PAWNEE ROCK — A new sign pointing the way to Pawnee Rock Historic Site arrived Wednesday from the State of Kansas and was set in place at the intersection of K-56 and Main Street, Pawnee Rock, Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Earlier this year, the city of Pawnee Rock was contacted by the Santa Fe Trail Association, inquiring if the city would accept the gift of the sign, Pawnee Rock Mayor Linda McCowan said. They asked only the city provide the labor to install the sign once it arrived.
Joanne VanCoevern with the Santa Fe Trail Association told the Great Bend Tribune Tuesday that the sign is one of many identical signs being posted along the 950-mile trail in partnership with the National Park Service. It’s part of the legislation enacted in 1987 designating the Santa Fe Trail as a National Historic Trail. Since then, local SFTA chapters have taken on the task of securing permission, purchasing and arranging the placement of the way-finding signs from Franklin, Mo. to Santa Fe, N.M. While many sections are now complete, attention is now on the stretch between Ellinwood and Dodge City, she said.
In Ellinwood, a local tour with signage directing travelers to specific points has been created, VanCoevern said. In Larned, another sign is located near Fort Larned providing direction to where ruts can be viewed formed by travelers along the trail during the height of its use for trade. That land was donated to Fort Larned National Historic Site by Paul Eikmaier, she said.
The SFTA will mark the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail in 2021. In September, 1821, trailblazer William Becknell led the first successful trade expedition to Santa Fe, N.M.
“Before then, the territory belonged to Mexico, which blocked trade with the United States in an effort to maintain a Spanish monopoly,” VanCoevern said.
The sandstone citadel that sits atop the Pawnee Rock monument marked the half-way point along the Santa Fe Trail. The monument itself is one of 16 state-owned historic sites administered by the Kansas Historical Society.