Northwest Franklin County

By Catherine Jane Richards and Deborah Barker


Northwest Franklin County Driving Tour

Take US 59 (Main Street) north from the overpass to Sand Creek Road, turn left, drive 2 mies to Louisiana Road. Note home on northeast corner; the pillars are from an old county jail building. Turn right, drive 2 miles. Past intersection with Reno Road, note the third home on the left which was formerly a barracks at the C.C.C. camp–the next stop. Proceed to the “T,” turn right onto Riley Road, drive past Louisiana Terrace; stop at concrete-pillared gate on left.

#1 The cedar tree-lined entrance led to the large acreage, very similar to those built by the Acreage Home Builders in Brisbane, where a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established in 1935 to develop the West Tauy Creek watershed. By 1937, conservation agreements had been signed on 12,718 acres–about 45% of the watershed land. The camp included a chapel, dining halls, eight barracks, machine shop, and recreational facilities. Two barracks were donated to the City of Ottawa for a youth center, still in use east of City Hall (corner of 4th and Walnut.) The campsite was later known as Stephenson’s “Atlasta” Pony Farm. Private property. Proceed east to Eisenhower Road. Stop.

#2 The home on the left, obscured by old cedars, is the former New Century Church built in 1901 and disbanded in 1932. The farmstead is the original one-acre churchyard. Turn left on Eisenhower and proceed .4 miles to a field gate on the east or right.

#3 California Springs. To the east in the center of this section is a spring flowing from a sandstone formation noted for its pure water. In the early 1850s this spring marked the confluence of a branch trail from Westport Landing and a trail from Osceola, Missouri, where settlers stopped on their way to California. The spring water won a second-place prize for its purity in nationwide competition at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Bottled spring water was sold in Ottawa by landowners and used in locally-produced soda pop from the 1870s to the 1940s. Proceed to church camp on the left.

#4 Amazing Grace Baptist Church camp was formerly the farm of W.H. “Dad” Martin, noted Ottawa photographer of tall tale postcards and founder of National Sign Co. In the 1930s Martin served free meals here to persons in need. Food was provided by Ottawa merchants and the produce of Martin’s many farms. An early log cabin, renovated as a Martin home, burfned in 1945. A house and barn still stand. The red barn was a popular restaurant in the 1960s. Continue north to Shawnee Road, turn left and proceed .6 mile to Louisiana Road and turn right or north. Stop at old house on the right.

#5 The high elevation here is known as Hackett Hill, named for Reuben Hackett, an early settler of the area and the county’s first Justice of the Peacel In 1854 Hackett first settled 7 miles to the nortyheast near the north county line and moveed to this farm in 1866 where he developed coal mines and built numerous miners’ shacks to the east. The Hackett home was on the left, but was later moved southwest where it is still in use. The Hackett’s daughter, Ella, is considered one of the first white children born in the coujnty. The family included 16 children. The height of the hill is evident as the road continues to drop north of Stafford Road. Continue north on Louisiana Road to stop sign, turn left onto Stafford Road following the blacktop 2.3 miles as it curves west, crossing Kentucky Road. Stop at Iowa Road.

#6 On both sides of the road from Kentucky Road to just past Iowa Road was the location of the short-lived city of Minneola, whose developers schemed to make it the territorial capital. Elaborate plans (on paper) included a capitol building, meeting halls, building lots, and two railroads. In a matter of six weeks in 1858, a legislative hall, hotel and several stores were built on the site. At a constitutional convention, March 23, 1858 (a 24-hour session), the legislators rejected the Mineola site as a state capital. Minneola disappeared into history after also losing its county seat status after 1859. The old legislative hall was moved to Ottawa in 1864 where it served as a store, Indian agent’s office, county offices, church, school, and meeting room. It was moved to make way for the 1879 Peoples National Bank built at 2nd and Main, and later burned. Continue 4 miles just before second bridge over Eight Mile Creek.

#7 Here on the east creek bank on the left, Joab Bernard, a pro-slavery Westport trader, opened a stgore in 1855 on his quarter-section. After a raid by free-staters who destroyed the store, Bernard left the area. The store served as the county’s first post office. Continue into Centropolis to the center of town, at intersection of Stafford and Indiana Road (Gilliland’s Garage).

