Council Grove, the county seat of Morris county and one of the historic towns of Kansas, is pleasantly situated in the eastern part of the county, on the Neosho river at an altitude of 1,234 feet, and at the junction of the Missouri Pacific and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads. It has 1 national and 1 state bank, an international money order postoffice with five rural routes, express and telegraph offices, a telephone exchange, an electric lighting plant and waterworks, both of which are owned by the city, grain elevators, three newspapers (the Republican, the Guard, and the Morris County Advance), an opera-house, good hotels, a public library, an excellent public school system, churches of the leading denominations, marble and granite works, and a number of well appointed mercantile establishments. The population in 1910 was 2,545.
The first settler at Council Grove was Seth M. Hays, who established a trading post there in 1847, in a log cabin a few rods west of the Neosho river on the north side of the old Santa Fe trail. The next year a man named Mitchell came to Council Grove as a government blacksmith, bringing with him his wife, who was the first white woman in Morris county. The Kaw mission was established in 1850, and in May, 1851, T. S. Huffaker opened a school, which was one of the first schools attended by white children in Kansas. Other early settlers were the Chouteau brothers, the Columbia brothers and C. H. Withington, who came as traders, and during the early '50s their establishments formed "the last chance for supplies" for travelers bound for the Great West. In Oct., 1854, Gov. Reeder visited Council Grove, with a view to making it the territorial capital, but the land was at that time an Indian possession. A man named Gilkey opened the first hotel in 1856, and in 1858 the town was incorporated, the incorporators being T. S. Huffaker, Seth M. Hays, Hiram Northrup and Christopher Columbia.
The place where Council Grove now stands was mentioned by travelers as early as 1820, and in 1825 the treaty was here negotiated with the Osage Indians for the right of way for the government road known as the Santa Fe trail, a portion of which now forms the main street of the city. There has been considerable speculation, and various reports have been circulated, as to how the place received the name of Council Grove. Cutler's History of Kansas says it originated from the fact that emigrant trains were accustomed to assemble there, and the leaders of those trains would hold a "council" to determine means of safety while passing through the Indian country farther west. Gregg, in his Commerce of the Prairies, says
"Frequent attempts have been made by travelers to invest Council Grove with a romantic sort of interest, of which the following fabulous vagary, which I find in a letter that went the rounds of our journals is an amusing example: 'Here the Pawnee, Arapahoe, Comanche, Loup and Eutaw Indians, all of whom were at war with each other, meet and smoke the pipe once a year.' Now it is more than probable that not a soul of most of the tribes mentioned above ever saw the Council Grove. . . . The facts connected with the designation of this spot are simply these. Messrs. Reeves, Sibley and Mathers, having been commissioned by the United States in 1825, to mark a road from the confines: of Missouri to Santa Fe, met on this spot with some bands of Osages, with whom they concluded a treaty. The commissioners on this occasion gave to the place the name of "Council Grove.'"
COUNCIL OAK AT COUNCIL GROVE.
Under the tree known as the "Council Oak" stands a granite marker, five feet in height, on one side of which is the inscription: "On this spot, Aug. 10, 1825, the treaty was made with the Osage Indians for the right of way for the Santa Fe trail." The inscription on the other side reads: "Santa Fe Trail, 1822-1872. Marked by the D. A. R. and the State of Kansas, 1906."
There are a number of places and objects of historic interest about Council Grove. The most important of these are the Council Oak, the Custer Elm, Fremont Park, Belfry Hill, Sunrise Rock, the Hermit's Cave and the Padilla Monument.Pages 459-461 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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