Northeast Franklin County

By Catherine Jane Richards and Deborah Barker

 

Northeast Franklin County Driving Tour

From the intersection of hwys 59 and 68 (Main St.& Keokuk St.) in north Ottawa, drive east on K-68 (Logan St.) 3.4 mile to Nevada Terrace (just past the Wal-Mart Distribution Center).  Turn right and follow the road .8 mile to the bridge over the Marais des Cygnes.  Stop on bridge.

#1  Fort Scott Crossing.  From the bridge look to the east.  Just past the river bend was the probable site where the old Ft. Scott and California Road forded the river.  As early as the 1830s the crossing saw a great deal of traffic, including military activity during the Civil War.  By the 1880s, a bridge was in use here which was replaced in the 1980s by this current bridge.

#2  First Baptist Mission. The road below along the north river bank led towhat is believed to be the first permanent white settlement in Franklin County.  Although the exact location has not been determined, the mission was probably located one-half mile to the east.  In June, 1837, the Rev. and Mrs. Jotham Meeker and infant daughter moved into a rough log hut and established a mission there to serve the Ottawa Indians.  Meeker enlarged the cabin and then built a school house and a large mission house.  The Great Flood of 1844 destroyed all but the mission house which Meeker moved in 1845 to a second mission site two miles to the north.  The rocky bluff on the north or left is where the Meekers fled to safety during the flood.  Mrs. Meeker wrote a detailed description of the devastation of the mission while viewing it from “a cleft in the rocks.”  The second mission site is at the end of this tour.  Proceed across the bridge south 1.3 miles to stop sign.  Cross Marshall Drive.  Proceed .1 mile and stop.

#3  County Poor Farm.  On the left is a long concrete pillar that marks the entrance to the Franklin County Poor Farm, built in 1875 to house the poverty-stricken wards in the county.  The farm included 160 acres to the east and south on which an infirmary, barns, ice house, smoke house, and pest house for those with communicable or incurable diseases were built.  In 1896 the farm was discontinued and the infirmary was moved to the south edge of Ottawa on 17th Street.  This building burned in 1911 and was replaced by the three-story brick building that stands today unused.  Continue .4 miles to the next intersection, turn left onto Labette Terrace, proceed 1.4 miles to stop sign.  Turn right on an angle of Marshall Road and enter onto Oregon Road.  Continue south .8 mile to Kingman Terrace.  Turn left and proceed .9 mile, turn left, stop.

#4  Imes.  Here is the tiny, triangular settlement of Imes, an early railroad stop and cattle shipping point formerly known as Larimore.  It was renamed for Harmon Imes, an area landowner who served as station agent and post master for 20 years.  Imes operated a general store here for many years.  Cross the railroad tracks and continue northeast on Kingman Terrace .7 mile, stop on bridge.

#5  Old iron bridge.  From the bridge look to the right over the river for a view of the old iron bridge built in 1880, now not passable.  It marks where an early wagon and stagecoach trail forded the river.  A public well, which still exists a few feet from the bridge, was witched by a Peoria black man, William Robinson, and dug in 1880.  Lime kilns were once located along these river banks.  Cross the new bridge to the top of the hill.  To the east was the site of large feed lots where cattle were brought to be shipped from Imes.  Drive into Peoria and turn left at curve marker.  Stop at white store building on right.

#6  Peoria.  Named for Baptiste Peoria, leader of the Peoria Indians, Peoria was one of the county’s earliest towns.  It was established in 1857 by Alfred Johnson and Jacob Sumstine, both free-staters.  The large white frame building on the north or right side of the street is the Sumstine general store that served the community for nearly 100 years.  Sumstine was the first Franklin County superintendent of schools.  Continue through Peoria, curving north onto Tennessee Road.  Proceed 1.1 mile to the entrance of Peoria Cemetery.

#7  Peoria Cemetery.  The cemetery was established in 1857 for the burial of John Taylor, 21.  John had preceded his family to Kansas and had settled on land here.  John was on the south side of the river when he got word that his family had arrived.  He swam through the cold water to greet them and later died of pneumonia from the chill.  The parents gave a portion of this land for the cemetery.  Burials also include Imes, Sumstine, Johnson and other early settlers.  Taylor’s marker is in the northwest corner.  Continue on Tennessee Road north 1.6 miles to K-68.  Note Mears Park on the left, an early ballfield donated by a local farmer.  Turn right onto K-68 and drive 1 mile.  Turn left at Texas Road and stop.