#8 Centropolis, formerly called Springfield, is considered the oldest town in the county. Indian agent Perry Fuller opened a store here in 1855, and organized the town in 1856. A rock school was built in 1855, and a post office established in 1858 (closed in 1930). The town enjoyed some success but began to fade in the early 1900s. Several early businesses suvived forf many years: the Farmer’s Union Mercantile, the frame buiding on the northwest corner which closed as a craft shop in 1983; and Gilliland’s Garage, founded by early residents, is now operated by the third generation.

Proceed south on Indiana Road from Gilliland’s 1.3 miles and curve to the right at the “T” onto Shawnee Road, proceed west 1.4 miles and curve onto Idaho Road. drive south two miles and stop before the intersection with Reno Road.

#9 On the left is the former Hackett home which was moved here from Hackett Hill in the 1920s. The west portion is older, judging from the window design. Proceed south on blacktop to ruins on left.

#10 Stone barn. The stone barn on the left was built by a farmer named Embry. Black labor was used in quarrying the local stone. The stone can be seen in the barn, stone buildings and fences. Continue south on the blacktop to curve. Leave the pavement and proceed straight south .3 miles. STOP.

#11 Parkinson Cemetery. The circular mound marked with trees in the field on the right is the Parkinson Cemetery aka Pioneer or Oakland Cemetery, and dates to 1858. The nine graves thre are Jonathan Parkinson’s (1804-1865) family members. Parkinson came to the county in 1856 and settled in the two-mile strip south of Centropolis between the reserves of the Ottawas, Chippewas and Sac and Fox. Oakland School #10 and the Oakland Methodist Church were also in this area. Continue south 2.3 miles on Idaho Road and stop at church on right.

#12 Richter Community, originally part of the Chippewa Indian reserve, first served as a stage stop before the Santa Fe Railroad came in 1883, followed by the Missouri Pacific in 1885. Richtger flourished through the turn of the century with a depot, grain elevator and stores. The Iverne Mercantile store, built in 1890, closed in 1940. The Methodist Church built in 1899 is still in vigorous use.

Return north 1.8 miles to Pawnee Road. Turn left and proceed one mile to Georgia Road. Turn right and proceed one mile north across the bridge over Appanoose Creek. Continue .6 miles and STOP.

#13 Alleged massacre site. On the left in a wooded area at a bend of Appanoose Creek is the site of an alleged incident–the Massacre of Shannon’s Guards. An unconfirmed story related that during the Border War a band of pro-slavers who had robbed and murdered in eastern Kansas was shot by a group of free-state men in the fall of 1856. Organized in Lawrence under Capt. Charles F.W. Leonhardt, 30 free-staters found the pro-slavers encamped here in a ravine. The free-staters split in two groups and rode to positions facing each other across the ravine. Fatally exposed by their campfire, the marauders were shot and buried where they fell. The twenty-two men who were killed were known as Shannon’s Guards, named for Kansas Terrritorial Governor Wilson Shannon, a pro-slaver. This incident was related 44 years later by Richard J. Hinton to the Kansas State Historical Society.

Continue to the “T” at Reno Road, turn left, drive one mile and curve north onto Florida Road and drive 3/4 mile. STOP

#14 To the left or west in the wooded area is the reported burial site of Sac and Fox Chief Appanoose. Due to Sac and Fox burial traditions, many of their graves were robbed by white settlers, so the Indians began to hide the burial sites.

Proceed two miles north to Shawnee Road, turn left, drive 1.7 miles to a curved intersection (caution) with Colorado Road. STOP turn a sharp right to join the blacktop. Drive 3+ miles north to Woodson Road, turn left, drive 1.1 mile to Appanoose Brethren Church on the left. Enter chuch land.

