Trails in Morris County

There are a number of old trails that cross Morris County.  Some we are familiar with and others we know very little about.  I would like to take some time for us to learn a little more about these various trails and what they were used for.

The first trail I’ll mention is the Santa Fe as it appears to be the first major trail.  It is very accurately mapped and we know a good deal about it, so I won’t go into much detail on it.  In the early 19th century a number of adventuresome individuals were trying to find a good route to Santa Fe in order to establish trade with the south and west.  William Alexander Becknell was fortunate enough to be the first to arrive in Santa Fe with his men in November of 1821.  He has ever since been known as the father of the Santa Fe Trail.

Becknell had not had very good luck up till this point.  Around 1818 he had bought the Boone family’s salt works near Arrow Rock Missouri.  In 1820 he ran for the Missouri legislature and borrowed money to do so.  He was unsuccessful and the panic from the previous year had already taken a huge toll on his pocket book.  Owing his creditors more than $1,200 he was thrown in jail until a friend bailed him out.  So, you can imagine the troubles that weighed on Becknell’s mind as he headed out across the godforsaken prairie.  Failure was not an option, he had to come home with something.  And he did!  The people in Santa Fe paid handsomely for his merchandise, and he returned to the States with his saddle bags loaded with silver.

One thing I would like for us to consider is the fact that not everyone who traveled the Santa Fe Trail was necessarily going to Santa Fe.  Like many of our highways today, such as 56 and 77 south of Herington, many of the old trails intersected and even converged.  Some travelers on the Santa Fe Trail were going down to Chihuahua in Mexico to trade.  Some were going on to southern California by way of the Gila Trail.  Others might find their way to California by taking the Old Spanish Trail which led up through Colorado and Utah by various routes.   Although the Mormon Trail ran through Nebraska and followed the Oregon and Old California Trails, in the 1840s Mormon immigrants would be using the Santa Fe Trail.   We know that in August of 1846 the Mormon Battalion passed through Council Grove taking the Santa Fe Trail on their way south during the Mexican-American War.  John Maloy states that during the year of 1860 an average of 50 wagons per day were passing through Council Grove on their way to Pike’s Peak.  Also, we cannot claim the only Santa Fe Trail.  There was a lower route, known as the Fort Smith route, which passed from Fort Smith Arkansas through Oklahoma to Santa Fe.

The Kaw Trail is the next oldest trail in the County.  It was put into use about the time the Kaw were moved to the reservation in Morris County in 1847.  The treaty signed with the Osage in 1825 in Council Grove, made the Santa Fe a right-of-way for the white man and the Indians were not suppose to utilize it.  Because of this, the Kaw Trail ran about a mile south of the Santa Fe Trail but nearly paralleling it.  It started at Big John Creek south of Council Grove on the Kaw reserve.  It passes through the counties of Morris, Chase and Marion where Florence now stands and continued on west to Turkey Creek where it intersected the Santa Fe Trail.  Some remnants of this trail can be seen near Diamond Springs, and Florence.  The trail was used by the Kaw going and returning on their annual buffalo hunts out west.  John Maloy, in his History of Morris County, gives a description of the Kaw returning from one of these hunts.  In April of 1869 “the Kaw Indians returned from their winter’s hunt on the plains, looking gaudy and feeling gay.  They had plenty of robes, and their accustomed business of pony stealing had proved both successful and lucrative.  They were met by those who staid (sic) at home with an ovation and the biggest thief, according to custom was permitted to wear a pair of polished horns.”

The next trail we have of significance goes by a few different names; the Ft. Scott & Ft. Riley Road*, the National Historic Military Trail or the Government Trail.  We may with reason date the beginning of this trail with the birth of Ft. Riley in 1852-53.  This trail leads from Ft. Riley and passes near Skiddy, White City, Kelso through Council Grove and on southeast to Ft. Scott.  There were two branches of this trail.  The previous mentioned which followed the Santa Fe Trail for a short distance west of town and the second which takes a more northerly route out of of Council Grove.  It is possible that goods were hauled from Ft. Riley to Council Grove by this road.  We know that in April of 1854 the 79 ton stern-wheeler Excel made her first run on the Kansas River from Weston Missouri to Ft. Riley.  She was carrying 1,100 barrels of flour.  More steamboats were employed until trade on the Kansas River finally came to an end along with trade on the Santa Fe Trail in 1866.

