Black Pool Campsite
Wet Route
Santa Fe Trail

GPS: N37 39.305 W99 41.567

Black Pool in November of 2000

     There has been growing interest in a spring adjacent to the Wet Route of the Santa Fe Trail in Ford County, Kansas. The spring, known in local lore as Black Pool, is situated north and east of the town of Ford, Kansas, about three and a quarter miles west of the point where the Arkansas River makes an abrupt turn to the northeast. The popular name is logical because the water in the pool basin appears to be black even though it is clear. At the head of the spring is an outcropping of sandstone in which is carved the following inscription: "Black Pool Dis by E. Post 1843" underneath which appear the initials "EEP."

Black Pool Inscription

     No other 19th century reference has been found denoting this as the Black Pool. Greg Franzwa described the spring in his Santa Fe Trail Revisited and concluded: "The curious part is that so far not a single diary reference or reminiscence has come to light mentioning the Black Pool." [1]

     This inscription has been mistakenly identified by Franzwa and others before him, as "Black Pool U.S. Post 1843." This may have seemed logical since Philip St. George Cooke's troops were in the vicinity when they captured Jacob Snively and his Texan Freebooters in 1843. Naturally, a search of the records of the War Department, conducted at the request of the area's congressional representative more than 30 years ago, turned up no such Post. [2] It would be of interest to know if any soldier with the last name of Post was a member of Cooke's 1843 force.

     There were reportedly many inscriptions on the rocks around this spring at one time, noted by at least two Trail travelers and, later, by a nearby resident in the 1890s. Most of these apparently were lost when stones crumbled or tumbled into the pool below. There remain many inscriptions from more recent times.

     Photographs of the "Black Pool" inscription taken over 50 years ago show the markings were clearly visible but apparently somewhat worn. Photographs taken in the 1980s show the inscription to be considerably less clear and somewhat obscured by other scratchings (either defacement or recent graffiti).

     A previous landowner scribed the inscription annually, and more recently someone has etched the characters to a pronounced depth and stained the inscription with some dark material. Resultantly, the inscription is well defined, especially in comparison to other faint inscriptions carved close by.

     Search for an E. Post was fruitless, although there was a man named Post (no first name given) engaged in the Santa Fe Trade in 1847. [3] There was another Post who described a spring in the area.

     In 1859 Charles Post, on his way to the gold fields, confided to his diary that he found a beautiful pool which he named "Crescent Pool." On June 5 of that year he recorded:

     "We concluded to travel until noon as we did not have large enough range for our cattle; quite cool, pleasant driving. Our road led up on the high land in consequence of the bluffs running down to the river, which is rarely the case on the north side of river, but on south side the sand hills for a great portion of the way lead into river. I was riding ahead of train and found a beautiful pool in a basin some thirty feet lower than the top of bluff with an outlet to the river. I have not yet seen anywhere an account of this pool so I named it Crescent Pool; it is about seventy-five miles from Pawnee Fork. I carved my name and address in the rocks, also the name of the pool; it is a beautiful spot. We encamped at eleven O'clock for a day and night at old Fort Atkinson, nothing of is remains except a bridge with four sides showing the outline of walls which were of sod." [4]

     Post's estimate of the pool being 75 miles from Pawnee Fork was in error. Fort Atkinson, at which he camped west of the pool, was about 68 miles from Pawnee Fork. A comparison of the two sites is instructive.

  1. The so-called Black Pool is located about 49 miles from Pawnee Fork. Crescent Pool was less than 68 from Pawnee Fork.
  2. The Black Pool inscription is dated 1843. The Crescent pool inscription was carved in 1859.
  3. The Black Pool inscription is identified with E. Post. The Crescent Pool inscription was the work of Charles Post.

     There is no apparent resolution to these conflicting accounts. The author suspects that the Black Pool inscription is bogus. Until further documentation is found, the author contends that the name of Black Pool is equally erroneous for the historic period. While 20th century newspaper accounts speak often of Black Pool, no 19th century sources have as yet been identified which refer to the site as Black Pool.

     There are, however, two documents which describe the site, not by name, but by location and appearance. In 1850 William Quesenbury accompanied a group of Cherokees and Euro-Americans from Washington County, Arkansas, to the gold fields of California. He kept a diary of the trip. The route they pursued, which came to be called the Cherokee Trail, [5] departed a point near present Saline, OK, entered southeast Kansas and, continued in a northwestward orientation to merge with the Santa Fe Trail at Running Turkey Creek in present McPherson County, Kansas. From that juncture, Quesenbury's party followed the Santa Fe Trail to Bent's Fort, westward to the Rocky Mountains, and then northward along the eastern slope to Wyoming. There the gold seekers pioneered a new wagon road westward.

Quensenbury's diary entries for May 23-25 follow:

May 23 (Thursday)
     Owing to there being no grass at all at the creek, we left as soon as we could get breakfast. All day the wind has blown hard. It has been disagreeable to travel.
     Buffalo in sight all the time.
     No grass all day. Nooned near a stream where a wagon had been abandoned. Got some of the spokes for stakes.
     At Pawnee Fork the banks were steep but the wagons got over with out difficulty. Pawnee Fork is the largest stream we have crossed since we left the Verdigris. The course of the road has been almost due south for the last five or six hours. At night concluded I would finish a letter I had commenced. Wrote till ten, and then was kept awake till twelve by Jack Hildebrand and someone else talking just outside of the tent. Buffalo dung! The little prairie dog is doing well."

