The historic property at 502 West 2nd Street in Larned, Kansas is the location described by George Sibley as the August 31, 1825 campsite of the Santa Fe Road survey team, has been purchased by local history enthusiasts in 1995; Bob Rein, Mildon Yeager, and David Clapsaddle, members of The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail. The property has undergone a number of improvements. The removal of buildings, trees and debris have been the first steps in the development in the sight named Sibley's Camp. "We want to make it look as much like it did in 1825 to commemorate the Santa Fe Trail."
To promote attendance at the camp, numerous programs have been presented in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail. In addition, the following steps have been taken to alert the public to the site. Number 1, a brochure describing the historical significance of the site has been printed and distributed. Number 2, two markers have been placed on site, one containing the diary entry of Sibley on September 1, the other a large limestone inscribed "SIBLEY'S CAMP AUGUST 31, 1825" also a marker on U.S. 56 directing the public to the site.
Mildon, Bob and David have also modified a grain wagon to represent one of the baggage wagons used by the survey party. The wagon is used for interpretation on the site and to promote the camp in parades.
On May 24, 1997, during the Santa Fe Trail Days, held every year in Larned, Kansas, was the unveiling of a newly constructed self interpretation marker at Sibley's Camp. The 4 X 8 roofed and glass fronted marker will encase commentary, artifacts and photographs which will aid in interpretation by visitors to the site.
Future plans call for the development of a demonstration plot of the short grass, native to the area at the time of the survey teams visit and the planting of trees identified by Sibley in his journal.
Sibley Camp, a project of the three landowners has no intention of profit making. Rather the hope is to preserve the small piece of real estate as a historical site by which the Santa Fe Trail can be interpreted.
Clapsaddle explained, "The property represents three phases of history." He went on to explain that the site has been identified as the place where the United States Survey team camped on the Santa Fe Trail Survey Expedition on August 31, 1825. Henry Sibley, one of the survey commissioners, wrote in his September 1, 1825 diary entry:
"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 name 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."
The cliffs of soft rock described by Sibley were greatly diminished by quarrying in the early days of Larned's development, but the high rocky hill remains much in evidence rising sharply from 2nd Street one full city block to 3rd Street. Long gone are the names inscribed on the stone and the Indian marks observed by Sibley, being replaced by drill marks by the stone quarries.
From about 1873 until the turn of the century, the site was one to four stone quarries operated along what is now Second Street. The property eventually was acquired by twin brothers Wesley and Leslie Cobb, electricians who hand laid thousands of stones along the top of the quarry to level it so Wesley could build a house at the top of the cliff. That house will remain there. Leslie's house, built at the foot of the cliff, will be removed.
In the 1920's the property was purchased by the Cobb family and in later years, twin brothers Leslie and Wesley Cobb devoted countless hours to the property's improvement. The cliff was one of four quarries used in early Larned's history and evidence of the quarry is still visible. There is also a photo from 1886 at the Santa Fe Trail Center which shows the quarry in progress there. Stone steps were cut to allow quick access to the top of the bluff; and at a later date concrete steps were poured at an adjacent location. The top of the bluff was leveled off by stone masonry and reinforced with a concrete apron to prevent further erosion.
A house built back in the bluff at the height of the hill, is still occupied by Mrs. Berthen Cobb, Wesley's widow. The house on the lower level occupied by Mrs. Mabel Cobb, Leslies widow, is now a rental property.
At one time, the well groomed yard at the property bedecked by foliage and flowers often was mistaken for a city park. The new owners hope to restore the property to like interests. Long range plans call for the present buildings at the lower level to be razed and the retaining walls toward 2nd Street to be removed, thus giving the property the semblance of its appearance in 1825.
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