KCAHTA Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association is noted for marking the historic trail routes throughout the Greater Kansas City area. Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association continues to provide preservation and education about our local historic trails

Operating as usual

Santa Fe Trail Association

Santa Fe Trail Association

ANNOUNCEMENT: 2020 Santa Fe Trail Association Rendezvous Cancelled

The following statement was issued by the Coordinator for Rendezvous 2020, Ruth Olson Peters, based upon the decision of the Fort Larned Historical Society to cancel Rendezvous 2020: (The Fort Larned Historical Society owns/operates the Santa Fe Trail Center and is the host for Rendezvous) :
"The Rendezvous Planning Committee has announced that Rendezvous 2020 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee consists of members from the three sponsoring organizations: the Santa Fe Trail Center, Fort Larned National Historic Site and the Santa Fe Trail Association. “Youth on the Santa Fe Trail” was going to be a great topic! The current plan is to present this program at Rendezvous 2022. Hope to see you in two years!"

Oregon-California Trails Association

Oregon-California Trails Association

On this date in history, June 10, 1851, the First Committee of Vigilance was formed in response to lawlessness in Gold Rush San Francisco. They hanged John Jenkins of Sydney, Australia after convicting him of stealing a safe. Next they hung an outlaw named Long Jim Stuart. The Committee offered a $5,000 reward for the capture of anyone found guilty of arson, and committee members patrolled the streets at night to watch for fires.

Ex-convicts from the British penal colonies in Australia formed a gang in San Francisco known as the Sydney Coves, after the prison slang for “fellows” or “chaps.” The Coves dominated the underworld of mid-19th-century San Francisco at a time when the city swarmed with rough men chasing fast riches.

Their base of operations was Sydney Valley, three city blocks of gambling rooms, brothels, and other dens of iniquity that sprawled from the slope of Telegraph Hill near the waterfront.
The gangsters wore cabbage-tree hats, carried bowie knives, and were said to walk with “swinging gaits” adopted during years in leg irons. Among their ranks were swindlers and thugs with nicknames like Big Brummy, Dutch Charley, Singing Billy, and the gang’s leader, Long Jim Stuart, a tall, curly-haired killer who wielded .44 caliber double barrel pistols.

Anti-foreigner paranoia was on the rise in California, and San Francisco’s crusading press seemed to lay every manner of criminality at the feet of the swaggering colonials in Sydney Valley. Even so, their reputation for treachery was well earned.

The gangsters' stocks-in-trade were highway robbery, murder, and arson, a maneuver employed to create chaos so they could loot homes and businesses. Some shopkeepers paid the Coves to ensure that their places wouldn’t be torched.

In time, San Francisco’s business class had enough. They established a group of “respectable” vigilantes. The Committee of Vigilance, as it was known, would move swiftly to exact justice, unrestrained by an ineffectual police force or “quibbles of the law.”

Before long, the vigilantes spotted Long Jim Stuart himself walking along the road. Captured, he gave up the names of about two dozen members of his crew, making outlaws of them all. The chase was on. At least three more Coves were lynched, including Stuart, while others were sent to prison or deported to Australia. Many of the rest simply scattered.
It was over. The criminal enterprise lasted just two years.

The lawlessness of Sydney Valley, however, lingered. The area became the Barbary Coast, an empire of vice that endured for more than a half-century. The strip clubs that today dot Broadway in downtown San Francisco owe their lineage to the Australian gangster-entrepreneurs that first set roots there.

For more about crime on the trails, you can order "Overland Journal," Vol. 12, No. 3 (Fall 1994) for $5 to read the article “Crime on the Trails” by Robert L. Munkres at. https://octa-trails.org/product/overland-journal-12-3/. OCTA members can read all back issues of "Overland Journal" from 1983 to the present at www.octa-journals.org.

