64. French Frank’s Trail Segment, Rural Lehigh, Marion County

Tall, over grown grass covering rolling swales across the landscape under a blue sky.
Swales at French Frank's

At French Frank's, you can easily see remnants (swales/ruts) of the Santa Fe Trail. It was the location of reliable water at the Cottonwood Holes and the noon break stop ½-day's travel west of Cottonwood Creek crossing. It is the site where Susan Magoffin “nooned it on the prairie” July 27, 1846, and site of French Frank’s Road Ranch from 1861-66. 

The images below will help you locate the swales in the landscape.

Five sets of two parallel ruts or swales fan-out across this property as horses, mules, oxen, freight wagons, mail stages, and soldiers sought different places to cross French Creek 1821-1866. The creek is named after Claude Francis Laloge (1831-1899, commonly known as French Frank) because he was a Frenchman and was the first settler on the creek, having filed on January 5, 1863 the first Homestead Entry in Marion County under the 1862 Homestead Act. French Frank operated a road ranche (1860’s convenience store) here 1861-1866. He was elected Constable when Marion County was organized in 1865.

This is the site of the Cottonwood Holes, the first water west of the Cottonwood Creek Crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, the water appearing in holes along and adjacent to French Creek. Being a ½-day travel from Cottonwood Creek (6 miles) this site provided a convenient place for the mid-day break to water and graze the animals and for travelers to partake of the noon meal. Susan Magoffin, the pregnant 18 year old wife of Santa Fe trader Samuel Magoffin and the second white woman to travel the Santa Fe Trail, “nooned it on the prairie with little water and no wood” and took a short siesta in the shade of the carriage here June 27, 1846. This site is listed in Capt. Randolph Marcy’s 1859 The Prairie Traveler, Itinerary II: “Water Holes-Water generally; no wood.” This site possibly noted by Matt Field, in summarizing his travels of July 15, 1839: “Since we left the Cotton Wood [Creek] we have traveled 15 miles over the most desolate prairie we have yet seen – we met water now and then in holes – tasteless and warm.”

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Diagram showing how swales are formed with two covered wagons carving different depths into the ground.
How to see swales on the landscape
Historic photo of a man with a long beard wearing a shirt and jacket.
Claude Francis Laloge, AKA "French Frank"