E-News December 24, 2020

The Oregon-California-Santa Fe Trail 30K

Let us wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Help us celebrate the holidays by participating in this special event on Saturday, December 26.To help promote the creation a 47-mile long hiking/biking trail in the historic corridor of the Oregon-California-Santa Fe Trails in the Greater Kansas City area, OCTA  Association Manager Travis Boley will run three 10Ks in that corridor on Saturday, December 26. They will be livestreamed and narrated on OCTA’s Facebook page beginning at 9 AM Central. The other two runs will begin at 12:30 PM Central and 4:10 PM Central. The narrators will point out significant historic sites, developed sites, and work that remains to be done. The Missouri cities of Sugar Creek, Independence, Raytown, Kansas City, and several towns in Kansas will be featured. Above is an artist’s rendering a the new bridge over U.S. Highway 24 in Independence that serves as the entrance to the Harry S Truman Presidential Library. Note the three trail logos and the built recreational trail connecting to other sites to the north and south. You will see the nearly-complete bridge during the course of the run, among many other highlights in the Greater Kansas City area.

You can help sponsor these runs starting at $1/kilometer. All proceeds benefit the Oregon-California Trails Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Every $30 ($1/km) sponsor will receive an event t-shirt, with other gifts available at the $2/km, $3/km, and $4/km levels (see below for more details). In order to follow the livestream, simply “like” the event  Facebook page or follow OCTA’s Facebook page. A YouTube highlight video will be created for those who do not have Facebook.

Anyone not already a member of OCTA will receive both the t-shirt and a membership at the $60 level. OCTA members will have the choice of the following items:

-$30 level: t-shirt
-$60 level: t-shirt and a copy of “Graves and Sites on the Oregon-California Trails”
-$90 level: the two items above plus a copy of “Historic Inscriptions on Western Historic Trails”
-$120 level: the three items above plus a DVD copy of “In Pursuit of a Dream”

The purpose of the run is to highlight the work already done in the historic trail corridor and to point out the work that remains to be done. Once complete, it will be the nation’s first retracement trail built in a major urban area over a National Historic Trail corridor. We hope you can join us for some of the live streams on Saturday, December 26. To become a sponsor, simply go to our “Donate Now” page and enter your amount and “trail run sponsorship” in the designation line.

Extreme Athletes Complete Their Retracement of the Steps of the Donner Party’s “Forlorn Hope

On December 16, four area ultra runners left Donner Lake on snowshoes to cross the Sierra in a reprise of the 1846 winter journey of the Donner Party’s Forlorn Hope.

Recreating one of the most renowned journeys in American pioneer history, the team wanted to establish the exact route taken by the ill-fated group, attempt to change the known narrative of this moment and tell the story of “these ‘normal’ people who accomplished extraordinary feats and embodied the core characteristics and tenets that became the backbone of America.”

Read more here.

Order Fresh Coffee and Help OCTA’s Bottom Line


OCTA is excited to announce that KC Coffee Roasters has created two specialty coffees with 10% of every purchase being donated to the Oregon-California Trails Association. They are currently featuring Oregon Trail and Butterfield Bean blends. Visit their website at https://www.kccoffeeroasters.com/order-online to order now.

Long-Time OCTA Member Tom McCutcheon 1925-2020

“Tom” Donald T. McCutcheon Jr., 95, passed away Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at Sage View Care Center in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Tom McCutcheon was a resident of Rock Springs for many years after moving from Overland Park, Kansas.

Tom, born January 28, 1925 in Springdale, Pennsylvania; the son of Donald T. McCutcheon Sr. and Sara McDonough.

Tom grew up during the great depression moving often and attending schools in and around Springdale, Pittsburgh, New Kensington, and Washington, Pennsylvania. He worked as a paperboy and painter’s helper in his youth. In the summers he worked concessions at the minor league park in Washington, PA. On one occasion he was working out as a shortstop in view of two former major league players. Although he didn’t understand the significance at the time, he was evaluated by and shook hands with arguably the greatest short stop of all time – Hall of Famer, Honus Wagner.

