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Families and friends attend Lost Spring monument relocation

Staff writer

More than 200 people attended the Friday relocation of the Old Lost Spring Station monument, 2½ miles west of Lost Springs.

After the monument was moved off its deteriorating base, Heath and Kevin Shields used picks and sledgehammers to open the time capsule, which was a square hole at the bottom of the old base. The hole was covered with a layer of wood, a metal plate, and two inches of concrete.

The Mason jars that had been placed in the hole were found broken into small pieces, and their contents destroyed, including the manuscript naming the more than 500 contributors to the monument. Only the lids were intact.

Other distinguishable items included arrowheads, parts of a chain, a gold pen, two unfired .38-calliber bullets, Indianhead pennies, and an 1896 coin.

Despite the disappointment, the relocation celebration was carried out with the same style and spirit as the July 4, 1908, dedication.

Members of the Virginia Shields family prepared the site. They are descendants of J.B. Shields, who purchased the site in 1902 and led the drive to erect the monument. They spent two weeks trimming trees and clearing brush at the spring.

Members of Cottonwood Chapter of Santa Fe Trail Association were on hand Friday to move the monument, monitor traffic and parking, and sign in guests.

Judging by the turnout, the historic event was a success, bringing together families and friends with connections to the area.

Joe Stuchlik of Newton is a grandson of Francis Stuchlik, who lives a half-mile from the Old Lost Spring. Joe recalled fishing in the creek and playing around the monument as a child.

Bob Bevans said his grandfather contributed a pair of cuff links to the time capsule.

Several descendants of Annanias and Inez Christner attended the relocation. The Christners have lived in the area since 1894. Sharon Drake of Winfield said all of the children of Annanias and Inez Christner contributed to the monument.

Veterinarian Robert Novak’s parents moved to the area in 1906. They contributed 50 cents to the monument and pictures to the time capsule. He lives a mile from the site.

The first Lost Springs commercial center was on land Novak now owns. He said remnants of a well remain near the site of the original post office.

A tractor and loader were used to transport the granite marker Friday from one side of 340th to the other and set it on a new foundation.

People brought items that will be placed in a new time capsule — a 42-inch-long, six-inch-diameter PVC pipe capped at both ends —and installed in the new foundation at a later date. Schmidt said it may be installed July 4, 2010.

Relocation of the monument will result in easier access to the historic spring and will provide a convenient stopping place for travelers following the Santa Fe Trail.

The association plans to erect historic interpretive plaques at the site, similar to those at Cottonwood Crossing west of Durham.

A brief history of the Santa Fe Trail

Steve Schmidt, director of Cottonwood Crossing Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, gave a history of the trail at the relocation Friday of the monument erected July 4, 1908, at the Lost Spring Station site by Old Settlers of Marion County and Lost Springs area residents.

Mexico opened trade with the U.S. in 1821, after it overthrew the Spaniards. Commercial traffic on the Santa Fe Trail increased rapidly.

“The Santa Fe Trail was the international highway of the 1800s, comparable to the Alaskan Highway,” Schmidt said. “It became a link in the global economy.”

Mules purchased in Mexico were brought to Missouri and sold to work on southern plantations that produced cotton. The cotton was sent to England, where it was made into goods transported back to the U.S., some of which were sent to Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail or by ocean.

After the U.S. acquired New Mexico in 1846, the trail was used heavily by the U.S. government as a means of providing various army outposts with troops and supplies.

George Smith established a “road ranch” near what was known as the “lost spring,” so-called because it failed to flow at times.

In 1850, regular mail service began, and by the mid-1860s, at least 5,000 wagons a year traveled the trail.

Jack Costello, a newly discharged 19 or 20-year-old soldier, won the station in a poker game. He completed the station and bought the surrounding 160 acres. The deed is recorded at the Marion County Courthouse.

Mail wagons stopped at the station to exchange horses, but it was not a post office.

A commercial center named Lost Springs (there were several springs in the area) developed a mile east of the lost spring.
The first Lost Springs post office operated there from 1861 to 1864, after which the town moved to its present location to be near a new rail line.

The trail operated through present-day Marion County until 1866, when the railroad reached Junction City.

“Almost overnight, the traffic vanished,” Schmidt said.

It was the end of an era.

After traffic on the trail slowed to a trickle, Costello and a partner, Thomas Wise, continued to run the hotel and station. In 1868, Costello sold the station to Wise, moved to Marion Centre, and became the town’s first mayor.

Last modified July 8, 2009

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