"Wet & Dry Tails"
Yarn's, Tales, Tidbits, Legends
On The Santa Fe Trail

Keep Your Eyes Open For This Marker-Monument
     Please help locate a missing monument - the 24" diameter brass monument was set in 1990 after an exhaustive dependent survey of the boundary between Kansas/Colorado - completed by the BLM/Forest Service, myself and several other surveyors- Retracement of the 1908 Kidder survey. Stolen sometime in late July, left 3'deep hole in graded road but placed 2 orange cones nearby - probably to keep cars from falling in hole. Morton County and Forest Service set a very attractive windmill monument near the site - better known as the "8 mile corner" near Elkhart. Anyone with information about the culprits who removed this very special scribed monument please contact the Morton County Sheriff's office @(620)697-4313 or the USDA Forest Service District Ranger @ (620)697-4621. Only someone with a special tool could have removed this monument unless they were very creative with a crescent wrench. Probably a collector - can't imagine anyone else even knowing the significance of this monument. Thanks for any help you can give - Ted

The Attack at Big Timbers Crossing
     Some how or another Larry & Carolyn Mix got snookered into cleaning the weeds from around the Wet/Dry Routes and Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Markers. We have been out cutting the weeds around all the markers along the roads to make them look a little better and so a person could find them if someone might be out looking for them. It was a fun experience again, to go out and get with nature and the old trail, to sit in the shade of a large tree at a crossing and listen to the creaking of the wagons as they splash through the water. Call me weird or what ever you want but it happens, that's why I stay away from that place west of Larned, Kansas as much as possible.

     Well on one of the days I was out doing this I had quite an adventure at the marker at Big Timbers Crossing on the Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road. On this day I had started at Fort Hays and went south cleaning the weeds around the markers and getting GPS Readings as I went along. At Big Timbers Crossing I got out of the pickup, got the weedeater out of the back and went to the side of the road about six inches from the edge of the weeds that lined the ditch to look over the weed situation in the ditch. Before diving in with the weedeater I thought I might have to use a chain saw or something a little larger than the weedeater to cut some of the weeds in that part of the country. While I was standing there and looking at the crossing and wondering just what might have gone on at this location in trail days, I was pulled back to reality. I heard something in the weeds at my feet. No big deal because at other locations along the trail I had seen mice and that is what I figured it was.

     Well I don't know how many of you have ever been out in the wilds and heard a buzzzzzzzzzing sound from a rattlesnake, well I have and you will never forget it. It makes the water run down the pant leg and it's not from your water bottle! There I was standing about six inches from the edge of the road and the weeds hearing this buzzing sound that definitely was a rattlesnake. As I stood there not moving I slowly looked all around but couldn't spot him, but I knew that I had upset him and he was letting me know just that. After checking that he wasn't sneaking up behind me I took a quick jump backwards and out on the road behind me. Now I'm here to tell you that I don't know for sure what the olympic record for a standing long jump backwards is, but I can tell you I am now the gold medal record holder for that event. I knew I should have gone to Australia!!

     After surveying the predicament I was in, I took the weed eater and beat the weeds to see if I could make him a little madder or at least let me know just where he was. Well, I didn't scare him one little bit, out he came right on the road with me. Now he was really mad. He got on the road and got into the rattlesnake striking pose and stood his ground. I picked up a hand full of dirt and threw it at him, he stood his ground for a little bit longer, but finally the old man won. He made a retreat down the road and into the weeds about twenty feet away from the marker.

     I came back to the marker and listened. I could still hear another one somewhere in the weeds. These guys were interrupting my job, it was hot and I was in no mood to let them stop me. So with my trusty weedeater I beat the weeds in the ditch some more and out came two more, only this time they were heading south right beside the marker and into the pasture and grass beyond. One of these two was about four feet long. I'm glad he wasn't the one to come out on the road, because I may have let them darn weeds grow for a while longer and did that marker some other day. The other two were about two feet long. After I ran them off with dirt, I really beat the weeds and found no more or heard no more. I finally got the weeds cleared and was on my way.

     There is a lesson in this little story. It pays to be careful out there as you just never know what you might come across. I broke a rule that everyone should adhere to, that is don't go alone, take a friend. Rattlesnakes aren't the only things to watch for, the list is long, right now buck deer are something to watch out for and keep your distance as you would lose that battle. I've decided that I'm going to wait till it gets colder and these little fellows are cold and asleep, then and only then am I going to get to the markers off the road and in the tall grass.

     Another lesson to learn is don't leave home without the camera!!

     These are the miles you will travel on the nine different routes of the Santa Fe Trail in the Wet/Dry Routes area if you take the tour of our part of the Santa Fe Trail.

