8 Wonders of Kansas history

An 8 Wonder of Kansas History

Council Grove, Santa Fe Trail National Historic Landmark

Address: 207 E. Main, Council Grove, KS 66864
Phone: 620.767.5413
Website: tinyurl.com/n5ax3pk

Council Grove is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas History because it is a Santa Fe Trail National Historic Landmark town and is the site of a 1825 treaty that led to an intersection of cultures between Kaw Native Americans and Euro-Americans.

From 1821-1866, the Santa Fe Trail was known as America's first international superhighway of trade and commerce. Spanning 900 miles between Missouri and Mexico the trail brought together a cultural mosaic of individuals. In 1860 Seth Hays recorded 5,405 Mexican and Euro-American traders, 1,532 wagons and 17,282 mules, oxen and horses passed through Council Grove.

A self-guided tour brochure, available in most Council Grove shops, features 24 historic sites around town. Visitors will learn about an intersection of cultures between the Kanza (Kaw) tribe and Euro-Americans during the trail days through the tour or online. Kansas is named for the Kanza or Kaw tribe.


To the west of the U.S. 56 and K-177 intersection is the Guardian of the Grove Kaw statue. To the east is the Madonna of the Trail statue situated on one of the most important rendezvous points on the Santa Fe Trail. These two statues symbolize both cultural cooperation and collision.


On August 10, 1825, three U.S. Commissioners met with representatives of the Osage tribe under a large oak tree. A treaty was signed that gave Americans and Mexicans free passage along the Santa Fe Trail in exchange for $800. The Council Oak was part of a mile wide grove of trees that provided shelter and wood for wagon repairs on the Santa Fe Trail, thus the name Council Grove was carved into a large Bur Oak. A few days later a similar treaty was signed by the Kaw tribe.

Before the Council Oak blew down during a windstorm in 1958, the oak was approximately 70 feet high and measured 16 feet around. The remains can now be seen at 3rd and Main. Council Grove is a Tree City USA, a guide to the historic trees is available.


Completed by volunteers in 1998, the Neosho Riverwalk gives you a birdseye view of the historic Neosho River crossing. One of the most documented crossings on the Santa Fe Trail, caravans could cross this site in inclement weather because the river bed consisted of bedrock, not mud, as in other crossings along the Trail.

The lighted and landscaped ADA accessible Neosho Riverwalk connects the Madonna of the Trail, the Guardian of the Grove, and the Kaw Mission State Historic Site.


  • The Madonna of the Trail statue, located on the northeast side of U.S. 56 and K-177 junction, was dedicated by the DAR in 1928 to pioneer mothers of the covered wagon days. Sculpted by August Leimach, the statue is an amalgam of crushed granite, stone, marble, cement, and lead ore.
  • The Guardian of the Grove, an impressive bronze sculpture by Mark Sampsel, honors the Kaw tribe and serves as the anchor at the southeast side of the Neosho Riverwalk.
  • At Main and Chautauqua, the limestone 1857 Last Chance Store, was, for a brief time, the last opportunity for freighters to pick up supplies for their journey.
  • The Hays House was built by the town's founder, Seth Hays, as a trading post. In the early years the building was used as a tavern, mail distribution point, district court, a place for church services and the site for publication of an early newspaper. The Hays House 1857 Restaurant and Tavern was recently voted as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine.
  • In 1867, Hays built a private residence, The Seth Hays Home, where soon will stand a statue of Hays and adopted daughter Kitty. Located at Wood and Hall, Hays built this brick house in 1867 and lived here with his adopted daughter and his servant Sally Taylor.
  • The Terwilliger Home built in 1861, was the last house in Council Grove that the freighters passed as they proceeded west. It is now part of a complex that includes Trail Days Cafe, a log house, a one-room schoolhouse and unique tourist camp cabins. When the Terwilliger Home was being restored, a Kanza pictograph was discovered, the only publicly-known, surviving Kanza pictograph.
  • At the Post Office Oak and Museum, the oak tree, believed to have been 270 years old when it died in 1990, served as an unofficial post office. Travelers could leave messages in a cache in the base of the oak tree. The tree trunk stands next to the Post Office Oak Museum (just east of K-177 and Main Street), a stone building built in 1864 for use as a brewery.
  • Main Street of Council Grove is the actual path of the old Santa Fe Road where today you see the historic architecture of shops and restaurants.

In total, there are more than 24 historic sites you can explore on your own, many with signage by the National Park Service.

Source: Kaw Mission State Historic Site

Th historic Terwilliger House is part of a complex that includes Trail Days Cafe, a log house, a one-room schoolhouse and unique tourist camp cabins. Photo courtesy Shirley McClintock
Inside the Trail Days Cafe dining room. Here you can experience authentic historic food, including Roast Bison and Roast Elk. Photo Photo courtesy Shirley McClintock


Southeast of town is the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park. Located on the last Kaw reservation, you will see the monument to an unknown Kanza warrior, stabilized ruins of the Kaw Interpreter's house, and can hike the Kanza Heritage Trail walking trail. The Flint Hills Nature Trail connects Council Grove and Allegawaho Park along the old railroad bed. The park is 3.5 miles southwest of Council Grove.


Enlightened information about the history of Council Grove, including a virtual tour of Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, is available on the Kaw Mission State Historic Site web site.

A historic place to stay while visiting Council Grove is the Cottage House Hotel and Motel, 25 N. Neosho. 800.727.7903.