Our Chapter's History

In late 1985 or early 1986, noted trail historian Merrill Mattes wrote a letter to the St. Joseph Museum telling of the significance of St. Joseph to western migration.  He suggested the city as a site for the annual Oregon-California Trails Association convention.  In 1986, a group from St. Joseph: Rich Nolf, Jackie Lewin, Marilyn Taylor, Esther and Al Kreek attended the annual convention of the Oregon-California Trails Association in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and met Merrill Mattes in person.

In order for a convention to be successfully held in St. Joseph, a local chapter of supporters needed to be formed.  Greg Franzwa agreed to help out by presenting a program in St. Joseph about his book, The Oregon Trail Revisited, and also speak about the Oregon-California Trails Association.  Approximately 100 people attended the program.  Out of this group, the Gateway Chapter would be formed with an organizational meeting on June 10, 1987.  The group submitted a request to the National Board to become a recognized chapter and to host a convention.  The request was granted.  Plans began immediately for the 1988 convention.  Rich Nolf, Director of the St. Joseph Museum, served a convention chair.  Approximately 300 people attended the August 1988 convention, and then toured the St. Joe Road for the first time ever .

The Chapter continued to thrive.  The first president was James Mehl, followed by Darlene Peniston, Larry Bunse, Francis Peniston, Suzette McCord-Rogers, John Atkinson, Bill Leppert, Wayne Schutte, Fred Sawin, and John Atkinson.  Several members of Gateway have served on the national board:  Jackie Lewin (National President), Suzette McCord-Rogers, Jim Budde (National Treasurer), Ross Marshall (National president), and Marilyn Bryan (National Treasurer).

In 2006, the Gateway Chapter again hosted the national convention of the Oregon-California Trails Association.  John Atkinson and Jackie Lewin served as co-chairs, and with the aid of dedicated chapter members and community volunteers, provided an educational program with many new features for the attendees.

Over the last 20 years, the Chapter has been active in preserving and marking the St. Joe Road with carsonite trail posts as well as several interpretive signs in St. Joseph and northeast Kansas.  At least two field trips a year, which are open to the public, are held to view sites along the overland trails in our area.



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