Rocks."
ASH CREEK CROSSING
Situated half way between Pawnee Rock and the Pawnee River, Ash Creek crossing was a well-traveled point on the Santa Fe Trail. Here on July 4, 1846, Susan Magoffin escaped serious injury when her carriage overturned in the dry creek bed. Here also in 1860, was a short-lived trading ranche operated by a Mr. Thompson. Following an attack by Kiowas in which two men were killed, Thompson abandoned the ranche.
At this location in 1864, Samuel Parker established a trading ranche. In the following year, he opened another ranche near the dry route crossing of the Santa Fe Trail on the Pawnee River three miles upstream from this point. Parker continued to operate this ranche for several years before moving to Fort Supply, Indian Territory, where he served as the post's hay contractor.
THE PAWNEE FORK CROSSING OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
Southeast of this point some 500 yards was the Pawnee Fork Crossing of the Santa Fe Trail. This was the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail's Wet Route which followed the Arkansas River to the southwest. There also was the grave of Private Robert Easley who died at the crossing August 5, 1847 en route to Santa Fe during the Mexican War. The gravestone to the right of this marker was placed in his honor. Likewise commemorated is Private Arthur Hughes who died and was buried near the crossing on July 13, 1846.
From this ridge on September 1, 1825, George Sibley, Santa Fe Trail Survey Commissioner viewed both the Arkansas and Pawnee River Valleys. His journal entry of that day reads,
JUNCTION OF THE FORT LARNED MILITARY ROAD AND THE WET ROUTE
Southwest of Fort Larned, a road departed the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route in a southerly orientation to merge with the Wet Route at this point. This road allowed freight wagons which supplied Fort Larned to continue southwest along the Wet Route where water was always in abundance in contrast to the Dry Route where water was scarce.
". . .came to a high ridge. The Waggons passed around the point, still keeping in the bottom about half a mile from the River. I rode upon the ridge, from the top of which, I could distinctly trace the course of the Pawnee River for a great distance by the fringe of trees along its banks."
South of this point near the Arkansas River was Plain Camp, one of several campsites on the Santa Fe Trail identified in an 1842 itinerary published by Charles Folsom. By conjecture, the campsite was so named because the location had no characteristics to distinguish it from other similar places along the Arkansas River.
South of this point near the Arkansas River on June 26, 1847, a large number of Comanches attacked a sizeable encampment: Company B, First U.S. dragoons commanded by Lt. John Love; an army paymaster's outfit commanded by Maj. Charles Bodine; Indian Agent Thomas Fitzpatrick; two wagon trains; and several traders. In the ensuing confrontation, five dragoons were killed, and 160 yoke of oxen were driven off. The Comanches suffered a loss of twelve-fifteen warriors.
BATTLE OF COON CREEK
South of this point near the Arkansas River on June 18, 1848, several hundred Comanches attacked an encampment composed of Paymaster Maj. Thomas S. Bryant, 65 officers and men, and 71 recruits under the command of Lt. William B. Royall, First Dragoons. In the ensuing conflict, 23 Comanches were killed, but the troops suffered no losses. The engagement became know as the Battle of Coon Creek, so called for its proximity to that stream.
MULBERRY CREEK - CONFLUENCE WITH THE ARKANSAS RIVER
South of this point is the confluence of Mulberry Creek and the Arkansas River. There in 1823, the Cooper party crossed the Arkansas to pursue Mulberry Creek to the southwest becoming hopelessly lost, the party suffering from thirst, finally made their way back to the Arkansas. There also the U.S. Survey Team camped on September 6-8
South of this location near the Arkansas River was Small Drain, one of several campsites identified in an 1842 itinerary published by Charles Folsom. The campsite was so named for the cut visible in the ridge a short distance to the northwest of this point.
Jackson's Island located south of this point on the south bank of the Arkansas River was a heavily timbered peninsula. There, on June 30, 1843, a detachment of the First Dragons under the command of Capt. Phillip St. George Cooke disarmed mercenaries commanded by Col. Jacob Snively dispatched by the Republic of Texas to raid Mexican wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail.
