Frequently Asked Questions along the Western Vistas Historic Byway
On the matter of the BOD: What is the proper spelling, Dispatch or Despatch? It shows up in print both ways. Answer: The official name of the company was Butterfield’s Overland Despatch (BOD). This is the way it is presented in the company’s prospectus. ”Despatch” is merely a less common way of spelling “Dispatch”. Why the company chose the less common form is not known.
Butterfield Trail and Smoky Hill Trail: Are there two trails? Answer: The Butterfield Trail and the Smoky Hill Trail are one in the same. The Smoky Hill Trail was the name applied to the trail running first from Westport and other Missouri River towns, and later from Atchison and Leavenworth along the Smoky Hill River to Denver. The trail became commonly referred to as the Butterfield Trail when Butterfield’s Overland Despatch (1865-1866) began using the Smoky Hill route in 1865. In March, 1866, Butterfield’s Overland Despatch sold to Ben Holladay. That company later sold to Wells, Fargo and Company. Probably the first white men to utilize the Smoky Hill route were John C. Fremont and his party of 16 men who traversed the route from west to east in 1844. After that, the government commenced topographic surveys along its course, but there was no apparent move to lay out a trail along the Smoky Hill River until gold was discovered in the Pike’s Peak and Clear Creek regions of Colorado in 1858 at which time it was commonly called the Smoky Hill Trail. Other names used to designate the Smoky Hill River route were The Old Denver Road, the Military Road and even Starvation Trail.
What is a Fick? Answer: Not a what, WHO. Vi and Ernest Fick were the founders and benefactors’ of the Fick Fossil and History Museum in Oakley, Kansas. The museum contains many renowned fossils, geological samples, and quirky multi-media art created by Vi Fick using fossils, shells, crayon wax and oils.
Fish fossils in Kansas: Were the sharks and turtles that lived back then the same ones we have today? Answer: The sharks and turtles of the Cretaceous period were very similar to present day types. Turtles were like modern leatherbacks and sharks were similar to the tiger and mako sharks we have today.
Xiphactinus audax: How do you pronounce that? Answer: zai-fact-in-us aw-dax was the largest bony fish that ever lived, sometimes reaching a length of eighteen feet. Although distantly related to modern tarpons, it became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. For more information about the swimming and flying reptiles, bony fish, shark, invertebrates and birds of the Cretaceous period, visit Keystone Gallery’s interactive mural on their website.
Fossil Hunting FYI: Can I go fossil hunting on the WVHB? Answer: No. The fossil bearing strata (Niobrara Chalk) along the Western Vistas Historic Byway in western Kansas is located on private land. Visitors are welcome to appreciate the fossil beds from the roadways, but please be respectful and only take pictures as mementos so that others may continue to enjoy the natural beauty.