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His-touring Ellsworth County with the Cowboy

"His-touring" is a way to say that we toured historical places today! 

There is no better guide in the Smoky Hills than Cowboy Jim Gray and we got him for the full day!  We met at Orozco's restaurant in Kanopolis for breakfast and then headed out on the Legacy Trail.

ERV dropped us off at the new path to our first destination, Faris Caves.

It's pretty amazing to walk up to this sandstone bluff face and find man-made caves.  Because Annette White painstakingly cleaned out the filled in caves in the 1990s, we can now better imagine how they were used in the 1880s.

Along with the graffiti on the rocks, there are carvings that indicate that Native Americans lived or roamed in this area.

The caves were constructed by Charles Griffee in the 1880s.  In 1893, William and Winfield Faris purchased the land. 

The caves were used by the Faris family as a spring house, generator room and, for a short time, as a schoolhouse.  The effort to carve out the caves is visible.  You can even see the brick they added to the top of the arch.

Mushroom Rock State Park is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography.  From K-140, go 2 miles south on K-141 to Avenue K, then 2 miles west.

As it states so well in the Legacy Trail brochure, "the park is a geological phomenon of sandstone spheres balanced on softer pedestals of sandstone."  Travelers on the Smoky Hill Trail even came to view and play on them!

As you drive to Mushroom Rock State Park you may drive past Carneiro.  Practically a ghost town now, the town was established in 1882 by local sheep ranches as a shipping point on the Union Pacific Railroad.  Carneiro means "sheep fold" in Portugese.  Signs at each point on the Legacy Trail tell the story.

Before Scates Cemetery was here, the Thompson Creek settlement was home to those who made dugouts on Thompson Creek.  It's a colorful and involved story but in 1866 a newborn from one of the claims on the creek died and was buried on the hilltop, now known as Scates Cemetery.  Some of the Faris clan is buried here, too.

The stone on the left is in remembrance of all the pioneers that lived and died here.  Their names are listed.  On the right is a gravestone of the "Children of J.J. & S.S. Porter".  It reads like this "If at the dawn of the early morning, He shall call us one by one, When to the Lord we restore our talents, Will He answer thee well done."

This site isn't listed on the Legacy Trail so we were privileged to see something that sits beside K-14 but is known to few.

Imagine, over time, hundreds of thousands of buffalo spilling down this crevice to the creek below. You can even see the dew claws (behind the hoof) in the sandstone. Awesome to stand here.  You can almost feel the thunder of their presence.

The Legacy Trail has 27 historical sites on it and is designed to help you experience the history of the area.  A good place to pick up  the self-guided tour brochure and start the 80 mile tour is at the Kanopolis Lake Information Center.  Many of the roads are unpaved.  Jim Gray created this trail brochure in 1991 when he worked for the Corps of Engineers. 

We had a great day in Ellsworth County with The Cowboy.  Hey, you can learn more about the area and All of Old West Kansas by subscribing to his Kansas Cowboy publication!  

See you down the road, Marci


Pretty Boy Floyd's, fine (and fun) dining in Ellsworth

Ellsworth, Kansas
Facebook page
210 N. Douglas, Ellsworth
Thursday-Saturday 5-9 p.m.


Pretty Boy Floyd was a gangster in the 1930s.  And, the middle name of the man, Mark Roehrman, who is responsible for cleaning out this historic underground space and converting it into a restaurant is Floyd. 

It all feels a bit mysterious from the alley entrance... the downstairs entryway, the decor, the stone walls.  When we went, Josie had it all decorated for Halloween.

Check out the ceiling joists and the rugged bar made by Mark.

The back dining room is in the old underground bowling alley.  The other part of the dining room has booths and provides a more intimate setting.

The hand-cut rib-eye was served with a sweet potato, a side of stuffed crab, mixed vegetables, and herb butter that you just wanted to keep lathering on to the warm rolls.

Even the silverware was impressive -- heavy and monogrammed!

The chicken-fried steak is hand-battered and the white cheddar mashed potatoes were made from scratch.

The presentation of the chocolate lava cake made it even more tantalizing!

Laura made sure we had everything we needed for a terrific experience.  Mark and Josie, you've done a great job!

