"This point is nearly a hundred and fifty
miles from Independence, and consists of a continuous stripe of
timber nearly half a mile in width, comprising the richest
varieties of trees; such as oak, walnut, ash, elm, hickory, etc.
and extending all along the valleys of a small stream known as
"Council Grove creek," the principal branch of the
from Commerce of the Prairies
A grove of trees along the
Cool Shade Under Canopy
". . . we stood at last beneath the sombre shadow of the old
trees. We rode on through the thick wood, enjoying the grateful
sensations occasioned by the transition from the burning heat of
the prairie to the cooling shade of the grove."
–Matt Field, 1839
For most travelers, the huge and abundant hardwood trees on the
east bank of the Neosho River meant shade, rest, and protection.
Over the years, Euro American "progress" and natural
forces have taken their toll on the grove. Today fewer than
twenty trees of the Santa Fe Trail-era grove survive.
was in this grove of hardwood trees
that on August 10, 1825, three United States commissioners led
by George C. Sibley met with chiefs of the big and little bands
of the Osage tribe.
Artist Charles Goslin
| The American and Indian leaders signed a
treaty granting Euro Americans safe passage along the Santa Fe
Trail in exchange for eight hundred dollars in trade goods. The
naming of the place derived from this encounter. Sibley wrote in
his journal: "I suggested naming the place ‘Council Grove’
which was agreed to, & Capt. Cooper directed to Select a
Suitable Tree, & to record this name in Strong and durable
characters–which was done . . ."
Twenty-one years later famous historian
Francis Parkman rode into Council Grove from the west. His
account reflects the usual bias in favor of trees:
". . . we saw before us the forests
and meadows of Council Grove. It seemed like a new sensation as
we rode beneath the resounding arches of these noble woods,–ash,
oak, elm, maple, and hickory, festooned with enormous
grape-vines purple with fruit. We rode out again with regret
into the broad light of the open prairie."
Today portions of the trunks of
three historic trees–Council Oak, Custer Elm, and Post Office
Oak--still stand in Council Grove. The Council Oak and
Elm have shelters protecting their sizable stumps. The 15-foot
high trunk of the Post Office Oak looms above the front entrance
of the Post Office Oak Museum operated by the Morris County
Historical Society. In 1995 the G.F.W.C. Philomathian Club
identified fifteen historic trees still living. The oldest of
the thirteen bur oaks marked by the Philomathian’s sprouted in
1694, the other twelve sprouted in the 1700s. The two identified
cottonwoods sprouted in 1803 and 1855.