#15 The Old Order of German Baptists caame from Pennsylania in 1863 to this area and held meeting first at the Isaac Garst farm and then in school houses. The church was built by the Brethren in 1886. walnut floor joists still evident in the basement were cut on site, and milled wood was brought in from Overbrook, seven miles to the west. Daniel B. Barnhardt, ordained at the church, served as minister in 1884. Mrs. Florence Lauver, now of Ottawa, served as Sunday School teacher and leed singing for the juniors for many years. At fourteen she was the Sunday School chorister. Membership has dwindled in the past few years and presently a small group of church members is meeting here.

#16 Across the road (in Douglas County) is the Appanoose Cemetery which includes burials of the Brethren and others. Continue one mile west on Woodson Road. Turn left onto Arkansas Road, proceed 2.5 miles to Shawnee Terrace, turn left and drive to stone school and cemetery and STOP

#17 The first Dean School on the left was named for an early family in the area and was built in the late 1800s and replaced in 1913. The building now serves as a residence.

#18 Dean Cemetery. Burials include a number of early pioneer families of the area. Stones record many persons who were born in the late 1700s. In 1854, the Shawnee Purchase opened up a strip of land 3 by 24 miles at the north edge of the county for white settlement. Among the early names are Dean, Kratz, Beach, Steele and others. Proceed .3 miles and stop at church.

#19 Appanoose Baptist Church was organized in 1877 by Isaac Hetrick, an Ohioan who organized six Baptist churches in Franklin County. Built of native stone, the anteroom and bell tower were added in 1900. The church is still in use.

Proceed .4 mile and turn right on California Road. Drive .5 ile to Shawnee Road. Turn left and drive .7 mile to Colorado Road (caution). Turn right and drive 5.6 miles south down Colorado to K-68 and the town of Pomona. STOP before intersection. (Note creek past Pawnee Road.)

#20 Kelsey Creek was named for Samuel T. Kelsey, the county’s first horticulturist. After setting up Ottawa University’s nursery, Kelsey established a fruit-producing colony to the southeast and introduced hedge trees (Osage orange) for fencing and to prevent erosion, an effort that brought him in sharp conflict with ranchers. He was a charter member, officer and author of the constitituon of the Kansas Horticultural Society. After going broke in a financial depression, he became chief forester for the Santa Fe Railroad out of Hutchinson. He later returned to the east.

#21 Pomona was named for the Roman goddess of fruit. After purchasing 12,000 acres of railroad land, John H. Whetstone and S.T. Kelsey organized a townsite of 640 acres in lots with gardens of 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 acres, and surrounded by 80-acres farms. Whetstone planted 30,000 fruit trees and established the Pomona Fruit Company that shipped jellies and preserves nationwide. The old building on the southwest corner of K-68 and Main Street (Colorado Road) is the early Whetstone building. Turn right and proceed west on K-68 .8 miles. Turn in to the cemetery.

#22 Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1871. The large monument near the entrance markes the grave of Dr. H.B. Johnson, a long-time Pomona physiccian, and a member of the first graduating class of Pomona High School. The 51-ton granite obelisk from Iron Mountain, Michigan, was shipped by rail in 1927. The shaft rises 36 feet to the apex. Return to K-68 and continue west to entrance to Judd Ranch.

#23 Judd Ranch (private property) was formerly the ranch of John Palmer Usher who served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Interior. Usher, who headed the legal department for the Union Pacific Railroad, purchased 2,000 acres of railroad land in 1866. The Usher family that included four sons, moved to Lawrence in 1867 where they built a handsome home at 1425 Tennessee, now a fraternity house. The ranch was first operated by resident managers, and in 1913 sons John and Sam moved to the ranch where they built a stucco house and raised cattle. Both men died later at the ranch. After their death, son Linton, (the only son to marry) and his wife moved to the ranch. Following Linton’s death in 1952 at 99 years of age, the ranch was sold out of the family. Proceed 1.5 miles west of the ranch. Road curves around hill. STOP

#24 Rattlesnake Hill, an early rendezvous and lookout for the Sac and Fox Indians markes the westernmost boundary of Franklin County. Although the road now winds south at the base of the hill, the early road over the top is still visible. Return to Pomona. Turn right on Main Street (Colorado Road). Drive to First Street. STOP

#25 Hudleson homes. The two large houses facing each other were built in the 1920s by James and John Hudleson, bankers and ranchers in the area for many years. The homes were designed by the Washburn architectural office of Ottawa.

