Tag Archives: Santa Fe Trail

Council Grove, Kansas — On the Santa Fe Trail

Hays House Restaurant on the Santa Fe Trail.
Seth M. Hays, a grandson of Daniel Boone, was the first white settler in Council Grove in 1847 in what is now the state of Kansas. In 1857 he opened the Hays House Tavern and Restaurant. Today, Hays House is the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Its customers have included Jesse James and George Armstrong Custer (and me!)

My children’s elementary and middle schools were near the start of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas City, Missouri, but I didn’t pay that much attention to the trail until much later.  Now I’m slowly visiting towns and cities along the trail — not in any particular order. In fact, it wasn’t until I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, the end of the trail, that I thought “Hey, this trail starts near my house!”

This post focuses on Council Grove, Kansas, one of the more significant towns on the Santa Fe Trail.  The town was named after an agreement between European Americans and the Osage Nation about allowing settlers’ wagon trains to pass through the area and proceed to the West. Pioneers gathered at a grove of trees so that wagons could band together for their trip west. Council Grove has 15 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One is the Post Office Oak. Travelers left their mail at this tree to be picked up by others going in the right direction.  General George Armstrong Custer slept in the town with his troops during the American Civil War, under a large tree known now as the Custer Elm.

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa FeNew Mexico, according to Wikipedia. Pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, the trail served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which carried trade from Mexico City.

Farmers and Drovers Bank, Council Grove, Kansas.

Built in 1882, the Farmers and Drovers Bank, Council Grove, Kansas, is one of the oldest banks in Kansas, and is still in operation today.  The bank is on Main Street, which is the old Santa Fe Trail, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1971

Council Grove Carnegie Library, Kansas Photo Print

Council Grove Carnegie Library, Kansas

 

The one-story, brick eclectic Neo-Classical Carnegie Library building sits on the south side of Main Street in Council Grove, Kansas. Red rose bushes flank the entrance steps.

Main Street is a section of the old Santa Fe Trail. Council Grove is a Santa Fe Trail National Historic Landmark town.

The library, built in 1916, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 25, 1987. Now the Carnegie library building is the home of the Morris County Historical Society.

Kaw Mission, Council Grove, Kansas Photo Print

Kaw Mission, Council Grove, Kansas

 

A sycamore tree and a white oak shade the historic Kaw Mission in Council Grove, Kansas.

Kaw Mission is a historic church mission at 500 N. Mission Street that was home, school and church to 30 Kaw boys from 1851–1854. It is near the Santa Fe Trail in the Flint Hills.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The site is now administered by the Kansas Historical Society as Kaw Mission State Historic Site. The state of Kansas was named for the Kaw (or Kansa).

Last Chance Store, Council Grove, Kansas Poster

Last Chance Store, Council Grove, Kansas.

 

Built in 1857 by Tom Hill, the Last Chance Store in Council Grove, Kansas, was the last opportunity for freighters bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico, to pick up supplies for their journey. It is also the oldest commercial building in Council Grove. The building has served as post office facilities, government trading house and polling place. The building’s architecture marks a transition from the Frontier style of construction to the Prairie Vernacular style.The store is on Main Street (Highway 40) which is also the Santa Fe Trail. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1971, and is part of the National Historic Landmark Council Grove Historic District.

Madonna of the Trail, Council Grove, Kansas Photo Print

Madonna of the Trail, Council Grove, Kansas

 

The “Madonna of the Trail” sculpture in Council Grove, Kansas, is one in a series of 12 monuments dedicated to the spirit of pioneer women in the United States. The monuments were commissioned by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR). They were installed in each of the 12 states along the National Old Trails Road, which extended from Cumberland, Maryland, to Upland, California. Much of the National Old Trails Highway later became U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66.)

Dedicated in 1928 and 1929, the twelve statues, created by sculptor August Leimbach, have become sources of local pride and all are currently in good condition and on display, thanks to local and national efforts.

Terwilliger House, Council Grove, Kansas Poster

Terwilliger House, Council Grove, Kansas

The Rawlinson-Terwilliger House was built by Abraham and Mary Rawlinson in 1860-61. This stone home was the last house that freighters carrying goods passed going west on the Santa Fe Trail when leaving Council Grove as late as 1863. The Rawlinson-Terwilliger Home is the oldest stone home and the second oldest home remaining alongside the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas.

Cottage House Hotel, Council Grove, Kansas.

According to the Cottage House hotel website, the hotel began as a three-room cottage and blacksmith shop, built in 1867. Today the hotel has 26 rooms in the main building, 10 rooms in adjacent motel unit and a honeymoon cottage. The hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 4, 1988.

All rooms in the main hotel building are decorated and furnished in keeping with the period in which they were built.

Lace curtains and selected antique furnishings are featured throughout the building, though each room is different.  All rooms have private baths, cable TV, WI-FI and modern heating and air conditioning.

Learn More About Council Grove, Kansas.

Cottage House, Council Grove, Kansas, Website.

National Register of Historic Places Listings in Morris County, Kansas.

 

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Filed under History, Kansas, Photography, Travel

High Plains Traveler

Welcome to Dalhart, Texas.

In 2014, a friend and I drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Kansas City, traveling on two-lane highways in April. We took a different two-lane highway route on our return, including Route 66 and the Santa Fe Trail.

I’ve lived in the eastern half of Kansas most of my life, have traveled throughout the world, but there were many areas within a day’s drive or two of my house that I’d never seen.  It was a very enjoyable and fascinating trip. Although our primary destination was Santa Fe, I found the stark beauty of the High Plains on our route to be an unexpected pleasure.

