Lost Spring
Marion County, Kansas

Lost Springs Old Settlers DAR Marker

     Lost Spring, located seven miles west of Six Mile Station, was so named for its lack of water during certain periods of the year. It was a well known location on the Santa Fe Trail. The Kaws called the spring Nee-nee-oke-pi-yah and the Mexicans referred to it as Augua Perdida, both terms meaning lost water. Just southeast of the spring which flows into nearby Lyon Creek, George Smith established a trading ranche in 1859. In the same year, he contracted with the Hockaday Hall Company to operate a mail station. The three room board and batten structure built by Smith measured thirty by forty feet with an L extension to the south which contained the kitchen and dining area. The building was equipped with four outside doors; five windows, each with twelve small panes, and a dirt floor. In the absence of chimneys, stove pipes were extended through the sod roof. Interior walls were covered with newspapers.

     Late in 1859, a drifter named Jack Costello who had traveled through the west following a stint in the Mexican War, stopped at Lost Creek for a night of drinking and gambling. By dawn of the following morning, Costello's poker prowess had won the station. Smith saddled a horse and rode away leaving his property in the lucky hands of Costello. Costello made a number of improvements to the station, building a corral and digging a well. Adding an ample supply of provisions, he began to cater to the lawless element of the area, and the station soon became known as a hangout for the ne'er-do-wells. Eleven men were said to have met their deaths at Costello's station.

     In the same year, the Thomas Wise family, returning from an unsuccessful trip to the Colorado gold fields, stopped at the station. Wise, being impressed with the farming prospects of the area, was persuaded by Costello to join him in the operation of the station. The partnership was strengthened in 1862 when Costello married Wise's sister, Abigail. In 1861, a post office named Lost Springs was established at the station. Oddly enough, neither Costello nor Wise was chosen as postmaster. Rather, Joshua Smith received the appointment. However, two years later, Wise was appointed postmaster at Muddy Creek two miles west.

     Wise's postmaster appointment preceded a number of county offices in 1865. In June of that year, Marion County was detached from Chase County and a separate government was organized for each. Wise was one of the special commissioners appointed to organize Marion County; and in the August 7 election, he was elected county commissioner and treasurer. Being ruled ineligible to hold both positions, Wise vacated the treasurer's office.

     While the station never experienced any raids by the Quantrill associates, it did not escape Indian problems. In 1865, a war party kept the station under siege for a number of days, burning the hay and destroying the grain. Costello spent most of the time on the roof of the station house. In another incident, Wise was trapped on the roof for a half day by Indians begging for whiskey. The Indians departed when travelers were seen approaching the station.

     Following the discontinuation of the stage route in 1866, the station was closed, but Costello and Wise remained at the ranche farming the 160 acres homesteaded by Costello. In 1868, Costello sold the quarter section to Wise. Moving to Marion Centre, he opened a general store and saloon. Settlers in the area fled to the safety of Costello's stone store building in 1868 when the Cheyenne moved through the area to confront their Kaw adversaries at Council Grove.

     In the same year, Wise's son, Thomas Jr., was appointed postmaster at nearby Lincolnville and Wise subsequently became postmaster at Antelope. Wise was succeeded as postmaster by Chris Rath, the younger brother of Charles Rath, well known frontiersman who operated the trading ranche on Walnut Creek.

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