As one of the last acts of his presidency, James Monroe signed a bill on March 3, 1825 which provided $10,000 for surveying the road and $20,000 to treat with Indians for right-of-way. On March 16, Monroe’s successor, John Quincy Adams, appointed three commissioners to oversee the survey. One of those commissioners was George C. Sibley, formerly in charge of Fort Osage, a trading post operated by the U.S. Government east of present Kansas City. Sibley’s journal and diaries provide most of what is known about the survey.
The expedition departed Fort Osage on July 17, 1825 with 42 men including two slaves and seven wagons painted light blue. Surveying as they traveled, the party arrived at Council Grove in early August where they negotiated with the Osages for right-of-way through their lands on the 10th of that month. Six days later, they conducted a similar treaty with the Kanzas near present day McPherson, Kansas. By August 30th, the survey team passed Pawnee Roek and on August 31 arrived at Pawnee Fork. Sibley’s diary entry for August 31 and September 1 reads:
At half past 10 we reached the Pawnee fork, and camped on the bank a little below file fording place, at Some large Elm Trees, having measured from the last camp 6 M[ile}s & 56 Ch[ain]s. A heavy rain fell while we were on the road. The Creek appears to he too full now to venture to cross it with the Waggons; besides the hanks require some digging at the ford. Here we have a beautiful camping place & very fine range for the Horses.
The morning cloudy and cool. Mercury 68 at 8 o ‘Clock. The Pawnee River is here about 40 yards wide, banks pretty high, bottom sandy, Water at present Muddy. Timber Elm, Ash, Elder, Cotton Tree, Willow, and Grape Vines. Yesterday I turned off from the direct course and struck the Arkansas at mouth of this River and then coursed it up about a mile to the fording place near which we are now encamped, which is just at the foot of a high rocky Hill. The path leading up from the mouth to the ford passes between the Pawnee and some Cliffs of Soft Rock upon the smooth faces of which are cut the names of many Persons, who have at different times passed this way to and from New Mexico. Some Indian marks are also to be seen on these Rocks.rn
The site described by Sibley as "Cliffs of Soft Rock" is at the corner of Second and State Streets in Larned, Kansas. Much of the stone observed by Sibley has disappeared being quarried by early Larnedites for building material. Gone too are the many inscriptions and Indian marks of which Sibley wrote. Regardless, the site still retains its basic integrity. Undoubtedly, the location was the campsite of the survey team on August 31, 1825.
The property was purchased by the Cobb family in 1921; and two of the Cobb brothers, Leslie and Wesley lived out the balance of their lives making marked improvements to the site. Through their hard work and creativity, the old quarry site strewn with rubble and debris was transformed into a garden spot.
In 1995, the site was purchased by three Larned citizens who have proposed to restore the property to its pre-century appearance and preserve this little piece of real estate as Sibley’s Camp. rn