Coming auction of rural Baldwin City property drawing interest
A tract of land that has ties to the community's early history and that could play an important part in its future will be sold at auction Aug. 14.
As many in the community know from the many signs posted on fences at the site, the property is the 160-acre farm of Margaret Counts, who died in May. The property just outside the city limits stretches from Baldwin City’s northeast shoulder to Douglas County State Fishing Lake. It is bounded on the north by North 400 Road and bisected by North 375 Road. The entire property currently carries Douglas County agricultural zoning.
The Santa Fe Trail crossed the southern portion of the property, which is just north of the Palmyra townsite, the territorial days settlement from which Baldwin City sprung.
Coleman’s Dell can also be found on the property. That was the location of a supposed 1854 gunfight between a party of trail-traveling California gold rush prospectors and robbers intent on stealing a bag of gold one prospector was said the possess. The gunfight, which legend says claimed the lives of all the prospectors but one, Franklin Coleman, and many of the robbers, ended when Coleman brought down an overhanging limestone ledge under which he took refuge, burying himself, the gold and the last of the would-be thieves. Although the story and site became local legend, no trace of the bodies or gold has ever been found.
Whether there is a bag of long-lost treasurer waiting to be discovered somewhere in Coleman’s Dell, the property comes with those three things said to be of the highest value in real estate — location, location, location.
What makes the property of interest to the future of Baldwin City is the development potential of its western acreage, which is across Eisenhower Street from the Signal Ridge subdivision, the Baker University soccer complex and the Baldwin school district’s junior high and high school campus.
Catrina Duncan, marketing coordinator for Cates Auction of Kansas City, Mo., which is the firm handling the auction for the Margaret Counts Trust, said the property will be sold through a multi-parcel auction starting at 1 p.m. Aug. 14 at The Lodge. A multi-parcel auction allows potential buyers to bid on an individual tract, combinations of tracts or the entire property. The auction also would be a no-reserve auction, which ensures all the property would be sold on Aug. 14.
For the auction, the property has been divided into six tracts. Five of the tracts are from 25 to 40 acres in size, while tract 2A is a four-acre plot wedged between North 375 and North 400 roads on the property’s northeast corner.
Duncan said a multi-parcel auction makes sense because of the varying possible future uses of the different tracts. The brochures Cates Auction has made available on signs posted at the property suggest the best use for all six tracts. That brochure also can be viewed at the company’s Web site, catesauction.com.
“For this particular auction, a buyer might want to buy property suited for a home site, a hobby farm, development or a piece of land to hold onto as an investment,” she said. “It really brings in a bunch of different buyers. Every tract is different.”
Although it is just now starting to crank up marketing for the auction, the company has already fielded inquiries on the property, Duncan said. There will be two open houses at the property from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 2 and Aug. 9, she said.
Kate Binckley, Margaret Counts’ niece, said members of her family have owned the property since her great-, great-grandparents, Mertie Florella and James Wilson Counts, bought the land in 1899. Margaret Counts bought the 160 acres from her parents, Wilma and Wilson Counts, in 1959, Binckley said.