Kanza Indian Mission

Council Grove Kansas

Council Grove, KS: Kanza (Kaw) Indians, Sante Fe Trail, Oldest Restaurant in Kansas
This month’s post takes us to Council Grove, Kansas. Council Grove is a rare city in KS in that there are multiple historic sites to be seen in this small town, population 2,111. For someone interested in history, this is great little town visit due to the number and breadth of the sites that can be visited.
Council Grove is approximately 2 hours southwest of Kansas City. The town was a key stop on the Sante Fe trail, it was the site of the Kaw Indian Mission and the Kaw Last chance Indian Store and the location of the Hays House, which is the oldest continuously operated tavern in Kansas. I only have so much room, but there are also other sites in town which make visiting Council Grove worth the drive. Make sure and check out the images to see some of the places that I visited but do not have room to talk about in this post.
Let’s start with the Sante Fe Trail. As a stop on the trail, this meant that people and businesses were established in town in the early 1800s. The Sante Fe Trail was in use from approximately 1820 through 1880 although the traffic was reduced as time progressed due to other forms of transportation. The trail eventually was eliminated after completion of the railroad which was a much more efficient way to moved people and goods to the southwest. I was surprised to learn that the Sante Fe Trail was primarily used to moved goods between Mexico and the civilized section of the United States.
The last chance store is just what it sounds like, it is store opened in 1857 by the Westport based, mercantile firm of Northrup & Chick. The purpose of the store was to provide goods to the travelers on the Sante Fe Trail. Over time the store was reportedly also used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The site is open to the public but you must arrange a tour through the Kaw mission visitor center. The video that is available to view in the Kaw Mission visitors center also provides information about the Last chance Store.
Hays House Restaurant and Tavern was established in 1857 by Seth Hays, who was Daniel Boone’s great-grandson. The Hays House is the oldest restaurant in Kansas. I went for lunch and the interior gives you the feel of the oldest restaurant. The food I had was great and I recommend stopping in for food or a drink when visiting Council Grove.
Moving on to the Kanza (Kaw) Indian tribe. I don’t have space to give you the entire history of the tribe, but I recommend looking at this site for a more complete history of the tribe. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/kanza-indians/ The Kanza tribe, smaller in numbers than the Pawnee or the Osage, were pushed to the west by the U.S. government during the 1800s. In 1846 the tribe ceded two million acres of their land to the U.S. Government in exchange for about 256,000 acres in the vicinity of Council Grove. Seems fair.
The Kanza tribe, which was said to be more warlike than either the Osage or the Pawnee, did not handle the relocation and thus dependence on the U.S. Government very well. During their time in Council Grove, they are said to have become dependent on liquor and their numbers deteriorated greatly over time. The legends of America website says that by the time the tribe was removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1872, the tribe was “perhaps the most degraded tribe in Kansas”.
The story of Kanza life on the reservation around Council Grove follows that of many of the Kansas tribes. A Mission was built with a purpose of educating the children of the tribe to the ways of the white man. The famous saying is that the purpose of these schools, led largely by the Methodist denomination, was to “kill the Indian save the man”. The Kaw mission now houses a free museum in which one can see very well-done exhibits and videos on the history of the tribe and the area around Council Grove.
Over the life of this blog, I have visited several small towns in the state of Kansas and historically I have to say this is one of the best. The town has embraced its history and made it easy for the visitor to see many interesting sites.
If you want to go I encourage you to visit https://www.councilgrove.com/visitors-guide and take a look at the map on page 40 of the visitors guide, which will show you a map with all the site included. Council Grove is well worth the drive.

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