JUNCTION OF THE WET AND DRY ROUTES OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
By the 1840's, the Santa Fe Trail's Wet and Dry Routes merged at this point. Previously, the routes had merged at the Caches, ten miles to the west. For a brief period, the Caches and this site served simultaneously as the junction of the routes: but by the 1850's, this location had superseded the Caches as the junction of the Wet and Dry Routes.
FORT DODGE THE WESTERN TERMINUS OF THE FORT HAYS-FORT DODGE ROAD
In the fall of 1867, the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge Road was developed to transport merchandise, mail and passengers from the newly founded railhead at Hays City to Fort Dodge and on the Santa Fe via the established route of the Santa Fe Trail. Thus, the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge Road became the far eastern leg of the Santa Fe Trail for a brief period of eight months until the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division pushed westward from Hays City to Sheridan City in June 1868.
SEPT. 9, 1825 - CAMPSITE OF THE U.S. SURVEY TEAM
South of this point near the Arkansas River the U.S. Survey Team camped on September 9, 1825. George Sibley's diary entry for that date described the terain of the campsite.
"Proceeded up the river 12 Miles and 33 Chains and halted on the bank of a point where the Hills close in upon the River just at the mouth of a Ravine or small drain."
Just south of this point, Fort Mann was established as a repair depot for wagons in April, 1847 during the Mexican War by teamster Daniel Mann. Later it was occupied by U.S. Army troops from time to time. Reconstructed in 1848, the post was abandoned when nearby Fort Mackey was established in 1850.
At this location, a U.S. Army post was established in 1850. Originally named Fort Mackay, it was rebuilt in 1851 and renamed New Post, later Fort Sumner, and finally Fort Atkinson. Because of its sod construction, it was sometimes called Fort Sod or Fort Sodom. Abandoned in 1853, the post was reactivated in 1854 only to be permanently abandoned in October of the same year.
At this point were the Caches, so called for the pits dug by the Baird/Chambers party to store trade goods in 1823. Here, the Dry Route of the Santa Fe Trail merged with the Wet Route. At a later date, the Dry Route merged with the Wet Route one mile east of Fort Dodge.
POINT OF ROCKS
Long a landmark on the Santa Fe Trail, this geological formation became known as Point of Rocks. George Sibley described the promontory "as a large mass of Gravel Rock" of a very remarkable appearance. Highway construction in 1981 greatly reduced the size of the landmark.
LOWER CROSSING OF THE ARKANSAS RIVER
South of this point on the Arkansas River was the Santa Fe Trail's lower crossing. Of this location, Joseph Brown, surveyor with the 1825-1827 U.S. surveying, expedition wrote,
"Some turn off at a place known to the Santa Fe travellers by the name of the "Cashes" near to which is a rocky point . . . at about three miles S.W. from this rock is a place of crofsing for those who travel the lower route."
As Brown indicated, some travelers preferred a crossing located five miles to the east near the Caches. By 1829, it appears this crossing had superceded the original lower crossing.
SEPT. 10-21, 1825 - CAMPSITE OF THE U. S. SURVEY TEAM
Camping near this location Sept. 10, 1825, the survey team remained through September 21 waiting for a courier with information from the U. S. Government as how to proceed further. West of the 100th meridian which surveyor Joseph Brown had mistakenly identified as being at this point and south of the Arkansas river was Mexican territory where the survey team had no permission to enter. Receiving no such information, the team divided with commissioner George Sibley, surveyor Brown, interpreter William Williams, nine men, and Sibley's servant Abram continuing on with the survey. The other two commissioners, Benjamin Reeves and Thomas Mather with secretary Archibald Gamble and the rest of the team returned to Missouri.
FORKS IN SANTA FE ROAD
At this point was Forks in Santa Fe Road, the original eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route which left the Arkansas River valley to pursue an upland course to the southwest. Subsequent to the establishment of Fort Larned, the eastern terminus of the Dry Route was relocated to a point two miles northeast of present Larned, Kansas. From that location, the Dry Route ran to Fort Larned and thence further to the southwest.
Near this location on September 24, 1859, fifteen Kiowas attacked a mail wagon. Killed were two mail company employees, Michael and Lawrence Smith. A third employee, William Cole, escaped to tell the story of their fate.