The Survey Route
A-1 & A-2: Pawnee County, Kansas (7.7 miles)

The Pre Wet Route
B-1: Pawnee County, Kansas (4.8 miles)

The Wet Route
C-1 to C-35: Pawnee, Edwards, & Ford Counties, In Kansas (93.3 miles)

The Post Wet Route
D-1 to D-2: Ford County, Kansas (5.1 miles)

The Pre 1859 Dry Route
E-1 to E-11: Pawnee, Edwards, & Ford Counties, In Kansas (74.3 miles)

The Post 1859 Dry Route
F-1 to F-24: Pawnee, Edwards, & Ford Counties, In Kansas (88.3 miles)

The Fort Larned Military Road
G-1 to G-3: Pawnee County, Kansas (6.3 miles)

The Post 1866 Dry Route
H-1 to H-2: Pawnee County, Kansas (9.5 miles

The Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road
I-1 to I-30: Ellis, Pawnee, Ness, Hodgeman, Ford Counties In Kansas (129.1 miles)

Marker Should Stay Put
     Rosetta Graff recently supplied the following clipping from an early day Kinsley newspaper. It reads;
     There is an effort being made in the state to mark every mile of the trail. It was begun by one of the noblest woman who ever blessed the state with her life and love, Mrs. Fannie G. Thompson, of Topeka. The trail is fast being obliterated in Edwards county by the plow. If the Old Settlers' Association will make it a part of their work to interest our people, we may yet follow the path of the pioneer by a tribute to his bravery that will keep this memory alive in the land.

     The reference is to the markers placed in Kansas under the auspices of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the State of Kansas. The project, 1906-1908, placed six markers in Edwards County. Four of those markers were later transferred to other locations. The present officers of the Daughters of the American Revolution are working with local communities to return all markers to the location originally designated. Hopefully, citizens in Edwards County will be helpful in this regard.

A Timbered Terrain
     Again, Ed Carlson has provided "Traces" with an interesting item from an early edition of the Kinsley Graphic.

     If fires could be kept away from the river for five years, there would be quiet a heavy belt of cottonwood timber along that stream, from one end of the valley to the other. The young trees come up every spring, and thrive the whole season and until killed by fire. It is just so along the Coon and in all the low or damp places in the valley. In breaking up the old fields in the spring, many of them are just literally covered with young cottonwoods. Now, when the country becomes thickly settled, prairie fires will be kept out and these young trees will have a chance to grow. There is no question but what time will come when this country will grow its own fuel. Both up and down the Arkansas river there is an abundance of timber, and trees such as cottonwood, elm, plum and a few other varieties, have no enemies in this climate but the prairie fires. Even the Pawnee, twenty five miles east of us, the Saw Log or Buckner, fifteen miles west, and all the streams thirty to forty miles south, were well supplied with timber until it was cut down and hauled off by settlers. The Forts Larned and Dodge have been supplied with wood for the past twenty years, cut from the little creeks mentioned, and there is no calculating the timber used up by the travel over the Santa Fe Trail for years and years. Plant trees and take care of them after they are planted, is all that is required to grow timber in this country.
Kinsley Graphic
Saturday 24, January 1880

     This contemporary account does not agree with many of the "Uncle Joe" stories which have been told and retold over the past several decades. However, it does square with first hand accounts of the period found in diary and journal accounts.

An Auto Accident on the Santa Fe Trail
     Ed Carlson Chapter member of Wichita, Kansas, and former resident of Kinsley sends the following article from the Kinsley Mercury, May 18, 1916. Mrs. J.C. Lowry was fatally injured, her husband's shoulder dislocated, their daughter-in-law suffered three broken ribs, and other occupants of a Ford were bruised when their car was ditched on the road one mile southwest of Offerle Tuesday morning at 11 o'clock. Mrs. Lowry succumbed to her injuries that evening at 5:15. The Lowry's live seven miles north of Hoisington, from where they had left that morning in two cars for Meade county for a family reunion. They had been making from 30 to 35 miles per hour on the way, it is said, and were happy in the thought that they would soon be with their Meade kinfolks. Southwest of Offerle one mile, just over the line in Ford county, is a bad turn in the road, where the highway they were traveling joins the Santa Fe Trail. The Trail at this point is a fill several feet high. Numerous accidents and near accidents have occurred there and the place has been traveled with great caution by motorists who realized its danger. It seems that the first of the Lowry cars almost went into the ditch in making the turn and this nettled the second driver, who lost control of his car, it evidently rolling over and over.
     Are these ruts still visible? Also just where is this place the accident took place? If so, please respond to your editor.
     This article appeared in "Volume 4 Number 3 1997" of our newsletter "Traces"

This Note added 2/1/2000:
     Larry & Carolyn Mix were doing some research on the Santa Fe Trail and came up with this little tidbit of information where this accident may have happened. The road they were on in a book we have was called "Santa Fe Trail". The corner for this accident is "one mile east" of where our chapter marked as Dinner Station. From Satellite photo's of this location from our web site there seems to have been ruts at or very near to this corner discribed above. This may or may not explain this event any better but it should shed some light on the roads in that area in 1917.

