After leaving Douglas County, Santa Fe Trail travelers moved on into north Osage County, past the present-day towns of Overbrook, Scranton, and Burlingame. Along this westerly course of 25 miles, the trail dropped only one mile to the south, closely following Highway 56 today.
Rock Creek Springs-Walton
About 1.5 miles east of Overbrook, the first stop for many was Rock Creek Springs #1. This was a campground and a watering stop that, at one time, also boasted a blacksmith shop, general store, inn, and post office.
Daniel Walters first settled on land here, later owned by V. C. Bryson and still called the “Old Bryson Farm.” Walters erected a large stone store and hotel building, which held the post office, established in October 1858. He also built himself a two-story house with a basement. Though he called his “settlement” and post office “Walton,” it continued to be known by Santa Fe Trail travelers as Rock Spring No. 1.
Dan Walters was a sort of “Jack of all Trades” — a shoemaker, a stonemason, and a farmer. Though known as a hard worker, his labor and material bills overcame him, falling behind. Making matters worse was an ongoing dispute with Walters’ neighbors, two pro-slavery men, Lee and William Daughterty. Rock Springs, the old and noted watering place, was about 300 yards west of Walters’ store and hotel. Its location was close to his boundary line, and his neighbors who were endeavoring to have the line surveyed hoped the spring was on their land rather than on Walters. The dispute continued until Lee Daughterty had Walters arrested for passing a counterfeit half dollar on him — even accusing Walters of manufacturing the spurious coin. Walters was taken off to the Olathe, Kansas jail, where he was held for several weeks. There was no evidence against him when the trial date came, and he was discharged. In the meantime, Walter Jennerson was deputized as assistant postmaster in place of Dan Walters. When Mr. Walters was released from jail, he packed up his household effects, took his family, and removed them to Colorado, thoroughly disgusted with Kansas.
In May 1863, a Confederate Guerilla named left Missouri on the Santa Fe Trail, crossed over into Kansas, and on May 4, encamped near Council Grove. That night he raided the tiny village of Diamond Springs, where he killed one man and wounded a woman. On the return trip, he stopped at Rock Springs, where he met and killed George N. Savin, a soldier of Company K, Eleventh Kansas, who had been at his home in Pottawatomie County on leave and was on his way to rejoin his regiment. Seven miles farther on, Yeager’s men shot and seriously wounded David Hubbard at his Stage Station in Globe, Kansas, then passed through Baldwin and Black Jack, where they robbed the stage, before returning to Missouri via Gardner. The Walton post office continued until June 1864, when it closed its doors forever. Today there is nothing left of this historic spot on the Santa Fe Trail.
From Rock Creek Springs, the Santa Fe Trail continued west to where the Overbrook Cemetery stands today. Faint outlines of ruts can be seen going toward the school building. Near the 200 block of Ash, in Overbrook, was a spring used for a watering stop. The Trail then ran due west through Overbrook down the present Santa Fe Trail Street. At Sycamore Street, it veered to the north a bit and continued through what is now the Brookside Manor Nursing Home. The Santa Fe Trail then turned north, where the old railroad bridge is located on Highway 56 west of Overbrook. Just west of the bridge, north of the highway, can be seen a windmill. The spring located here was called Flag Spring or Santa Fe Spring.
About four miles west of Overbrook was a place called Boneyard. Here, a wagon train of traders was caught in a blizzard. They were trying to make it back to Westport (Kansas City), Missouri. The men were able to walk to the safety of 110-Mile Crossing, but the oxen perished in the storm. For years, wagons going and coming on the trail used the bleached bones as a marker.
Just south of the intersection of Highways 56 and 75, another DAR marker is located. About 1⁄2 mile west of the marker was the 110 Mile Crossing. It was so named because, according to the survey of 1825, it was 110 miles from the start of the Trail in Missouri.
110 Mile Creek/Crossing
Originally called Jones Creek, the creek was renamed for its distance from Fort Osage, Missouri, as measured by the expedition dispatched to survey the Santa Fe Trail in 1825-1827. In July 1854, all that portion of the Shawnee Reserve down to the Sac and Fox reserve had been declared open to settlement. That summer, Fry P. McGee stopped at 110 Mile Creek on a return trip from Oregon. There, he found three families of mixed-blood Shawnee Indians engaged in farming. On August 2, McGee and his brother Mobillion purchased the crossing site from the two white men who had married Shawnee Indian women.
