From the year of 1744, when the French established Fort de Cavagnial on the bluffs of the Missouri River. Kansas has been the home to numerous military forts or posts.
During the late 1850's D. H. Page and Joseph Lemon established a trading ranche and mail station on the northeast side of the Smoky Hill River at a point where the military road linking Fort Riley to the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river and near the future site of Fort Ellsworth in now Ellsworth County, Kansas. This military road was laid out in 1850s. Three building were shown in this location on the General Land Office survey with a label of U.S. Mail Station. In addition to operating the mail station and trading ranche, Page and Lemon were hunters and traders. In May of 1864, an Indian massacre in the vicinity of their ranche caused them to give up the venture in the trading ranche. About this time the trade ranche was abandoned.
In June 1864, "Fort Ellsworth, Kansas" was established at the site of the Page Ranche. The fort was one of several that served to protect the area of Central Kansas and the Santa Fe Trail. According to an 1870 military report, both Fort Ellsworth and the later military post Fort Harker were established to furnish a point from which operations could be carried on against the Indians, who were very troublesome during this time in Kansas History.
General Orders No. 22 issured on November 17, 1866, by General Winfield S. Hancock, commander of the Division of the Missouri, directed the name of Fort Ellsworth be changed to Fort Harker, in honor of General Charles Garrison Harker. General Harker died on June 27, 1864, from wounds received in an abortive offensive action druing the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain.
While the name of the post was no longer Fort Ellsworth, the garrison remained in place and continued to carry out its duties. During the course of the next few months major changes began to take place in the vicinity of the newly renamed post of Fort Harker.
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