Santa Fe Trail segment nominated for national register

Ed Miller of Marion ate breakfast at stop before being killed on trail

Steve and Glenda Schmidt of McPherson are owners of a segment of the Santa Fe Trail in Lehigh Township that has been nominated to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

French Frank’s Santa Fe Trail Segment is located in the southeast quarter of Section 4, Township 19, Range 1. It is 6 miles southwest of Cottonwood Crossing and 4 miles north of Lehigh on 245th Road. A granite stone installed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1906 marks the trail.

French immigrants Claude Francis Laloge and Peter Martin established a road ranch there in 1861, which was like a modern-day convenience store. According to Schmidt, Laloge filed a claim on the property in January 1863, the first to be made in Marion County after the passage of the 1862 Homestead Act.

The station became known as French Frank’s, and the nearby creek was named French Creek. The creek winds its way intermittently south and east and drains into Marion Reservoir at French Creek Cove northeast of Hillsboro.

The property includes five sets of two parallel ruts running from the northeast to the southwest. They were created by wagons, horses, mules, cattle, and people as they traveled from Missouri to Santa Fe, N.M.

The property also includes several seepy depressions in an area of flatland downstream from where the trail crossed the creek. They were used by trail travelers to water their livestock. They are dry right now due to the drought, Schmidt said.

On June 20, 1864, 18-year-old Ed Miller of Marion stopped for breakfast at French Frank’s, and then headed west. He happened upon a group of American Indians who chased him down and killed him. A search party from Marion set out from French Frank’s on June 23, 1864, to look for him. They found his body and buried him beside the trail near where they found him. A monument marks his grave.

After an encounter with belligerent Kiowa Indians in 1865, Laloge and Martin sold the station and moved to a French settlement in the Cedar Creek area of Chase County. George F. Russell purchased the station and paid $25 for a 6-month shop license in July 1866, according to Marion County Commission records. Travel along the trail waned after the railroad arrived at Junction City that year.

The Schmidts bought the French Frank’s site in 2000 for its historical value. They spent the following years learning more about its history. As part of their ongoing research, they went to Florence in 2004 and found Laloge’s grave in Mount Calvary Cemetery.

The French Frank’s segment of the Santa Fe Trail is one of 12 trail sites in Kansas that were nominated to the national register by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review.

Schmidt said the National Park Service initiated the process of locating sites along the trail for listing in a multiple-property document in the National Register. He said he provided information to employees of the Kansas State Historical Society who researched the property.

The Schmidts are pleased to know their property may soon be on the National Register. Schmidt is president of the Cottonwood Crossing Chapter of the Kansas Santa Fe Trail Association.

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