Continue south on Colorado Road. Watch for railroad crossing! Road curves. Cross the bridge over the Marais des Cygnes and turn right onto Labette Terrace. Drive .3 mile and STOP

#26 Jesse James Cave. The large recess in the sandstone ledge on the south side of the road forms a cave known in the area as the former hideout of the notorious James boys when initials, no longer visible, of “J.J.” and “F.J.” were found on the cave wall. The cave has been much deeper, but due to heavy runoff from fields above, erosion and fill has reduced its size. An interesting fact is that in the 1850s, Indian agent Burton James, along with his family, moved to the area. The Ottawa Republican newspaper in 1877 refuted the legend of Jesse and Frank James being in this vicinity and asserted that whatever initials might have been found there were produced by members of Burton James’ family.

Return to Colorado Road, turn right and proceed one mile to top of hill. Turn left on Kingman Terrace and go one mile. (road winds) Turn left at “T” connecting Delaware Road and Kingman Terrace. Go .5 mile and follow the curve to the right onto Labette Road. Proceed.

#27 The Sac and Fox Indians were settled in this area in 1844 and an Indian Agency was localed here. Sac and Fox chief Keokuk (1780-1848) was buried along the banks of the river. His grave was robbed at least once, and in 1883 the chief’s remains were removed to Keokuk, Iowa, with permission of Keokuk’s son and the U.S. Government, and placed in the city park with an impressive monument. Stop at intersection with Florida Road.

#28 Greenwood Community. The Greenwood Community in Greenwood Township opened in 1863 following the removal of the Sac and Fox Agency to Quenemo in Osage County. Harrison Reed purchased 640 acres from a Sac and Fox woman in 1865. The old structure on the southwest corner is part of Reed’s early home, believed to have been built by the government for the Indians. Reed also gave land for Greenwood Baptist Church and Cemetry, and was known as Deacon Reed. Built in 1871 of native lumber, the entrance sits at an angle marking the old Burlington Trail. Across the road north from the church is the site of several Greenwood Schools, first opened in 1862.

Proceed 1.5 miles on Labette Road, merging left wityh Georgia Terrace .4 mile. Turn right onto Labette Road, go 1.4 mile then turn left on Idaho Terrace. Continue .5 mile, crossing Marshall Road, to the Chippewa Burying Ground. Turn into marked parking area.

#29 The Chippewa Burying Ground was laid out in 1837 on the high banks of the Marais des Cygnes when the tribe emigrated from the Detroit area. The land was donated by Juliann Bittenbender, daughter of Esh-ton-o-quot, the leader of the Swan Creek and Black River band of Chippewas. Chief Esh-ton-o-quot, called Francis McCoonse, is buried here with many of his family members. The graves are covered with giant sandstone slabs over one foot thick. Many bore inscriptions now illegible.

Follow Marshall Road from the cemetery curving north and east 1.5 mile to Iowa Terrace, the first road going north, which may not be marked. Drive 1 mile north to K-68, following the channel of the Marais des Cygnes River.

#30 The Island. The old river bed on the right was once the main channel of the Marais des Cygnes as it made a bend and flower south at a point five miles west of Ottawa, then made a loop to the east and headed north into the city. Sometime in the 1800s the narrow neck of land between Appanoose Creek and the old river channel eroded and the river and creek bothflowed into the channel of Appanoose Creek. For a time the river flowed both to the north and south encircling a square mile of land that was known as the Island. Eventually the river settled on the more direct northern route, enlarging Appanoose’s channel. The old channel dried up except for times of high water. A colony of Ottawa Indians settled there in thye 1830s as referenced by Missionary Jotham Meeker who often visited them on the Island. When the 1844 flood covered the Island, the Indians moved to the hills.

Turn right onto K-68 and proceed into Ottawa. In the next 1.5 miles K-68 crosses the old river channels now marked as creeks that formed the old horseshoe bend.

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