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Researcher investigates Pawnee County sites
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Photo by Laura Groves The Pawnee Fork Crossing DAR Marker. The Pawnee Fork Crossing DAR marker, and the site of Boyds Ranch, served as a travel and trade site along the trail. The DAR marker was relocated to this spot in 1930.


PAWNEE COUNTY — The researcher for the Kansas Historical Society said the best part of her job is identifying and verifying spots along the Santa Fe Trail to be considered as National Register of Historic Places. The National Trails System of the National Park Service has partnered with the Kansas Historical Society to document historic resources along the historic Santa Fe Trail.
The Boyd’s Ranch Site and the Pawnee Fork Crossing (Dry Route) and The Coon Creek Crossing and Fort Larned Military Road along the Santa Fe Trail have been nominated by the Kansas Historical Society for consideration for the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C.
The three-year project has visited about 25 Kansas sites, normally after research of a particular site.
“We research maps to see where the Santa Fe Trail has passed to see where we are going and generally do some research before we take a trip,” said Amanda Loughlin with the Kansas Historical Society.
Last fall’s two-day November trip started in Pawnee County and moved to Ford County. Loughlin snaps photographs of the historical site and often hears stories from landowners.
“We take the photos and do some research to verify what sites are still out there,” she said. “We can’t list anything without the property owner’s consent. The owners generally are very knowledgeable. They help us with historical facts because they’ve done the research.”  
The Pawnee Rock Crossing and Boyd’s Ranch was interesting because of a Pawnee River crossing and ranch that was established.
“There are always layers of history,” Loughlin said. “We viewed some cutdowns and ruts in the property and saw where the Fort Larned route met with the wet route. There are swales and cutdowns that lead to the creek.”
Property owners have no responsibility to provide signage or access for the property. Signs tell the story of the property.
“Most property owners are excited to know their property is part of a historical site,” she said. “Access to the public can vary quite a bit. Some property owners are happy to welcome the public.”
Loughlin said once a Kansas site has been nominated for the National Register of Places, it’s generally approved in two to three months.
Loughlin wrote the nomination in conjunction with the Santa Fe Trail Association and the National Park Service.
Both the Pawnee Fork Crossing and Boyd’s Ranch were located along the 1859 branch of the Dry Route of the Santa Fe Trail. The Dry Route is named as such because it was a route along the trail that provided few stops along the way for water
The crossing was used by travelers headed to Fort Larned and by mail wagons and stagecoaches, who preferred the shorter route. The popularity of this crossing and its location near Fort Larned, which was established in 1859, eventually led to the establishment of a road ranch in 1865
A. H. Boyd provided provisions to hunters in the area and built a wooden bridge at the crossing that he turned into a toll bridge. It is nominated for its significance in the areas of transportation, commerce, and social history, and it has the potential to yield additional important information related to trail ranches and crossings.
The Coon Creek Crossing and Fort Larned Military Road Segment is 11/2 miles from Garfield in Pawnee County.
The Fort Larned Military Road meets the Wet Route of the Santa Fe Trail near this crossing of Coon Creek in Pawnee County, Kansas. The Wet Route, which followed the Arkansas River through this area, was actively used by trail travelers from 1821 to 1872.
The military road linked Fort Larned to the Wet Route from 1859 to 1867, allowing soldiers to aid and protect travelers. The site consists of a narrow piece of property adjacent to U.S. 56 at its crossing over Coon Creek with trail-era resources that include distinct cutdowns along the creek’s bank, a trail-related dugout, and two sections of trail swales.
It is nominated for its significance in the areas of transportation, commerce, and the military, and it has the potential to yield additional important information about trail crossings and early military activities in central Kansas.
Thirty nominations of properties along the Santa Fe Trail are being prepared as part of this project, which is led by Amanda Loughlin. Twelve nominations have been completed and considered by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review.
The Fort Larned National Historic Site (1966) and Ralph’s Ruts in Rice County (1995) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For information, access the websites;; and