There is a trail shown on an 1856 map in my possession that enters Council Grove from the northeast.  I have not been able to determine the name of this trail.  It passed from Uniontown through or near present Alma to Council Grove.  To the best of my ability, I have determined that Uniontown was south of the Kansas River on Vassar Creek approximately 2 miles west of present Valencia.  Also on this map, is a road that at one time passed through the northeast corner of Morris County.  It begins at 110 mile station, simply marked ‘110’ on the map, also on the Santa Fe Road.  From there it heads west and slightly north a few miles from Council City, now Burlingame.  The trail passes a little south of present Eskridge then runs west until approximately the present Morris/Wabaunsee County border just a little south of Alta Vista.  From there it starts veering north and eventually converges with the Ft. Riley Road.  Since the county boundaries have changed in the northeast corner, we have lost most of this old road.  The Kansas Cyclopedia of 1912 identifies this road as one of the many lesser branches of the Mormon Trail.

One of the trails we know least about, and I know so little about it I’m almost embarrassed to mention it, is the Shawnee Cattle Trail.  This trail was brought to our attention a couple of years ago when a man who was very knowledgeable on the subject came to the Historical Society to research it.  He seemed certain that the trail passed through Morris County, and I have found two generic maps of Kansas that show a lesser branch of the Shawnee Trail passing through the area that Morris County would occupy on the map.  This was a north-south trail that went down through Texas to Dallas and Waco.  We do know that some time in the 1870s Council Grove passed an ordinance to prevent cattle drives from coming through the city.  We can safely assume from this that the trail did not come through Council Grove.  A map of historic trails provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation, shows Cottonwood Falls as a trail head for the Texas Cattle Trail.  Again, I don’t pretend to know much about the Shawnee Trail, but with the Texas Trail so close to us, it makes sense that the Shawnee Trail passed through here and may well have joined with this Texas Trail.

*Actually appears as Council Grove Ft. Riley Road on the 1856 map, I have also seen another map of the same year by the same maker but the road appears as C Grove Ft. Riley Road.  I question how accurate the map is as many of the towns and stream names are no longer the same, and in fact it shows Big John and Little John near Council Grove reversed.

I have a little more information to include about our local trails thanks to Larry Timm who has loaned me some maps he’s acquired during his research on the Military Trail.  There are a number of different maps that show trails and roads criss-crossing our County.  Depending on which map you look at you might find the same road running in what seem two different routes.  I have found some mistakes on some maps such as stream names and locations, or as in the case of an 1861 survey map the Kaw Mission appears on the east bank of the Neosho rather than the west.  For the most part I believe these maps are pretty accurate in showing where the road runs.  One explanation for alternate routes is, as Larry Timm put it, “fair weather route.”  When the bottom fell out of the road an alternate route was taken.

We know that the Santa Fe Trail has a ‘high route’ and a ‘low route’ west of Council Grove.  The low route follows along Elm Creek to Helmick.  The high route lies about halfway between town and the City Lake then gradually heads southwest until it joins the Elm Creek route about a mile west of Helmick.  There are also two different routes to the town site of Diamond Springs.  One leads from the intersection of the two Santa Fe routes just mentioned, down to Diamond Springs and on to Marion Center form there.  The second called the Diamond Creek Road shown on an 1870 map, branches off the Cottonwood Falls Road at 4 Mile Creek south of the Grove and follows that creek south and west.

The road I mentioned last week that comes into Council Grove from the northeast and looks like it passed near or through Alma, I have confirmed to be the Council Grove Alma Road and actually shares the course of the Topeka and Duffield roads for a number of miles.

