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Historic springs dot county, bubble up with memories

Staff writer

Natural springs were a key factor in Marion County’s early settlements and offer plenty of historical and ecological value. But for their owners, they often also hold emotional value.

Six major springs in the county are Lee, City, Coyne, Robinson, Elm, and the Lost Spring.

Flooding and human intervention have destroyed some historical streams, including the original spring in Marion’s Central Park. A man-made facsimile was restored in 2001 in memory of former mayor Charles Brooker.

Jackie Hett has owned Robinson Spring for 60 years. It initially provided running water mainly for cattle, but now her grandchildren enjoy it as well.

“The grandchildren love to go down to the creek and hunt turtles and frogs,” Hett said. “They just play down there.”

A picnic area is downhill from where a family of settlers lived.

“It was their water that they used all the time,” Hett said. “It’s been a real joy to have that kind of water.”

Glen Shields owned Lost Spring until he passed it to his daughter, Anita Clausing, as his mother did for him, his father before her, his grandfather before him, and his great-grandfather, J. D. Shields, before him.

Before Glenn Shields’ family gained the springs in 1902, they were gambled away by George Smith in a card game before he moved to Marion and became mayor in 1868. It adds a double meaning to the name of the spring, which was initially christened as “Lost” for its trait of vanishing in the early days of the Santa Fe Trail.

“The springs haven’t vanished in our lifetime,” Shields reported. “I don’t know how it’s changed over the years, but it’s always been running in the most recent years.”

Shields reported that the spring has moved downstream a few hundred yards.

Like with Robinson Spring, Lost Spring is used to water pasture cattle. A historic stop on the Santa Fe Trail, it became more popular with visitors after Shields’ mother gave the county an easement.

“When we drive out there to check on the farmland, it’s not uncommon to find someone parked there looking at the signage,” Shields said. “The Santa Fe Trail Association maintains the easement on the grass around there and around the sign, so it’s a nice stopping place for people.”

When the easement was established in 2004, the Shieldses moved a monument created by J. D. Shields to the other side of the river for easier access. They discovered a time capsule in the process.

“There wasn’t much left of it, so we created a new time capsule, and it’s now under the new monument,” Shields said. “The Santa Fe had some commemoration and so forth. We had cavalry from Fort Riley come down.”

Last modified June 30, 2021

 

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