After driving in traffic on Friday, we really wanted to take a route that would not be as heavily traveled as US 71 in western Missouri. We’ve traveled that route quite a few times in the past and it can be quite busy, with quite a bit of commercial traffic. From Joplin, we headed west on I 44. Just before we got to Oklahoma, the gps routed us into the southeast corner of Kansas and before long we were heading up the eastern edge of Kansas on US 69.
Much of the route we took was on roads that approximates the old military trail used by the Army to transport troops and supplies between the frontier forts. In 1836, President Andrew Jackson authorized $100,00 to build a military road from Fort Snelling in Minnesota to Fort Gibson in what is today Oklahoma. It was to be used for frontier defense and a patrol system, and, later for commerce.
About 30 miles north of Fort Scott, we came across another nice little rest stop. It’s just off US 69 about a quarter mile or so east on Highway 52, adjacent to the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge.
We ate lunch there and took a short walk.
There is an interesting little interpretive trail through an area with prairie grasses and wildflowers. Signs along the trail briefly describe some of the history of the area, from the times before the explorers and pioneers through the travelers of today.
In the 1850s, before the Civil War, the area we were driving through saw a lot of armed conflict. Pro and anti-slavery factions from the east had come to Kansas for the fight over whether Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. On May 19, 1858, pro-slavery forces came from Missouri and captured 11 free-state men, killing five of them in a ravine just to the northeast of the rest stop in what came to be known as the Marais des Cygnes Massacre.
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