The Oregon Trail through Pottawatomie County -- part six
page 26Kansas State Historical Society.


  The Oregon Trail was not the only trail across Pottawatomie county in the early days. While not as important as the Oregon Trail, yet the military trail from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley was connected with the early history of Pottawatomie county. Strange to say, among the records of Fort Riley there is no detailed history of this trail. Among the records of Fort Leavenworth there is a meager history. This states that it ran from Fort Leavenworth through Salt creek, Easton, Hardtville, Ozawkie, Indianola (North Topeka), Silver Lake, Louisville, Manhattan, and Ogden, although this trail was established some years prior to the organization of the places named.

  Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827 and Fort Riley in 1852. A great deal of information regarding this trail is found in volume 7, "Kansas Historical Collections," in an article written by Percival G. Lowe. He writes:

  "Late in the fall of 1852, Major R. H. Chilton with his Troop B, First Dragoons, of which I was sergeant, escorted Major E. A. Ogden on an expedition to locate a new military post in the vicinity of the forks of the Kansas river -- the confluence of the Smoky Hill and the Republican. The site selected was afterwards named Fort Riley, now one of the finest military posts in America. Some buildings were erected in 1853-'54, most of them temporary, and the post was garrisoned by infantry."

  In 1855 congress made an appropriation for establishing a cavalry post at Fort Riley. Major A. E. Ogden was put in charge of the work. The woodwork, windows and doors, were made in Cincinnati, Ohio. They came by boat to Fort Leavenworth, and thence by wagon, over the military trail, to Fort Riley.

  That was the beginning of the Fort to Fort trail. It entered Pottawatomie county near St. Mary's Mission, crossed what is now sections 14, 10, 9, 4, 5, 6, 31, 36 in St. Marys township; a portion of 36, 35, 26, 27, 28, 21, 20, and 19 in Belvue township; thence west across the Vermillion river in section 24 (Louis Vieux crossing), in Louisville township. Near the center of the section 23 it left the Oregon Trail; thence west and a little south across sections 22, 21, 20, through the town site of Louisville. Leaving Louisville, it crossed Rock creek just below the dam; thence crossed Louisville Springs park; thence it ran south and west, crossing the corner of section 29, across the northeast quarter and northwest quarter of section 30. It entered St. George township, and crossing the southeast quarter of section 25, a portion of sections 34, 3, 4, 5, 6, entered Blue township near the northeast corner of section 1; thence north and west, crossing section 36. It crossed the south half of section 35, northwest across sections 34 and 33, creasing the southwest corner of section 28, and section 29. Then it crossed the Blue river in section 30, at the mouth of Junietta creek, in Blue township. This trail, after crossing the Blue in section 30, entered what is now Riley county, on land now owned by the Casement ranch, about four miles north of Manhattan. Mr. Lowe further stated:

  "At the time Fort Riley was located there were no settlements in the immediate country around it, but there was one family at the bridge across the Blue (Samuel D. Dyer, of Junietta) nineteen miles east, and a Catholic mission and Pottawatomie village at St. Marys, fifty-two miles east, where good Father Duerinck had established a college and was gathering in the youthful Pottawatomies and teaching them to become good citizens, with ad-

page 27The Oregon Trail.

mirable success. Here Mrs. Bertram kept the only hotel worthy of the name between Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth. Captain Alley's store at Silver Lake, the Pottawatomie homes, and the trading post at Hickory Point (Jefferson county) finished the list of settlements, save here and there, at intervals, a squatter's cabin."

  About fifteen miles northwest of St. Marys and one-half mile west of the Louis Vieux farm, the military trail left the Oregon Trail.

  At one time the city of Louisville was honored by a visit from Horace Greeley. It was in 1859, when he crossed the plains. Because of high water in Rock creek he was compelled to stay two or three days in Louisville. He stopped in a log cabin belonging to Robert Wilson. This cabin was located on the banks of Rock Creek, near the present dam, and across the street from the present residence of Edward Sullivan.


  The earliest settlers of Pottawatomie county, outside of those at St. Mary's Mission, were Samuel D. Dyer and his family. Dyer had been working some years for the government at Fort Scott. When Fort Riley was established in May, 1853, he built the government ferry across the Blue at a place called Junietta. It was located about three miles north of the present site of Manhattan. Dyer was an old man when he came to this county. His sons, Abraham and James Dyer, came with him. Abraham returned to Fort Scott and in November brought back with him the remainder of the family. It consisted of Mrs. S. D. Dyer, and the children, Abraham, William Enoch, Jane, Lydia and Sarah.

  They brought with them stock consisting of a team of horses, a pony, two yoke of oxen, some cattle, sheep and hogs. The hogs were called "elmpeelers." They were great travelers and after traveling all day would wander off at night. There were no white neighbors closer than St. Mary's Mission and soldiers at Fort Riley. Dyer was the first white settler in western Pottawatomie county. The government teams between Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth passed constantly over the ferry.

