Forgotten trail outpost dates to time of Quantrill's Raiders
About 2 1/2 miles north of Burdick on a blacktop road is the historic site of a Santa Fe Trail station named the Six-Mile Creek Station.
It got its name because the nearby creek is six miles west of Diamond Spring Station.
Six-mile Creek station was established in 1863 after Dick Yeager and his men, members of Quantrill’s Raiders, pro-confederate guerillas who made many forays into the new free state of Kansas, destroyed the station at Diamond Spring.
The site is marked with a granite Santa Fe Trail marker erected in 1906 by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the State of Kansas.
A description of the station was put up by the Heart of the Flint Hills chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association.
The property featured a low stone building with three rooms and a dirt roof, a log building used as a store, and a stable.
William Hartwell recorded his experiences at Six Mile Creek Station in a manuscript on file at the Kansas State Historical Society. He and a brother purchased the station in 1865.
“Two coaches a week, with the attendant bustle of getting meals and changing horses, was about all there was to break the monotony.” He wrote.
“Each coach, drawn by five mules, three working abreast in the lead, was attended by a conductor who went the entire journey of 900 miles from Santa Fe to Kansas City, the route of the drivers being from 75 to 250 miles. The fare from Santa Fe to Kansas City was $150 and 25 cents per pound for baggage or express.’’
The experience tested Harwell’s mettle and those of travelers on the trail.
“In December, a terrible snow storm lasting two days drove a large train from the west to the friendly shelter of our ranch, where we entertained them until they could push out,” he wrote. The next train from the west brought tales of great suffering of both man and beast.”
Hartwell didn’t stay long.
“I remained at Six Mile only long enough to dispose of our ranch and was glad to find a customer at $500 for which we had paid $2,000 nine months previous,” he wrote.
The station was bought in 1866 by Charley and Mary Owen, who came from England. Skirmishes with Indians were common. Indians burned the log building.
In 1868, while the Owens were gone, a group of Kaw Indians ransacked the ranch, stealing property and ruining what was left. By then, the mail and supply route had changed because a railroad line had come to Junction City.
The 80-acre ranch passed through several owners after the Owens sold it. The stone building was used for a time by the Swedish Lutheran Church.
In 1918, Orland and Clara Sill bought the property.
It was passed down to their son, Raleigh and his wife, Bonnie, and now is owned by their daughter, Beverly, and her husband, Rod Knopp.
None of the original buildings are standing, and the corral has mostly collapsed. Bev’s dad still used the rock corral in the late 1950s to where he hold cows waiting to be milked.
“It is unfortunate that, over the years, many cherished items have been stolen from the property,” Bev said. “Included are two pathway stones leading from the house to the well. Each of these stones had been carved on using a small round punch by my uncle, Lenord Sill.
“One stone had a heart with two longhorn steer heads facing each other. The other had a single long-horned steer on it. The family hopes that someday they will be returned.”
The stone corral and house stones were given away about 1920 to be crushed and used on area bridges.
The Sill family has found bullets, an oxen lock, a leather punch, an oxen shoe, a mule shoe, a wrench, and a primer along the route.
The site is east from the Lost Springs corner on US-56/77 or 340th Rd., over the county line, to 2800 Rd., just west of Burdick.
Last modified Sept. 15, 2021