Jarvis Creek Honors New Mexican Murdered on the Santa Fe Trail

Jarvis Creek in eastern Kansas honors the Santa Fe trader Antonio Chavez. Originally called Chavez Creek, it was named for Chavez after he was murdered in 1843 on the Santa Fe Trail. Legend has it that in February of that year Antonio Chavez loaded two wagons of goods bound for Missouri along with his crew of 20 men. Almost immediately the small caravan encountered a treacherous snow storm. Some of the animals froze to death near the Cimarron River. Fifteen of the men deserted the caravan and headed back to Santa Fe. But Chavez was determined to venture on to his final destination in Franklin, Mo. Five men loyal to Chavez helped him load the gear and merchandise into one wagon and continued along the trail.

Bad Luck Turns Disasterous

As winter turned to spring the weather began to cooperate for the weary travelers. By April 10 the small party had reached eastern Kansas. They were camped along a creek when they were ambushed by a gang of thieves led by John McDaniel and Joseph Brown. Not content to just steal the gold that Chavez carried they shot him and dumped his body in the creek. The brutal murder received national attention with newspapers across the country providing the grisly details of the killing. The bandits were caught and prosecuted, including the ringleaders McDaniel and Brown. The two men were subsequently hung at a prison in St. Louis.

Memorial & Name Fades Away

From that day forward the trader’s final resting place became known as Chavez Creek. A stone monument was erected in memory of Antonio Chavez near the site of his murder. As the decades ensued the tombstone crumbled and disappeared into history. Along with it the name Chavez also faded away becoming Jarvis Creek from the mangling of the Spanish surname by the people of Kansas.

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