History Comes Alive -
All Over Council Grove
Visitors can stand on the site of the Council Oak where the first treaty was signed establishing the right-of-way for passage on the Santa Fe Trail. Standing in front of the historic Hays House, Conn Store or Terwilliger Home, one can just imagine the wagon trains passing by and almost hear the creaking wagons, the plodding oxen and the braying mules.
Located at the crossroads of Highway 56 and 177, Council Grove is nestled in the scenic tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills. Just like in trail times, the tallgrass and rolling hills stretch as far as you can see across one of the country's last true prairies. History, hospitality and Old West lore await all those who venture into our wide-open spaces!
Download a copy of our historic sites brocure:
1. Kaw Mission State Historic Site and Museum - The Kaw Mission was built in 1851 as a school for boys from the Kaw (Kanza) American Indian tribe, for which the State of Kansas is named. Learn about early Euro-American and Native American cultures at this Kansas Historical Society site. 620.767.5410 (NR, NT)
2.Old Bell Mounment - From 1866 to 1884, the Old Bell served as an alarm, church, and school bell. The stone monument capped by the bellw as erected in 1901.
3. Hermit's Cave - Italian priest Giovanni Maria Augustini lived in this cave for five months in 1863. That fall, at age 62, he left Council Grove with a wagon train and walked the 550 miles to Las Vegas, New Mexico. (NT)
4. Last Chance Store - This store was built in 1857 and is the oldest remaining commercial building in Council Grove. For a time, it was the last place to purchase supplies en route to Santa Fe, providing it the nickname by which it has long been known. (NR, NL, NT)
5. Terwilliger Home - Build in 1861, this was the last Council Grove home Santa Fe freighters passed on their journey west. Grandly restored, it houses the Trail Days Cafe & Museum, where the food is part of the historic experience. Also on this site are an 1858 log house, a 1902 schoolhouse, a 1947 market building, and cabins built in 1930 and 1943. 620.767.7986
6. Cottage House Hotel - Originally a three-room cottage built in 1867, this building later became a boarding house, known as the Cottage House. Major additions were made between 1881 and 1913 and this bed-and-breakfast has been beautifully restored to the eras of those additions. 620.767.6828 (NR)
7. Farmers & Drovers Bank -Built in 1892, this building is an example of eclectic architecture with brick and stone masonry, Romanesque arches, a Byzantine dome and minarets. In 1981, the Farmers & Drovers Bank expanded into the adjacent Indicator Building, constructed in 1902. 620.767.5138 (NR)
8. Conn Stone Store - Built in 1858, this store was one of the most important trading posts in Council Grove during the heyday of the Santa Fe Trail, the Kaw Reservation, and the early settlement of Morris County. (NT)
9. Council Grove National Bank - Constructed in 1887, this former bank building is a fine example of Western commercial architecture influenced by the High Victorian Italianate style. (NR)
10. Hays House Restaurant - Built circa 1857, the Hays House lays claim to being the oldest, continuously-operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. It has been recognized by the Kansas Sampler Foundation as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. 620.767.5911 (NL, NT)
11. Seth Hays Home - This house was built in 1867 by the town's first settler, Seth M. Hays. It was occupied by lifelong-bachelor Hays, his adopted daughter, Kittie, and his former slave, Sarah "Aunt Sally" Taylor, who remained in Hays' household as a servant when Kansas was admitted as a free state in 1861. The home now is a museum operated by the Morris County Historical Society. (NR, NL, NT)
12. Custer Elm - In 1867, George A. Custer and companies of the 7th Cavalry camped beneath this then-towering elm while patrolling the Santa Fe Trail. In 1869, Custer and fellow officer Amos Kimball purchased a 120-acre farm just south of this tree. AFter the death of the tree from Dutch Elm disease in the mid-1970s, its stump was preserved on the site.
13. Guardian of the Grove Statue - This bronze statue of a Kaw (Kanza) Warrior honors the Kaw (Kanza) American Indian tribe. It was created in 1998 by Council Grove artist Mark Sampsel and was authorized by the Kaw Nation.
