Howard Raynesford was born August 13, 1876 in Ellis, Kansas. He was a farmer, operated a dairy, had a wife and sons. It is for his "hobby" that he is now remembered. Howard was an historian, Director of the Kansas State Historical Society, and tireless expert on the Smoky Hill Trail and the Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoach line that ran over the trail. Raynesford painstakingly mapped the route of this trail. In his spare time he walked over 200 miles following the trail and locating many of the stagecoach stations. In 1963 the Kansas Legislature granted permission (no funding) for him to place stone-post markers on the right-of-way where the trail crossed major highways. 138 markers were placed.
Following Raynesford's death on March 2, 1967 many of his papers were donated to the Hays Public Library. They now reside in the Kansas Room there.
Howard Raynesford explained his fascination with the Smoky Hill Trail in this way:
"Old trails have always had a great fascination for me. In Connecticut and Virginia I have been on the old Appalachian Trail which ran along the highest elevations from Mt. Kadahdin in Maine to Stone Mountain in Georgia. I have been on the old stage route from St. Louis through Arkansas, Indian Territory and Texas to El Paso and then along the southern borders of New Mexico and Arizona to Yuma and up to Los Angeles and San Francisco, which had to be abandoned when the Civil War broke out. I have been on the Santa Fe and Oregon trails at various places, but none held a greater fascination for me than this historic old Smoky Hill Trail.
What follows are a number of Howard Raynesfords notes and writings. They are as he wrote them. Raynesford often interchanged the Butterfield Overland Despatch for the trail it went over, the Smoky Hill, so do not be confused by that. Many of these are from talks he gave, newspaper articles he wrote, and notes he made to himself. They are typed as well as hand-written and every effort to transmit his words accurately has been taken.