Dates of operation
In July 1864, because of frequent Indian attacks in the area, Camp Dunlap was established 2 miles east of present-day Great Bend, Kansas, where the Santa Fe Trail crossed Walnut Creek. At first the camp was a series of tents and dugouts on the riverbank close to the Rath Ranch (trading post). However work immediately started on a more permanent facility about 100 yards from the dugouts and renamed Fort Zarah. In 1866 it was replaced by a second Fort Zarah built about 1/2 mile up river. Ft. Zarah was abandoned in 1869.
Place in history
Even though Fort Zarah had a short life, it saw its share of Indian fights and colorful characters including George Armstrong Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Mathewson, Buffalo Bill Cody, Kit Carson, and the great Indian chief Satank aka Sitting Bear.
Fort Zarah was established in 1864 by General Samuel R. Curtis and named for his son, Major H. Zarah Curtis who had been killed in the Baxter Springs, Kansas massacre, October 6, 1863. Major Curtis was one of 90 Union soldiers killed by Quantrill's Raiders who were disguised as Union soldiers.
A small town called Zarah grew up around Fort Zarah. At its peak, Zarah had a hotel, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, a general store, a post office, and several homes. Several thousand Texas cattle were wintered there. The town of Zarah is now a wheat field 3 miles east of Great Bend. The last citizen left Zarah in 1875 about 6 years after the fort was abandoned.
Ranch / trading post at Walnut Creek
Fort Zarah was established near a ranch (trading post) where the Santa Fe Trail crossed Walnut Creek. The ranch was established in 1855 and was known as the Allison/Boothe Ranch, the Peacock Ranch, the Rath Ranch, or the Douglas trading post, depending on who operated it. The ranch was destroyed by Indians in May 1868.
- Bernard Bryan Smyth, The Heart of the New Kansas, 1880, pp 82-88
- Two good lists of Indian attacks can be found in Ray Schulz, "Indian Depredations near Walnut Creek Crossing", Collections of Barton County Historical Society Vol II No IV, 1965 and Lawrence Hammer, "A History of Fort Zarah 1864-1869", Collections of Barton County Historical Society Vol. III No. 1. Spring 2004
- Ida Rath, The Rath Trail http://www.kancoll.org/books/rath/rath_ch07.htm
- George Root "Reminiscences of William Darnell", Kansas Historical Collection, XVII (1926-1928)
- Louise Barry, "The Ranch at the Walnut Creek Crossing" Kansas Historical Quarterly, 37 Summer 1971 121-147
- Henry Inman, Along the Old Trail, Tucker-Vernon Publisher, 1910 33
- Henry Inman, The Old Santa Fe Trail, Macmillan Co. 1897 408-409
- David Clapsaddle, "Satank, Bane of the Sana Fe Trail" Nov 2004 issue of Wagon Tracks
- Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Standard Publishing Company. p. 677.
- Bernard Bryan Smyth, op. cit. p. 88 also Henry Inman Along the Old Trail, p. 117 also “A Brief History of Zarah”, Tom Cooper, Collections of Barton County Historical Society Vol I No ll
- Barry, op. cit.