Wednesday, July 07, 2010

#216: Nine Counties

Before they rebuilt that part of U.S. Highway 56, you used to be able to veer left and continue onto Ames Street, nowadays you have to turn left onto Washington Street. If you follow Ames Street all the way down you come to a locked gate. Crossing this gate was the first step in me becoming the pseudo-explorer I am. The road narrowed and basically became a trail that winded through the woods. It crossed a creek and lead to two small lakes where a camper was placed. I knew we were trespassing but being far out in the boonies, I figured no one would notice or care. We weren't doing anything wrong, just exploring.

Since that time, nine counties in Kansas have been added to my list of counties I know my way around pretty well. I cannot get lost in these counties no matter how hard I try (and I've tried in a couple of them). So what are my favorite places in each of these counties? I'm glad you asked.

Marshall County, Irving Townsite
Irving was small town along the Big Blue River just a couple miles southeast of Blue Rapids. It survived two tornadoes and an ever-changing country but the one thing it couldn't survive was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who demolished everything to build the Tuttle Creek Dam and the Tuttle Creek Reservoir. Foundations of buildings and the roads still remain, the reservoir has never made it to Irving. Irving is marked by a sort of gravestone where the post office used to stand and a mailbox where visitors can leave notes to other visitors.

Pottawatomie County, Louis Vieux/Oregon Trail Park
What was once the largest elm tree in Kansas is located in this small park. There's a lot going on in the general area of the elm tree park located three miles east of Louisville. Louis Vieux was part French and part Pottawatomie who ran a crossing along the Oregon Trail. Vieux was the namesake of nearby Louisville and Belvue and was well-respected among everybody. When Vieux died, he was buried in the Vieux Family Cemetery across the road from the elm tree. Nearby is a cemetery where 40 people died of cholera in 1849, only one gravestone remains and underneath the tree, now ravaged by weather, Dutch Elm disease and vandalism, lies the graves of seven unknown soldiers.

Jackson County
Oddly enough, even though Jackson County is on my list, I don't have a favorite spot. I have driven around it enough to know where things are and how to get there but I haven't actually explored it. One interesting spot is Hass Cemetery which is a cemetery very close to K-16 at the intersection with M Road.

Jefferson County, Medina Cemetery
This cemetery was neglected for about 70 years before the city of Perry decided to start cleaning it up. This small cemetery was the cemetery for the small town of Medina about one mile west of Perry, there is nothing special about this cemetery except that it is so peaceful and a place where dozens of children were buried after succumbing to a smallpox epidemic. There is still a lot of work to go to sufficiently clean up the cemetery but it's a lot better than it was. Only about five stones out of the more than 20 people buried there remain.

Wabaunsee County, Volland
Volland is a ghost town between Alma and Alta Vista on Old K-10 Road. Little remains of the town except a few houses and a couple of abandoned buildings, one of which is a general store. It was Volland where I was bombarded by hundreds of grasshoppers which was a lot scarier than it sounds. While Volland is just a pass-by ghost town, the two ruins in the town are pretty impressive.

Shawnee County, Uniontown

An early town in Kansas founded in about 1849, Uniontown was an Oregon Trail crossing and Indian pay station for the Pottawatomies who lived across the river. After a cholera scare, the town was abandoned and burned but was re-established a few years later but was abandoned again shortly thereafter and burned again by Indians who considered it "bad medicine". The townsite is marked by the Green Cemetery and the Green Nature Preserve so the area is well-preserved. The cemetery boasts such features as the mass grave of about 50 Pottawatomies and other people who died of cholera. The area is kind of a quiet, creepy place and one of the trails of the nature preserve leads into a dark area of the woods along Post Creek. It's definitely worth a tour.

Douglas County, Mound Cemetery
This quiet spot west of Clinton Lake and south of Stull is a personal favorite of mine mainly because of the isolation and the view. Started in 1880 as a small family cemetery, Mound Cemetery offers a view of Clinton Lake ten miles to the west. There's nothing all that special about this place, I just enjoy coming here and thinking.

Osage County, Michigan Valley

What little there is of Michigan Valley, I like to drive through. I seems like a nice town tucked away in the fields of Osage County near Pomona Lake. All that remains of Michigan Valley is the grain elevator, a few houses and a white church that may or may not still be in use.

Franklin County, Ottawa Indian Cemetery

This cemetery, located away from the road near Tauy Creek, was the location of the Ottawa Indian Mission originally headed by Jotham Meeker. After Meeker's death in 1855 the mission fell into disrepair but John T. "Tauy" Jones, who is also buried in this cemetery, would go on to help create Ottawa University. The cemetery was excavated in 1988 in order to find the location of the various buildings that were once located here.