Pawnee Fork Crossing
Cool Oasis
GPS: N38 10.327 W99 06.293 - Wet Route
GPS: N38 10.428 W99 09.579 - Dry Route

     That Pawnee fork crossing on the old Santa Fe Trail near the present site of Larned, Kansas was a cool oasis for weary travelers of the plains long before the earliest day of settlement, is revealed in an account of a trip over the Trail by a German who made the trek from Santa Fe to Ft. Leavenworth in 1858.

     The wandering "Dutchman" was Heinrich Baiduin Mollhausen, who was a member of two government exploring parties and accompanied a German prince on a third expedition to the American West. In the fall of 1857 he accompanied Lt. Joseph C. Ives' expedition on an exploration of the Colorado river from its mouth to the head of navigation. The expedition was abandoned in the spring of 1858 in eastern Arizona. Mollhausen with several fellow members of the expedition continued eastward to Santa Fe and left that town via the Santa Fe Trail for Ft. Leavenworth on June 16, 1858. On his return to Germany, Mollhausen wrote an account of his trip which was published in 1861. A translation of the section in which he tells of the eastward trek is published in the Kansas Historical Quarterly for November, 1948.

     Mollhausen even fished in the Pawnee while his party was resting in the shade of the big trees before resuming the journey across the plains in the hot July sun. Like many anglers who fish in the Pawnee nowadays he had no luck, although the stream was well-stocked by nature, there being no state fish and game commission at that early date, which was three years before Kansas became a state.

     The German explorer's praise of the beauty of the grove at Pawnee fork might lead the reader to believe that the slogan "Everybody likes Larned," dates back at least 90 years.

Here's how Mollhausen described the scene:
     "The Pawnee fork was before us, a favorite summer resort of the natives of that district. From the caravans which we had met we had been prepared to meet an important group of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, but to our surprise we found the valley deserted and empty and only screeching ravens and crows hovered over the artificially erected arbors that had been used as temporary shelters, the surest proof that people recently had lived there."

     "Although we had journeyed only 25 miles that day we decided not to pass by the inviting spot, and established our small camp on the left bank of the river. I hastened to get down to the river with my fishing tackle but I threw my hook in vain for, although numerous fish enlivened the water, none of them seemed to be inclined to touch the bait. For a long time, however, I sat on the edge of the water and watched the rushing stream which was about 20 feet wide and 3 to 5 feet deep. The stream flowed tempestuously around the accumulated driftwood, reflecting the steep banks with their shady tress in its moving surface."

     "The wide prairie with its sublime tranquillity and its majestic expanse certainly has an appeal to receptive and contemplative minds. But when, after a long trip through the endless grassy meadows, one suddenly finds himself in a region where mighty walnut trees, sycamores, oak trees and willows of many kinds crowd the dark masses of their tops together, decorated with lianas and grapevines-where, in other words, the earth's inexhaustible productive force is revealed in the luscious vegetation, in the knotted trunk as well as in the tender twig-then the enjoyment is doubly great. The smallest wooded strip extends nature's kind greeting to the wonders of the prairie."

     "The mosquitoes finally chased me from the river; when I returned to the camp I found my companions occupied in watching a buffalo through a telescope. The animal was slowly moving toward our camp. We got ready for the hunt at once, but the bison, apparently suspecting danger, suddenly turned from the direction it had followed and went farther down the Pawnee fork toward the Arkansas river."

     "The night passed without any disturbances, and in the early morning of July 8 we were on our way. A mild rain had refreshed the entire country after a thunderstorm, and the wooded grove far to the south, which we could see from the height, was resplendent in the freshest green."

     The Pawnee Fork crossing is marked by a red granite DAR Marker and a Wet/Dry Routes Chapter marker on the bank of Pawnee creek south of Jenkins hill on the State Hospital grounds. Later this was known as Boyd's Crossing because of the toll bridge built here by A. H. Boyd in 1867.

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