  Dyer was a native of Tennessee and came to Kansas in 1843. He was a major in the Black Hawk War. He and wife belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. His home was the preaching place on the Blue river for several years, for ministers of all denominations. The first election in the county was held in his house. He kept a small store there for years. The cellar under the store building was the first county jail.

  Dyer was a free-state Democrat. He homesteaded the land where old Junietta was located, and there he died, February, 1875. His wife died April 30, 1898, near Garrison. They were the parents of eleven children.

  The following is a description of the land homesteaded by Dyer and upon which Junietta was located: The northwest quarter of the northeast quarter and lots 11, 12, 13 in section 30-9-8 (Blue township) Pottawatomie county, Kansas.

  A short distance above the mouth of Junietta creek, in section 30, on the east bank of the Blue river in Blue township, Pottawatomie county, is found a portion of the abutment of the old government ferry built and operated by Samuel D. Dyer. A part of it has fallen down, as evidenced by the photograph. It was the first bridge on the Blue river.

page 28Kansas State Historical Society.

No. 1. Remnant of the abutment standing. This is Samuel Dyer's claim in section 30, Blue township, at mouth of Junietta creek. Dyer's house was about 100 yards north of this abutment. The mouth of Junietta creek is at the right of this picture and just out of it. (Photo taken January, 1928.)

No. 2. Pottawatomie summer house on Soldier creek, Pottawatomie reservation, Jackson county.

No. 3. Indian cemetery, NE 1/4, sec. 24, Louis Vieux monument in foreground.

No. 4. A. Chalmer Buffington, Westmoreland, Kansas.

No. 5. Old dam at Louisville. Trail from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley crossed immediately below this dam.

No. 6. The Blue river and portion of the abutment of bridge or ferry across the river on the Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley military trail, at the mouth of Junietta creek on Samuel Dyer's claim in section 30, Blue township.

No. 7. Indian cemetery), section 24, showing want of care. (Photo, Jan., 1928.)

page 29The Oregon Trail.

  No evidence of the old building at Junietta can be found at this time except a deep impression in the ground where the cellar was located, and a few scattering rock, part of the foundation of the home and store of Samuel Dyer.

  Some of the relies of this old building have been moved to Riley county, and are now held by the Riley County Historical Society. They are on exhibition at the log cabin in the city park at Manhattan.

  There seem to be few stories preserved of the military trail through this county. Some horse thieves were caught on the trail west of Louisville at one time and were summarily dealt with, according to the custom of "Judge Lynch." They were scantily buried at the side of the road by the trail. However, I can- not give the exact data.

  This trail is not as clearly marked as the Oregon Trail because it never had the travel. And then, too, it ran through a section of the country that has been more or less farmed, and so little virgin prairie remains.

  The Oregon and Santa Fe trails are the largest of the seven. The Santa Fe Trail followed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo., to near where the town of Gardner now stands, in Johnson county, Kansas. At this point the Santa Fe Trail went south and west. Here the Oregon Trail took a general northwest course and crossed the river at Union Town, now Topeka. The one and only sign along the Oregon Trail was where the Santa Fe Trail diverged at Gardner. Here a large signboard simply stated, "Road to Oregon."

  After crossing the river, near Topeka, this trail followed the foothills west to St. Marys, running diagonally across Pottawatomie county, into Marshall county. It crossed the Big Blue river first near the present town of Schroyer and later at Marysville. Thence it crossed Marshall county to the edge of Washington county, and from there it ran into the state of Nebraska.

  The trail is marked through the state of Nebraska, and should be marked through the state of Kansas before the last vestige of it disappears.

  Along these trails in this county are found many relics of a former race. Arrowheads and stone implements. Mr. Charles Blanchard, of this county, has made a fine collection of these arrowheads.

  I close this article on the Oregon Trail in Pottawatomie county by the following quotation from Dawson:
 "The Indians were wont to call the Oregon Trail 'The great
 medicine road of the whites,' as they viewed the countless
 thousands of white-topped wagons and seemingly endless moving
 of troops.

"The camps and resting places became historical spots as well as places of first settlement and greater development. These were also resting places for the dead, many being surrounded by hundreds of unmarked and unknown graves.

"Nightly at these camping places the hillsides and valleys were covered with the white-topped wagons, and the camp fires would often encircle a radius of a mile.

"As we search for the remaining traces of the great roadway we find that nature quickly set her agencies of healing in operation along the rugged and scarred hillsides and valleys covering a greater part of this trail with a growth of foliage, grasses and vegetation, leaving roughened contours of hilltops and infertility where the trail packed soils across the fields of to-day."

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