Hopefully you can go to Pretty Boy Floyd's soon!  KE #2, Marci

We're going to every town in the state to research for our next guidebook.  It will come out late in 2015 but we couldn't wait to share what we're finding!  We hope this blog will encourage you to get out on the road and explore Kansas!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

Our Group Adventure in Marion County!

Here's a YouTube Video about our adventure!

Thirty Kansas Explorer Club members embarked on a Group Adventure to see Marion County with new eyes!

The thirty came from Ulysses to Lenexa and Blue Rapids to Wichita, and one from Colorado!

Our first stop was an early lunch at the Main Street Cafe in Durham.  The baked sausage, mashed potatoes, and homemade pies helped us prepare for the hikes ahead!

Teresa had researched our day and made all the plans.  With Woody driving the Marion County Tourism bus and Jerry explaining the geography, we were in good shape.

Elm Springs, a historic watering hole along the Santa Fe Trail, was our first stop.

It had a nice waterfall in a drop in the creek.  Some couldn't resist standing behind the waterfall!

On the ridge was a good view of the prairie below.  It was easy to imagine this as a great observation point for travelers.

Time to leave the first stop.

One of the most eastern Dakota sandstone areas in the state was next.

Jerry explained the geology of Sand Canyon to us before we spread out to explore the area.

Next up was another pasture special, Sterling Rock.  None of the places we went are accessible to the public, which is what makes it an Explorer Adventure.

Pictures just can't capture the vast expanse of these flint climbing rocks.  The rocks were like an amusement park!  We played -- and some found space for quiet time, too.

Miller Springs was the final stop.

Earlier in the year, water had been gushing out of this spring.  But now, even at the height of the drought, it was impressive to see any water cascading over the rock.

Pat Sauble had a captive audience as he shared his knowledge of the area.

We re-nourished ourselves at The Corral at the Mercantile in Florence.  The food was mighty fine and a perfect place to wrap up our day.

What a great day we had.  We played well together.

We exalted in the glory of the day.

And we all left even more in love with our state.


Black Wolf, now a spot in the road in Ellsworth County

When you come across a big lonely grain elevator, it's likely there once was some sort of settlement on the site as well.

Black Wolf, an unincorporated town, was a station on the Union Pacific Railroad, seven miles west of Ellsworth.  In 1910 it had a population of 100.

According to one source, the settlement was named after Black Wolf, an Indian chief whose tribe had a camp on Cow Creek, north of town.  He was a "peaceful sort of fellow and was well-liked until hostile Indians raised the camp and drove them from the spot."

In 1999, the Black Wolf Barn and Dance Hall was moved to a residential home near Ellsworth.

Learn more about Black Wolf.

Just south of the grain elevator is a bridge over Cow Creek.  Look closely and you'll see a plaque affixed to the railing on the right of the picture.

The plaque states that the Federal Emergency of Public Works built this bridge in 1930.  My guess is that there was a major flood prior to the construction of this bridge.  The historic plaque also shows a list of the bridge engineers and county commissioners at the time. 

There's always something to find!  See you down the road, Marci

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Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


Welcome to Lorraine

Lorraine, Kansas

Lorraine, population 138, is located in Ellsworth County.  A drive down Main Street will take you to this nice welcome area.

Just up the street from the welcome sign is a tasteful area of grasses and flowers.

We were taking pictures of the grasses when city clerk Mike Boyer came across the street to greet us.  He had seen ERV... 

Volunteer fire departments are one of the great stories of rural Kansas.  This modest fire department is vital to the Lorraine and the surrounding area. 

The sign is a memorial to Larry Suiter.

Two main businesses in town are the Lorraine State Bank and Lorraine Grain, Fuel and Stock Company located near the grain elevator.

The handsome brick First Baptist Church stands at Franklin and Wichita streets.

The abandoned school at the edge of town is a stark reminder of days gone by.

"ERV"ing in Lorraine was a pleasure.  Exploring is about appreciating a town for what it is as opposed to judging it for what it isn't.  You can bet that every small town, like Lorraine, is fighting to stay alive.

See you down the road, Marci

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Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.