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WEST OF HIAWATHA, KANSAS

Saturday, April 27, 1850

John App and Jake, now in Indian territory, camped tonight just west of today’s Hiawatha, Kansas. They are about halfway between St. Joseph, Missouri and today’s Marysville, Kansas. Why is Marysville an important landmark? There are several trails that are leading toward Ft. Kearny, Nebraska and the Independence Trail (coming from Independence, Missouri) and the St. Joseph Road (the one John is on) converge just west of Marysville at the Big Blue River. John and Jake will arrive there in a couple of days or so.

An interesting bit of history is coming up: Just south of Marysville along the Big Blue is a place called Alcove Springs. Four years earlier, in 1846, the Donner Party (led at the time by James Reed) traveled on the Independence Trail and camped at Alcove Springs. A few days before, they had caught up and joined the Bryant Party, and all of them were now delayed from May 26 through May 30, 1846 by high water on the Big Blue. It is here that the Donner Party suffered its first loss. Sarah Keyes, already in ill health and mother in law of James Reed, died and was buried along the Big Blue near Alcove Springs in a coffin made from a large cottonwood tree.

Alcove Springs got its name from Mr. Bryant, who was camped along with the Donners. He wrote in his diary for May 27, 1846:

“This afternoon, accompanied by several of the party, I strolled up the small branch, which I have previously mentioned as emptying into the river just above the ford. About three-fourths of a mile from our camp we found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. It gushed from a ledge of rocks, which composes the bank of the stream, and falling some ten feet, its waters are received into a basin fifteen feet in length, ten in breadth, and three or four in depth. A shelving rock projects over this basin, from which falls a beautiful cascade of water, some ten or twelve feet. The whole is buried in a variety of shrubbery of the richest verdure, and surrounded by small mound-shaped inequalities of the prairie. Altogether it is one of the most romantic spots I ever saw. … We named this the Alcove Spring; and future travelers will find the name graven on the rocks, and on the trunks of the trees surrounding it.”

It is interesting how places along the trail were named. John and Jake will pass Marysville about April 29, 1850… one month earlier than the Donners did four years earlier. It is evident that they were getting an early start on the traveling season.

Stopping Point: Just west of present day Hiawatha, Kansas
GPS Latitude: 39° 50.554′ N; Longitude: 95° 33.803′ W
Elevation: 1155 ft

we had the first stampede April 27 in the Evening when we were putting out the guard ther was a tremedous snorting and fuss among the mules and ___   all at once they Broke (they were staked out) pulling up their stakes snorted and a general rush for the wagons, a regular stampede, the fright was Caused by a wolf I suppose as ther was tracks of that Kind seen next moring, it Caused great alarm in the Camp and I about think ther was 2 guns Loaded at the time  But since, Every gun is Loaded and in order, so that we were Learned a good lesson and put on our guard, there is only 19 of us in Company-

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