Tom enlisted in the US Navy in 1943 before graduating from Washington High School. Decades later Tom would receive his Washington High School diploma in a special ceremony for World War II servicemen. He attended US Navy basic training at Sampson, New York. Upon graduation he transferred to the USS Wyoming BB-32 in Norfolk, Virginia, for Pharmacist Mate training. From Norfolk, Tom was shipped across the country, ending up at the Naval Air Station in Norman, Oklahoma, where he was assigned to the Naval Hospital at the University of Oklahoma. From there, he was assigned to the Olathe, Kansas, Naval Air Station in the outskirts of Kansas City. He would serve in Olathe until the end of the WWII. During this time, Tom met his future wife in Kansas City. He married Evelyn R. Cairns in the base chapel in Olathe, Kansas, on January 25, 1945. Upon Honorable Discharge in late 1945 he briefly returned to work at a glass factory in Pennsylvania before returning to Kansas City, Kansas, in 1946 to work at the Stowe Hardware Co. warehouse in the KC stockyards district.

In 1951, he applied and was hired by the phone company. He would end up working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. for the next 32 years; first as a lineman climbing icy poles, to switchman, and finally as a building air-conditioning specialist. Many years, he worked night shift as a switchman and then worked at his friend’s used car lot in the daytime. Tom worked in phone facilities throughout East and Central Kansas in his three decades with Ma Bell, where he began to learn about the pioneer trails that began in Kansas and Missouri. He would always identify himself as a telephone man.

He was a member of the Rock Springs United Methodist Church. Tom was a Freemason and Shriner. An avid reader and historical book collector, Tom became an active life member of the Oregon-California Trails Association. His study and research of the Oregon Trail became his lifetime passion. He enjoyed visiting remote trail locations and discovering new artifacts and grave sites. He routinely would guide others on trail excursions in many locations along the Oregon Trail. Because of his personality, he was able to make friends easily. His gregarious nature allowed him to befriend ranchers along the trail and get rare permission to host guided tours on private lands. The State of Wyoming honored his military service with a flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. On the visit he enjoyed talking to and shaking hands with fellow veteran, Senator Bob Dole .

Survivors include one son, Don McCutcheon and his wife Karen of Wenatchee, WA; two daughters, DeAnne Autry of Rock Springs, WY; Donna Watkins and husband Larry of Marion, Illinois; one brother, Tim McCutcheon and wife Ann of Cheswick, PA; one sister, Donna Keefer of Indiana, PA; ten grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents, wife, and one sister Judy Allen.

The family respectfully requests any donations be made in Tom’s memory to First United Methodist Church, 1515 Edgar Street, Rock Springs, Wyoming 82901 or Alcove Springs Preservation Association, PO Box 98, Blue Rapids, Kansas 66411.

Cremation has taken place; services will be conducted at a later date.

Condolences may be left at www.vasefuneralhome.com.

Vase Funeral Chapels and Crematory
154 Elk Street
Rock Springs, Wyoming 82901


Tom Sutak 1943-2020


It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death of Thomas Sutak (Las Vegas, Nevada), who passed away on December 17, 2020, at the age of 78, leaving to mourn family and friends. Tom was a retired criminologist and business executive who investigated historic western trails for almost two decades. He is the author of Into the Jaws of Hell, a book that discusses the travels and adventures of Jefferson Hunt, who pioneered wagon travel to California through New Mexico and over the Southern Route and also along the southern section of the Old Spanish Trail/Mormon Road. He last spoke at the Santa Fe OCTA Convention in September 2020. OCTA is fortunate that his  Santa Fe talk, “Traveling to the Gold Fields Along the Southern Route,” is forever preserved as a video on OCTA’s website.

We will have more information on Tom at a later date. OCTA only learned about Tom’s passing earlier this week and we are still gathering details.