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Reflections about Santa Fe Trail Caravan
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While we have the “K is for Kansas” exhibit here at Ellinwood School-Community Library, there have also been many discussion about our “E is for Ellinwood” display.

When visiting with Red Meier about Linda McCaffery’s presentation, he informed me of the Santa Fe Trail Caravan that travelled through Ellinwood in 1961. This caravan began in Shawnee Mission, passed through Ellinwood, and ended at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Red said it was a total of 800 miles.

The Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce was involved with organizing this historic event and lead members included: “R. B. Arbuthnot, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and general manager of the Centennial plans for Ellinwood; Miss Jo Wolf, secretary of the Chamber, Chet Brown, portraying Daniel Boon; Mrs. Chet Brown, dresses as Susan Magoffin, first woman to travel the Santa Fe Trail, from Great Bend; Lowell Meier, portraying Josiah Gregg, first merchant on the Santa Fe Trail, Claflin; Don Grant, chairman of the restoration committee, and G. I. Robinson, chairman of the entertainment committee,” (Ellinwood Leader, April, 20, 1961).

Mrs. Meier also went on the caravan. “West bound tourists who were lucky enough to see the Santa Fe Trail caravan early this week in some of the eastern Kansas towns say that it is much more impressive than anyone can imagine. The length of the parade, the size and the skill with which the floats have been constructed, the quality of the costumes and the imagination which has gone into every detail of the show is impressive,” (Ellinwood Leader, May 11, 1961).

“The parade undoubtedly was the longest and the most elaborate that Ellinwood has seen. It contained entries from more than a score of towns along the Santa Fe trail, novelty acts and floats, Indian dancers and a tame buffalo that almost stole the show,” (Ellinwood Leader, May 18, 1961).
Red said there were approximately 3,000 people in attendance in Ellinwood for the parade! In addition to the caravan, Ellinwood celebrated the Centennial with many local organizations hosting programs. The week was declared as ‘Centennial Dress Parade Week’ and everyone was urged to wear old fashioned costumes throughout the celebration. Ellinwood Grade School was involved by presenting a Centennial Pageant at the school.

I enjoyed walking back in time with Red, learning about this amazing caravan, and I’m certain that if I left anything out, Red would be happy to fill you in.

Sheri Holmes is the Director of Libary/Media Services for the Ellinwood School/Community Libraries.