A road trip to Sharon--Sharon, Kansas, that is
By Diane Rumrill-Hall
I came to the end of a very adventurous novel and the main character found himself in Sharon Springs, Kansas.
I Googled Sharon Springs, Kansas and low and behold, there really is such a place.
So the little I know about Kansas is that it is vast, dry and that's where Dorothy and her dog Toto called home.
I knew that there is an Ames, Iowa, named after a Congressman from Massachusetts and Syracuse, Kansas named for the city in New York but why would anything be named "springs" in dry old Kansas?
Well, it turns out that the Santa Fe and the Oregon trails went through Kansas, used first by the native peoples and then by the pioneers as they traveled westward, for the life giving water from the springs along those trails.
Looking at the map I found that Sharon Springs in Wallace County was not on either of those trails and again I wondered about the name.
In the late 1800's, the Kansas Pacific railroad was coming west and built a depot near Eagle Tail, Kansas. The Plains Indians used the springs there as healing waters and an entrepreneur from New York State saw an opportunity to create another spa like the one from his hometown of Sharon Springs, New York.
So, in 1887, Eagle Tail became Sharon Springs, Kansas and after some in fighting became the county seat of Wallace County.
Last month, I attended a friend's wedding in Copper Mountain, Colorado and as I made travel arrangements I realized that Sharon Springs, Kansas was four hours away so I planned a day trip after the wedding to go to Sharon Springs.
On the way east from Copper Mountain, I made a stop at Georgetown, Colorado and got a feel for the spirit of the people coming from the east to settle this area of our country.
Georgetown is a called the Silver Queen of the Rockies and there is a hotel tour there that shows the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit alive then in the last part of the 19th century.
This was the time of Louis Dupuy at his Hotel de Paris, the Kellogg sanitarium for health in Battle Creek, Michigan, the spa movement, already popular in Europe, this was a time the railroad was making the country smaller and people were finding the time to contemplate healthy living and a time when people saw the chance to make a fortune not just in gold or silver but in catering to the wealthy.
So taking I-70 east from Denver I came to Sharon Springs and went to the County Court house where Lillian Swartz in the registry of deeds office helped me try to find the name of the man from Sharon Springs, New York who was the driving force to change the name from Eagle Tail.
Reading the history, the name Sharon is Biblical from the Hebrew word meaning "plains," so it turns out to be very fitting indeed.
The history reads "the name was changed to Sharon Springs in 1886 when one of the town promoters was sure Eagle Tail had water with curative powers, which reminded him of his hometown Sharon Springs in Schoharie County, New York, where a health spa was located."
Try as I might I can't come up with the name of this "promoter" and neither could Lillian, no one can name this forward thinking fellow.
I wonder if anyone here knows?
Sharon Springs is very rural with a current population of a little over 700.
Our New York state rural communities are built with the buildings close together and that is the main difference with the west. The village was rural but there is so much space that it is flatter and spread out more.
But the people I talked to were friendly and interested that I came from New York and lived very close to Sharon Springs.
Once again I realize the magnitude of information I do not know and I now have a larger knowledge of the making of this country.
This was great fun and by the way, when I travel I bring reading material in the form of novels and now I know there is a Saratoga, Wyoming.
Sounds like another road trip.