Crossing the prairie, photo by W.D. Harper
Traveling over the prairie without a
road, save a dim wagon track in the grass, through a county as yet unnamed
and over the divide between two nameless creeks, we were all watching to see
the Neosho timber.
-- John Van Gundy, Reminiscences of
Frontier Life on the Upper Neosho in 1855 and 1856
think this might be it?” I asked my husband, Jim, as we drove down Road M. We
were in search of the remnants of Columbia, a ghost
town documented in Daniel C. Fitzgerald’s Ghost Towns of Kansas: 6.
Other than the wooded area along the
which we were about to cross, we were surrounded by nothing but acres and acres
of farmland. But, if we had correctly interpreted the various descriptions from
early Lyon County residents, then we were about to
drive past the ghost of one of the county’s oldest towns.
mid-1800s, the only white residents in this part of the country were (supposed
to be) missionaries and government-licensed traders along the wagon trails. Lyon
County's earliest settlers were no different.
The first official U.S. citizen to find his way to the area was Charles
Withington, who in 1854 set up shop at what would become the town of Allen on
Santa Fe Trail,
which rolled through the northern portion of the county. The next major stop
along the trail was Council Grove, where an
entire government settlement of shops and services existed as a last stop for
travelers on their way to
The rest of the area’s inhabitants lived on the Kaw