The California Road
Originally a trail through the lands of the Shawnee Indians, running west from Westport through present day Johnson and Douglas Counties, this route was used throughout the 1830's and 1840's by Indians, missionaries, and surveyors. John C. Fremont led one of his famous expeditions to the west down this road. By the mid 1850's the road was known locally as the Westport to Lawrence Road. But from 1856 to the eve of the Civil War in 1860, it was best known as the California Road, as the perils of the local border guerrilla warfare near southern Johnson County drove emigrant traffic north to this route, which connected to the Oregon-California trail proper near Lawrence.
"We were free of the woods and bushes, and fairly upon the broad prairie...At noon we stopped to rest not far from a little creek, replete with frogs and young turtles...The horses were turned to feed among the scattered bushes of a low, oozy meadow. A drowsy springlike sultriness pervaded the air, and the voices of ten thousand young frogs and insects, just awakened into life, rose from the creek and meadows."
Parkman had traveled on what would later be known as the California Road out of Westport to this location near present day 61st and Knox at Turkey Creek, before continuing on northwest on the Fort Leavenworth Military Road to Fort Leavenworth, and then on into the west on the famous trip that would result in Francis Parkman's classic book, The Oregon Trail.