#8  Briles School.  Built in 1868 and closed in 1960, the school is now a community center.  Through the efforts of the Full O’Pep 4-H, the State Highway Dept. paid to have the school moved in lieu of paying for the right-of-way when the road was widened in 1980.  Return to K-68.  Proceed 2 miles east and turn right on Vermont Road.  Drive one mile south, turn left onto Neosho Road.  Proceed one mile to Virginia Road, turn left and stop.

#9  Anthony Farm.  John Anthony’s claim in 1854 included sections west and east of the road at this corner.  The old home has been replaced.  Several original barns still stand.  Two sons of John rode horses seven miles to Stanton in Miami County to attend school taught by William Clarke Quantrill for a few months in 1859-60.  It is told that Quantrill and his lieutenants stopped at the farm for milk to drink as they escaped from pursuing Federal soldiers after their raid on Lawrence in 1863.

Southeast of the homesite on the county line was the location of the first mission in Franklin County, founded in 1832.  It was operated by the Methodists for the Peorias and Kaskaskias.  References indicate that it closed by 1843.  This wild riverbank area is known as the Devil’s Backbone.  Proceed 1 mile, stop at the church before crossing K-68.

#10  New Hope Baptist Church.  The building here represents a church organized in 1862 as Stanton Baptist Church in Miami County.  A church was built in 1879 and burned in 1889.  The congregation then voted to rebuild in Franklin County.  It disbanded several times but reopened in 1938, and later was remodeled.

Cross K-68 and continue north 4 miles on K-33.  Note the interesting stone barn foundations and Walnut Creek Cemetery, formerly known as Hostetter Cemetery, on the right.  Leave K-33 at curve, continue north onto Virginia Road about .5 mile.  This small bridge over Walnut Creek was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.  Continue onto Vermont Terrace, crossing Shawnee Road, and go on into Wellsville.

#11  Wellsville. Wellsville was formerly part of the lands once ceded to and then reacquired from the Shawnee Indians, purchased by Jacob Rynerson in 1857.  With the development of the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Gulf Railroad in 1870, Ottawa developers bought a 27-block township from Rynerson and found the town adjacent to the tracks.  From 1900-1918, Wellsville was known as the “English Blue Grass Capital of the World” for its production of grass seed.  The old bank building at 418 Main was the town’s first brick edifice, and is listed on the National Register.  The renovated home at 113 E. 5th, just east of Main, was the former Barabeau Hotel, the first building in Wellsville.  Several  early buildings exist.  Of note is the Hostetter home at the end of North Main.  Wellsville is the home of renowned artist Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton.  Return south on Main to Seventh Street (or Stafford Terrace) and drive west 1.5 miles past the Wellsville Cemetery on your right.  At the “T” with Utah Road, turn right and drive .5 miles to Thomas Road.  Turn left and drive one mile to Texas Road.  Turn left and drive to top of “Port Chop Hill,” called Shawnee Mound during the nineteenth century, and later known as Coffman Hill for the Coffmans who lived here for many years.  Enjoy the view.  Continue from Porkchop Hill 1.5 miles south (Caution: railroad crossing), turn right onto Shawnee Road and drive 1.5 miles into LeLoup.

#12  LeLoup.  Formerly called Ferguson for one of the town’s early settlers.  LeLoup was an early shipping point for grain, hay and stock on the Southern Kansas Railroad.  The town prospered in the early 1900s.  LeLoup was home, for over 30 years, to the Modern Woodmen of America Association picnic, an annual summer event where families gathered for games, contests and picnics in the grove by Wolk Creek.  (Le Loup means “wolf” in French.  It and the river, Marais des Cygnes, meaning “marsh of the swans,” are among the few remnants of names given to local landforms by French explorers who came up the waterways around 1800.)  Continue 2.8 miles to Nevada Road.  In passing Ohio Road on the right, note Fowler’s Mound, another of the unusual elevations in the county.  Turn left onto Nevada Road, drive .5 mile, turn left onto Riley Terrace and stop at Brown School, a fine example of one of the early 105 rural schools which were located every few miles to provide a reasonable walking distance for children.  Return to Nevada Road, turn left and drive to the intersection of Riley Road land. Stop.

