About the Solomon Valley
The Solomon Valley is full of fascinating cultural treasures to explore. Where else can you find the World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City), the only Black settlement west of the Mississippi (Nicodemus, and an 1880s working sheep ranch (Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site at Studley)
Known for world class pheasant hunting, the area also provides outstanding opportunities to hunt other upland game, deer, turkey, and waterfowl. Webster and Glen Elder Reservoirs, along with other smaller lakes and farm ponds, provide excellent fishing opportunities.
Whether your interests lie in history, genealogy, architecture, shopping, outdoor sports, or just the opportunity to see Kansas at its best, travel the Solomon Valley and learn the Stories of Land of Man of Nature.
Discover the History of the Solomon Valley
-- Read an Excerpt Following the Poem Below --
A Brief History of the Solomon Valley
...an excerpt from: Weaving the Common Threads of the Solomon Valley Fabric -- a project of the Solomon Valley/Highway 24 Heritage Alliance, in association with the Kansas Humanities Council through a Heritage Program Grant.
Both forks of the Solomon River have their headwaters in far western Kansas. The South Fork Solomon River rises in eastern Sherman County. It becomes a permanently flowing stream near Tasco in what is now Sheridan County and flows east a total of 208 miles before merging with the North Fork Solomon River, which forms in Thomas County and after 218 miles reaches the junction with the South Fork. The two rivers combine to form the Solomon River, which flows east and then southeast for approximately 70 miles before its final confluence with the Smoky Hill River in Saline County, Kansas.
The Indians knew the Solomon River as the Nepaholla, meaning "Water on the Hill"–a reference to the legendary Waconda Spring located in the river valley. In 1683 Marquette explored the Solomon Valley area and mentioned it in his journals. Etienne Veniard deBourgmond visited the area in 1712 and claimed it for France. In 1744 the French explored the river and wrote the first detailed report on the valley. They named the river in honor of the French Intendent of the Louisiana Territory, Salmon; later the name was corrupted to Solomon. As a result of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the area went from French to American control and by 1861 became a part of the state of Kansas.
The valley of the Solomon River and its two forks provided an important water source for inhabitants and wildlife. The vegetation and rolling hills adjoining the river were excellent habitat for wildlife and livestock. The Indians, no doubt, valued the water source as much, or more, as we do today. Regarded as one of the prime hunting grounds in the central plains region, the Solomon River valley was visited by many tribes. The Pawnee, Delaware, Pottawatomie, Cheyenne, Kansas, Osage, Arapahoe, Kiowa, and Sioux all camped along the river (sometimes friendly to each other, and sometimes not) and trapped otter and beaver while hunting for deer, elk, antelope, bear, and buffalo.
In October 1806, explorer Lieutenant Zebulon Pike of the United States Army camped on the North Fork Solomon River two miles west of what is now the city of Downs. Pike coined the phrase "the Great American Desert" for the Great Plains that became popular and unfairly hampered settlement of this region for decades. When the settling of the Solomon River valley area began at last in the 1850s people followed the river west. The first non-Indian men in the area were hunters and trappers. The streams flowed high and swift, providing the homesteaders water for families, animals and crops to be grown. Fish also provided a good source of food.
The first settlers dug or found caves next to the river and enclosed them. They were the hunters as well as settlers. Later the homesteaders sought a place close to water. The later immigrants were homesteaders and the river helped them survive. Since the river provided food and water, they planted trees for shade and wood. The area along the river provided grass and water for their livestock and later for gardens and crops. Eventually this resulted in some irrigation of crops from the rivers.
Beginning in the 1860s enough settlers were claiming homesteads that, one by one, towns were being founded during the westward expansion up the valley.
---Compiled by Von Rothenberger, Project Facilitator
© Copyright 2002 Solomon Valley/Highway 24 Heritage Alliance