May 24 (Friday)
     "This stream that we are camped on I think comes from a spring. It is twelve or fifteen feet wide on an average, and of the same depth all the way that I have been along. It can't be crossed but on horses without wading." "Got off from the creek about nine. Road still S."
     "Buffaloes constantly in sight. Buckner killed one but it was poor. Nooned at a pond close by the side of the road on the left hand. Ducks on it. Took a nap under the wagon. Made about twenty miles. I suppose, we have no way of measuring distance."
     "Our encampment is now on the bank of the Arkansas for the first time. The water is not so dark as it is at Fort Smith, is about the same color as the Rio Grande. It is as warm however, as it has anywhere been. The range is still bad. We must be in the middle of the Great Buffalo Range. Dog towns continue. Buffalo dung for fuel.

May 25 (Saturday)
     "Permitted our animals to graze for sometime before we got off. Our road is as ever, but runs almost due south.
"Led Buckner's pack animals to give him a chance for a buffalo. Whilst we were nooning, he, Merrill and some others came in with a large supply of meat. Riley Buchanan and myself, after a hard chase caught a dog in the --- of a city. But killed it in the taking. Our road ran closer to the river bank than it has heretofore. . . .Passed a large spring some forty yards to the left of the road. A great many names are carved on the rock. We learned from the inscriptions the ox team company had passed here on the 17th."

     "A short distance after passing the spring two or three Indians came to us. They were on patrol. Left the road and camped about a quarter of mile from the river for the convenience of water. We still use buffalo dung. The Indians camped with us." [6]

     It appears that, after leaving Pawnee Fork, the gold seekers followed the Santa Fe Trail to Coon Creek (11 miles) and continued on some 20 miles to camp on the Arkansas. On May 25, the party pressed on to the southwest where Quesenbury observed "A large spring some forty yards to the left of the road." A short distance later, the Arkansawyers went into camp. If the party traveled 20 miles on May 25, the same as Quesenbury estimated for the 24th, and add 11 miles for the distance between Pawnee Fork and Coon Creek, the estimated total is 51 miles. Deduct two miles for the distance between the spring and the campsite, and the remainder is 49 miles, the actual distance between Pawnee Fork and the so-called Black Pool.

     In 1859 Samuel D. Raymond kept a journal of his trip from Michigan to the Colorado gold fields, following the Santa Fe Trail. His party was nearly one month ahead of that of Charles Post, described above. Excerpts from Raymond's account, May 7-9, include what the editor of the journal, Lloyd W. Gundy, identifies as the Black Pool:

Saturday May 7th
     "Left Pawnee Fork and jogged merrily along in a Southwest course, keeping the road near the River. From Pawnee Fork to 'Forks of Santa Fe Crossing' is five mls. Travelling on about 10 or 12 farther we encamped near the road side within a mile of the river & a half mile from a fine Creek of clear running water. . .Saw a number of Prarie Dog villages."

Sunday May 8th
     "Traveled about 15 mls and encamped on the river. . ."

Monday May 9th
     "Left in the morning at 7 O'clock. Found the road level but quite muddy. . .In the afternoon passed by a large village of Prarie Dogs. . .Buffalo chips quite numerous but damp owing to a heavy rain a day or two before. Had to cook our supper by them which took a good while to do it. . .This day travelled about 17 mls. A little way from the road saw a large basin of water enclosed with sand rocks. In it saw a number of fish - on the rock were a number of names cut out. I left the innitials of my name on one of them, as an emigrant to the far west." [7]

     According to Raymond's estimates, his party had traveled some 47 to 49 miles from Pawnee Fork. He, as had Quesenbury, most likely described what has become known as Black Pool, although neither used that term nor described the water in the basin as appearing to be dark or black. Both mentioned the presence of many inscriptions.

     It will be interesting to see if any additional references to this spring in Trail documents may surface and if any 19th century observer used the term "Black Pool." The spring was obviously utilized by travelers on the Trail, but its popular name appears to be a more recent fabrication.

     There is also the unsolved mystery of Charles Post's "Crescent Pool." Has anyone identified its location or seen the inscription he claimed to have carved there in 1859?

    One final note: There have been four markers placed at Santa Fe Trail sites in the immediate area of The Black Pool:
  1. There is a marker about one mile east which identifies the September 5 campsite of the 1825 Survey Team that was near here.
  2. Another is one-half mile west which marks the ruts traversing the entire length of the pasture in which the spring "Black Pool" is located. These ruts show how the trail came out of the river bottom and took to the high ridge overlooking the river. They remained on the ridge above the river for several miles before returning to the river bottom.
  3. Another is one-fourth mile west of the above location where the ruts again make a brief appearance.
  4. The last one is one half mile from the above location to the northwest. At this location there are ruts that run across another pasture for a half mile.
    Used With Permission of the Author
    David Clapsaddle

Back to Research Articles

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

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