     In a book that we have "Standard Road Guide of America Vol. 7, 1917" we found this information. The Blue Books cover the entire United States and Southern Canada in ten volumes. They tell you where to go and how to get there, giving complete maps of every motor road, running directions at every fork and turn, with mileages. All points of local or historical intrest, state motor laws, hotel and garage accommodiations, ferry and steamship schedules and rates. A veritable motorist's encyclopedia.
     Also used was a 1916 Plat Book and Atlas of Ford County, Kansas.

     First in the 1916 Plat Book it shows in Wheatland Township, between Sections 24 & 25 a road named "Santa Fe Trail". This road enters Ford County at this point and continues to the west to a point in Spearville, Kansas. At Spearville it crosses the railroad and continues to the southwest on the north side of the railroad to Grandview Township. In Section 13 of Grandview Township, the trail changes to a west direction to a point at the corners of Sections 13, 14, 23, and 24 of Dodge City Township, at this point it makes a turn to the south and enters Dodge City, Kansas on Central Avenue.

     Now you have to remember that this is in 1917 and the roads as we know them today, hadn't been built yet. Roads were just the trails that already were in use at that time. More like one lane cow paths. Most roads as we know them today weren't built until the WPA days.

     The directions given in the 1917 guide book that we have are as follows;
     Route #174, Hutchinson to Dodge City, Kansas 153.5 miles. Note from the guide book; Via Lyons and Great Bend. This is a section of the Santa Fe Trail. Good dragged dirt roads practically all the way. (we will skip ahead to Kinsley, Kansas on this route to where you are coming into Kinsley on what is now U.S. 56)

115.0m    24.2m Kinsley, 5 corners. Keep straight ahead along RR.
Thru 4-corners at station 115.5m. Pass Ardell Station on left 119.4 and thru Offerle 123.0m
123.6m     8.6m End of road; turn left (poles go right). Cross RR 123.8. (my note, this would be the Ford & Edwards County line)
126.1m     2.5m 4-corners meeting poles, turn right into
136.4m     10.3m Spearville, 4-corners at Main St.straight thru.
136.9m     0.5m Cross RR and immediately turn left along tracks. Pass Wright Station on left 145.2
145.5m     8.6m End of road; curve right with poles away from RR. Keep straight ahead where poles go left 149.7m.
151.7m     6.2m 4-corners at sign; turn left.
152.5m     0.8m Right-hand road; turn right, immediately curving left into Central Avenue.
153.5m     1.0m Dodge City, Central Avenue & Spruce St., at court house.

     My conclusion is that this was not "Santa Fe Trail Ruts" that caused the accident but that the road they were turning on to was built up and was just called "Santa Fe Trail" road. "The Trail at this point is a fill several feet high"
     No ruts are talked about in the article above, also a rut would have been a depression in the ground not a fill, I think!!

Wet/Dry Routes Defined
Special Orders NO. 75, May 11, 1868
     II. In compliance with instructions received from Head Qrs., Dist. of the Upper Arkansas dated Ft. Harker May 7, 1868, it is hereby ordered for the Government of all concerned;

     1st. The "Route" known as the "Dry Route" will hereafter be discontinued by all escorts and public teams, substituting thereafter the line of the Arkansas River, known as the "Wet Route",

     2nd. The journey between Forts Dodge and Larned, Ks. will hereafter, except in case of extreme necessity (the circumstances of which will be fully explained in writing to the Commanding Officer of this Post) be performed in not less than two (2) days.

Commanding Officer of Fort Larned
Capt. William J. Lyster
to the Asst. Adjt. Gen.,
Dept. of the Missouri, May 28, 1877

     In obedience to your endorsement dated Headquarters Dept of Missouri, May 4, 1877, directing me to measure the "wet and dry" routes between this point and Ft Dodge, I have the honor to submit the following report. The almost constant rains prevented my beginning the measurement until the 21 isnt. I enclose herewith a sketch of the country passed over. The directions were taken by compass, and where opportunity offered I compared with the section corner stones placed by the government surveyor, and found that the course indicated in the sketch is nearly correct, and from some cause that I cannot discover one lost (by slipping of the wheel I presume) as by testing on a measured mile. I found that the other one measured correctly. There distances are therefore taken from that instrument as both trails are measured by the same instrument, and under nearly the same conditions of roads. I belived the distances in length of the two routes as given is nearly accurate. From Ft. Larned to Junction of Wet & Dry Routes near Ft. Dodge Ks. is fifty & 97/100 miles, Dry Trails. From junction near Ft. Dodge to crossing of Coon Creek by the "wet route" Fifty and 7/100 miles. From the crossing of Coon Creek to Ft Larned, nine 6/100 miles. The wet route being eight 16/100 miles longer than the dry.

