In good conditions wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail could travel from 12 to 15 miles per day. Scouts rode ahead of the caravans looking for camping areas that could supply water for people and animals. They also tried to find an area that had grass for the oxen and horses to eat. In addition they needed a spot that would be easy to defend from Indian attack. One such campground was Lost Spring Site. This place was two days travel from Council Grove. This place was named Lost Spring because the spring occasionally dried up and disappeared.
Food along the trail could become scarce. Traders usually brought dried beans, coffee, hardtack, and jerky with them. They also would buy a food called pemmican from the traders at Council Grove. However, their diet usually lacked fresh fruits and vegetables. Because of this, travelers on the trail oft en developed a disease called scurvy. In the late 1840s, watercress and strawberry plants were planted around this spring by the U.S. Army. Travelers and soldiers were encouraged to eat these to keep them healthy.
By the 1840s, a monthly stagecoach service began from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe. The stages hauled mostly mail but could also carry up to nine passengers. Some rode in the stagecoach and a few on top with the driver and guards. The cost of the journey was $150. The trip to Santa Fe took as long as thirty days. The stagecoaches often ran day and night, stopping only to change horses, drivers, and provide the passengers with meals.
The need for stage stations that supplied extra horses, a place for drivers to stay, and food for the passengers led to settlers moving into the area. Eventually corrals, taverns, and blacksmith shops were built. By 1859, George Smith had built not only a stage station, but also a hotel and
tavern at the Lost Spring site.
At this site you will find a marker and a sign describing Lost Spring. You may go through the gate, but be sure to shut it. Once you enter the property, walk northwest to the actual spring.
See also Stop 67.