Olathe in Johnson County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
For more than four decades, tens of thousands of travelers camped here. The Lone Elm campground was one or two nights out from the frontier "jumping off" points on the Missouri River. The great lone elm tree that gave this frontier campground its lasting name served as a landmark for this famous rendezvous point along the western trails.
The travelers were diverse. Some would become legendary, some were seeking profit by the freighting trade, some would succumb to hardships and tragedy, and some wanted the opportunity for free land and a new start in Oregon and California. The land could be harsh. Stream crossings were hazardous. Disease and infections were common. Cholera was feared; the microscopic bacterium would cause severe dehydration resulting frequently in death.
"This morning we buried John N. Collins, a private in Captain Turney's company. His grave is situated on the right hand of the road about 150 yards east of the 'Lone Elm' the only tree to be seen on the prairie for miles around..."
- Private Benjamin Wiley
July 14, 1847 excerpt from his journal during the Mexican
Courtesy of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
A bold and adventurous 14 year old runaway joined a caravan heading down the Santa Fe Trail in 1826. What must have been in his mind as his traveling party set up camp at Lone Elm? Did he understand that this early experience would begin defining his life? In 1842, John C. Fremont would hire him as the guide for his survey party to the Pacific. In 1846 this now famous frontiersman would guide General Stephen Kearny and his troops in the Mexican War. Described as an unassuming man with implacable courage...mountain man...scout...Indian agent...the 14 year old runaway who became a legend was Kit Carson
Traders, trappers and frontiersman would interact with emigrants and gold seekers. Because of the uncertainties of trail travel, the exchange of stories provided advice and comfort to those traveling for the first time. However, it could also provide a chilling premonition of things yet to be experienced.
"...We arrived at a camp called the Lone Elm, across the Missouri line. This place was thought to be the limit of civilization, at this camp we met some hunters returning with furs & they gave us some dried buffalo meat and told us that we had no idea of what we would suffer before we reached California. This prediction proved too true
- John Breen
14 year old John Breen, camped at Lone Elm in 1846 with the Donner-Reed party. Excerpt from his book Pioneer Memoirs (1877).
Erected by City of Olathe.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Exploration • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers • War, Mexican-American. In addition, it is included in the Oregon Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is July 14, 1847.
Location. 38° 49.347′ N, 94° 49.817′ W. Marker is in Olathe, Kansas, in Johnson County. Marker is about 50 feet SE of the picnic shelter in Lone Elm Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 21151 West 167th Street, Olathe KS 66062, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Trail Campground..To Farm..To Park (here, next to this marker); A Most Desirable Spot For Camping (here, next to this marker); Roads To The West (here, next to this marker); Lone Elm Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Trails West (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lone Elm CampgroundSanta Fe Trail (approx. 0.3 miles away); Elm Grove Campground (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Olathe.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Lone Elm Park. City of Olanthe entry (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Santa Fe National Historic Trail. (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Oregon-California Trails Association. (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Santa Fe Trail Association. Association website. (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
5. The Interactive Santa Fe Trail. (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 1,179 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 13, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 6, 7, 8. submitted on August 12, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.