Old maps show site of second 'lost spring' on trail

Staff writer

A Santa Fe Trail researcher has identified a second “lost spring” in Marion County that was used by traders on the trail from 1821 to 1866. It is about a mile northeast of the present Lost Spring Station, which is two and a half miles west of Lost Springs. Lost Spring Station is on Cress Creek. The second spring is on Lyon Creek.

Steve Schmidt, president of the Cottonwood Crossing Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, found old maps and aerial photos.

“They clearly confirm the Santa Fe Trail originally ran south-southwest from the Lyon Creek spring to present-day 330th Road, and then continued westward along 330th to present-day Tampa,” he said.

An early 1857 General Land Office survey map that laid out Kansas townships pinpoints the spring.

The surveyor made notes concerning Lost Springs Township and, particularly, this spring.

“There are some fine springs of fresh water in this township, and among their number is the spring known to all the Santa Fe traders and trains as the lost spring. It is situated in Section 16 near the center of the section. The spring affords fine fresh water.”

Lost Spring Station is in Section 17.

The Lyon Creek spring is included in an additional five acres the Kansas Historical Society’s Historic Site Board of Review has nominated to be included in the Lost Spring Station site. The 10-acre Lost Spring Station site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Schmidt discovered that the earliest travelers along the trail stopped at the spring located along Lyon Creek. However, as the nature of trade and the types of travelers changed, a new route was created to bring travelers straight west to the Lost Spring Station.

Sometime after the end of the trail’s active use in 1866, the spring on Lyon Creek was forgotten, Schmidt said.

He said the later route, which basically followed present-day 340th Road, was used as a mail route from the Missouri River to Santa Fe beginning in 1850. By 1858, the mail route included weekly runs, at which time George Smith opportunistically established the Lost Spring Station, providing mail wagons with a place to obtain food and supplies and to change out stock.

Mervin Deines lives directly north of the Lost Spring Station along 350th Road. Cress Creek runs through his property. He said his place has a big spring on it, and many other smaller springs are in the area, but he wasn’t familiar with the Lyon Creek spring.

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