North Central Kansas Historical Markers

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

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Map of North Central Kansas Historical Markers

Topics (click on a topic to jump to that section)
Arrival of the Railroad | California-Oregon Trail | Coronado and Quivira | Cowtown and Fort | First Capitol of Kansas | Fort Hays | Historic Abilene | Historical Kansas | Historical Kansas | Historical Kansas | Historical Kansas | Hollenberg Ranch and the Pony Express | Kansas Indian Treaty | Indian Wars | Pawnee | Pawnee Indian Village | Pawnee Rock | Fort Riley | Smoky Hills | Victoria | Waconda Spring | Fort Zarah
Arrival of the Railroad

Marker Topic: Arrival of the Railroad
Address: US-40 Business, Roadside turnout, east edge of Russell
City: Russell
County: Russell
Marker Text: When railroads first built across Kansas in the 1860s, Plains Indians inhabited much of the central and western part of the state. They did not welcome the incursion, sensing a danger to the buffalo herds that provided them with food, shelter, and clothing. In an attempt to defend their lands, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and other tribes frequently attacked railroad workers and tore up tracks.

California-Oregon Trail

Marker Topic: California-Oregon Trail
Address: K-99 Roadside Turnout south of Westmoreland
City: Westmoreland
County: Pottawatomie
Marker Text: From the 1830s to the 1870s, the 2,000-mile road connecting Missouri river towns with California and Oregon was America's greatest transcontinental highway. Several routes led west from the river, converging into one trail by the time the Fort Kearny (Neb.) vicinity was reached. One of them began near present Kansas City and passed this point, crossing Rock Creek, not far from the highway bridge. K-99, Pottawatomie County Roadside turnout, south of Westmoreland.

Coronado and Quivira

Marker Topic: Coronado and Quivira
Address: US-56 Roadside turnout, 3 miles west of Lyons
City: Lyons
County: Rice
Marker Text: Eighty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Spanish explorers visited Kansas. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, seeking gold in New Mexico, was told of Quivira by an Indian called the Turk. Here were "trees hung with golden bells and people whose pots and pans were beaten gold." With 30 picked horsemen and a Franciscan friar named Juan de Padilla, Coronado marched "north by the needle" from a point in Texas until he reached Kansas.

Ellsworth, The Cowtown and Fort

Marker Topic: Ellsworth, The Cowtown and Fort
Address: K-14, Turnout, North Main Street, city of Ellsworth
City: Ellsworth
County: Ellsworth
Marker Text: When the Union Pacific built through here in 1867 this was buffalo country. As the engines chugged on west, the Hays newspaper reports: "Passengers on the cars between here and Ellsworth have almost daily fine sport shooting at buffalo, immense herds of the huge beasts constantly entering for races with the locomotives." Ellsworth, founded in 1867, was the main terminus of the Texas cattle trade in Kansas 1871-1875.
First Capitol of Kansas
State Historic Site
Marker Topic: First Capitol of Kansas
Address: South of Huebner Road at old Capitol Building, Fort Riley Reservation
City: Fort Riley
County: Geary
Marker Text: This building was erected in 1855 in the now extinct town of Pawnee for the first legislature of Kansas. The members were mostly Missourians, fraudulently elected in an effort to make Kansas a slave state. They came in wagons and on horseback well armed, and camped out on the prairie. The session lasted from July 2 to 6.
Fort Hays

Marker Topic: Fort Hays
Address: US-183 Bypass, Roadside Turnout South of Hays on old US-40
City: Hays
County: Ellis
Marker Text: This noted U.S. Army post was established in 1865 as a headquarters for troops given the task of protecting military roads, guarding the mails, and defending construction crews on the Union Pacific Railway. Fort Hays also served as a major supply depot for other army posts in western Kansas.

