Our Big Trip Across the Western US - September 2015
The last place we drove by before leaving town was the Terwilliger Home, which was built in 1861 and was noted by emigrants to be the last Council Grove home they would see as they continued along the Santa Fe trail headed west. It has been used for many purposes over the years and is currently known as the Trail Day Café & Museum.
We headed south on Kansas 177, which is flanked on either side by miles of grassland. We had researched this area before leaving and our brochures confirmed that none of this grassland has ever been broken with a plow or cultivator; it is as it has been for over 10,000 years. The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve has a very nice visitor’s center that gives visitors all the details they will need to hike the many trails through this beautiful countryside.
The Stephen F. and Louisa M. (Barber) Jones house is part of the visitor center and is awe inspiring. As we entered the visitor’s center the three story stone barn set atop a hill above the road. It is reported that Jones was disappointed to find out after the fact that his massive barn was 2 foot shorter than the largest barn in Kansas. The Jones barn is 110’ X 60’.
The house itself is not nearly as massive as the barn but it includes everything you would want and need when settling the rough Kansas territory. From the backside of the house, our first close-up view of it, you can see the house and the smaller structure is the “curing house”. This was used for salting and pickling meat for storage and included a spring room below. This was perfect for cooler storage as it had cool spring water running through it from the ice house on the hill above. The raised concrete area behind the house covers a storm and root cellar. A sign indicates that Mrs. Jones “feared tornados” and every effort was made to offer a safe shelter.
And since this was an 1800’s house there was the need for an outhouse, but what an outhouse it was! The house is guarded by a very substantial native limestone fence that is similar to many in this area. The visitor’s center indicated that there are over 30 miles of this style fence in the preserve.
The front of the house is as spectacular as the rest of the place. We did not walk up to the house although there are guided tours earlier in the day.
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