George Duffield came through Morris County in 1866 driving a herd of cattle to Iowa.  He came up through Indian Territory and on the 17th of August struck the Santa Fe Trail 5 miles west of Lost Springs.  The 18th found him camped at the Six Mile Creek Ranch.  He traveled 6 miles to Diamond Springs then 8 more to Elm Creek on the 19th and by the 20th had reached Council Grove and camped east of the Neosho.  His trail north begins approximately one mile east of town.  This is the cattle trail I mentioned last week as the Shawnee Trail (some maps show it as such).  On a U.S. Geological map it is labeled as the Topeka and Council Grove Road as it leaves the Santa Fe, taking a sharp turn east about six miles north of town, basically following the route of Old Highway 4.  The cattle trail branches off from this road and continues north and is labeled the Duffield Texas/Iowa Cattle Drive 1866.  This was supposed to be the longest cattle drive in history and was the inspiration for the TV series Rawhide.  Head ‘em up, move ‘em out!

Duffield kept a diary of his drive.  I have not had a chance to read this diary but I suppose we might be able to connect his drive with the following incident that John Maloy relates.  “In August (1866) a Mexican herder was shot dead by a Texan.  The latter ordered the former to go to camp, the Mexican refused to go, when the Texan drew a revolver and shot him dead in front of the old Hays building.”  A question that comes to my mind is where did they bury the departed?  Did they carry him back to camp and bury him east of town somewhere?  Or did he end up in one of the many unmarked graves in Greenwood Cemetery? What about the Texan who shot him?  Was he contained in Council Grove and tried, convicted, hung?  Or did he go scot free? We may never know.

The Council Grove Cottonwood Falls Road and the Americus Road were both in use by the time the 1861 survey map was drafted.  The former very closely followed the route of highway 177; the latter followed the route of the old Katy Railway.

A road of great interest to me is one shown on the 1870 map of Kansas Indian Lands; the Rock Creek Road.  Only about two and a half miles of it are in our County’s border, but the thing that interests me is where it joins the Santa Fe Trail at the first Agnes City site.  If you don’t remember, that is about a mile north of highway 56 east of Council Grove just before the Lyon County line.  Knowing that two roads met at Agnes City gives us a better idea of the importance of the place and the amount of activity that must have occurred there.  The road continues north following the creek and joins the Alma Road about where Chalk Mound is in Wabaunsee County.

Upon comparing these old trails and roads with a modern map, you will find, as I have already stated, that they nearly follow our present streams, highways and railroads.  The reason for this is it’s hard to improve upon perfection.  The old roads were established where they were because it was easy traveling.  Few hills to go up and down, few streams to cross and good solid ground that you weren’t likely to sink in when it got muddy.  When the railroads came along they went ahead and followed these routes as they were ideal for the rail’s needs.  There is one old road however, other than the Santa Fe, that did not follow the rules and it just cuts out across the country with no rhyme or reason, other than its final destination.  That is the Salina Road, which we know was in use by 1869.  It headed northwest out of Council Grove and cut through the southwest extremity of the City Lake.  It passed about a mile north of the Delevan Airbase and within a mile south of Latimer.  From Latimer it climbs slightly north then heads southwest until it leaves the County approximately a mile north of highway 4.

Benny King told me that he knew an old man who, when a young man, drove a couple of old ladies to Junction City.  This would have been in the nineteen-teens and there was no paved highway at that time.  They just headed out across the country in the general direction to get there.  It is possible that this man may have driven on or crossed some of these old trails on his way to Junction.

Another trail shown on the U.S. Geological Survey map shows an old trail from Ft. Riley forking off from the one we are familiar with at Skiddy and heading west a bit.  It passes west of present Latimer and eventually joins the Santa Fe Trail in the extreme southwestern corner of the County. It is identified as having been in use in 1854.  It also shows a branch forking off of this old road south of Latimer, passing about two miles west of Delevan and then joining the Santa Fe at Six Mile Creek.

