"Lone Elm Camp Ground"
USGS Aerial Photographs

Lone Elm Campground

     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.

     Few landmarks, stand out as much as the legendary Lone Elm. Located near the trail campsite that bore its name, it was a marker easily seen amidst the vast flat prairie and noted in many trail guides. Until recently, it was commonly thought that the Lone Elm campsite went by several names including Round Grove, Caravan Grove, Elm Grove and then finally Lone Elm. The story of the name change centers on the campsite’s stand of trees, which dwindled until only one elm remained. The Lone Elm was often described in emigrant journals, but oddly enough, those who had passed the tree within days of each other, often had vastly different descriptions of the tree.

Peter Burnett, 1843
     Peter Burnett in 1843. On the 22nd of May, 1843. . . we reached Elm Grove. . . This grove had but two trees, both elms, and a few dogwood bushes, which we used for fuel. This small elm was more beautiful in the wild and lonely prairie; and the large one had all its branches trimmed off for firewood
     Monday, May 22 -- Trailed to Elm Grove, distance about ten miles. Encamped at the grove, consisting of one old elm stump. . .

Susan Shelby Magoffin, 1846
     On June 11, 1846, Susan Shelby Magoffin wrote in her diary traveling until just before sundown when they prepared to camp at "The Lone Elm." She described it as follows: "There is no other tree or bush or shrub save one Elm tree, which stands on a small elevation near the little creek or branch. The travellers always stop where there is water sufficient for all their animals. The grass is fine every place, it is so tall in some places as to conceal a man's waist."

Ben Wiley, 1847
     This morning we buried John N. Collins, a private in Captain Turner’s company. His grave is situated on the right hand side 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 lonely 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 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.

J.A. Pritchard, 1849
     In 1849, traveler J.A. Pritchard noted "all the branches have been cut from it [the elm] by traders & Emegrans for the purpos of fuel. At this place we found some 40 or 50 Emegrant Wagons." During the Spring, when most travelers embarked on their journeys, as many as one hundred wagons camped at Lone Elm for the night.

W. H. Davis, 1853
     W. H. Davis notes in 1853 on his trip down the Santa Fe Trail: Travelers came to look upon it [the Lone Elm] as an old friend. . .but in the course of time some modern vandal came along, and laid low this last of its race; and when we passed, it was all gone but a small portion of its stump, and part of that cooked our breakfast.

Lone Elm Campground

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