- Oasis on the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail was first surveyed in 1825, Diamond
Springs was called the Diamond of the Plains, and records of
Santa Fe traders who passed by Diamond Springs date back as early as 1821 when
William Becknell, called the "Father of the Santa Fe Trail,"
Indian paths and created a line of commerce
between the United States and the residents of Santa Fe, then
governed by Mexico.
The spring was first named Jones Spring by
George Sibley during the 1825 survey of the Santa Fe Trail
in honor of Ben Jones who discovered the welcome source of water. Two
years later, Sibley re-surveyed the trail, making a few corrections and
"This spring is very large, runs off boldly
among rocks, is perfectly accessible and furnished the greatest abundance
of most excellent, clear cold sweet water. It may be appropriately called
'The Diamond of the Plains,' and so I had it marked on an Elm tree which
grows near and overlaps it."
Though little is left of this once thriving settlement, it still
displays an old
sign welcoming visitors today. Kathy Weiser, September, 2009.
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Afterwards, it was known as Diamond Springs and
became a favorite stopping place for the many emigrants traveling along
the Santa Fe Trail.
Here, these hardy pioneers often rendezvoused to form larger caravans, as
the path to the southwest was vulnerable to Indian
attacks by the
A mail station was established at the spring
by the Waldo Hall Company in 1849.
The impressive station complex was comprised of two large stone buildings, one of which served as a hotel,
restaurant and saloon and the other, as a warehouse and store. A blacksmith
shop, large corrals that could hold hundreds of livestock, and several out-buildings were also situated at the site.
The pioneers were right to have been wary of
the trip beyond Diamond Springs. During the 1850's, this portion of the
trail was often called the "Journey of the Dead" because of the frequent
Indian attacks and short water supplies. A group of U.S. Dragoons encamped
just east of the springs in 1852, saw this first hand when they found
themselves surrounded by Indians, who nearly destroyed the camp by
starting a prairie fire nearby. Colonel Percival G. Lowe described the
attack as follows:
"Returning from a trip to the forts along the
border in the fall of 1852, nothing of special interest occurred until we
reached Diamond Springs. The weather had been frosty at night and the days
sunny, but the grass was dry as powder. All day we had seen little bands
of Indians a mile or two off the road, traveling in our direction and
watching us. this was the Kaw country and no other Indians were there. Of
course, the Kaw knew our troop and they had no love for it, but we were
slow to believe they would attack us.
We camped on the higher ground east of Diamond
Springs on the south side of the road. We had finished dinner, about two
hours before sunset, when fire broke out in a circle all around us not
more than a mile from camp. A stiff gale was blowing from the south, and
when we noticed it, the fire in the tall grass was roaring furiously and
the flames were leaping twenty feet high. Every man used a gunny sack or
saddle blanket and worked with desperate energy. The utter destruction of
the camp was imminent, and we faced the fire like men who had everything
at stake. Success was ours, but the battle left scars on nearly all. I
have never seen fifteen minutes of such desperate work followed by such
of the old stage station continue to stand in ruins, Kathy Weiser,
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Still, the pioneers continued to come, so much so, that
a post office named Diamond Springs was added in July, 1859
with George C. Newberry as the first postmaster.
on May 4, 1863, the stage station was attacked and robbed by Missouri Bushwhacker Dick Yeager, a Quantrill confederate. During the raid, the
station manager, Augustus Howell was killed and Mrs. Howell was severely
wounded. The renegades then set the station on fire and fled east. The
station was never rebuilt and was moved to Six Mile Creek, so named for
its distance from Diamond Springs. The spring;
however, continued to be a valuable water source and popular campsite as
long as the Santa Fe Trail
was active in this vicinity.
By this time, traffic on the Santa Fe Trail
was beginning to dwindle. In 1865,
Samuel A. Kingman, after
passing by the deserted station, recorded:
"We passed Diamond Springs. The remains of
three buildings of stone two stories high tell their story of violence. A
good monument for the builder. A small room used as dramshop is all that's
left fit for use save a large stone corral surrounding 5 or 6 acres with a
small supply of hay."
Some years later, another settlement was established at the
spring, also called Diamond Springs. A station along the
Strong City & Superior Division of the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad,
a post office opened in August, 1868. It became a minor shipping
point for the surrounding agricultural area and in 1910 it had a population of
27 people. The post office closed in 1930 and some time
later, the area was sold and utilized as a large ranch, which it continues as
today. The old townsite is marked only by a couple of private homes, a few stone
ruins, and an old cemetery.
The spring now rises in a concrete cistern and is piped
to a nearby concrete stock tank on the Diamond Spring Ranch.
It is designated by a marker, but is located on private land.
The site is accessed by taking U.S. Highway 56 west from
about 13.5 miles to the junction with Kansas Highway 149, turn south
about .5 miles. The site is at the crossing of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
The cemetery at Diamond Springs is still kept up and holds
both century-old and
new tombstones, Kathy Weiser, September, 2009.
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Diamond Springs Slideshow:
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