The Sante Fe Trail ran across northern Osage County, passing through Overbrook, Scranton, and Burlingame. Originally organized as Weller county in 1855, it was named for Congressman John B. Weller of Ohio who was later governor of California. It was renamed in 1859 for the Osage river which flows through the county.
The Santa Fe Trail stretched for approximately 775 miles from around Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with 500 of those miles being in Kansas. In the northern part of Osage County, from east of Overbrook to west of Burlingame, along what is now Highway 56, the Santa Fe Trail ran for some 25 miles. Visitors to Osage County can retrace some of those miles that were followed by the pioneers who ventured into the unknown void of the plains which might hold the fear of hardship or the promise of adventure. (When sightseeing, please note that many Santa Fe Trail Historical sites lie on private property. Thank you for respecting the rights of property owners by not entering private land.)
Starting near Baldwin City (to the east of Osage County), was a part of the Santa Fe Trail called Ridgeway, since for some 20 miles through here lies a ridge. The Trail, which followed the "route of least resistance" generally, followed this natural divide to minimize the number of rivers and creeks to be forded. Water north of the Trail typically flowed northward and water south of the Trail typically drained southward.
- The first good watering spot on the prairie was Willow Springs, and from there, travel was southwest toward the Hill or later called Simmons' Point-where the microwave tower now stands, east of Overbrook. This was a stage stop during the later years of the Trail.
- About 1 1⁄2 miles on west of Simmons' Point was a major crossing area (just north of Highway 56 about 150 yards.) Ruts of both the Santa Fe Trail and other trails can be seen here. Water could also be found at this intersection
- A little farther wet along Highway 56, a Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) marker can be found. This marks where the Trail crossed to the south.
- Nearly 400 yards west of the marker is a white farm house on the north side of the Highway. Across the road from the house are ruts.
- About 1 1⁄2 miles east of Overbrook, the Trail runs through the old Bryson farm. Here the farmhouse faces north in the middle of the section. When the house was built, it faced north onto the Trail. About 300 yards west was a place called Rock Creek Springs Number 1. This was a campground and a watering stop on the Santa Fe Trail. At one time, a blacksmith shop, general store, inn and post office were located here
- From this spring, the Santa Fe Trail continued west to where the Overbrook Cemetery now is. 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 4 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 in today's Kansas City. 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.
- The Trial continued west through where the Santa Fe Trail High School is located.)
- West of the school, on the Osage State Fishing Lake road, looking back east toward the school, the depression of the ruts can still be seen. From here the Trail headed southwest.
- Just south of Four Corners on Highway 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.
- At 110 Mile Crossing, Fry McGee Tavern and Hotel was located. McGee also had a toll bridge across the creek. Records show that the crossing charge was 25 cents per wagon and that some days, as much as $30 was collected. McGee Tavern was a very well known spot on the Santa Fe Trail. Here intersected the Santa Fe Trail going west, the fort Scott road from the southeast and the 110 Mile road going north. Also, a trail called the Morman Trail started here and ran northwest to Fort Riley.
- From here, the Trail proceeded on westward and ran through the southern edge of Scranton. A D.A.R. marker in the northeast corner of Jones Park, two blocks east of Highway 56 on Boone Street, marks the Trail's passage.
- From Scranton, the Trail continued southeast to Burlingame, and entered it at the east end of the present Santa Fe Street, proceeding through downtown.
- Burlingame was second only to Council Grove in its importance as a place to get supplies and blacksmith work done, before going further west on the Santa Fe Trail. 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 days of the Trail when the street (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 on west. Today, residents park their cars in the middle of the street, as well as at the curbs. The Santa Fe Trail then headed west over the hill and out of town, roughly paralleling what is now Highway 31.
- A marker on the southwest corner of Santa Fe and Dacotah (where the bricks end) honors Fannie Geiger Thompson, who, having seen the importance of the Santa Fe Trail, led the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) in 1906 to mark the Trail's route. School children gave their pennies to help purchase the quartz stones, each one with a different shape and size, for the stones to mark the Trail from Missouri to Mexico.