Well, I think it’s fair to say that you now know about as much as I do on the subject of trails in Morris County!

I can’t post maps because the ones I have are too big to scan and would be too small to see on this site, or some that I have are poor copies.  You may follow the links below to check out some of the old maps of Morris County.

1870 map of Kansas Indian Lands.

KDOT map of historic trails.

1863 Kansas & Nebraska map.

1856 map of Eastern Kansas.



Agnes City

Since we learned about the murder of Judge Baker by Bill Anderson, let’s talk about Agnes City some more.  Let’s start at the very beginning with the establishment of counties and their boundaries.  Wise County was established August 25th, 1855; named after Henry Wise a congressman and governor of Virginia who was pro slavery and a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.  At the time Wise County was formed the east boundary was two miles west of the present.  Breckinridge County (now Lyon) named for John C. the Kentucky congressman, later vice-president under Buchannan, later a Confederate general, was established at the same time.  When Chase County was established February 11th, 1859, Wise County was changed to Morris and lost some of its territory to Chase, but gained some of Davis County (now Geary).  February 5th, 1862 Breckinridge was changed to Lyon in honor of General Nathaniel Lyon who died at Wilson’s Creek Missouri the previous year.  In 1864 Morris gained the two mile strip on the east which contained Agnes City.

Records from the national archives state that the Agnes City post office was established in Wise County on November 1st, 1856.  According to the county boundaries this is impossible; it had to have been in Breckinridge County.  April 9th of 1857 Emanuel Mosier, postmaster of Agnes City, received a paper from the contract office to be filled out in order that the topographer could determine the relative positions of the post offices.  Mosier or somebody crossed out Breckinridge County and wrote in Morris above.  Morris was not the name of the county at the time the paper was dated.  Agnes City could not have been in present Morris County until the eastern two miles were acquired in 1864.  I leave it to a better scholar to reconcile the differences.

About 1972 an archaeological dig uncovered the foundation of Baker’s home.  One source I found said the dig site was on Ralph and Floyd Richards’ land in township 16, range 10, section 7; I assumed Lyon County as that section was very near the actual location.  I will also assume that this location is in accord with a pre-1864 map of Lyon County; a quick glance at a current plat map will show this to be incorrect as Rock Creek is nowhere near this section.  We know from historical accounts that Baker’s home and store were located on Rock Creek near the Santa Fe Trail.  Baker’s land is in township 16, range 9, section 12 of Morris County.  Patents of 1863 show this tract belonging to Baker.

Baker’s house was situated on the west side of Rock Creek and very near the Santa Fe Trail.  Over time flooding has caused the course of Rock Creek to change.  The creek now runs on the west side of the location of Baker’s house.  One source that I can neither prove nor disprove states that the store was located 100 feet southeast of the house.  During the dig performed on the premises the remains of a corset, bone handled toothbrush, pipe bowl, thimbles, spectacles, tintype and a woodwind instrument were found.  Parts of weapons were found around the doors and windows which would seem to confirm the old stories that Baker kept ammunition on his window sills in the event he needed them.  After they were done with the excavation they covered everything up again and left it as it was before, mainly to be forgotten, and prevent looting.  The artifacts that were recovered are in storage at the Kansas State Historical Society.

I must correct myself from last week as I said “So ended Arthur Baker and the first Agnes City.”  I knew this and don’t know why I said it, but that was not the end of the first Agnes City.  There were two more postmasters appointed at the first Agnes City after Baker was killed.  As I have said it is very difficult to recreate the community of the first Agnes City, but it is evident that there were a number of homes and a considerable number of people living in that area, being more or less concentrated.  The 1860 census shows that eleven persons were living in Baker’s home.  Maloy said that the Secors were living on Baker’s land.  Other foundations and ruins in the area are witness to the families who once lived there.

