"A considerable party of People left this place this Morning, & to judge from appearances, left in some haste. We suppose they are Hunters from the nearest Spanish Settlements; and I think it probable have been hunting on the Semarone (Cimarron.) They may have taken alarm at our Party, & are hastening home in the supposition that they are pursued by Indians. This is all conjecture however. Upon some fragments of old Clothing which some of our People picked up, there were some body lice found; which circumstance confirmed us all in the belief that the camp had been occupied by Spaniards. We took the precaution to Pitch our Tents at a respectful distance from the old Camp. The Creek having no name, we now gave it the name Louse Camp Creek."
George Champlin Sibley, "The Road to Santa Fe."
A sketch of landmarks as seen from the northeast, probably in the vicinity of McNees Crossing. This was drawn by George Champlin Sibley in his journal when he surveyed the Santa Fe Trail between 1825-1827.
"Rabbit Ear Mountain," with antelope, as seen from the southwest, near "Round Mound."
Fancy and I with "Rabbit Ear Mountain" behind us. This photo was taken from the east of this famous monument.
Heading northeast from "Rabbit Ears," not far from what is now the Oklahoma border, travelers crossed the north Canadian River at McNees Crossing, a rocky stretch of river bed in what is mostly a sandy creek. Wagon travelers preferred to cross where the river beds were solid enough to support the weight of heavy trade wagons. As stated above, this crossing didn't have an official name in Sibley's time but in the fall of 1828, two young men, McNees and Monroe, were ambushed and shot by Indians as they napped ahead of their wagon train on the banks of the river (now known as Corrumpa Creek.) When their wagon train caught up with them, McNees was dead and was buried on the spot. Monroe, who was mortally wounded, was carried forty miles to the Cimarron where he died and was buried "according to the customs of the Prairies." Unfortunately, retaliations by white traders and friends of the slain young men, perpetrated on innocent Indians they encountered further down the trail, led to counter retaliations and so hostilities back and forth escalated for several years.
It was also at McNees Crossing that Josiah Gregg, a famous Santa Fe Trail trader and writer of the book "Commerce of the Prairies" celebrated July Fourth in 1831 in what was then Mexican Territory. It was also in the Rabbit Ear's vicinity that his party encountered a Mexican Cibolero, or buffalo hunter.
"These hardy devotees of the chase usually wear leathern trousers and jackets, and flat straw hats; while, swung upon the shoulder of each hangs his carcage or quiver of bow and arrows. The long handle of their lance being set in a case, and suspended by the side with a strap from the pommel of the saddle, leaves the point waving high over the head, with a tassel of gay pari-colored stuffs dangling at the tip of the scabbard. Their fusil, if they happen to have one, is suspended in like manner at the other side, with a stopper in the muzzle fantastically tasselled."
Josiah Gregg, "Commerce of the Prairies."
Fancy and I standing on the rise along the western bank of McNees Crossing.
Me standing on the rocky 'bottom' of McNees Crossing. The water is low after a very dry winter. (Photo taken in spring.)
Wagon ruts leading down to McNees Crossing from the east.
Historical marker near McNees Crossing.
Today, McNees Crossing is on private land and the owner is welcome to folks coming to visit this historical site. But PLEASE be sure to CLOSE THE GATE as you come and go. As you can see from one of the photos, there are cows grazing along the creek and so visitors should be vigilant about the safety of all livestock they encounter. For my book tour, I am just (for now) covering the New Mexico stops along the Santa Fe Trail. From McNees Crossing the trail would have continued northeast through Oklahoma and on into Kansas where it reunited with the other branch of the trail (the Mountain Branch) either at Chouteau's Island or at the Cimarron Crossing of the Arkansas River, not too far west of the famous Caches landmark of the Santa Fe Trail. Along the way, there would have been very little water, hence the Cimarron Cutoff route was often referred to as the Desert Route.
STAY TUNED TO MORE OF OUR SANTA FE TRAIL TRAVELS! NEXT TIME: Fancy and I will travel to various sites along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail.... this route is featured in my novel "Into the Shadowlands."