Farmer discovers forgotten trail

Staff writer

The Santa Fe and Chisholm Trails might not have been the only historic routes across Marion County.

Marion farmer Steve Krispense has discovered a half-mile stretch of what was probably was a 160-year-old trail connecting Marion and Abilene.

A concave divot, six feet wide by two feet deep, might be mistaken as a natural draw, runs over three hills in the southwest corner of section 13 in Gale Township northeast Marion Reservoir on the Cottonwood River and south of Mud Creek.

“We swath the grass here but the ground here has never been broken,” Krispense said. “You really feel it when you’re swathing. It wakes you up.”

The trail seems to disappear on farmland bordering that section because the earth has been farmed.

After cutting this year’s hay, the trail became more evident. It runs past a natural spring at the base of one hill.

“The spring has never quit running,” Krispense said. “People could have filled up their canteens and watered their horses there.

“It’s not as deep, but the grooves look similar to the way Santa Fe Trail ruts do. It stands to reason that it was a prominent trail. The way it’s shaped I guess it could be a horse trail.”

His niece, Christen Herbel, used Google Earth to find and trace the trail from Marion, near Remington and 190th Rds., over several sharp hills to Durham, where the trail intersected with the Santa Fe Trail.

“It aims toward Durham in a northwesterly direction,” Krispense said. “They wouldn’t have to have crossed any creeks on the trail. My theory is that it could have gone all the way to Abilene.”

Herbel visited Marion Historical Museum, but Krispense said the museum didn’t have any record of the trail.

However, the newspaper discovered several cavalry and War Department maps confirming the existence of a trail from Marion to Abilene.

From Marion, the trail runs northwesterly before it intersects the Santa Fe Trail near Moore’s Ranch, near what eventually became Durham, then heads north toward Abilene.

Different maps show it ending in Marion or heading from there to either Diamond Springs or present-day Cedar Point.

“I’ve thought about this for years, the spring, the water, the freshwater, the divot and the trail,” Krispense said. “It’s kind of hard to imagine with all the trees in the way but it just makes sense. There would have been no hedge lines because there were no fences back then.

“These people lived, loved, and died, just like we do. I guess I just thought it was interesting, and getting older, you think about history. You know if you don’t show it to someone it’s just going to be lost.”

Last modified Aug. 4, 2016