Pioneers: Visit county's historic Santa Fe Trail through a traveler's eyes
Northern Marion County is known historically as where the Santa Fe Trail, a commercial route carrying goods from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, crossed from 1821 to 1872.
Overnight stops included Lost Spring and Cottonwood Crossing.
The Cottonwood Crossing Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association has established kiosks at the Lost Spring and Cottonwood Crossing sites.
Lost Spring is 1.5 miles west of Lost Springs on 340th Rd. Cottonwood Crossing station is 1.3 miles west of Durham on 5th St./285th Rd.
Al’s Café in Lost Springs and Main Street Café in Durham are nearby eating places.
Susan Magoffin, an 18-year-old bride, purportedly was the first woman to cross the Santa Fe Trail. During a 1847 trip in a covered wagon, she kept a journal.
The wagon train included Americans and Mexicans as well as horses, mules, and oxen.
It was spring, and Magoffin noted in the first leg of the journey, from Independence to Council Grove, “beautiful flowers and visits from friendly Kaw Indians.”
On the 12th day, as they entered Marion County, she wrote:
“Ouch, what a day this is. We started in the rain, came in the rain, and stopped in the rain. Last night was a very cold night, and about daylight, it commenced raining. We started at 9 o’clock, having had difficulty in yoking the oxen. After traveling only a mile, two of the wagons stuck at the crossing of a small creek, and we were detained for some time. We finally got off and arrived here by 4 o’clock. This camping ground is called the Lost Springs.
“The wind and rain are blowing in my face, blotting my paper, and soaking me so I scarcely know what I write. This is certainly one of the varieties of life as well as traveling. To be shut up on a carriage all day with a buffalo robe rolled around you and with the rain pouring down at 10 knots an hour.”
She stayed in bed to escape the rain, which continued the next day.
They headed for Cottonwood Crossing the following day but were hindered by muddy conditions and had to camp in the open, stopping at 9 p.m. on a rise above a creek. The night was spent fasting in wet clothes.
“I was so tired, I could not sleep,” Magoffin wrote.
It started raining again, so they got an early start that morning, wanting to cross the creek before it would rain more. They crossed the creek without difficulty. The banks were long and not very steep.
After arriving at the Cottonwood River crossing, Magoffin described the camp:
“The campground is on a slight rise, and some three or four hundred yards down is a steep bank covered with cottonwoods. Just below rolls a placid little stream resembling the Council Grove. Just at the water’s edge are quantities of gooseberries and raspberry bushes.”
This was one of the final entries in Marion County. The journal was written at least 13 years before the first settlers arrived at Marion in 1860. Marion County was organized in 1865.
Last modified June 29, 2023