Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Coronado Monument

Have you ever wondered why there seems to be a random monument dedicated to Spanish Explorer Francisco de Coronado in the middle of Kansas? How about the fact that there is a park in Junction City with the same name as the monument? For those who have ever wondered why we have these items named after a Spanish explorer, this column will explain the long story of the Coronado influence in Geary County.

This past February marked the 475th anniversary of Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition to North America, and more specifically, Coronado’s trip into deep present-day Kansas. Coronado’s expedition crossed five states; Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It was estimated that the expedition included 36 men, including Coronado, and one woman. What drew Coronado to Kansas was the legend of the Native American Province of Quivera where inhabitants were rumored to possess gold and copper. Chieftains were believed to eat out of silver bowls and use utensils at every meal. These Native Americans were believed to have been the wealthiest in all of the New World. This is a legend that was almost too good to be true. This did not stop Coronado, as he took a chance and took his expedition into the new world, and tried looking for such a place.   

It turned out; it was too good to be true. Coronado reached, what is now present day central Kansas and was told by Quiviran Chief Taxarrax that the seven cities of gold did not physically exist. Instead it is a place that existed in mind and spirit. This was not good enough for Coronado, so he and his expedition returned to Mexico. The exact place of Coronado’s heartbreak is unknown. But for a few decades, Logan Grove here in Geary County was believed to have been Coronado’s final stop. In 1901, J.V. Brower, a researcher and amateur archeologist for the Minnesota Historical Society, and avid Coronado researcher was looking for the exact route the Spanish researcher took to get to Kansas. Brower had a very specific interest in the Coronado expedition and had spent some time across the United States looking for the exact trail Coronado and his expedition had traveled. While in Junction City, Brower asked the town’s people for information about the surrounding area or any information on the local Native American history. The citizens of Junction City directed Brower to Captain Robert Henderson and his land in Logan Grove.

Captain Robert Henderson obtained property at Logan Grove in 1857 when he received a land warrant signed by President Abraham Lincoln following the Civil War. Captain Henderson was awarded these lands by President Abraham Lincoln due to Henderson’s adventures in Texas. Fresh out of the Army, Captain Henderson was awarded the 106 acre plot just south of town. While building the first log cabin in Geary, the Henderson’s turned the newly acquired land into a family farm. With the daily tilling and toiling of the new soil along with the constant rain fall the Henderson home was turned into a treasure trove of Native American artifact. Items such as arrowheads, hatchets and skinning knifes would turn up on a daily basis.

The rain would later turn up old burned bones and pottery that made the Hendersons and Brower believe that Logan Grove was an old village at the site for the Quivira Indians. Brower believed Coronado ended his expedition at the site. Perhaps the most convincing evidence is the discovery of an old chief grave found on top of a hill on the Henderson farm. Although the chieftain was believed to have lived before the arrival of Coronado, this does signify that there was a stable and sedentary community around Logan Grove for years.  

Due to these developments, Brower believed that Logan Grove must have been the location where Coronado met with the Quivara American Indians, and where he turned back for Mexico. Because of this, Brower and the Henderson family decided to have a monument built to commemorate the discovery of the location of where Coronado and Chief Taxarrax met. The shaft of polished granite was mounted on two bases of native stone. This monument was officially unveiled in September of 1902 to a big crowd. On one side of the monument is the inscription “ERECTED FOR THE QUIVERA HISTORICAL SOCIETY BY ROBERT HENDERSON IN 1902.” The Quivara Historical society was created by Brower to explore and investigate the expeditions of the great explorers of the west and Northwest along the waters of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Unfortunately for Brower and Captain Henderson, it was later found out that the closer, more approximate location to this meeting ground was at the now aptly named, Coronado Heights near Lindborg, Kansas. This location is about 77 miles south of Logan Grove. There is no doubt that the Logan Grove cabin location was in fact an American Indian village, but perhaps not a location where Coronado had met with the Quivara Indian chief.

After these new developments surfaced, the ground at Logan Grove where sold off for recreational purposes in the late 1960s, the monument was moved to avoid damages. The Coronado Monument was moved to what is now Coronado Park in 1974 when the American Legion Post #45 presented this monument to Junction City. The Fort Riley Engineers moved it to Coronado Park in December of that year.

This picture portrays the original location of the Coronado monument next to the Henderson cabin at Logan Grove. You can now visit the monument at Coronado Park.