Osage County, Kansas Santa Fe Trail


Osage County, Kansas Map, 1899

Osage County, Kansas Map, 1899

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 what is Highway 56 today.

Rock Creek Springs-Walton, Osage County

About 1.5 miles east of Overbrook, the first stop for many was a place called 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.

A man by the name of Daniel Walters first settled on land here which was later owned by V. C. Bryson and still called by some today, 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, the bills for his labor and material overcame him and he fell behind. Making matters worse, was an ongoing dispute with Walters’ neighbors, two pro-slavery men by the names of 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 very close to his boundary line and his neighbors who were endeavoring to have the line surveyed, in hopes 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. When the trial date came there was no evidence against him and he was discharged. In the meantime, a man named Walter Jennerson was deputized 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 to Colorado, thoroughly disgusted with Kansas.

Missouri Border Ruffians, also called Bushwhackers

Missouri Border Ruffians also called Bushwhackers

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 little 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 furlough 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.


Overbrook, Kansas Mural

Overbrook, Kansas Mural

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

Shawnee Indians

Shawnee Indians

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, a man named 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 the land was acquired, 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 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, although it was rather isolated from other pro-slavery settlements. Becoming the local headquarters for proslavery 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, and 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, despite the fact that Council City (Burlingame), just 8 miles away, was known as a strong Free State colony.

Kansas Voting

Kansas Voting

In November 1854, McGee’s Tavern was one of only 16 voting places for the whole Territory. It was the one chosen by the Missourians as a good point to gather and cast a good large 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 next 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.

The first election was held on March 30, 1855, for the purpose of electing a delegate to the first Territorial legislature. On the day previous to the election, a large body of Missourians, armed with rifles and having a large quantity of whiskey arrived at Council City and camped in the woods. They spent the night in 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 own 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 next morning the ruffians resumed their march to Missouri.

Governor Reeder was then at Muncie, Kansas and 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.