Historic Lost Spring Station site gets interpretive plaque

Staff writer

A day that threatened rain turned partly cloudy Saturday as people gathered at the Lost Spring Station site west of Lost Springs on 240th Road.

The crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of an interpretive plaque approved by the National Park Service. The sign tells the story of the Santa Fe Trail in the vicinity of the Lost Spring Station, a convenience store that operated on the trail from 1859 to 1866.

Visitors also witnessed the placement of a new time capsule into the 1908 monument that was relocated from the south side to the north side of the road last July 3. The granite marker keeps alive the history of the Santa Fe Trail and the station.

The PVC capsule contains numerous items donated by 32 families. The items include a $1 gold coin, driver’s licenses, photos, a slinky, and credit cards, along with pamphlets, videos, and cassettes about the Santa Fe Trail.

Steve Schmidt, president of the Cottonwood Chapter of the Kansas Santa Fe Trail Association, recognized landowner Virginia Shields and her family for the work they have done to establish and improve the site. They gave an easement to the county for off-the-road parking and viewing.

Glenn Shields, Virginia’s son, credited Marion County for installing culverts and providing rocked entrances.

Members of the Shields family have spent hours clearing brush from the spring site and mowing the grass, making the spring easily accessible and visible to the public. Schmidt said the local Santa Fe Trail chapter hopes to establish an all-weather path to the spring.

Expenses for establishing the site were paid with a $2,000 grant from the National Park Service; funds from the national, state, and local trail associations; and private donations.

Saturday’s event included a demonstration by the Fort Riley Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard. Six troopers and their horses were outfitted in the uniforms; and equipment of the Civil War period. The active-duty soldiers demonstrated their horsemanship while using lances and pistols.

Schmidt said it was appropriate for the military to be involved in the Lost Spring Station celebration because soldiers from Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley were closely tied to the Santa Fe Trail. At first, they provided escorts to travelers. Later, they used the trail to supply the various forts built out west.

Cavalry tents from the Civil War period also were on display Saturday, as well as a World War II ambulance wagon.

The Santa Fe Trail existed as a commercial route between Independence, Mo., and Santa Fe, N.Mex., from 1821-1866. It was used by early settlers until 1872.

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