Kelley honored with trail award
Local historian Katharine Kelley, one of Baldwin City's most revered icons, made a little history of her own Saturday.
That's when a surprise presentation was made at the Baldwin City Public Library when the Missouri River Outfitters Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association announced her as the first recipient of the chapter's newly established Outstanding Achievement Award.
More than 35 people were on hand for the ceremony. After comments by Joe Simunac, treasurer of the Baldwin City Library Board, and Ross Marshall and John Atkinson of MRO, Kelley was presented with an engraved plaque. The inscription read "To Katharine Kelley in recognition of her longtime achievements in research, marking, promoting and preserving the Santa Fe Trail in Douglas County, Kansas."
Kelley became interested in the Santa Fe Trail in 1974, after her retirement from a 43-year teaching career. Since her retirement, she has become a well-known and highly respected expert in Santa Fe Trail history. One writer has claimed that this former fifth grade teacher knows just about everything there is to know about the Santa Fe Trail in Douglas County and beyond.
She has traveled the entire trail at least twice and has become good friends with and advisors to some of the giants in Santa Fe Trail research.
Along with her good friend Amelia Betts, Kelley refurbished and brought to public attention the seven red granite Santa Fe Trail markers placed in Douglas County in the first decade of the 20th century by the Daughters of the American Revolution. In addition to caring for the stone monuments, Kelley and Betts were responsible for marking additional trail sites in Douglas County.
"Kelley's efforts have helped others see the trail as an integral part of the history of their community," said Atkinson.
She continues to correspond with others studying the trail and writes an historical column, "Miss Kelley's Corner" for the newsletter of the Baldwin City Public Library. She spends from three to four hours a day at the library working on trail related matters.
Kelley is a charter member and life member of SFTA. She has assisted in DAR promotions of the trail and has donated her papers and books to the Baldwin City Public Library.
"Her research will enhance study of the trail for generations to come," said Atkinson. "Kelley's efforts will surely keep the trail alive. The Missouri River Outfitters Chapter salutes her lifetime of service."
Kathy Johnson, librarian and long-time friend of Kelley's, attended the ceremony and thought the trail society did a wonderful job in honoring her.
"I think so," said Johnson. "They did it just for her. One of them said there might not be another one to get the honor."