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Smoky Hill Trail Association Archive

Identifier: FLSC-SmTHAA-05012017-Loan
The collection has the archival holdings of the Smoky Hill Trail Association, including meeting minutes of the board and various committees, correspondence, membership information, the newsletter “Overland Despatch”, maps and conference information. The materials belong to the Association, not Forsyth Library.


  • Existence: Majority of material found within 1855 - 2019


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers, with some materials restricted to members of the Association.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.


8.69 Linear Feet (7 boxes, 1 map case and 3 PVC tube map holders)


The Smoky Hill Trail Association was established in 2007 to preserve, promote and interpret the heritage of the Smoky Hill Trail which ran from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado beginning in 1859. The archives of the Association are located in Forsyth Library on the campus of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.

Biographical / Historical

Beginning in 1859, the Smoky Hill Trail ran from Atchison, Kansas, on the Missouri River, west to Denver, Colorado. It began as a route to the Colorado gold fields, both for parties of miners seeking their own way, and for individuals who took the stage coaches of the Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company. Later it was the main route of the Butterfield’s Overland Despatch stage and freighting line. The Trail had various branches, including along the Republican River, but primarily it followed the Smoky Hill River from Junction City, Kansas to the High Plains of Colorado and thence to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1863 what ultimately would be known as the Kansas Pacific Railroad began to build along the Trail. It reached Junction City in 1866 and arrive in Denver in 1870. Later in the 19th Century and on into the 20th and 21st centuries, highways followed the old route of the Trail, including U. S. Highway 40 and then Interstate 70. The Trail also witnessed confrontations between the U. S. Army and Plains Indians in the region, especially in the late 1860s. Settlers too followed the Trail, opening farms and ranches along its length in Kansas and Colorado.

The majority of the Association’s members are scattered along its length, from eastern Kansas to the Denver metropolitan area. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but share a love of the Trail, an admiration for men and women who traveled it and a loyalty to the towns and communities that sprang up along it. The Association is actively engaged in seeking National Historic Trail status for the Smoky Hill Trail, under the National Trails System Act. It also has, as an on-going project, the mapping and marking of the historic Trail. (From the Smoky Hill Trail Association Website – 5/1/2017)

Custodial History

This collection is held in temporary custody. Materials remain the sole property of the Smoky Hill Trail Association.

Related Materials

Dorman Lehman Collection Donna Malsom Library
Guide to the Smoky Hill Trail Association Archive
Patty Nicholas
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Fort Hays State University Special Collections Repository

502 South Campus Drive
Hays KS 67601 United States