Historic Abilene
Marker Topic: Historic Abilene
Address: Turnout Old Abilene Town, South Sixth Street
City: Abilene
County: Dickinson
Marker Text: At the end of the Civil War when millions of longhorns were left on the plains of Texas without a market, the Union Pacific was building west across Kansas. Joseph McCoy, an Illinois stockman, believed these cattle could be herded north for shipment by rail. He built yards at Abilene and sent agents to notify the Texas cattlemen. In 1867 the first drives were made up the Chisholm Trail and during the next five years more than a million head were received.
Historical Kansas
Marker Topic: Historical Kansas
Address: I-70, Milepost 337, westbound rest area near Paxico
City: Paxico
County: Wabaunsee
Marker Text: You are on the eastern edge of a Bluestem pasture region known as the Flint Hills. Extending past Junction City, this nutritious grazing area averages 60 miles in width, and reaches south into Oklahoma. For centuries buffalo in great numbers grazed its acres. Eventually they were succeeded by rangy Texas cattle. "Texas shipped up the horns and we put the bodies under them," old Kansas cowmen used to say. Today the Flints Hills fatten more than a million fine cattle annually.
Historical Kansas
Marker Topic: Historical Kansas
Address: Milepost 310, westbound rest area 12 miles East of Junction City
City: Junction City
County: Geary
Marker Text: Seven miles ahead you will drive through the southern edge of Fort Riley, established as Camp Center in 1852. The fort was visited by Horace Greeley, noted editor of the New York Tribune when he traveled by stagecoach to the Pike's Peak region in 1859 to determine if reports of gold discoveries were humbug. Of Fort Riley, "I hear that two millions of Uncle Sam's money have been expended in making these snug arrangements and that the oats largely consumed here have often cost three dollars per bushel!"
Historical Kansas

Marker Topic: Historical Kansas
Address: I-70, Milepost 294, westbound rest area west of Junction City
City: Junction City
County: Geary
Marker Text: Abilene, 20 miles ahead, was a cowtown of major importance in the history of the American West. During 1867-1871 much of the town was a mixture of bawling Longhorn cattle and cowhands up from Texas - with numerous, more worldly two-legged critters in supporting occupations. Abilene's most respected early lawman was Thomas J. Smith, killed by a half-crazed settler in 1871, contributed to the town's bloody history by engaging rowdy Phil Coe in a blazing gun battle at eight feet.
Historical Kansas

Marker Topic: Historical Kansas
Address: I-70, Milepost 294, eastbound rest area, 2 miles west of Junction City
City: Junction City
County: Geary
Marker Text: Five miles to the northeast the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers united to form the Kansas or Kaw. At the junction, the city, which bears the name, was founded in 1857. Before the arrival of the westward-building Union Pacific railroad in 1866, steamboats occasionally navigated the Kaw River from Kansas City to Junction City, when they could elude the sifting sandbars.
Hollenberg Ranch and the Pony Express
Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site

Marker Topic: Hollenberg Ranch and the Pony Express
Address: US-36, 11 miles west of Marysville
City: Marysville
County: Washington
Marker Text: Begun in 1858, the Hollenberg Ranch, four miles north and one mile east of here, served as a stop on the Oregon-California Trail until the late 1860s. Gerat and Sophia Hollenberg, German emigrants, sold food and other supplies, lodging, and draft animals to passing travelers. Settlers, freighters, soldiers, stagecoach passengers, and Pony Express riders all stopped there.
Kansas Indian Treaty

Marker Topic: Kansas Indian Treaty
Address: Old US-81, 4 miles southeast of K-61 junction
City: McPherson
County: McPherson
Marker Text: In 1825 President James Monroe approved a bill providing for the survey of the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to New Mexico and the making of treaties to insure friendly relations with Indians along the route. A mile west of this sign, on Dry Turkey Creek, a monument marks the site of a council on August 16, 1825, between U.S. Commissioners Reeves, Sibley and Mather, and Son-ja-inga and fifteen other headmen of The Kansas or Kaw nation.
Indian Wars

Marker Topic: Lincoln County and the Indian Wars
Address: K-18, Roadside turnout, 3 miles east of Lincoln Republic County, Entrance to the Pawnee Indian Village State Historic Site.
City: Lincoln
County: Lincoln
Marker Text: By the 1850s Plains Indians were faced with ever-growing numbers of travelers and settlers in central and western Kansas. Treaties were negotiated by the U.S. government, often taking advantage of tribal divisions, forcing native peoples onto reservations and limiting their hunting areas. Although relations between settlers and Indians were generally peaceful, tensions developed as more settlers arrived.
Country of the Pawnee

Marker Topic: Country of the Pawnee
Address: US-36, Roadside turnout, east end of Republican River Bridge
City: Scandia
County: Republic
Marker Text: Long before white men settled Kansas this region was the home of Pawnee Indians. French traders in the late 1700s named those along this river the Republican Pawnee in the mistaken belief that their form of government was a republic. From them the Republican River and in turn Republic County and city took their names.
Pawnee Indian Village Museum

Marker Topic: Pawnee Indian Village Museum
Address: Entrance to the Pawnee Indian Village State Historic Site
County: Republic
Marker Text: This is the site of a large, fortified village of the Republican band of Pawnee Indians, occupied during the early 1800s.

