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June 20, 2017

1836 Three Roads in the County - Two Indian Trails in Johnson County Missouri

An Indian trail which ran from Lexington to Warsaw provided the route for an important early road in the county. This early trail/road passed through Warrensburg at the corner of Gay Street and College and angled southeast through the county. The Lexington-Warsaw Road was essentially the same connecting the Missouri River and the Osage River. Existing segments of the old road were noted by Cockrell (1918:78), but none are known to exist today.

Another important trail was the Shawnee Trail which entered the county southeast of Chilhowee passing northwest through Rose Hill Township to Center Knob near Kingsville (Cockrell 1918:79). The old Clinton to Independence Road followed this trail. The Shawnee Trail was reportedly used by the Spanish passing through the area from Santa Fe to St. Louis and continued to be used for many years. The Indian Era map in Show Me Through the Years indicates an Indian trail passing along the north side of the Blackwater River and extending west toward the Independence area (Anonymous 1975:5). An additional Indian trail follows the east side of the Clear Fork from its juncture with the Blackwater south to its head water and then southwest joining the Warrensburg-Clinton trail (Anonymous 1975:5). Such old trails allowed early settlers to enter Johnson County.

A search for a centrally located county seat led the Johnson County settlers to choose a site on the Lexington-Clinton Road where a blacksmith named Martin Warren drew business. The town was platted in 1836 and named Warrensburg for the blacksmith. Steady growth followed, as did incorporation in 1835. A county road system began in 1836 with the Jefferson City-Independence Road as a top priority in 1837. This twenty-foot wide road was cleared of stumps taller than twelve inches and then maintained through mandatory county labor.

