The Diamond of the Plain’s Two Chances
Surrounded by bluestem grasses with a history only remembered by building ruins is Diamond Springs, Kansas.
Diamond Springs is unique to other Kansas ghost towns as it became a ghost town twice — once in the 1860s and again in the 1930s.
The town was first established as a stop along the Santa Fe Trail in 1825. Surveyors were looking for a stop in Kansas that had access to water and other resources for travelers. Fortunately, Diamond Springs was nearby to Diamond Creek, a spring that was easily accessible with what seemed to be fresh, clear water.
Because of this unusual sight, as many Kansas spots surveyed prior to Diamond Springs lacked a water source like this one, the surveyors dubbed this spot the “Diamond of the Plains” according to Warren Dix in “A Brief History of Early Western Morris County.”
Quickly, Diamond Springs became a frequently visited stopping point on the Santa Fe Trail, especially as Native American treaties promised to not harm travelers along the trail in Kansas. However, as the town of Diamond Springs grew, so did conflict west of Diamond Springs.
Notoriously known as “Gornada Del Muerte,” or “Journey of the Dead,” the trail west of Diamond Springs was said to be filled with skeletons of men, horses, and oxen. Their deaths were attributed to robbers and Native Americans. With this rising conflict in Kansas and an abundance of Native American tribes in Western Kansas, travelers began to fear this point on the trail.
Although the growth of Diamond Springs did slow with fewer travelers, the town did not fail due to a lack of residents or travelers. Instead, Moris County historians attribute the first “failure” of the town to the acts of a Confederate group during the Civil War.
Barbara Booth in “Diamond of the Flint Hills” said that a Confederate group led by Dick Yeager, originally made plans to raid and burn down Council Grove, Kansas, which was only about sixteen miles from Diamond Springs. Yet, in a split-second decision, Yeager changed plans to raid and burn down Diamond Springs instead.
This attack left the town of Diamond Springs unrecognizable. Within two years, all that was left were the ruins of a few buildings. According to the Diary of Samuel Kingman, there was little left of what used to be a budding township in 1865. His diary noted that only three empty buildings remained in what used to be Diamond Springs.
Diamond Springs was but a vacant ghost town until after the Civil War.
With American citizens looking for a new place to move after the war, Morris County, Kansas, produced and distributed a pamphlet to attract new settlers to their lands. These pamphlets attracted seven families from Illinois. These families each purchased land near the original site of Diamond Springs.
Diamond Springs began to prosper again. In the first few decades that these families lived there, they built a school and a church. From here, more settlers began to be interested in Diamond Springs.
More and more lots began to be purchased in the newly founded town. Even different businesses began to take interest in the town. One, the Diamond Springs Town Company even finalized the town’s plot, officially naming Diamond Springs as a town.
However, growth was slowed in the community after the original railroad stop in Diamond Springs was canceled. Although Diamond Springs did get a different railroad stop, growth in the town had already been too halted.
While residents had hoped a railroad stop would help kickstart the town’s economy, Diamond Springs’ never reached this full potential.
By 1910, Diamond Springs had dropped to 27 residents. Soon after, the railroad depot was defunct, and the church and school had closed. In 1930, the final Diamond Springs business, the post office, closed, marking the end of the town’s second reign.
Overall, Diamond Springs failed to gain traction and retain residents. Although its first closure was due to outside forces, its second closure proved that sustaining a prosperous town is more difficult than it seems.
Today, Diamond Springs serves as a reminder of both the frontier days and post-Civil War American History.