As the inscription on the stone marker indicates, the village was long believed by local, state and national historians to be that visited by Zebulon M. Pike in 1808. On the strength of this belief, the site was purchased and presented to the state in 1899 by Elizabeth A. and George Johnson. Later investigations cast doubt on the claim, chiefly because the topography does not match that described by Pike.

Nevertheless, there can be no question that the farsighted and public-spirited action of the donors saved this important location from destruction. Today it is the only major preserved Pawnee village site in the Central Plains area, and this museum, constructed around a scientifically excavated house floor, is unique in Plains archeology.

Pawnee Rock

Marker Topic: Pawnee Rock
Address: U.S. 56, Roadside Park, west of Pawnee Rock
City: Pawnee Rock
County: Barton
Marker Text: A mile northeast is Pawnee Rock, a famous landmark on the Santa Fe Trail. Considered the mid-point of the long road between Missouri and New Mexico, Pawnee Rock was a symbol of challenges overcome. Many early travelers mentioned it in their journals, and many of them scratched their names into its soft surface.
Fort Riley

Marker Topic: Fort Riley
Address: Huebner Road, Fort Riley Reservation
City: Fort Riley
County: Geary
Marker Text: Here where the Republican and Smoky Hill rivers unite to form the Kansas, Fremont 's expedition of 1843 camped and reported great numbers of elk, antelope and Indians. In 1852 the army selected the site for a Western outpost, temporarily called Camp Center.
Smoky Hills

Marker Topic: Smoky Hills
Address: I-70, Milepost 224, eastbound rest area, east of K-14 junction
City: Ellsworth
County: Ellsworth
Marker Text: This area of Kansas contains the Smoky Hills, an area of rolling hills with occasional mesas and buttes. Pawnee Rock, Coronado Heights, and Rock City are notable elements of the landscape, as are the rock "toadstools" in this park. More of these unique forms, sculpted by erosion, may be seen at Mushroom Rocks State park near Carneiro, east of Ellsworth.

Marker Topic: Victoria
Address: First Street, Roadside
City: Victoria
County: Ellis
Marker Text: Nowhere in America were two colonies more unlike than those that came here. Scarlet-coated Britishers who chased antelope on hob-tailed ponies were joined by frugal and hard-working German-Russian immigrants. A Scotsman, George Grant, with 69,000 acres purchased from the railway, offered country estates to aristocrats. The immigrants came for religious freedom and to escape the czar's army. Cricket and Hays city dance halls delighted one colony, homestead rights and the steppe-like prairie the other. Victoria, established in 1873, was named for a queen and laid out by a London architect. Herzog, just north, established in 1876, was built of sod and named for a Volga village.
Waconda Spring

Marker Topic: Waconda (Great Spring) Spring
Address: US-24, Roadside turnout, 2 miles east of Cawker City
City: Cawker City
County: Mitchell
Marker Text: Many moons ago, so runs an Indian legend, Waconda, a beautiful Princess, fell in love with a brave of another tribe. Prevented from marriage by a blood feud, this warrior embroiled the tribes in battle. During the fight an arrow struck him as he stood on the brink of a spring and he fell mortally wounded into the waters.
Fort Zarah

Marker Topic: Fort Zarah
Address: US-56, Roadside turnout, 1 mile east of Great Bend
City: Great Bend
County: Barton
Marker Text: In 1865 the Federal government surveyed the Santa Fe Trail, great trade route from western Missouri to Santa Fe. Treaties with Kansas and Osage Indians safeguarded the eastern end of the road but Plains Tribes continued to make raids. Fort Zarah, at this point, was one of a chain of forts built on the Santa Fe Trail to protect wagon trains and guard settlers.
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