Historical Council Grove
"During our delay at the Council Grove, the laborers were employed in procuring timber for axle-trees and other wagon repairs, of which a supply is always laid in before leaving this region of substantial growths; for henceforward there is no wood on the route fit for these purposes. . ."
from Commerce of the Prairies by Josiah Gregg

Council Grove is one of the most historic communities in Kansas. It was named by U.S. Commission George C. Sibley in August 1825. Sibley met with the chiefs of the Big and Little Bands of the Osage Indians in the large grove of hardwood timber on the east bank of the Neosho River about three hundred yards from where the Santa Fe Trail crossed this stream. Here the Osage leaders signed a treaty granting free and safe passage to Euro-Americans on the Santa Fe Trail. Sibley stated in his diary: "I suggested the propriety of naming the place ‘Council Grove’ which was agreed to."

Artist Charles Goslin
The site of Council Grove was a camping and meeting place for Native Americans, explorers, soldiers, and Santa Fe Trail traders. Here they found ample water, grass, and abundant wood due to the extensive groves of hardwood timber. As a rendezvous point for caravans moving west on the Santa Fe Trail, Council Grove provided both Hispanic and American travelers an opportunity to repair wagons and secure provisions in preparation for the long overland trip to Santa Fe.

During the Mexican War the U.S. Army built a wagon repair depot here. Soon afterwards, when stagecoach service began on the Santa Fe Trail, the firm of Waldo, Hall & Company operated a station, shops and corrals. Seth Hays, a great grandson of Daniel Boone and a cousin of Kit Carson, came to Council Grove in 1847 to establish a trading post for the neighboring Kaw Indians. Then in the late 1850s Hays built a mercantile building to trade with the Kanzas and Santa Fe Trail travelers. This building became known later as the "Hays House," which today is a fine eatery.

When Kansas became a territory in 1854 Council Grove was located within the boundaries of the Kaw Reservation. The only white people that were legally sanctioned to live here were government-licensed traders, the Kaw Mission staff, and their families. However, territorial status brought a flood of American immigrants to Council Grove and its environs. By 1859 an estimated one thousand white people were living illegally of the Kaw Reservation. The Treaty of 1859 diminished the Kaw Reservation, placing Council Grove outside its boundaries, thereby freeing the town to function as a legal entity.

Most prominent citizens of pre-Civil War Council Grove originally came from the "Border States" and were strongly influenced by the southern culture. The wealthiest man in town, Malcolm Conn, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Two prominent Council Grove slave-owners were Kentuckian Seth Hays and Missourian Thomas Huffaker. The town's southern roots was probably a major factor in Council Grove escaping an attack by the infamous "Border Ruffian" Dick Yeager when he and his men rode through during the Civil War.

Because of prolonged legal wrangling in the wake of the Kaw Treaty of 1859, the Council Grove Town Company did not receive a town patent from the U.S. government until January 1864. Despite the Civil War, the town held its own during the war due mainly to the trade with the Kaw Indians and Santa Fe Trail merchants. However, in 1866 the Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division, was constructed to Junction City, and that town became the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, which thereafter circumvented Council Grove.

When the Kaw Indians were relocated to Indian Territory in 1873, Council Grove merchants no longer benefited from the tribe’s annual expenditure here of twelve thousand dollars in government annuities. However, by this time Council Grove had been transformed into a fairly prosperous regional trade center serving area farmers and ranchers, and the town’s period of historical significance had receded into the past.

The Euro-Americans
European Traders
American Expansion
Santa Fe Trail
Historical Council Grove

What three countries all claimed land now known as Kansas?