Six miles northwest, at the Vieux ford, the Oregon trail crossed the Vermillion river, curving north on its way west from the steamboat towns on the Missouri. Along its 2,000 miles of wilderness traveled explorers, trader, missionaries, soldiers, forty-niner and emigrants~the pioneers who brought civilization to the western half of the United States.
As early as 1819, Thomas Say, zoologist for Long's expedition, camped near the crossing. Fremont came in 1842 (guided by Kit Carson), and in 1846 the ill-fated Donner party. Beginning in 1853, after the establishment of Ft. Riley, the military road for Ft. Leavenworth followed the trail here, as did the stage line to Denver in 1859. Horace Greeley, a stage passenger, wrote in his New York Tribune of a meal at the crossing: "the landlady a half-breed ~ the dinner the hardest I ever paid half a dollar for."
The ford was named for Louis Vieux, a Pottawatomie chief who later operated a toll bridge, charging one dollar per outfit, His grave is east of the crossing. Nearby are the unmarked graves of 50 emigrants who died of cholera in 1849.
Marker text sent by Mike LeMasters, Wichita, KS
Visit the Home Page for Kansas
A service of the Kansas State Library