ORIGINAL DRY ROUTE OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
These ruts mark the Santa Fe Trail's Original Dry Route which ran from Forks in Santa Fe Road, 3.5 miles southwest of the Pawnee River crossing near present Larned to the Big Coon Creek crossing 3.5 miles west of present Kinsley and on to the Caches just west of Dodge City. The original Dry Route was superceded by a second Dry Route which came into existence with the advent of Camp on Pawnee Fork, Fort Larned's predecessor, in 1859.
BIG COON CREEK CROSSING
Southwest of this point one fourth mile, the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route crossed Coon Creek en route to the Caches just west of present Dodge City where is merged with the Wet Route. At a later date, the Dry Route merged with the Wet Route one mile east of Fort Dodge.
THE DRY ROUTE OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
North of this point one mile, the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route ran southwest to merge with the Wet Route at the Caches, two miles west of present Dodge City. At a later date, the Dry Route ran one mile south of this point to merge with the Wet Route one mile east of Fort Dodge, now the Kansas Soldiers Home. The Wet Route followed the Arkansas River ten miles south of this location.
POST 1859 & POST 1866 TERMINUS OF THE DRY ROUTE OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
Following the establishment of Camp On Pawnee Fork (later Fort Larned) in 1859, the Dry Route of the Santa Fe Trail departed the regular route at this point moving southwest to the newly founded fort and the nearby mail station. Previously, the Dry Route's eastern terminus was located a few miles southwest of the Pawnee Fork crossing of the Santa Fe Trrail near present Larned, Kansas.
PAWNEE FORK CROSSING OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL'S DRY ROUTE
At this point, a branch of the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route crossed the Pawnee River and continued up the south bank to the mail station and nearby Fort Larned. At a later date, another branch of the Dry Route followed the north bank of the river to the fort.
Samuel Parker Established a trading ranche at this location in 1865. Changing hands several times, the ranche was owned by a Mr. Wagginer in 1867 when Indians burned the buildings and drove off the livestock. The next proprietor, A. H. Boyd, constructed a toll bridge at the nearby crossing and built a sod house from which he engaged in cattle trading and freighting in addition to the usual sales associated with trading ranches. In 1873, Boyd partnered with George B. Cox to operate a hotel in the infant town of Larned. In the same year, the partners moved to Dodge City to open the Dodge House. Subsequently, Boyd filed a homestead on the ranche property and brought family members from Illinois to farm the acreage.
POST 1866 DRY ROUTE OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
At this point, a branch of the Santa Fe Trail's Dry Route passed en route to Fort Larned. Following the north bank of the Pawnee River, the trail curved around the west side of the fort, crossed the stream, and entered the post near the southwest corner. Earlier, the Dry Route had followed the south bank of the river to the fort.
PAWNEE FORK CROSSING FORT HAYS - FORT DODGE ROAD
Here, Pawnee Fork was crossed by the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge Road, running from the Union Pacific, Western Division railhead at Hays City to the original route of the Santa Fe Trail at Fort Dodge. As such, this new road for a brief period became the eastern end of the Santa Fe Trail before being superseded by another road from Sheridan City to Fort Lyon. Following its Santa Fe Trail tenure, the road was used by the army and early settlers. At this point, John O'Loughlin established a trading ranche in 1869 which was sold to George Duncan in 1872. Duncan operated the ranche through 1879.
CIMARRON CROSSING SANTA FE TRAIL
South of this point was the Santa Fe Trail's Cimarron crossing of the Arkansas River. Nearby was a ranche which served as a stage station. The enterprise was established by William and Frank Hartwell and several other investors in 1866. Later, it was operated by Robert Wright and A. J. Anthony until 1868 when the continuous threat of Indian attacks forced it to be abandoned.
EXPEDITIONS AT THE PAWNEE RIVER CROSSING PRIOR TO
THE ADVENT OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
Previous to the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, the Pawnee River was forded near this point by Spanish expeditions: Francisco Vasquez Coronado, 1541, Fray Juan de Padilla, 1542, and Lt. Zebulon Pike crossed the Pawnee and traced Melgares' route to the southwest. Pike's 1810 report subsequently directed other American expeditions to the crossing: Robert McKnight, 1812; Capt. John Bell, 1820; and Hugh Glenn-Jacob Fowler, 1821.
