Traveler viewing the Cimarron National Grassland from Point of Rocks

In 1863, a 62-year-old Italian immigrant named Giovanni de Agostini (or João Maria D’Agostini), also known as Father Francesco, lived inside what is known as Hermit’s Cave in Council Grove. He then left with a Santa Fe Trail wagon train bound for New Mexico, walking the entire 550 miles to Las Vegas. There, he is said to have performed miraculous cures until retreating once again into a cave in the area.

This is one of many experiences preserved through historical markers and exhibits and helping to commemorate this year’s 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail. Agostini’s story is told on one of nearly 50 Santa Fe Trail wayside exhibits erected by the National Park Service in nine locations across Kansas. The signs feature drawings, pictures and quotes from travelers that tell about life on the Santa Fe Trail. The signs also point out features in the landscape along the route and discuss the clash of cultures during westward expansion.

One of seven signs near Gardner explains the apprehension emigrants from Missouri felt about leaving the United States as they entered unknown territories while Indian Nations living in those territories felt their lifestyles threatened as vast herds of big game, vegetation and other resources diminished.

Another exhibit identifies one of several Point of Rocks, this one located in the Cimarron National Grassland north of Elkhart. The cliff provided a lookout along the Cimarron Valley for both natives and traders and is still surrounded by prairie as it was during the trail era.

Each of the exhibits also can be viewed on the National Park Service website.

(505) 988-6098

More Articles You'll Enjoy

Black History Trail of Geary County

Mar 08, 2024

Jim Sands, President of the Black History Trail of Geary County / Photography by Nick Krug A county… Read More

Quindaro: A Great, Nearly Lost City of Free Peoples

Mar 07, 2024

Photography by Andrea LaRayne Etzel & Carter Gaskins Quindaro was an abolitionist frontier city… Read More

Historic Hotels in Kansas

Feb 02, 2024

Grand old lodgings in Kansas offer peek into the past Historic hotels offer more than a good… Read More

From the Archives: Remembering John Steuart Curry

Jan 15, 2024

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the winter of 1992 by Don Lambert… Read More

From the Archives: Birth of the Helicopter

Jan 08, 2024

Editor’s Note This article was originally featured in the winter issue of 1983 by Joan L… Read More