Credit: Mike McPhate https://www.californiasun.co/stories/when-australian-ex-convicts-formed-the-meanest-gang-in-san-francisco/

Oregon-California Trails Association

Oregon-California Trails Association

Hiram Young (c.1812—1882) was one of the leading manufacturers of wagons in Independence, Missouri, in the mid-19th century. He built wagons for both the Santa Fe Trail trade and for those emigrants bound for California, Oregon, and Utah. He was a former slave who became a highly successful African-American entrepreneur, and by the beginning of the Civil War, was one of the wealthiest men in Jackson County.

Young was born about 1812, a slave in Tennessee, and married while still a slave in Springfield, Missouri. In 1847 he obtained his freedom, and shortly thereafter moved to Liberty, Missouri. In 1850 he and his wife moved across the river to Independence. He'd purchased his wife Matilda's freedom; according to some reports he bought Matilda's freedom before his own, a common practice at the time because children of a slave and a free person inherited the mother's status.

After freeing himself, Young went into business building freight wagons. Young owned slaves and it is said that he allowed them to work their way out of slavery—however, there are no facts at present to support this. He also boarded at least one Irish immigrant in his household. By 1860, Young's business was producing 800-900 wagons annually, and some 50,000 ox yokes. The business' inventory alone was appraised at over $50,000, with a capital investment of another $30-35,000. Young was one of the most successful businessmen in Independence during the period 1851-1860.

During the Civil War, Young and his family moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to avoid local hostility; variously described as motivated by secessionist sentiment or by envy of his success. He returned to Independence at the war's end to find his business sacked and destroyed. He opened a planing mill, although his business never returned to the peak of prosperity it had enjoyed before the war. He and his wife became founding members of Saint Paul's African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, which still stands today in Independence next to a park that bears his name. A school for African-American children in Independence was later named for Young, with his daughter at its head. Trying without success to recoup the losses he had suffered during the war from damage inflicted by Federal soldiers, Young died in 1882 leaving his estate heavily in debt. His grave was placed in the all-white section of a cemetery on Noland Road in Independence.

Sapling Grove Park - last Friday was a great day to go out and see the improvements made to this little park. Located at...

Sapling Grove Park - last Friday was a great day to go out and see the improvements made to this little park. Located at 8210 Grant St. Overland Park, KS

Oregon-California Trails Association

Oregon-California Trails Association

Today in history, May 26, 1846, the Donner-Reed Party reaches the Big Blue River south of what's now Marysville, Kansas. They would be delayed here three days as they waited for the river to drop. George McKinstry, in his diary entry of May 26, says:

"....we found that the rains had raised the Stream some 20 feet and are now waiting for it to fall the part of our Company under Messrs Dickenson & Gordon that separated from us some few days since last night and crossed the creek and were seen some three miles ahead on the opposite side of the creek under way when we came up this evening."

Edwin Bryant also this day named the place Alcove Spring. He wrote in his diary:

"About three-fourths of a mile from our camp we found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. It gushed from a ledge rock, which composes the bank of the stream, and falling some ten feet, its waters are received into a basin fifteen feet in length, ten feet in breadth, and three or four feet in depth. A shelving rock projects over this basin, from which falls a beautiful cascade of water, some ten or twelve feet. The whole is buried in a variety of shrubbery of the richest verdure, and surrounded by small mound-shaped inequalities of the prairie. Altogether, it is one of the most romantic spots I've ever seen. So charmed were we with its beauties, that several hours unconsciously glided away in the enjoyment of its refreshing waters and seductive attractions. We named this the "Alcove Spring", and future travelers will find the name graven on the rocks, and on the trunks of the trees surrounding it."

Also this day, James F. Reed carved his initials into the rock near the waterfall. The inscription reads, "JFR 26 MAY 1846."

For a great self-driving tour of the area, the 2003 Manhattan, Kansas convention book is free to download for OCTA members at www.octa-journals.org or can be purchased at https://octa-trails.org/product/2003-octa-convention-tour-guide-manhattan-ks/.