Soon after he acquired the land, Fry McGee’s wife, Martha Booth McGee, and two daughters joined him at the crossing, where they occupied the log buildings constructed by the original owners. Here, McGee provided bed and board for Santa Fe Trail travelers. Additional income came from a toll bridge built over the creek. Records show that the crossing charge was 25 cents per wagon and that on some days, as much as $30.00 was collected. Here intersected the Santa Fe Trail going west, the Fort Scott Road from the southeast, the 110 Mile road going north, and a segment of the Mormon Trail that ran northwest to Fort Riley.
The McGees, being very influential southerners, who were previously living in Westport (Kansas City), Missouri, immediately began to induce more southerners to settle on the headwaters of the Osage River. However, it was relatively isolated from other pro-slavery settlements. Becoming the local headquarters for pro-slavery sentiment, Fry McGee was its outspoken advocate. His “station” also became a local voting place.
In the meantime, Fry’s brother Mobillion also made a claim near the mouth of Switzler Creek, though he continued to make his home in Westport. Another pro-slavery man named C.M. Linkenauger also made a claim nearby. The wealthy and well-connected McGees persuaded more Missourians to make claims in the area in a move to hold the new Kansas Territory for slavery. Fry McGee’s girls had slave servants in their home, and a neighbor kept some 20 or more slaves working a farm nearby, even though Council City (Burlingame), just 8 miles away, was known as a strong Free State colony.
In November 1854, McGee’s Tavern was one of only 16 voting places for the whole Territory. The one chosen by the Missourians as a good point to gather and cast an excellent significant vote on the proposition before them as to whether Kansas should be a Free or Slave Territory. Horace Greeley spoke of it in his New York Tribune afterward as the worst point in the whole Territory, with 597 of the 607 votes cast there having been found by the congressional investigating committee to have been fraudulent votes. The following year, the voting place was taken away from McGee and was moved to Council City. That, however, would not change McGee’s influence in the area.
On March 30, 1855, the first election was held to elect a delegate to the first Territorial legislature. On the day before the election, a large body of Missourians, armed with rifles and a large quantity of whiskey, arrived at Council City and camped in the woods. They spent the night drinking whiskey, yelling, cursing the Free-State cause, and firing their guns.
On the morning of March 30, the regularly appointed Election Board met at the unfinished log cabin of I. B. Titus. No sooner were the polls declared open than the Missourians appeared on the scene, tore a window out of the cabin, drove away the judges, and appointed others of their group. They then took possession of the polls and drove the few Free-State men away. They spent the day drinking, swaggering about, and making threats of violence toward the Council City people. All voted, some of them several times. That night they closed the polls and moved back as far as 110 Mile Creek, where they camped, continued their drunken orgies, and went through the form of counting the votes, declaring Mobillon McGee to be elected by a unanimous vote (about 250). Though he had located a claim the fall before, McGee was then a resident of Westport, Missouri. The following day the ruffians resumed their march to Missouri.
Governor Andrew Reeder was then at Muncie, Kansas. He was at once apprised of the violent measures used at Council City when he ordered a new election, at which Hollam Rice was elected, receiving 28 votes, everyone in the district. Governor Reeder issued a certificate of election to Rice, but, upon meeting the legislature, they excluded him and admitted McGee.
On January 9, 1855, the 110 Mile Creek gained a post office named Richardson, named for the original owners. James McClure was appointed census taker for the Territory’s 7th and 8th voting districts early that same year. Governor Andrew Reeder had forewarned McClure of McGee’s radical attitude, which, unfortunately, McClure would find out about firsthand. Upon his arrival at the Fry McGee Tavern and Hotel, McGee engaged McClure in an argument, leading the census taker to spend the night in a log building with no furniture or heat. A few years later, McGee would pay for that mistake when Kansas Territory. In 1857, the 110 Mile Station was looted by the raiders, and McGee was robbed of all his personal property.
On a table of distances published in 1858, the crossing was listed as providing mail service for frontier travelers and water, wood, grass, coal, and entertainment. Entertainment might have been defined as simply liquor and card playing, but very well might have also meant prostitution.
At about the same time, McGee’s daughter married a man named William Harris, and the two settled on the opposite side of the road. McGee and his new son-in-law organized a town company at the station, named Washington, but the town never developed. However, Harris remained in the partnership until McGee died in 1861. Subsequently, he built a store he operated through 1866 when the Union Pacific Railroad closed the Santa Fe Trail traffic east of Walnut Creek. However, a post office remained here until September 1874, when it closed its doors forever.