PAWNEE RIVER A DIFFICULT CROSSING
The record is replete with reference to difficult crossings on the Pawnee River, often known as Pawnee Fork.
One such fording occurred in 1844 when a Bent-St. Vrain caravan was held up by high water for nearly a month. Detained at the same time was Rufus Sage who wrote,
"On April 23, having arrived at Pawnee Fork, we were obliged to remain some four weeks before a ford could be effected, but the dense herds of buffaloes that thronged the vicinity abated somewhat the annoyance of delay."
May 21, 1844
Later in the same year, a caravan captained by Samuel Owens experienced a troublesome crossing.
"The second day after, we arrived at Pawnee Fork, and, as the crossing was very difficult, we concluded to turn out, repair the road, and prepare for crossing the next morning. The east bank must be from twenty to thirty feet above the water and very steep – so much so, that we were compelled to lock both hind wheels, hitch a yoke of good
wheelers to the hind axle, and all the men that can be used to advantage to assist in holding back and prevent the
wagon from turning over. Even with all these precautions, accidents frequently happen, and the descent is so rapid
the teams get doubled up and oxen run over.The next morning we began crossing; and when the wagons were about half across, one of Wethered's wagons turned over into the stream. The west bank was steep but not so high as the east one. Yet we had to double teams to get out and make a short and very difficult turn up the stream; so the wagon fell into deep water, and bottom up. All hands took to the water and in two or three hours succeeded in getting dry goods and wagon to camp on the opposite bank. The next two days were spent in opening the goods, and spreading them on the ground to dry, repacking, and loading up."
James J. Webb
In the summer of 1846, several detachments associated with Col. Stephen W. Kearny's Army of the West arrived at the Pawnee River en route to Santa Fe at the onset of the Mexican War. Kearny's main force, Lt. William H. Emory's topographical engineers, and the Mormon Battalion all experienced difficult crossings.
KEARNY'S MAIN FORCE
"The river, swollen by recent showers, was impassable. Col. Kearney, however, with his accustomed energy, determined not to delay. He therefore, caused trees to be felled across the deep, rapid current. This was the labor of a day. On the trunks of these trees the men passed over, carrying with them their sick, arms, accoutrements, tents, and baggage. In this manner the principal loading of the wagons was also transported. Our animals were forced to swim the stream. The wagons, the bodies being made fast to the running gear, were next floated across by means or ropes attached to them and hauled up the hill by manual power. This immense labor having been accomplished without serious accident or loss, on the 17th Col. Kearney put his whole column in motion."
John Taylor Hughes
July 17, 1846
THE TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS
"Today we commenced crossing our camp and before 11 (o'clock) everything was safe on the south side of the river. Although our raft had lost much of its buoyancy by its becoming waterlogged, it had been built of the driest timber that we could find, for the elm and box elder, the only wood here, has when green a specific gravity but little less than that of water. Our wagon body was used as a deck to distribute the weight more equably. A rope was stretched across on which a noose could slide; this noose, being attached raft, prevented our craft being swept away in case the stretched cable should break. This precaution proved most wise, as the rope did break, but the knots upon it prevented the bridle from sliding off and our craft swung round into an eddy comparatively calm."
Lt. James W. Abert
July 16, 1846
THE MORMON BATTALION
"On the evening of the 9th we encamped on a stream known as Pawnee Fork, the crossing of which was very difficult and occupied some time. Each wagon had to be let down the bank with ropes, while on the opposite bank from twenty to thirty men with ropes aided the teams in pulling the wagons up. The water was muddy, very much like that of the Missouri River."
Sgt. Daniel Tyler
September 9, 1846
FREMONT AND THE PAWNEE RIVER
In July, 1845, Capt. John C. Fremont crossed the Pawnee River near this point. Leaving the Santa Fe Trail, he led his company westward along the Pawnee to its headwaters. There, he turned northwest to the Smoky Hill River and continued west following his 1844 route (though in reverse) to the Arkansas River twenty-five miles below Bent's Fort.
The route west along the Pawnee was used at an earlier time as described by Joseph Brown, surveyor with the 1825-27 U. S. Surveying Expedition.
"From this point some travelers prefer to continue up on the south side of this creek for some distance then crossing it several times, continue westward crossing the head waters over to the Arkansas."
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