Summer 2021 | Published Quarterly | Vol. IV
2021: THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE OPENING OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL
In 1821, William Becknell and his party set out from Franklin, Missouri to establish an overland trade route with Mexico.
On Nov. 16, 1821, they arrived in Santa Fe. Becknell’s party established a connection that laid the path for the caravans and covered wagons that would beat the trail for more than 50 years.
From the time of its establishment all the way to the end of its usage (1821-1880), the Santa Fe Trail ran its course right through our city. Though “Santa Fe Trail Drive” follows a path similar to the original trail, the historic route ran about a mile to the southeast. The route is marked along various streets in Lenexa with brown metal signs maintained by the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association.
The most significant Santa Fe Trail historic site located in Lenexa is Flat Rock Creek Park. It served as a campground and rendezvous location for travelers on the trail.
Just a day or two out from the trail’s starting point at Westport, the creek provided an area for overland travelers to get their bearings and organize caravans. In some cases, the campground witnessed the birth of new family members. In 1854, this was the case for John and Mariah Davies as they camped at Flat Rock Creek. According to John’s journal, it was the first night of their westward journey.Bradshaw Park at the Southwest corner of Santa Fe Trail Drive and Noland Road.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Kansas Chapter began a campaign to create markers commemorating where the Santa Fe Trail passed through the state. One of these markers resides here in Lenexa. Placed in the area in 1906, the marker has resided in several locations over the years. It is currently placed in Bradshaw Park at the Southwest corner of Santa Fe Trail Drive and Noland Road.
Though the Santa Fe Trail was the first major overland trade route established, the portion of the trail that runs through Lenexa was the same road that fed into the Oregon and California trails. The three major trails all began in Westport on the same path and then split at a point just west of Gardner.
By the 1870s, the Santa Fe trail faded out due to the emergence of the railroad. Right at the end of the overland trail’s use, Charles A. Bradshaw negotiated with agents from the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad (later Frisco Railroad) on a railroad right-of-way. Bradshaw agreed to cede his land on the condition that the railroad would maintain a depot on the land. This made sure trains would need to stop in Lenexa and not only pass through.
Bradshaw’s foresight ensured that Lenexa would continue to be a stopping point on the flow of interstate commerce that started with its position on the Santa Fe Trail and continues to present day.
New Interpretive Signs
The Lenexa Historical Complex in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park will soon be the beneficiary of new interpretive signs. Lenexa’s Parks and Rec Department is working with LHS to create new descriptive storyboards outside Legler Barn Museum, the Frisco train depot, Burlington Railroad caboose, Strang Line wait station and the park’s bandstand. The new signage will tell unique, illustrated stories at each location.
Spinach and Chili Festivals – Volunteers welcome!
This fall, LHS will be active at both of these well-attended family events. Our “Spinach Cafe” celebrates Lenexa’s history as “Spinach Capitol of the World” with the world’s largest spinach salad, Wimpy burgers, spinach balls and more. For chili, we’ll enter a time-tested recipe that’s proven quite successful. Volunteers wanting to participate in either or both should contact LHS for details. These are special community activities.
LHS is dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting the history of Lenexa. We seek volunteers who enjoy applying their skills, interests, energy and experience to those efforts, such as:
- Museum guide
- Community Involvement / Events
Volunteers are always welcome, so if you are interested, go to lenexahistoricalsociety.org and volunteer under the “Support” tab.
Want to be a member of LHS?
Lenexa has a long-running and continuing story — we’d love for you to join the Historical Society and help preserve its history.
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