Possibly even greater evidence is in a little forgotten cemetery which lies just over the line in Lyon County.  This cemetery is located about three fourths to a mile east of the first Agnes City and very near the Santa Fe Trail.  Within this cemetery is a family burial plot enclosed with decorative wire fence, no stones to mark the graves, yet it has been passed down through family that a Gilbert with several children are buried there.  There are many other graves in this cemetery but only two stones; Albert and Willie Swenson.  I found the very same Willie Swenson listed on the Agnes City cemetery roll provided by the Lyon County Library in Allen.  Why is Willie listed on the Agnes City Cemetery roll when his stone and I would hope his remains are four miles away from said cemetery?  His brother Albert is not listed on the roll and I cannot figure why these two were buried at this little forgotten cemetery when the Agnes City Cemetery had been in use for nearly a decade.  It is my belief that this forgotten cemetery was the first Agnes City Cemetery.

The second Agnes City, which most readers would be familiar with today, was established in Lyon County on Bluff Creek on June 15th, 1871.  This is approximately four miles due east of the first or ‘Rock Creek’ location.  The post office at the second Agnes City operated until June 6th, 1891.  Now all that remains is a granite Santa Fe Trail marker erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  From 1906 to 1912 the D.A.R. placed these markers all along the Santa Fe Trail.  One was place at the location of the second Agnes City but, as I understand it, was moved to the Agnes City cemetery in 1972.

Bloody Bill and Judge Baker

There have been many versions of the Bloody Bill Anderson and Judge Baker story passed down through the years.  Many of which are incorrect in their accounts.  Some of that is due to the account in the Emporia paper which had names and other details wrong.  What I am about to set before you I believe is the most accurate as it comes from historian John Malloy.  Not only was he living in Council Grove at the time, he was also acquainted with the people involved and therefore had the details first hand.  He was also an attorney and at one time newspaper editor in Council Grove.  He was a man for gathering and presenting the truth.  Therefore, I am inclined to believe that Maloy is most accurate in his relation of the story.

This story is very difficult to tell as the exact location of Agnes City in relation to the county line is unclear.  I will assume that Maloy is right in stating that Baker lived in Morris County for the telling of this tale.  I will however have a follow up article dealing with Agnes City in more detail.

Arthur Inghram Baker came to Kansas as a blacksmith in 1846 with the Sac and Fox Indians and settled on the Marias Des Cygne River in Miami County.  He moved to Wise County in1854*, now Morris, and lived on Rock Creek.  He founded Agnes City in 1856, named after his mother who moved to Council Grove and became involved with the Kaw Indian Mission. Agnes City was nothing more than a post office (which he became postmaster of in 1858), mill, blacksmith shop and Baker’s home and store.  This doesn’t necessarily mean there were that many buildings.  This site is approximately due east of Council Grove north of highway 56 on this side of the county line.

Baker appeared to be a man always striving for greatness.  Besides politicking and supplying freighters on the Santa Fe, he also purchased and edited the Council Grove Press.  In this paper he denounced the South regularly and pushed for union.  He also bought the only hotel in Council Grove thinking it a good investment.  He did not own these businesses very long before he was forced to sell them at a considerable loss.  On top of his financial debacle his wife Susan died leaving him with daughter Sarah.  Every historian has their theories, but for unknown reasons Baker headed south.  Some thought it was out of anguish for the loss of his wife, others believed it was to join the Confederacy.

In Jasper County Missouri the 6th Kansas cavalry fired upon and intercepted a party that Baker was with.  One man being killed and Baker captured.  Baker was taken to Fort Scott court-martialed and released as there was no evidence that he was disloyal to the union.  It is puzzling however that Bill Anderson and Bert Griffin were found in company with Baker but they managed to escape capture.  Bert and Lee Griffin were known to have been in Anderson’s gang around Council Grove.  It is even more perplexing that John Maloy saw Baker the morning of his capture and said Baker “exhibited a paper which he claimed was commission as Colonel in the Confederate army.  He seemed to be laboring under some kind of abnormal excitement, and we were at a loss to understand the man.”