- Three miles west of Burlingame, Highway 31 crossed Dragoon Creek. Another D.A.R. marker 1 1⁄2 miles on west marks the Trail. About 100 yards south of the Highway, and just to the east, are stone walls of the Havana Stage Station and Inn, built in 1858. 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.
The Burlingame Schuyler Museum is housed in the old Schuyler School. The school was built it 1902 and occupies the site of the former Osage County Court House, where the first legal hanging in Kansas occurred.
In 2000, Osage City received a Transportation Enhancement Project Grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to rehabilitate and restore its historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot. Located at the corner of 5th and Market, in Osage City, KS, the restored depot is on the National Register of Historic Places.
When coal was discovered near Carbondale around 1860 it influenced the development and route of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. Mining coal greatly stimulated the growth and development of the county. By 1871, the coalfields of Osage County became the leading center for coal mined and men employed west of the Mississippi river. Other coal fields were developed in other areas of the state and country that were cleaner to burn with less sulfur content, which caused coal production to rapidly decline after the turn of the century. The last shaft mine in the state, south of Burlingame, Bell Mine Number 4 closed in 1964. However, the coalfields of Osage County continued to be the prime source of energy for the Santa Fe Railroad with its deployment to the west coast and other areas.
Another important business originated in Osage County that was instrumental in increasing the valuation of livestock for the plains of the southwest. This business was the livestock commission firm by the name of Finch, Lord and Nelson. They were also in the coal mining, mercantile, and banking business located in Burlingame.
Mr. O.H. Nelson of that firm organized the first heard of Hereford cattle near Burlingame of which there were 625 cows, 400 calves by their side, 70 dry cows and heifers and 25 Hereford bulls.
They were transported from Burlingame to Dodge City by the Santa Fe Railroad in the spring of 1883 and were then trailed down to the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas to the J. A. Ranch operated by Charles Goodnight. In the next 8 years, O.H. Nelson shipped over 10,000 Hereford bulls to the Panhandle and is credited with having done more than any one man to first establish the Hereford breed on the plains of the southwestern cattle county.
Prior to the establishment of the Hereford breed in the southwest, only longhorn cattle had existed there.
Another prominent man in early Osage County history was James Winchell. He surveyed and developed the Superior Community, which was the first County seat of Osage County. He was also elected president of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, which wrote the Constitution that Kansas still has today. It can be seen in the State Historical Society Museum in Topeka with his name signed as President and delegate from Osage County.
These are just a few of our counties resources and men and women who contributed to building our county, state and nation.
- Early Years of Osage County
- Roger Carswell
- The First 49 Personalities
- Donald R. Ornduff
- Coal Mining in Osage County Kansas
- Donald L. Hartsock
- B.S. Powson State College 1966
William G. Cutler's History of Kansas, first published in 1883, tells about early Osage County. Another good source of historical information is the Cyclopedia of Kansas History, published in 1912.
The Special Collections of the Ablah Library at WSU contain historical images of Quenemo, Overbrook, Scranton, Osage City, Carbondale, Olivet, and Burlingame.
Osage County was created by the first territorial legislature in 1855, and was originally named Weller County. The name was changed to Osage County in 1859 when the county was officially organized.
At that time all that consisted of Osage County was a small strip of land two and a half miles deep. However, that strip was as wide as present day Osage County. The rest of the county was Sac and Fox Indian land.
In 1860 the boundaries were changed when Shawnee County gave up the southernmost nine miles to Osage County, and Osage county surrendered its southernmost four miles to Coffey County. To this day, these are the boundaries for the counties.
The Santa Fe Trail traverses the county from east to west and was instrumental in settlement of the county.
The Lyndon Carnegie Library is believed to be the smallest Carnegie Library in the United States, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to regular library services, the library is also home to the Osage County Genealogical Society and houses numerous genealogical materials.