A Clapsaddle Medley
Serendipity in the Cemetery

     In an earlier article, "Another Rut Preserved" spoke to the single rut which bisects the Hillside Cemetery near Kinsley, Kansas. That cemetery is one of several which preserves physical evidence of the Santa Fe Trail.

     Near the eastern end of the Trail is the little burg of Grand Pass, Missouri. The town derives its name from the 1819 writings of Major Stephen H. Long who characterized a strip of prairie now occupied by the little municipality as "Grand Pass," at that time a point on the Osage Trace, a precursor to the Santa Fe Trail between Franklin and Fort Osage. In the cemetery at the east edge if town, ruts of pronounced proportions are easily observed. Over the years, a number of graves have been located in the ruts. Several years ago a group touring the Trail stopped to walk in the ruts in the Grand Pass Cemetery. When town folks saw the crowd, some assumed it must be a funeral. In a few minutes the mayor and a few other residents arrived to ask who had died.

     Southwest of the celebrated Lost Spring is the small farming community of Tampa, Kansas. The town has the unusual distinction of three cemeteries: Catholic, Lutheran, and one some was called gentile. From atop the town's grain elevator, one can detect ruts coming from the northeast toward the Lutheran cemetery. In the cemetery, the ruts are prominent and protected from destruction by cultivation.

     Two miles east of Canton, Kansas, is the Jones Cemetery. There evidence other than ruts remains in the form of a black granite headstone inscribed as follows,

Ed. Miller
Aged 18, yrs.
Killed by
July 1864

     As the story goes (there are many variations), the two nearest places of habitation to this point were trading ranches on the Santa Fe Trail, one on Cottonwood Creek operated by A. A. and Ira Moore, the other 13 miles to the southwest on Running Turkey Creek owned by the Eli Waterman family. The Waterman's daughter Nancy, married to A. A. Moore, had fallen ill, and eighteen-year-old Edward Miller had been dispatched to summon Mrs. Waterman to nurse her daughter. En route, Miller was intercepted by Cheyennes who were raiding along the Trail to avenge the recent killing of a prominent chief, Lean Bear, by soldiers (see next article). Miller was killed and scalped. Subsequently a search party found the body adjacent to the Trail. Miller's remains were buried nearby, and a cemetery established later, during settlement days, eventually surrounded the grave. A DAR Santa Fe Trail Marker was placed close to the headstone in 1906.

     Two miles west of Larned, Kansas, the cemetery contains multiple ruts which cut across the southeast corner of the grave yard. From this point the Trail proceeded southwest for about one mile to the Dry Route crossing the Pawnee River. There an impressive cut-down remains on the north bank of the stream. The cemetery ruts have been marked with a bronze plaque mounted on a limestone post by the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter.

     By a happy coincidence, these cemeteries have unintentionally preserved the above described ruts and the grave of Edward Miller. Contributing, perhaps, to the phenomenon is the rural location of the cemeteries not bothered by urban sprawl. Regardless, Trail enthusiasts can take heart knowing these few remnants will have a sanctuary for years to come.

     In addition to the author's numerous visits to the cemeteries, the following sources were consulted. Gregory M. Franzwa, The Santa Fe Trail Revisited (St. Louis: The Patrice Press, 1989): Hobart E. Stocking, The Road to Santa Fe (New York: Hasting House, Publishers, 1971). The Story of Ed Miller is a composite of several accounts, all undocumented secondary sources.
     Used With Permission of the Author
     David Clapsaddle

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