The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter met for the Fall Meeting on October 13, 1996 at the Stafford County Historical Museum in Stafford, Kansas. Reports were given concerning the Lime Kiln Project, the 175th Santa Fe Trail Anniversaries programs conducted by the Chapter, the Murder on the Santa Fe Trail Seminar, and new chapter members. Following the business meeting, the program on the recent archeological dig at Fort Harker-Fort Ellsworth was presented by Margaret Kraisinger, Halstead, KS.
The Chapter will conduct its Winter Meeting January 5, 1997 at the Municipal Building in Kinsley. Officers for 1997 will be elected, and the Faye Anderson Award will be presented. Also to be presented are plaques for the past presidents of the Chapter and a lifetime membership plaque to David and Rob Cross. The business meeting scheduled for 2:00 will be followed by a program by Alice Clapsaddle, My Grandmother's Trunk, a presentation on Victorian clothing and manners.
Duncan Crossing Sign Vandalized
Sorry to report that the roadside sign west of Burdett on K156 has been vandalized. The sign which directs the public to Duncan's Crossing on the Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road was a project of Eagle Scout Scott Divis, Troop #238, Lewis, Kansas. It appears that the sign was damaged by a shotgun blast. Hopefully, the sign can be refurbished over the winter months.
Kyle Buck -- Dan Kilby, Wichita, Kansas -- Lee and Dorothy Kroh, Merriam, Kansas.
Lime Kiln Project Progresses
Stone for the retaining wall at the lime kilns near Burdett were transported to the kilns site on October 14, 1996. Involved in the work were Chapter members Richard Ford and David Clapsaddle. Also helping was Leonard Mostrom, City of Burdett employee. The stone, taken from a 19th century farmstead west of Jetmore was donated by Dale Nuss of Jetmore.
On November 2nd, work continued. The retaining wall was completed that date, Helpers were President Janice Klein, husband Mike, and Mildon Yeager. David Clapsaddle did a minimal amount of work, but he did prepare the lunch.
Clapsaddle and Yeager recently went on a wild goose chase to Lamar, Colorado. The object of their search was an odometer at the big Timbers Museum. Such devices attached to a wagon wheel calculated the mileage during trail days.
En route, they stopped at Lakin to visit the old gander, Paul Bentrup, the fastest tongue in the West. Bentrup is doing fine now that he has his own apartment filled with his precious resource materials. Paul says a "Big Howdy" to everyone.
Murder on the SFT Seminar
Just another reminder to urge all members to circle June l4, 1997 on their calendars. On that date, the Chapter will conduct the Murder on the Santa Fe Trail Seminar. Please make plans to attend. The tickets for the event will serve as your receipt.
Did You Know?
The distance between the wheels of a train and those of a wagon are precisely the same, four feet, eight and one half inches. This phenomenon results from rails being built according to the specifications used to construct horse drawn trams whose measurements were taken from wagons. This need for measurement goes back to the days of the Roman Empire when chariots were built to universal specifications so the rutted roads of the ancient kingdom could be accommodated.
This Newsletter "Traces" is the official publication of the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail. Annual subscriptions are obtained through membership in the Chapter. Dues are $10.00 annually, single or family.
Pawnee Ford Crossing a Perilous Passage
At Larned, Kansas, U.S. Highway 56 spans the Pawnee River, Adjacent is the defunct trestle bridge of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. This is the location of the Pawnee Fork crossing, one of the most hazardous fords on the entire length of the Santa Fe Trail or the Santa Fe Road as it was known in the historic period. Railroad and highway construction has long since destroyed the historical integrity of the site; but its steep banks are yet reminiscent of the difficulties associated with the crossing.
The record is replete with references to the treacherous crossing of Pawnee Fork. Allow two such incidents to suffice. In his inaugural trip to Santa Fe in 1844, James Josiah Webb observed:
"The second day after, we arrived at Pawnee Fork, and, as the crossing was very difficult, we concluded to turn out, repair the road, and prepare for crossing the next morning. The east bank must be from twenty to thirty feet above the water and very steep so much so, that we were compelled to lock both hind wheels, hitch a yoke of good wheelers to the hind axle, and all the men that can be used to advantage to assist in holding back and prevent the wagon from turning over. Even with all these precautions, accidents frequently happen, and the descent is so rapid the teams get doubled up and oxen run over.
"The next morning we began crossing; and when the wagons were about half across, one of Wethered's wagons turned over into the stream. The west bank was steep but not so high as the east one. Yet we had to double teams to get out and make a short and very difficult turn up the stream; so the wagon fell into deep water, and bottom up. All hands took to the water and in two or three hours succeeded in getting dry goods and wagon to camp on the opposite bank. The next two days were spent in opening the goods, and spreading them on the ground to dry, repacking and loading up."
Two years later, members of the Mormon Battalion had a similar experience. Sergeant Daniel Tyler recorded:
"On the evening of the 9th we camped on a stream known as Pawnee Fork, the crossing of which was very difficult, and occupied some time. Each wagon had to be let down the bank with ropes, while on the opposite bank from twenty to thirty men with ropes aided the teams in pulling the wagons up. The water was muddy, very much like that of the Missouri river."
The difficulty occasioned by the Pawnee's steep banks was further confounded by its rampaging flood of waters. Normally, the stream ran at a four foot depth; but during the flood season, its deep channel ran full to overflowing. Such was the case in 1844 when a Bent, St. Vrain caravan was detained for a full month waiting for the water to subside. Such also was the case in 1846 when the impatient Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny "caused trees to be felled across the deep, rapid current." Across these makeshift foot bridges, the Army of the West marched while the wagons were floated across the stream and animals were forced to swim.
The crossing was marked in 1991 with a bronze plaque mounted on a limestone post by the Wet/Dry Route Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail. Nearby are two other Santa Fe Trail locations likewise marked: the 1825 campgrounds of the Santa Fe Trail survey team and the site of Parker's Ranche established in 1865. Other Santa Fe Trail attractions within a ten mile radius of the crossing are Pawnee Rock, the Santa Fe Trail Center, and the Fort Larned National Historic Site.
This article was recently published in The Santa Fe Trail Wagon Master.
Dues are always Due to the
Fastest Hand in the West
Chapter dues in the amount of $10.00 per family, are due at the Winter meeting or may be mailed to Alice Clapsaddle, 215 Mann, Larned, Kansas, 67550. Checks should be made out to the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter. Dues and email addresses are welcome.
"Printable Dues Form"
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.