Metal Detecting Old Cheyenne Wells

By Mike Bowen

Co-author, We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site 

Chuck Bowen, Butch Kelley and I visited the Old Cheyenne Wells site Thursday, September 14, on private property with permission from the land owner. The land owner was with us.

Chuck metal detected along the trail that went to Old Cheyenne Wells from Three Forks. He found some 1860s/1870s period bullets, a square nail, a casing, and a nickel from 1920. 

This is the trail that Bayard Taylor traveled and Lt. Bonsall documented on his trip to the Sand Creek site.  

From our book: 

Bayard Taylor traveled southwest from old Cheyenne Wells 24 miles where three trails met on the creek. 

“Here we saw the last of Smoky Hill Fork. The road strikes across a broad plateau for twenty miles, and then descends to the Big Sandy, a branch of the Arkansas; From the western edge of the watershed, we overlooked many a league of brown, monotonous, treeless country, through which meandered, not the water, but the dry, sandy bed of the Big Sandy.”

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

“Bayard Taylor, who came over the Smoky in 1866, gives an interesting account of the trip in his Colorado: a Summer Trip, which is in part quoted here: “At Cheyenne Wells [the Old Wells] we found a large and handsome frame stable for the mules, but no dwelling. The people lived in a natural cave, extending for some thirty feet under the bluff. But there was a woman, and when we saw her we augured good fortunes. Truly enough, under the roof of conglomerate limestone, in the cave’s dim twilight, we sat down to antelope steak, tomatoes, bread, pickles, and potatoes-a royal meal, after two days of detestable fare” (The Colorado Magazine, The State Historical Society of Colorado Vol. XI Denver, Colorado, March, 1934, No. 2). 

Four years after Sand Creek, Lt. Bonsall went to the site to measure the distance of Black Kettle’s village. Burned tipis would still be visible. He documented the length of the village on his map, at approximately 2 ½ miles in between his camp no. 2 and Three Forks. The distance between his camp no. 2 and Three Forks is six miles. He journaled his trip. 

From our book:

Lt. Bonsall’s journal 

Camp no. 2—six miles to Three Forks 

Journal of the march of a detachment of ten men belonging to the Garrison of Fort Lyon, C. T., under the command of Lieut. S. M. Bonsall 3rd Infantry, from Old Fort Lyon C. T., to Cheyenne Wells, pursuant to S.O. No. 66 Hdqrs. Fort Lyon C. T. June 15, 1868

5:30 A.M. – June 17, 1868

Weather clear and cool. – Left Camp No. 2

7:30 A.M.

Road good, water can be found by digging in the bed of the stream, grass good, small cottonwoods along the banks of the stream. 

6 miles.

9 A.M.

Weather clear and cool – At Three Forks the left hand road crosses the creek and leads in the direction of Denver. An ox train from the Arkansas bound for Denver had lately passed over this road. The right hand road is the direct and shortest road leading to Cheyenne Wells, but thinking it bore too much East we took the center road, which after following for a mile was lost. We then went due North by the compass, over a high prairie, with a gradual ascent, very little broken, and struck the Old Butterfield Stage Road eight miles from Three Forks, and sixteen miles from Cheyenne Wells. No wood or water. Grass poor.

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

General Carl Wulsten along with 397 German immigrants and 35 wagons left Chicago by a train February 8, 1870 to establish a German colony in the Wet Mountain Valley south of Cañon City, CO. 

They changed trains at Kansas City, and the Kansas Pacific took them to Wallace about the 1st of March, where they unloaded their wagons. This route was previously the Smoky Hill Trail. 

Camp sites: 

Wallace to Eagle Tail (present Sharon Springs) 10 miles

Eagle Tail to Goose Creek 18 miles

Goose Creek to Old Cheyenne Wells 14 miles

Old Cheyenne Wells to Sand Creek 24 miles (what is now our Bowen Meadow Ranch)

To learn more about Lt. Bonsall’s trip and the map he made, check out our book. You can get a copy here: WeFoundTheLostSandCreekSite

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  1. Thanks for sharing this info. My GG Grandfather was in Co B of the Colorado 3rd 100 day volunteers.

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