Santa Fe Trail Spring, Gillham & Locust Shrine, Star, May 14, 1931 PDF  | Print |

The old spring, famous on the Santa Fe trail, has become a shrine. It is part of the grotto dedicated yesterday with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes by the sisters of Notre Dame de Sion, in the corner of their campus near Robert Gillham road and Locust street.

When sisters and pupils of the French Institute de Sion knelt in the cool shelter of the shade, rock-bound retreat to repeat the Litny of Lourdes, the symbols of three historic backgrounds merged into one.

On that spot travelers on horseback and in prairie schooners stopped to water their sweating horses and fill their water vessels in requo:49. To Jackson County persons the old spring was famous as a retreat, a cool place to rest and the only good watering place between independence and Westport. Many people of Westport are said to have gone there for the clear water.


About the same time the French tradition was given the old spring, Father Peter J. de Smet, Jesuit priest, is said to have known the spring and to have made camp there in the shade of the elm trees. The sisters have been told he held services for the Indians on the slope of the hill, which is now the campus.

The third tradition comes from several thousand miles away, at the foot of the Pyrenees. The present grotto is a replica of the grotto at Lourdes and the statue of Our Lady is an exact reproduction of the statue at Lourdes. It was made in France and given to the sisters by Mrs. Genevieve Moore, 417 East Thirty-seventh street, after she had visited Lourdes.

The tradition of the miracle at Lourdes starts with the appearance of Our Lady to a little girl. The child, asking proof of the appearance to convince her elders, was told to scratch the ground. She did so and the spring bubbled up beside her. The next morning a rose was blooming beside the spring. At present Lourdes is visited by 600,000 pilgrims and tourists a year. Many of them go to be healed by the waters.

The rock archway over the Kansas City spring and the surrounding rock work was done by the hands of the sisters. Although they had the help of a mason, they personally chose each rock and adjusted it to its place as they wanted it. Our Lady looks down from above.

As the procession of sisters and children moved slowly toward the grotto yesterday, it sang the Ave Maria of Lourdes—“Ave, Ave, Ave Maria—Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!”

Those with good ears could hear other voices taking up the litany, the voices of the thousands at the foot of the Pyrenees to be cured. They could hear the intonations of an old priest alone in an American forest surrounded by expressionless, copper-colored faces. They could hear the tramping of many horses and the shouts of many men as the caravan of pioneer American moved westward. “Priez por mous,” was repeated again and again in the litany.