We'll have more on Alcove Spring tomorrow.

Oregon-California Trails Association

Oregon-California Trails Association

On this day in history 172 years ago, May 18, 1842, a vote is held by the Elijah White Party to kill all of the dogs in the wagon train. This occurred at the Elm Grove Campground in what is now Olathe, Kansas.

Medorem Crawford diary from May 18: "A violent rain this morning much excitement in camp about Dogs: 22 dogs shot, stoped raining about 9 o'c."

From a book by Miss A.J. Allen: "Here, by a two-thirds vote, it was determined to kill all the dogs of the company, having been informed that, in crossing the mountains and their vicinity, these animals were apt to become rabid, as timber was scarce, and consequently water which they so much required in the heats of summer on the scorching plains. The arrangement did not at all accord with the feelings of the ladies, and caused the first serious disturbance since leaving the States. While the destruction was going on, the poor creatures would run to their mistresses for protection, crying most piteously. Even the men, while engaged in their task, found their hearts were not sufficiently steeled to permit its performance without feelings of sorrow and regret. However, the recollection of a freshly related account of the mad wolf which had bitten eleven of two encampments, strengthened their fortitude. The death of the dogs was preferred to those of their herds, and perhaps members of their families, and they went resolutely about the work, amid the cries and screams of the women and children, as well as the victims."

From "The Elijah White Party" by Hubert H. Bancroft: "At this point White startled the company by officially recommending that all the dogs in camp be forthwith killed lest they should go mad upon the arid plains which they were now approaching. King Herod's edict anent the slaughter of the innocents could scarcely have called forth a louder wail of lamentation from the mothers of Judea than was evoked from the women and children of White's party by this proposed immolation of their canine pets and companions. Many of the men, too, protested loudly against the sacrifice. Although when it came to a vote most of them yielded to their leader's wish, yet the measure was so unpopular that it contributed largely to the election of L.W. Hastings as captain at the end of the first month."

W.G. Ghent: "The Emigration of 1842 really begins the epic of the settlement of Oregon....It was a party of divergent wills, and it had a stormy time. There was evidently too many dogs in the party, and at a meeting it was resolved to kill all of them. They would all go mad on the plains, it was argued, and even if they didn't they would be sure, by their barking and growling, to acquaint any prowling Indians with the fact that here was a party to be plundered. The counter argument that their barking would also apprise the emigrants of the presence of Indians did not apparently, carry sufficient weight, and a motion was passed that all the dogs be shot. Medorem Crawford, in his journal, and Miss A.J. Allen, the author of the book of White's travels, say that the dogs, a total of twenty-two, were killed. Hastings, however, says that the motion produced a great deal of ill-feeling; that after a few were killed....another declared that any man attempting to shoot his dog would himself be shot, and that as a consequence the execution stopped then and there."

In 1842, Elijah White led the very first wagon train that had more than 100 people over the Oregon Trail to Oregon. White had first gone to Oregon as a missionary for the Methodist Church in 1836. He'd sailed first to Hawaii then to Oregon, setting up a mission along the Willamette River with Jason Lee. Trapper and later politician Osborne Russell served as guide to this 1842 migration. The party set out on May 16, 1842, from Independence, Missouri, with 112 people, 18 wagons, and a variety of livestock. Along the journey, some in the migration grew wary of White’s leadership and L. B. Hastings was selected as leader for a time until the party split into two groups. François X. Matthieu, along with several other Canadians, joined the party along the way to Oregon. The party would cut their wagons down to two-wheeled carts at Ft. Hall. White arrived at Fort Vancouver ahead of the main party, arriving on September 20, 1842.

In 1852, Ezra Meeker headed west from St. Joseph and settled in what is now Puyallup, Washington. In 1906, at age 78, he set out to memorialize the Oregon Trail. He had his Scotch collie Jim along for the trek, and over the course of the next two years they'd make their way from Puget Sound to New York City.