14. The Madonna of the Trail - This statue of a pioneer woman and her two children was erected in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
15. Post Office Oak and Museum - From 1825 to 1847, Santa Fe Trail travelers left messages in a cache at the foot of this tree, to inform others of trail conditions, giving it its name, "Post Office Oak". The tree died in 1990 and its stump has been preserved on the site. The adjacent stone house was built in 1864 as a residence, with a brewery in the basement. It now is a museum operated by the Morris County Historical Society. (NL, NT)
16. Council Oak - Beneath this tree on August 10, 1825, U.S. Commissioners and Chiefs of the Great and Little Osage tribes signed a treaty to establish the right-of-way for the Santa Fe Trail across Osage lands. It was at that time that Commissioner George Sibley named this site, "Council Grove", which became the name of the town later founded here. The tree was destroyed in a 1958 wind storm and its stump has been preserved in place. (NL, NT)
17. Bradford House - Built in 1860, this is the oldest home still standing on the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas and it houses a bed and breakfast. 785.466.1060
Photo by Harold Gaston
18. Neosho Riverwalk - This landscaped, lighted walkway is an ADA accessible sidewalk connecting the Kaw Mission and the Guardian of the Grove statue. En route, on the east bank of the river is an overlook of the Neosho River Crossing. The natural rockbed of the Neosho River at this location was ideal for crossing by Santa Fe freighters and travelers. The crossing is also visible from the Main Street Bridge. (NT)
19. Durland Park - Attractions include a replica of the city calaboose built in 1870, the Sylvan Park Depot built in 1900, a Missouri Pacific Railroad caboose, and a Buckeye oil engine which powered the machinery in Saunders Milling Co. from 1933 to 1963.
20. M-K-T Depot - This Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway depot was built in 1894, and is one of only two M-K-T ("Katy") depots remaining on their original sites in Kansas. The building currently houses an antiques and collectibles store. (NR)
21. Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park - Located north of the intersection of X Ave. and 525 Road (about 3 1/2 miles southeast of town, off Dunlap Road), this 158-acre park is being developed by the Kaw Nation. It was part of the last Kaw (Kanza) Reservation in Kansas before the tribe was removed to Indian Territory. A walking trail takes visitors past the stabilized ruins of the 1861 Kaw Agency building, a 1925 monument to an Unknown Kaw (Kanza) Warrior, the ruins of three stone houses built in 1861 by the U. S. Government, and a replica of an earth lodge. (NR)
22. Big John Limestone Bank Barn - Approximately one mile east of town, this 76-foot long native stone barn was built by Seth Hays in 1871. It is the only remaining building of the Morris County Poor Farm, which operated on this site from 1889-1945. (NR)
23. Wagon Wheel Monument - This limestone sculpture of a wagon wheel stuck in a rut depicts one of the hardships endured by travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. It is located near the Greenwood Cemetery Wall which was built in 1871 of native limestone.
24. Santa Fe Trail Ruts - A wide swale created by Santa Fe Travelers is located 0.6 miles south of the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 56 and 1400 Road, about 5 miles west of Council Grove. A sign, "Santa Fe Trail Ruts", near the fence marks the center of the swale. It is on private property and may be viewed from the road in the spring after the range management burning.
Other Sites of Interest!
Father Padilla Monument - A memorial to the first Christian martyr in what is now the U.S. (in 1542), is located on a hill west of 900 Rd., 0.8 mile southwest of the intersection of 900 Road and K-177, immediately south of Council Grove. It is on private property and may be viewed from the road.
Council Grove Federal Reservoir - A 3,310-acre lake with 40 miles of shoreline. Complete camping, boating, and fishing facilities are available. Hunt on designated public hunting areas or visit the natural Wildlife Preserve.
Council Grove City Lake - Located 3.5 miles northwest of Council Grove this 500-acre lake is well-stocked for fishing and is surrounded by 339 residences.
Historic Trees - Council Grove has been designated as a "Tree City USA". Trees of the Santa Fe Trail era are marked with plaques.
U.S. Post Office - Includes Post Office Section Art, which was named an 8 Wonders of Kansas Art finalist. The mural, "Autumn Colors" was painted by Charles B. Rogers in 1941. NR
Additional Historic Sites - Carnegie Library, Simcock House, Furney House and former First Baptist Church (now Bowers Community Center).
Photo by Bob Collins
Key - NR- National Register; NT- Santa Fe National Historic Trail; NL- Council Grove National Historic Landmark District