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WaKeeney in Trego County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Traveling through the Smoky Valley

Smoky Hill Trail paves the way

 
 
Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
1. Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker
Inscription.  Beginning in 1858 with Pike's Peak Gold Rush, a Native American trail along the Smoky Hill River provided the shortest route through Kansas, though often not the safest. This "Smoky Hill Trail" became the path for the Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD), and later the railroad. Forts were established along the way to protect travelers and railroad workers. As cars became more common in the early 20th century, US Highway 40 and later Interstate 70 became the primary routes across the state. These modes of travel all contributed to the growth and development of the area.

From Trails to Tracks
The Butterfield Overland Despatch ran from Atchison to Denver, passing south of WaKeeney with several rest stations in the area. Though the Butterfield Overland Despatch only operated from 1865 to 1866, it proved the route's viability and traffic continued for years to come. In 1867, Native Americans attacked a wagon train carrying a threshing machine to the Mormons in Utah at Bluffton Station, today called Threshing Machine Canyon. They burned the machine, leaving only the shell of which pieces can still be seen at the Trego County
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Historical Society Museum. Today, limestone markers on the byway and wagon ruts are reminders of the Butterfield Overland Despatch's trail.

In 1863, the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, began building railroads west from Kansas City, reaching Hays four years later. Like the Butterfield Overland Despatch, the rail closely followed sections of the Smoky Hill Trail. WaKeeney had its own station on the line and many railroad workers returned to homestead in the area when the railroad was finished. Renamed Kansas Pacific Railway in 1869, rail passenger service continued along the "Smoky Hill Route" until 1971.

Victory of the Automobile
In the early days of the automobile, most people still used railroads for long-distance trips. However, the early 1910s saw the formation of "auto trails," beginning with the Lincoln Highway and National Old Trails Road. These were formed by associations who named routes on existing roads and collected dues from businesses and towns on the way. In return, the association published guides, promoted the "good roads" cause, and touted their route's development and use on behalf of its cities and businesses.

The Golden Belt Highway from Kansas City to Denver was the first dirt highway across Kansas. Laid out in 1912, it ran through WaKeeney. In 1921, the Victory Highway Association was formed to connect
The Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker in front of the F15 fighter jet image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
2. The Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker in front of the F15 fighter jet
New York to San Francisco. In Kansas, it was built in 1925 on the former Golden Belt Highway and became the first east-west highway through Kansas to have a graveled surface. A year later, the route became US Highway 40 and one of the original east-west routes of the numbered US Highway system. In Kansas, US-40 split into a north and south route west of Manhattan. WaKeeney was on the south route, which retains the US-40 name. The highway prompted new businesses such as service stations, cafes, and motels to form in WaKeeney.

In 1956, the Interstate highway system largely replaced the US highway system for long distance travel. Opened in 1960, the stretch of 1-70 in Trego County was the first section completed in western Kansas. Today, 1-70 is the primary east-west transportation corridor in Kansas, and one of the major transportation corridors across the U.S.

Captions
Lower Left: A view of the wagon wheel ruts of the historic Smoky Hill Trail.
Lower Left: The Union Pacific station in Collyer.
Lower Center: A truck travels along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.
Middle Right : BOD Marker, 1865

 
Erected by Kansas Byways and Post Rock Scenic Byway.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans
The Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker is the right side marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, June 9, 2022
3. The Traveling through the Smoky Valley Marker is the right side marker
Railroads & StreetcarsRoads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1858.
 
Location. 39° 0.897′ N, 99° 53.116′ W. Marker is in WaKeeney, Kansas, in Trego County. Marker can be reached from South 1st Street, ¼ mile east of South Avenue. The marker is located in the eastern section of the Eisenhower Park by the F15 fighter jet display. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Wakeeney KS 67672, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stone Buildings (here, next to this marker); Settling the Western Smoky Valley (here, next to this marker); Victory Fire Bell (approx. ¾ mile away); Trego County Veterans Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away).
 
Also see . . .
1. Pike's Peak Gold Rush. Wikipedia (Submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 

2. Butterfield Overland Despatch. Wikipedia (Submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 29, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 127 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 29, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.

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Apr. 17, 2024