Dogs and pets were an integral part of the trail experience and were esteemed members of the family, then and now. For more stories about pets on the trail, visit the website of the Oregon-California Trails Association: https://octa-trails.org/trail-stories/trail-pets/

Kaw Mission and Last Chance Store Museums

Kaw Mission and Last Chance Store Museums

The bison was an important source of food, clothing, shelter, tools, and weapons for Native Americans. Naturalist and ethnologist George Bird Grinnell and scout Luther North joined the Pawnees for their 1872 hunt. Despite a heavy fog, four thousand Pawnees moved out in a long column in the direction that a large herd had been spotted. Eight men walked in front carrying long poles wrapped in red and blue cloth and decorated with feathers. The sticks were buffalo sticks which were closely guarded symbols of the hunt. Next came 30 or 40 members of the tribe riding horses with beautifully decorated saddled and bridles. Women led two ponies each that were packed with the lodges. All around were well armed Pawnee on foot. The reason was to rest their ponies for the hunt. Camp would be setup by the women who would tear it down the following morning and the procession would begin again until the herd was found, at which the men would strip down to their breech clothes and the hunt would begin.

Information from: The Buffalo Hunters by Charles M. Robinson III #kansashistory

Around Kansas

Around Kansas

In this week' #AroundKansas wildlife segment Dave Kendall is back with another journey around the Santa Fe Trail.

Loading the Wagon - Hands on History at Home

Cute video! Amazing how the Emigrates managed to accomplish this for 6 mo. worth of supplies!

By the mid-1840s, Sutter's Fort was the destination for hundreds of American immigrants traveling to California by wagon on the overland trail, such as the D...


Let's help support National Trails Day in supporting OCTA with a donation to see Travis Boley run 4 - 10K segments along the 3 Trails Corridor. Sat. June 6th!! More details as the event gets closer!

California National Historic Trail

California National Historic Trail

Crawling slowly up the North Platte River, emigrants peered eagerly ahead for their first view of Chimney Rock, the most famous of all the landmarks on the "Great Platte River Road."

This prominent column of clay and sandstone, resembling a tall factory chimney, was mentioned in more emigrant diaries than any other landmark on the Oregon-California Trail. Visible for miles, Chimney Rock was more than a wonder of nature. As a milepost on a journey noted so far for its monotony, the column was a significant landmark in measuring the emigrants' progress west.

An impressive curiosity to modern travelers, Chimney Rock was a, "grand and splendid object," to 19th century emigrants, who had never seen the geological wonders of the American West. On June 27, 1849, Elisha Perkins was humbled and awed by his visit to this remarkable curiosity when me wrote, ". . . camped opposite to & about 1 mile from Chimney Rock. I had some curiosity to see this . . . Imagine a pyramid standing alone though surrounded by rocky precipices some 150 feet high & at its base 20 feet through . . . No conception can be formed of the magnitude of this grand work of nature until you stand at its base & look up. If a man does not feel like an insect then I don't know when he should."

Learn more about Chimney Rock and other places along the Trail: https://www.nps.gov/cali/planyourvisit/chimney-rock.htm



5400 Johnson Dr. Ste.#275
Mission, KS


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Our Story

Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association is noted for marking the historic trail routes throughout the Greater Kansas City area.

Above is taken at Lone Elm Park - Olathe, KS. This has been noted as one of the first campsites that the emigrants stayed shortly after leaving Independence Landing or Westport Landing headed West.

Nearby museums


We recently went exploring in Black Jack Park in Baldwin City, KS where there are original wagon swales from the Santa Fe trail crossing there. My mother had come across an old photo of one of the original markers of the Santa Fe trail from 1825 and after comparing old aerial maps to new google maps today we were finally able to locate it. There is no longer a trail leading out to it so we had to hike through some tall grass but it was worth it to find such an amazing piece of Santa Fe trail history!