Walnut Creek Crossing, about two miles east of Great Bend, had long been a Santa Fe Trail stop along the Arkansas River. When the creek flooded, wagon trains would camp on its banks for days waiting to cross. A post office called Walnut Creek was established in August 1853.
A trading post situated in a large log building was established by William Allison and Francis Boothe in the summer of 1855, selling supplies and provisions to travelers. Called the Walnut Creek Ranch, it was the first time a non-military building was erected west of Council Grove. The site also included a toll bridge over the river that was one of the first toll bridges in the region. That same year, the troops from Fort Atkinson were moved from Ford County to Walnut Creek and the post office’s name was changed to Fort Atkinson on August 4, 1855. The military post was a simple camp comprised of several dugouts built of adobe and logs with mud roofs.
In the succeeding years, the trading post had several owners. By the summer of 1857, the troops had evidently moved out and the post office closed on June 5th.
In September 1857, trading post owner Francis Boothe was murdered by a Mexican, and two years later, in April 1859, his partner William Allison traveled to Missouri and while there, died of heart failure. The trading post was next owned by George Peacock of Independence, Missouri. He was killed in September 1860 by a Kiowa Chief Satank. Shortly after Peacock’s death, the post was taken over by Charles Rath, a well-known buffalo hunter, who operated the post until 1867. It was then taken over by a man named Joseph W. Douglas until the store was burned down on May 19, 1868, by Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians.
The site of Walnut Creek Crossing is about two miles east of Great Bend and south of US Highway 56. The trading post was about 100 yards from the crossing of Walnut Creek, on the east side of the creek and the north of the Santa Fe Trail.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated October 2020.