     On the Dry route there are no indications that water could be obtained in the Dry Season except at Big Coon Creek, thirty three miles from Ft. Larned, and possibly in holes at Little Coon Creek, forty two miles and from all I can learn from old plainsmen (which agrees with the appearance of the trails) it was customary for all ox-trains going west from Ft. Larned to take the wet trail via Coon Creek Crossing, except after an unusually heavy rain, when water cound be found in holes and ravines usually dry.

     The trails at their greatest divergence are 10 miles apart. There was a bridge over the Pawnee below Ft. Larned, for a few months in 1865. I cannot ascertain exactly how long it was used, but about 4 months. Major H. C. Haas, Mo. Vols. was in command of this post at that time, and I am informed that he now resides in Leavenworth and might supply this information.

     The Ford three miles below the Fort appears to have been the best and has the largest trail leading to it. The next in importance as indicated by the size of the trail crossing it, was one mile below the Fort, on the Dry route to Zarah.

I am very respectfully your obt. servant
William J. Lyster

Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road
Dodge City Daily Globe February 4, 1928
     On the site a mile and a half west of Wright, Kansas where the Highway Southern 50 crosses the old Fort Hays to Fort Dodge trail, a movement is under way to erect a marker. The trail no longer handles the traffic it did in days of yore, making the intersection of the two roads the logical place in Ford county to commemorate the past with the progress of the future.

     Hodgeman county is sponsoring a similar move, led by such pioneers as L. W. Hubbell and his wife of Jetmore, who are advocating the erection of a memorial on the fort to fort road at Duncan Crossing, 18 miles north of Jetmore where stood the first residence of Hodgemen county, the buffalo ranch of John McLaughlin.

     Mr. Hubbell in discussing the early history of the road says McLaughlin sold out to George Duncan in 1871. The ranch took its name from the fact that McLaughlin contracted to sell buffalo meat to the graders of the Union Pacific railroad, constructed shortly previous, and to the army post at Fort Hays.

     On the McLaughlin place are still evident signs of the dugout, well, sod house, and old stockade. At this place was located the first post office in Hodgeman county of which George Duncan was postmaster. Following him came Mrs. Clarissa Webb, Anthony Snyder, and Charles Ruff.

     Several American generals traveled this dusty trail between Dodge City and Hays among them Sheridan, Custer, and Miles. Ness county is considering erecting a memorial on the road and Mr. Hubbard is attempting to interest Rush county. With other counties planning memorials at historic points it seems only fitting for Ford county to also commemorate the historic spot where the travel of the past and present join, he said.

Treasure on the Santa Fe Trail
     In 1851 a small wagon train of emigrants was returning east from the gold fields of California. They had done real good in the gold fields and had the gold with them They camped for the night on the south side of the Arkansas River 10 miles south of Offerle Kansas. Their camp was located on what later became the Lightner Ranch then in later years the Taylor Ranch. In the morning they saw Indians aproching from the south and crossed the River and buried $90,000 in gold in a Dutch Oven under a small tree. The Indians attacked and killed everyone except a 8 year old girl who was taken with the Indians.

     In 1918 a woman appered in the town of Kinsley Kansas and had a local take her down the old trail south west of town. It is said she had a map of the site she was looking for. She claimed to be a relative of some person who had escaped the massacre there, it is thought that she was the relative of the small girl taken by the Indians. It is said that she didn't find what she was looking for. So legend has it the Dutch Oven Treasure is still to be recovered. Talking with farmers in the area every piece of ground between Kinsley and Ford Kansas has the Dutch Oven buried on their property. This treasure is well known in the area.

     In later years a man working on the Lightner ranch uncovered the remains of a wagon. The remains were said to be rims, wheels and other debris, it was found in a sand hill close to the Santa Fe Trail crossing on the Arkansas River, but the Dutch Oven was not found. People have tried to find the map the women used or anyone who knows about it but none to be found only stories. On the south side of the river 75 feet beyond the crossing were mounds maybe graves.

How Specifications Live Forever
     The U.S. Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 ft., 9.5 in. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were built by English expatriates. Why did the English people build them like that? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and used the same jigs and the tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

     Okay, then. Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they used any other spacing, the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

     So who built these old rutted roads? Imperial Rome, for the benefit of their legions, built the first long distance roads in Europe. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? Roman war chariots made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

     Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 9.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariots. Specs and bureaucracies live forever.

     So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's *?*#!* came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses!




Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
© "Forever"