Winfield’s Main Street.
Courier, May 12, 1952.
How the old California Trail later became Winfield’s Main Street and why the town was located in the river bottom instead of on the surrounding hills is told as follows by Col. E. C. Manning, who established the first store here and from whom Manning Street is named:
Indians followed the buffalo from south to north and returned with travois loaded with robes and meat, traversed the Walnut Valley, many many years before white men ever appeared in this country, before Columbus sailed, no doubt. Coming up the river the trail crossed near the south bridge, where a good ford led across the bottom in the general direction of the west side of Island Park and crossed Timber Creek about at Graham’s ford. This trail was approximately along Main Street.
The big bend which the Walnut makes toward the west just south of Winfield made the distance by that way much longer. A branch of the trail, for that reason left the Walnut at Arkansas City and came across the highway by a more direct route. It came down to the Walnut by way of Limekiln canyon, crossing the river at Tunnel Mill ford, and joined the main trail in the south part of the townsite.
French traders and trappers found this trail here when they first penetrated the country. The days of ‘49 brought a fresh stream of pioneers along with it. In order to avoid the terrors of the Staked Plains and the Arizona desert, the gold seekers from Mississippi and Arkansas traveled this route to join the Old Santa Fe and Omaha trails further marked by the hoofs of the ponies and the dragging lodge poles, and the oxen and the wagons of the white men.
If I had set up my log store near Observatory Hill, few of those traveling the trail would have found me. Very quickly somebody would have set up a store on the townsite. The situation was nascent. A community was coming into existence. Its site might have been moved north or south along the trail, but not east or west. The best I could do was move the trail about a block east and make it due north and south, on the very gentle ridge from which the ground sloped both ways. This became Main Street.