Origin of Trails and Roads. — Man follows the beaten track. As these words tell the story of much of our lives, they also tell the story of our early roads. Very early there were recognized lines of travel by the Indians between distant points. Their particular location is due to the interesting but not widely known fact. A man can travel from two to live miles on smooth, level ground easier than one mile on rough or steep ground. This is also true of most animals. And beyond doubt many of the Indian trails followed paths made by the buffalo and other wild animals, and for the reason given these usually followed the level ridges, crossed streams at the most accessible fords, passed from low land to high land by gradual grades and generally avoided difficult places of all kinds. And as the Indian followed in the track of wild animals so the white man followed the path of the Indian where there was one. Where there was none, he located his early roads on the same principle — the easiest way. It is interesting to note that later this principle was changed and modified for other reasons in the case of our dirt roads, but never in the case of the railroads, and the mighty engines and long trains still follow substantially the tracks of the buffalo and Indian. Indian Trails. — There appears to be reliable proof of two Indian trails in Johnson county. Mrs. Ben W. Grover. who moved to Warrensburg in 1844 and lived here till her death many years after the Civil War, remembered an Indian trail that passed close to their house, which stood within a few feet of the present Grover residence. Mr. W. E. Crissey was much interested in these trails and from Mrs. Grover and others secured much valuable information. The following interesting account is from Mr. Crissey direct. 
Probably very few know that an old Indian trail once traversed Johnson county. It ran from south to north in a northwesterly course, entering the county southeast of the city of Warrensburg, and passing through the city at Gay street near the Grover dwelling just east of Miller street, thence north toward Lexington on the Missouri river. This trail was from the Osage river at or near where the city of Warsaw now is, and following the line of least resistance avoiding difficult hills, marshy spots and bad fording places, made its way to Lexington, on bare trail with room for but one at a time. When in the dim and misty past the selection of this trail was made will remain a mystery locked in prehistoric silence. When the white man came he desired a roadway from Warsaw to Lexington. At that time Lafayette county extended south from the Missouri river to the Osage river, in shape a long ribbon. Part of it had been surveyed, but not all of it; there were no farm lines, no fence- rows to interfere and the old trail seeming to be well adapted for ease of travel, the state highway was located on the trail. A small part of this old road is at the west end of the farm owned by W. L. and P. A. Jones, about a mile southeast of Warrensburg. Other stretches of the road ran angling across tracts of land now enclosed and in cultivation. Two other well identified parts of this road and frequently traveled by Mr. Crissey many years ago are: First, the present public road from the southeast corner of section 18, township 46, range 25 north, east to the north line of the section and about one-fourth mile west of the northeast corner, and second, the present public road as it climbs around and up the hill by the old James M. Shepherd (now owned by T. J. Trapp) place, about one-fourth mile north of Warrensburg on the Lexington road, and we who now whirl over these bits of road are today following the path of the red man for no telling how many centuries before us. Another Indian trail was the Shawnee Indian trail in the southwest part of the county, and is described in the Johnson county history of 1881. Shawnee Mound in Henry county was one of the favorite Indian resting places. From this mound the trail passed by the old residence of Wilson D. Carpenter in Chilhowee township and thence northwest through Rose Hill township to Center Knob near Kingsville. The old Clinton and Independence road followed this trail, and for many years those who traveled it shared the hospitality of Wilson D. Carpenter. Early Roads. — Before there was any permanent settlement within the present borders of Johnson county, there was a recognized line of travel across the county from east to west although there was very little regular travel over this road as the line of main travel was farther north, along the river. (This north road extended from Old Franklin to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was known as the Santa Fe trail, and is well marked out today.) The first main-traveled roads connected the frontier settlements of Johnson county with the nearest trading points, grist mills and other places where the settlers made infrequent but necessary trips. At that time, of course, the section lines were not laid out and these roads were trails directly across the country following the straightest and easiest lines. First Public Roads. — The first public road established by law in the county was that running northwest "from Warrensburg to the Independence road." To us who are familiar with the square turns and the description of our roads by sectional lines, the order of court establishing this early road presents an interesting contrast. 
This is the order verbatim: "December, Monday, the 13th day, eighteen hundred and thirty-six. Jester Cocke, Joseph Cockrell, viewers appointed to lay out a road from Warrensburg in a Direction to Independence. The aforesaid viewers having been appointed at the October term of this court and having failed to make report at the last term of the court now comes at this day and makes the following report, to-wit : Beginning at Warrensburg, running down the ridge with the same road that now runs down. Crossing Post Oak at the upper crossing thence through the bottom running up a Point between a little lake and Post Oak, thence crossing Devil branch at same bottom woods, thence through the Perrari leaving the high point of Perrari East of Jack Houxes to the left thence Crossing Black Water below Wade's mill, thence the direct road to Jester Cocke, thence the direct road leading to Thomas Windsor's so far as to the divide leading by the right hand corner of McMin's field, thence intersect the Road leading from Columbus to Independence, the nearest rout & the Brushy Knobs. Joseph Cockrell, Jester Cocke, Viewers, which report being seen and examined by the court and approved of. Therefore, it is ordered that the said view as marked and laid out be opened twenty feet wide, cleaned of limbs and trees and be bridged as the law directs and from thenceforth be a public highway." (Book A, page 15.) At the same time two other roads were located, one from Honey Creek to Independence and the other from Warrensburg to Blackwater town (about a mile south of Columbus). (See book A, December 13, 1836.) The following are other early roads in the county: In 1836 there were three recognized highways leading from Warrensburg, one ran north to Lexington (following the Indian trail): another one south to Clinton, the county seat of Henry county, and the third to Jonesboro by way of Gallaher's mill. An early public road running east and west was established from Warrensburg to Bluff Spring in Kingsville township. Henry Colbern. the saddler, father of George Colbern, the early banker, traveled this road to Benjamin Longacre's tanyard. This road was discontinued in 1856. An old road, located about 1852 ran from Knob Noster to Independence through Grover and Simpson townships crossing Blackwater at the old Davis, or Kirkpatrick mill near what is now Valley City.
Stage Coaches. — One of the principal highways that became what was known as stage routes in the early days when the mail was carried by that means was the Georgetown-Lexington road. A mail route was established on this road in 1857. It ran through the northeastern corner of the county and served Bee Branch post office or what was later known as Dunksburg. The Jefferson City-Independence road was another recognized stage line. Stage lines also ran from Warrensburg to Lexington and from Warrensburg to Clinton. The regular schedule trips of the stage coach over these lines varied from daily to weekly. As the country through which these lines passed became more thickly settled the frequency of the regular mail delivery was increased. Johnson county depended altogether upon the stage coach for its mail delivery prior to the Civil War. .'Knd. even after the Pacific Railroad was built in 1865. many parts of the county continued to receive their mail through the medium of the old stage coach. But with the building of other railroads, after the completion of the Pacific, and the introduction of the rural delivery, the stage coach as a star route performer made its final bow and disappeared.

History of Johnson County
Link Indian Mounds in Johnson County

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