Unfortunately, there is nothing left to see of the McGee-Harris Stage Station at the 110-Mile Creek Crossing despite its rich history. It was located about a mile southwest of U.S. 56 (West 157th Street) and Old Highway 75 (South Topeka Avenue).
From 110 Mile Creek, the trail ran to the southwest through the southern edge of present-day Scranton, Kansas. A DAR marker is located in the northeast corner of Jones Park, two blocks east of Highway 56 on Boone Street.
Before arriving in the old Santa Fe Trail town of Burlingame, travelers crossed Switzler Creek, sometimes called Bridge Creek, on the eastern edge of town. Here, John Switzler constructed a toll bridge over the waterway in 1847. It continued to operate into the 1860s.
The trail enters Burlingame at the east end of the present Santa Fe Street and proceeds through downtown. The original trail is now and has always been the town’s principal street, and several businesses are named after this famous highway across Kansas. Burlingame is the oldest town in Osage County, having been built up from the nucleus and started under the name of Council City in 1855. In 1857 the site was surveyed, which took in a larger area, and the name was changed to Burlingame in honor of Anson Burlingame, afterward minister to China.
During these early years, Burlingame was second only to Council Grove in its importance to getting supplies and blacksmith work done before going further west on the Santa Fe Trail. In the center of the town was a fine well, the watering place for miles around in the dry seasons. Improvement in the town was rapid from 1857 until the breaking out of the Civil War. This well was walled around to protect it from attack and ruin during the Civil War. Additionally, a large round fort was built in 1862, and several armed men were stationed to protect the town from destruction threatened by Bill Anderson, one of Quantrill’s guerrilla bands. As soon as peace was restored, business activity was renewed. A bridge was put across Switzler Creek, sawmills and grist mills were built, and durable buildings, some of them of stone, were put up. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Burlingame in 1869, signaling the end of Santa Fe Trail traffic through the community.
Today, Burlingame’s Santa Fe Street offers not only a nostalgic panorama with its classic red brick streets, antique-style street lights, and historic brick and stone buildings but also a unique reminder of those early Trail days. The wide expanse between the store buildings is reminiscent of the Trail days when the trail was wide enough for the ox-drawn freight wagons to circle as the wagon trains camped to restock supplies and make repairs before heading west. Today, residents park their cars in the middle of the street and at the curb.
The Santa Fe Trail then headed west over the hill and out of town, roughly paralleling Highway 31.
Dragoon Creek & Havana Stage Station
About three miles to the northwest of Burlingame and north of Kansas Highway 31 is the Dragoon Creek Crossing, a natural rock crossing point that still appears much as it did in the Trail days. The creek itself is reported to have been named after a troop of dragoons who came over the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s, or possibly, for a dragoon, Samuel Hunt, whose grave is located just to the west.
About one mile west of Dragoon Creek and just south of Kansas Highway 31 is the old Havana Stage Station site. Reportedly built in 1858, a store and a hotel complemented the station. The site was called home to about 50 German and French families in its earliest days. The townsite included six small buildings in addition to the stage station, store, and hotel. The stage station operated as a stop on the mail stage line offering meals and lodging until around 1869, when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in nearby Burlingame. The town was abandoned in the early 1870s. Many of the Germans moved to Alma, and the property was sold for taxes.
Today, only the remains of the stage station are discernible. The ruts or swales of the Trail can still be seen in the field south of the roadside marker as they continue southwest from the Havana Station.
Samuel Hunt Grave
The Samuel Hunt Grave is located just north of Kansas Highway 31 and about ½ mile west of the Havana Stage Station site. Private Samuel Hunt, US Army Dragoons, served with Colonel Henry Dodge’s Rocky Mountain Expedition in 1835 and died at this location on the return march to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This is the earliest known gravesite of a soldier on the Santa Fe Trail.
Soldier Creek Crossing
Southwest of Samuel Hunt’s Grave, Santa Fe Trail ruts lead to the Soldier Creek Crossing. The creek is reportedly named after an army unit that suffered heavy losses from cholera at this location in 1851.
The trail then continues, crossing just a short corner of Wabaunsee County and the northern edge of Lyon County.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated July 2022.