Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Little Piece of the Oregon Trail

On the way back from Wamego, we decided to take US 24 Highway to see if there was anything interesting . We knew that 24 Highway closely followed the path of the Union Pacific RR and that the RR traced the Oregon Trail. Taking it one step farther, the Oregon Trail followed the military trail that ran west to the string of forts that were established to protect the travelers heading west. The portion of the Oregon Trail that we were at was part of the military trail between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley in Kansas.
It turns out that there is still an "Old Oregon Trail Road" that is on the map. The road is nothing more than a gravel road but it is the real deal. One of the most interesting things we found along the road was the Vieux family cemetery. You can see the cemetery on the hill as Sigrid walks through the small park area. The entrance has an ugly steel gate erected by Pottawatomie County in 1908 (See the comments below about the gate. The gate was erected in the 1970's from steel originally used in a 1908 bridge.)

This historical marker is worth reading if you like history. It provides information about Louis Vieux who was the patriarch of the Vieux family in Kansas. Louis was part French and part Native American. His father, Jacques, lived in the first house built in Milwaukee on the "trail" between Greenbay and Chicago. Louis was one of 12 children of Jacques and Angelique. Angelique lived to be 99 years old..........amazing for the time.

Paul was one of Louis' brothers.

Mary was Louis' second wife. She died in child birth at age 27. Her twins also both died a few days later. Louis first wife was Sha Note (aka Charlotte). They had a bunch of kids before she died. Louis married a third time to "Mary L". It was a rough life.

I believe that Lewis was one of Louis' kids so Mary Zoie would be a granddaughter.

James was another one of Louis' brothers. Many of the original headstones are still there but hard to read. The County has put up new stones that should last longer.

I believe that Louisa was Louis' sister.

I believe that Madeline was Louis' daughter from his first marriage. I feel bad for Alex and Madeline Nadeau. They lost five kids between 1859 and 1868. I don't know the reason for the deaths but Cholera was a real problem in those days. They had outbreaks that would kill people by the hundreds. Some were local residents and some were on wagon trains heading west. I guess they didn't know much about bacteria in those days. Filling the water barrel upstream of the crossings where the horses and cattle pooped or boiling the water would have saved lots of lives.

They didn't all die is a 97 year old.

Part of the old stone stables near the river crossing.

They buried them where they fell when travelling across the country. There was no other choice. Travellers camped near Louis' river crossing to restock and rest a bit before moving on. It took two weeks to get here from Independence, Mo. Cholera caught up with lots of people while here. We were never able to actually go to the Cholera Cemetery.........that gate was closed and it appeared to be private property.

Lots of good stuff on the marker. If you are wanting to read it, double click on it and magnify it to read the fine print.

The remains of the Elm tree above are described on the marker. It was once the largest in the country until Dutch Elm Disease and vandals did it in. It was planted as a seedling in 1716.
The wind mill below is about the only old fashioned version we have seen still in operation. You often see towers with no blades or other mechanical problems, but not this one.

Painted Silo on a Western Resources (local Electric Utility) provided Oregon Trail Park.

An old home in St Mary's, Kansas where to gravel trail came into town.

Too bad it wasn't a prettier day.


  1. Great Pix and info on the Vieux site. The "ugly steel gate" to the cemetery was manufactured by Pottawatomie Co in the 70's. The old steel bridge was replaced with a new Concrete structure and some of the Steel was "re-purposed" into the present Gateway. The old elm was a thing of beauty until Mother Nature and vandals did it in.
    John T. Wamego, Ks

  2. Thanks for the info on the cemetery gate and the picnic bench at the park. I guess it makes a little more sense now. It was probably as good an idea as anyone had for saving parts of the historical bridge. I couldn't imagine anyone starting from scratch and coming up with a gate like that. My first thought was that someone in the community owned an steel fabrication plant and had political connections that got the project directed his way. That happened years ago in Kansas City when Brush Creek was built. they paved the creek with concrete bought from Tom Pendergast, the most powerful politican/crook in the city.

    My wife now tells me that there was a sign on the gate explaining where the materials came from. I guess I missed it. I have to go back and look at the photos now to see if I captured the sign by accident.

    Thanks for your comments.

  3. The cholera cemetary isn't private and there is no gate. We visited today and were confused about where it was when we discovered a little break in the fence about 3 feet left of that sign you posted a pic of. :) it was neat.

  4. Thanks for finding the entrance. We didn't get out of the car to look around like we should have done. I wish we had because now we will have to make another trip to complete the tour of the area. It sounds like it will be worth the drive.