A mere hour and a half down the road lies one of the more important historic sites of the Sante Fe Trail – a sleepy, little town called Council Grove.
While Council Grove is often historically referenced for the Kaw Mission Building or Council Oak (where settlers signed a peace treaty with the Kaw Indians) the town also boast 11 other sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many dealing with the town’s background as a trading community.
As one of the last stop’s on the way to Santa Fe, travelers used this small Kansas town as a spot to load up on supplies before making the last push towards New Mexico. This prompted the opening of “Last Chance” supply stores, indicating that this was the last town on the trail to attain a certain good. The town was even chosen as the cite for the “Madonna of the Trail” statue, erected in remembrance of the mothers and children who bravely made the trip to Santa Fe. Much of the town’s success as a trading post is accredited to Seth Hays, the first American settler to arrive, in 1847. His restaurant “The Hays House” is still in operation (opened in 1857) and is said to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River.
While Council Grove may appear to be a small, diminishing town, it is still rich with the stories and historical records left by those headed West, and serves as a constant reminder that the everyday communities we pass by were once crucial to America’s development.