#13  Tauy Creek Baptist Church.  The church was organized in 1897, meeting first at Brown School until the church was built in 1900.  Alfred Frederick Richmond, a boy of 11 in 1863, witnessed the escape of William Clarke Quantrill’s raiders from Lawrence and their pursuit by U.S. Cavalry under the command of Preston Plumb in the area where the church now stands.

Command of Preston Plumb in the area where the church now stands.  Continue south on Nevada Road .5 mile and turn onto Nebraska Drive that angles southwest, and follow the curves to the closed bridge. Stop.

#14  Tauy Jones’ House.  In 1843 a trading post was located at this ford of Tauy Creek later called “Rock Bottom” to serve travelers on the Ft. Scott Road. One Sam Roby was one of the Westport, Missouri merchants  who were licensed to trade with the Ottawas from this site.  John Tecumseh Jones, an educated half-blood Chippewa and former interpreter for the Pottawatomies down by Lane, joined the Ottawa tribe and was later adopted by them.  He became their leader, their minister and their storekeeper, besides operating the only hotel in the county, on this site.  Jones became known as “Ottaway” or “Tauy” Jones because of his central role in tribal affairs.  The creek’s nickname of Tauy also refers to the Ottawas.  The first double log cabin was burned by pro-slavers in 1856 who came seeking to kill Tauy Jones who escaped.  In 1867 he completed this sandstone house with stosne quarried near Ft. Scott and freighted here by wagon.  Although Jones was a friend of John Brown, who frequently camped in the grove across the creek, rumors that the house’s cellar served as a station on the Underground Railway are unsubstantiated.  Horace Greeley, the abolitionist editor of the New York Tribune, did visit the Jones’, but Abraham Lincoln never got this far west or south during his presidential campaign in 1859.  The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is private property.

Retrace your drive back to the intersection of Nevada and Shawnee Roads.  Jog left .2 mile on Shawnee to Nebraska Terrace and proceed north one mile to Stafford Road.  Turn left and drive 1.7 miles.  Along this mile stretch where the road crossed a branch of Tauy Creek is the crossing supposedly used by many of Quantrill’s men as they eluded pursuing soldiers after the Lawrence raid.  Stop at railroad tracks.  This is the site of the town of Norwood, named for a novel my Henry Ward Beecher.

#15  Norwood.  The town was founded as a shipping and supply point on the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Kansas Railroad.  It was named for an 1867 novel by Henry Ward Beecher which was set in a typical New England village named Norwood.  A post office was established in 1873 and a store in 1878.  A two-room school was built in 1898 and one room was never used.  Reuben Hackett, the county’s first citizen and first county Justice of the Peace established a farm northwest of the townsite.  The small settlement flourished into the 1940s with stores and a church, and then declined.  Return .4 miles to Montana Road and turn right.  Follow the road south one mile to Shawnee Road, jog to the right and continue south to the curve and stop.

#16 Gypsy Camp.  At this corner on the right between the creek and the old Red Star Route road gypsy bands camped for many years each spring and fall as they migrated through this part of Kansas.  Gypsies also used to camp along the Hickory Street ford of the Marais des Cygnes river in Ottawa.   Continue, curving southwest to the bridge and stop.

#17  Naked Voters.  A group of Franklin County free-staters were determined to cast their ballots against the Lecompton Constitution (a pro-slavery document) in the August 2, 1858 election.  But getting to the polling places proved to be a challenge due to weeks of heavy rains that had swollen small creeks in the area past flood stage.  A group of 43 men, 26 on horseback, had to cross three streams to reach the polls, a farmhouse north of here.  Horses swam the first stream carrying double loads, and ropes tied to trees guided a number of the voters across the second stream.  At the last creek, and the widest, the men who remained stripped off all superfluous clothing and dropping it on the bank, plunged in, the stronger assisting the weaker.  Seventeen voters proceeded to the polls in undress uniform, some of them very much so.  A kind neighbor who did not require formal dinner dress, fed them before they returned home.  The pro-slavery issue was defeated.  Proceed 1.2 miles and stop at remains of an early homestead on the right.