The Anderson family came from Missouri in 1857 and settled in Lyon (then Breckenridge) County near Baker.  The family consisted of father William C., mother Martha, William T. (Bill), Ellis, James M., Charles, Mary, Josephine, and Martha.  In 1860 the mother was struck by lightning while gathering wood.  Ellis had shot an Indian in the head and fled to Iowa where he was said to have been killed.  The older two boys were known to have wantonly killed a few Indians.  In one case Bill had shot a Kaw that allegedly tried to rob him outside of Council Grove.  There are also various stories of the sisters. Something to the effect of a building collapsed killing one girl and injuring another for life.  The Andersons had a very unfortunate existence.

As a young boy, Bill was said to have been very well behaved. Eli Sewell, who had employed Bill west of Council Grove, said he was ‘like clockwork’.  As the Anderson boys grew older their character for whatever reason grew shady.  They were generally looked upon as outlaws and feared by those in the area.  Several people in Morris County had their horses stolen by these boys, and it was horse thieving that started the hatred between the Andersons and Baker.

Baker was also said to have been romancing 15 year old Mary.  The Andersons were under the impression that Baker (in his late thirties) would marry their daughter since he had paid her so much attention.  His preference however was for another, and this caused something of a breach of honor which the men folk were required by custom to defend.  Oral history passed down by families in the area claim that Baker may have gotten Mary pregnant.  If this is true, it may have helped escalate contentions.

Arthur Baker married Annis Secor on the 14th of May, 1862.  Annis’ parents were living on Baker’s farm.  Two horses were stolen from Secor, Baker’s father-in-law.  You can guess who stole them.  Of course it was the Anderson boys.  Arthur and a friend or two set out after the party and caught up with them west of Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail.  They recovered the horses and immediately filed an affidavit and warrant for the arrest of the Andersons.

The Anderson’s father was more than a little irritated about this and decided he would prevent Baker from appearing as a witness against his sons.  Anderson went to Baker’s house and with gun in hand called Baker from his room.  Baker came out prepared, and in self defense shot Anderson dead on the spot.  Some accounts claim that, unknown to Baker, Anderson had stopped at Baker’s store for a drink of whiskey before going to his home.  While there, the clerks removed the percussion caps from his shotgun making it useless.

The next night Bill Anderson went with his gang to Baker’s home and called him out.  Before Baker showed himself, he put on his guns and had a friend accompany him and they were able to prevent Bloody Bill from carrying out his intentions.   Bill kept an eye on Baker for the next couple of weeks, and not finding an opportunity to put a period to him, left for Missouri.

On the third of July, 1862, Bill returned to Rock Creek accompanied by a stranger to help set the trap for Baker.  The stranger (who resided in Morris County several years afterward) arrived at Baker’s door in the evening under the guise of a wagon train boss.  He told Baker he had a train down the road a way that would be coming up soon and he needed supplies for it.  This was a common occurrence for Baker and did not raise suspicion in the least.  Baker strapped on his revolvers and with his brother in law George Secor, walked the stranger to the store house.

As Baker and Secor were gathering the things, four men rushed from the woods firing two shots, one hitting Baker and the other Secor.  Upon hearing the shots, those in the home fled to the woods and hid. The two wounded men made for the cellar, the door of which was behind the counter.   The murderers tried to follow but Baker fired a shot hitting Jim Anderson in the leg.  Wanting to ensure they would not have to deal with Baker in the future, they blocked the cellar door and set fire to the store house.

Baker was mortally wounded and encouraged Secor to escape if he could.  With much struggle Secor managed to get out of the burning building and related the events of that evening before he died. Flames from the store caught the house afire and it was also burned to the ground.  So ended Arthur Baker and the first Agnes City.

Addenda:  Arthur Baker served as the first post master of Miller post office, established February 26th 1855 in Wise County.  It closed February 12th the following year, 1856.

*Arthur came to Morris County before 1854 because his sister who came with him and his family was married in Council Grove in 1852.