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The Kansas Heritage server would like to thank Morris W. Werner for preparing this material.

THE COUNCIL BLUFFS/OLD FT. KEARNY ROAD A U. S. War Department map of 1834 shows a road from Ft. Leavenworth up the west side of the Missouri River to Ft. Calhoun in the vicinity of future Omaha. The road also served the Council Bluffs Indian Agency at Bellevue, NE, at the mouth of the Platte River, which is identified as "Old Council Bluffs" on some early maps. A Kansas survey of 1856 labels a portion of this route the "Old Ft. Kearny Road". Old Ft. Kearny was located at future Nebraska City in 1846.

In 1836 the Whitman-Spalding party followed this route from Ft. Leavenworth to the Otoe Agency and Moses Merrill's Otoe Mission of 1835, located near the mouth of the Platte River at Bellevue, NE. They purchased their outfit at Liberty, MO, and some of the party, including Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, planned to go by boat and meet the overland party at Bellevue. However, the steamboat they planned to take passed Liberty Landing without stopping, so they were forced to purchase additional equipment and follow the advance party. Their route was, no doubt, west to Barry on the boundary between Missouri and the Platte Purchase (consummated in 1836), and then northwest on the 1828 Military Road to Ft. Leavenworth.

Maj. Clifton Wharton's Expedition to the Pawnee Villages in 1844 and Col. S.W. Kearny's expedition of the following year followed this route, which they called the "Council Bluffs Trail". At a point approximately 2 m. beyond the crossing of Independence Creek they turned west to cross the divide to the Wolf River drainage.

Beyond Independence Creek there is no certain information as to the location of this trail. A study of the map suggests that it extended northwest to cross Wolf River at Wolf River Falls (future Hooper's Ford), and perhaps continued north to cross the Big Nemaha at the Old Pawnee Village (J.B. Roy's Trading Post & Ferry c1845). Reinforcing this theory is the statement of James Mason Hutchings in June 1849 which says he reached the Ft. Leavenworth Road" 9 miles west of the (Iowa, Sac & Fox) Indian Mission and fell in with Gen. J. Wilson and other army officers bound for California." This approximates the intersection of the St. Joseph Emigrant road with the Hooper's Ford road shown on the Kansas Territorial Surveys of 1857.

When the St. Joseph & Pottawatomie trail was established in 1849, it intersected the Council Bluffs trail southwest of present Bendena near St. Benedict church, and followed it south beyond the crossing of Independence Creek. The BLM Surveys record a portion of this trail north of St. Benedict, and pick it up again 2.5 m. east of Lancaster.

The Beginning of the West, Louise Barry, p.149 for Ft. Leav./Barry Military Rd. p.380 and 524 for Council Bluffs Trail.
The Prairie Log Books, Lt. J. Henry Carleton, for Wharton and Kearny's travels on the Council Bluffs Trail.

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