The Rawlinson-Terwilliger Home was the last house Santa Fe-bound freighters and travelers passed leaving Council Grove as late as 1863, and, conversely, being the first house they saw approaching from the west. The original route of the Santa Fe Trail angled northwesterly from the Last Chance Store, passing about 1 1/2 blocks north of the Rawlinson-Terwilliger Home. An alternate route, approximately following Main Street in front of the Home, was established during the Mexican War, in 1846, when the U.S. Army constructed some culverts west of town to create a short cut following Elm Creek to the Wilsey area.
The stone house was constructed in 1860-61 by Abraham and Mary Rawlinson, whose family occupied the property until it was sold to William Riley Terwilliger in 1870. From the front porch of the home, one could have watched the last wagon train pass through Council Grove in the fall of 1866. It was then that the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (renamed the Kansas Pacific Railway in 1869) reached Junction City. The next spring, Santa Fe freighters offloaded at the railhead and primarily followed the Fort Riley to Fort Larned military road to Ellsworth before turning south to access the Santa Fe Trail.
Census records show that Abraham Rawlinson was a carpenter in 1860, and a teamster in 1865. It is likely that at least some of his trips were over the Santa Fe Trail. There also were roads from Council Grove to Topeka, Fort Riley, and Fort Scott during that era. It is not known by whom he was employed, or whether he was self-employed. Circumstantial information suggests that he may have driven wagons between Council Grove and Augusta after Council Grove merchants William Shamleffer and Chester James founded Augusta in 1868 and supplied their Augusta store from their Council Grove store.
Terwilliger also had associations with the Santa Fe Trail although it has not yet been determined where his place of residence, or his place of business, was during that time. Terwilliger first obtained a tract of land in southwest Morris County in 1859, but he was operating a livery stable in Council Grove by 1860.
When Dick Yeager’s Missouri bushwhackers camped at Council Grove in May, 1863, with the intention to burn the town, Terwilliger was one of a handful of men who accompanied the Federal Marshal to the bushwhacker’s camp to arrest one of their number for attacking a Union soldier. Yeager’s gang had been plundering and burning houses along the Santa Fe Trail en route to Council Grove. After being talked out of burning Council Grove (by Council Grove merchant Malcolm Conn), Yeager and his bushwhackers proceeded to Diamond Springs, where they killed the storekeeper, wounded his wife, and burned their store to the ground.
Visitors to the home, which operates the Trail Days Café and Museum, are routinely informed of the original and alternate routes of the Santa Fe Trail past the home, and the end of the Trail era in 1866. Other information is given concerning the origins and history of the Trail, particularly in response to questions. Each month a short article is displayed on the dining tables of the Trail Days Café and Museum, which is operated in the Terwilliger Home by volunteers, as a fundraiser for the Historic Preservation Corporation. The articles are synopses of some person, place, or event in Council Grove history. A notebook contains copies of the more-than-60 articles displayed to date, more than one-third of which are related to the Santa Fe Trail. A number of artifacts and photographs related to the Trail also are on display.
History courtesy of Ken McClintock, local historian and Secretary of the Historic Preservation Corp.