On our recent trip to Kansas, we stopped at Pawnee Rock.
Back in the 1800’s, thousands of wagons heading west passed within 100 yards of Pawnee Rock. When you reached this point, it was considered midway between Independence, Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The town was a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, contained a variety of stores, hotel, and an opportunity to ship grain, cattle and livestock.
The area was a popular stopping point because it allowed travelers to replenish provisions, was a sea of grass with herds of buffalo for meat, and provided an available water supply at the nearby Arkansas river.
It was also a challenging part of the Santa Fe Trail because Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Pawnee Native American Indians were known to hold councils of war and peace at this rock.
Throughout the passing years, some of the rock was chipped away and used for building foundations and railroad beds. Today, you can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the pavilion and be at the same level as the original rock.
The site is now administered by the Kansas Historical Society and is part of the National Register of Historic Places. It also includes the grave of Pvt. Nehemiah Carson: “1826-1846, Pvt. Carson died of some unknown illness at this point on July 13, 1846, and was buried nearby on the following day.”
Today, if you blink while driving through the town of Pawnee Rock, you will be through it. The only remaining store downtown is a small post office, and the population in 2016 was 234.
If you are passing this way, there is a paved road that allows you to drive up and around the rock and monument, park, and walk around. Stopping gives you an opportunity to reflect on our early American history and the hardships our ancestors endured to travel west and settle this great land.
Thursday Doors this week will conclude this trip by focusing on the doors of Fort Larned where soldiers were tasked with providing safe passage for the many travelers heading west.