#18  Shinn Homestead.  Albert C. Shinn came to Kansas in 1866 and homesteaded 240 acres here.  He built a log cabin that lasted until 1961, when it burned.  The farm house was built in 1870.  A Civil War veteran, Shinn served in the Army of the Potomac and fought the first two days of the Battle of Gettysburg.  He was active in early agricultural organizations and served as the president of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture.  The farm remained in the family until a few years ago.  Proceed .8 mile.  Stop. Private property.

#19  Conard Field.  This farm of 1000 acres on the left was purchased in 1869 by the Conard brothers from I.S. Kalloch, one of the founders of Ottawa, and is owned by the Dunn family, Conard descendants.  The farm home of pressed brick and frame, designed by George P. Washburn, was built by John Conard.  Conard Air Field was established by John, also, and is known as one of the oldest landing strips in Kansas.  The first transcontinental plane trip in 1911 stopped at the field.  Lights were added and rotating beacons guided airmail pilots from the 1930s on route from Texas to Chicago.  The field was used as a training site in World War II and was designated an emergency landing field recording 200 emergency landings.  Both John Conard and his wife were weather observers.  Continue south on Montana Road to Sand Creek Road and stop.

#20  Green Dell Rural School #46.  On the southeast corner is a once-handsome school house designed by George Washburn.  Turn left, continue one mile east (caution—active railroad crossing), turn left onto Nebraska Terrace (minimum maintenance road) and stop before tracks.

#21  Woodlief Station.  Capt. William H. Woodlief came to Franklin County in 1877 from Ohio after service in the Civil War.  He purchased the Tauy Jones estate of 1040 acres from Ottawa University.  Here he bred blooded Durham cattle and draught horses.  He established a post office and stock pens where the railroad crossed his property.  Return to Sand Creek Road and turn left or east and drive 3 miles to Oregon Road.  Turn right and proceed one mile to Pawnee Road and stop past intersection.

#22  Center Chapel ruin.  This stone building was an independent church known as Center Chapel, built around the turn of the 20th century by the men of the community.  The Gothic style creates a picturesque ruin in fall and early spring.   Continue .5 miles to Osborne Terrace, turn right and proceed 1.8 miles to the stone-pillared entrance on the right or north, to the Ottawa Baptist Mission.  Park at the metal gate and walk .25 mile to the mission site.

#23  Ottawa Baptist Mission site.  Reverend Jotham Meeker’s second mission in Franklin County here included a meeting house moved from his first mission site on the river in 1844, school, print shop and farm buildings.  The open space in the center of the gravestones is the site of the log church.  Meeker is buried north of the church site, at his specific request, and John Tecumseh “Tauy” Jones to the south.  Two Ottawa chiefs, Notino and Compchau, are buried in graves marked by modern stones.  Meeker’s press was the first one in Kansas Territory, and was used to produce Indian language hymnals, prayer books and laws for the Shawnees and the Ottawas, using a syllabary of him own invention.  This method of transcribing Indian languages which had no written form, used English letters for native syllables.  After Meeker’s death in 1855, the mission fell into disrepair.  The Kansas Anthropological Association excavated the site in 1988, identifying the locations of the house, print shop and church.  Leave the mission site and turn right on Osborne Terrace.  Proceed .6 miles to Nebraska Terrace, turn left, drive .5 mile to K-68, and stop before intersection.

#24  Hawkins land.  The area here on both sides of K-68 was known for many years as Hawkinsville.  The original Hawkins home was about ¼ mile south, now the site of the Wal*Mart Distribution Center.  The first stone school was built by the Hawkins family in 1868.  The need for larger schools followed, and the building on the right, now a home, served as the latest school that closed in 1967.  Three generations of the Rice family attended Hawkins school beginning with Bessie Hawkins Rice.  The limestone house ¼ mile west on K-68 was built by Reuben Hawkins in the 1880s.  Private property.

Turn right and proceed into Ottawa.

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