In book club we recently read Timothy Egan’s  “The Worst Hard Time” about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s in southwestern Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, northeastern New Mexico and southeastern Colorado. which prompted me to revisit my photographs from that trip, which was a journey through that region. Although the area experienced a very harsh time, there is plenty to see of beauty and history to see there now.  We didn’t stay long, unfortunately, so I’d like to return and see more of the area, including the museum in Clayton, New Mexico. Perhaps, I could book a room in the historic Eklund Hotel, where my friend and I ate a delicious lunch in the beautifully decorated 19th century dining room. Another museum to visit would be the XIT Ranch Museum in Dalhart, Texas.

Click here to see photos of beautiful Hotel Eklund.

For more about the XIT Ranch Museum, click here.

Clayton, New Mexico, Grain Mill and Elevator Poster

Clayton, New Mexico, Grain Mill and Elevator

Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop Poster

Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop.

You’ll probably wait a long time for a haircut at this Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop, which seems to be permanently closed. In the background is a grain elevator. The stand alone building looks desolate, but next door is a thriving full service gasoline station next door that serves a busy highway.

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Historic Red Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri

The Old Red Bridge over the Blue River in Kansas City, Missouri, is near the first river crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, the first of many rivers to cross on the long trail to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The last time I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, I saw a sign at the end of Santa Fe Trail.  Not unusual, since it was Santa Fe, after all.  But I realized then that I’ve lived near the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail in the Kansas City area for decades, but I didn’t think much about it despite signs mentioning it everywhere. Sometimes you have to leave a place to really see it.

This Santa Fe Trail sign is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, near the end point of the Santa Fe Trail.

I recently visited the Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri, for the first time. I’ve driven by it many times and didn’t see it tucked below the newest bridge on Red Bridge Road. I’ve been to Red Bridge Shopping Center scores of times, too. Did I ever wonder why the name? Not really.

The Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri, is now a spot for lovers to pledge their eternal love, but the original structure once served a more prosaic, but essential service — providing a bridge over the Blue River for travelers and freighters heading west on one of three historic trails, including the Santa Fe Trail.

More than 3,500 love locks are attached to the Old Red Bridge rails. Lovers are instructed not to toss the keys into the river, where they could hurt wildlife that might swallow them. Instead they are to drop the keys into one of two boxes on the bridge. The keys are to be collected and forged into a butterfly sculpture. When I visited, though, the boxes had been broken open by some hard-hearted vandal.

Old Red Bridge is the third of four bridges to span the Blue River near the first river crossing of the trails that led west. Old Red Bridge is in the 3-Trails Corridor park, Red Bridge Segment, dedicated to three National Historic Trails: Santa Fe, Oregon and California.

Beginning with William Becknell in 1821, the Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe. Thousands of people traveled the Santa Fe Trail to trade in places like Bent’s Old Fort, the Kozlowski’s Stage Station, and in the plaza in Santa Fe.

Emigrants heading west from Independence, Missouri, encountered their first river crossing at this site. On May 8, 1846, Virgil Pringle, “went 12 miles to the Blue and encamped, it being too high to cross. Another wagon capsized at the encampment. . . . No injury to persons or property.” The next day his party, “crossed the Blue soon in the morning.”

In 1859, the first red bridge was built by Colonel George N. Todd, a 50-year old Scottish stonemason. The 100-foot span was a covered wooden bridge on stone piers, located just downstream from today’s two bridges at the actual trail crossing, which is the first river crossing on the trail. The first bridge was painted red, creating the “Red Bridge” neighborhood name.

After the original bridge was torn down in 1892, a steel bridge, called a “tin” bridge, also painted red, replaced it. The 1859 bridge was dismantled; local farmers recycled the lumber into barns.

A third Red Bridge replaced the 1892 “tin” bridge and was dedicated by the 33rd U.S. president Harry S. Truman (when he was a judge) in 1932 during the Great Depression. This bridge, now called Old Red Bridge, is made of concrete, red painted steel and red granite. It was built by Jackson County; Richard Wakefield was the architect.

When the newest Red Bridge was opened, the Old Red Bridge became the Love Locks Bridge. It has been festooned with more than 3,500 locks since opening in February 2013. It stands next to the new bridge and is now a foot bridge in the park.

Old Red Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri Photo Print

Old Red Bridge, Love Locks, Kansas City, Missouri.

 

More information about the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail is in the links below:

Old Red Bridge Locks of Love.

About the Santa Fe Trail – Highway to the Southwest

 

 

 

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Great Blue Heron at Watts Mill Waterfall

   A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve driven by the Watts Mill Historic Site a thousand times. Although it’s somewhat hidden,  it’s across from where I bought groceries for many years and down the street from my stylist’s former salon. I’d picked up my husband many times at the nearby car dealer when he was getting his car serviced. Favorite restaurants were nearby. How could I have missed this idyllic spot? I even knew about it. I just didn’t realize how peaceful and lovely it would be, nestled as it is among shopping centers and car dealerships.

My friend Lynn and I were on a photography expedition, and she pulled into the parking lot to check out the falls for a photography opportunity. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the water was really flowing.

The park, at 103rd and State Line, was a campsite for people heading out on the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails. The area that is now a park was the site of gristmill, built in 1832, known as Watts Mill (first known as Fitzhugh’s Mill), and then Watts Mill. The park is situated on the banks of Indian Creek where the creek flows across flat rocks and tumbles over a waterfall. This location was dedicated June 10, 1974, as a historic site.

Also enjoying the creek were plenty of Canada geese and mallard ducks, as well as songbirds.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, History, Kansas City