TL;DR -- Trekking on the Santa Fe Trail started in 1821 at St. Louis MO. The traffic grew during the years up to the Civil War. Post the conflict, the railroad made its incursion which ended the majority of the traffic. Some still had this as their only recourse. However, the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail was on another trail that had been in operation since 1598 and was in New Spain that will be a continuing topic in our look at the long reach of New England. Too, going forward lots of effort by conservation groups has saved artifacts from the earlier periods. This focus will continue to be necessary.
For awhile, we have been looking at the many commemorations that are in progress or will happen. The Cape Ann crew's arrival will be next up for the 400th. But, we have the 250th to consider, and even more, such as the 200th which is a few generations post the Revolution (250th).
Last year was the 200th of the first trek by the eastern culture from St. Louis MO to Santa Fe NM along what became the popular trail. The trail went from the U.S., which had grown post Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory, to New Spain.
To quote the Santa Fe Trail Association: "In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail became America's first great international commercial highway, and for nearly sixty years thereafter was one of the nation's great routes of adventure and western expansion." This association formed a few decades ago and has collected an astounding mixture of technology with which to tell the story of the times and the people who were involved.
In terms of the later, they have been nominations for a Hall of Fame. On our review of the list, today, we saw many familiar names, some of whom are well-known characters of the American West, such as Kit Carson, Zebulon Pike, and more. The Bent family and others have been mentioned in this blog in the context of the long reach of New England.
Also, the Association publishes a newsletter which is available online: Wagon Tracks (online list of issues). They have published since 1986. The latest issue (Wagon Tracks, Aug 2022) included an article on measuring distance traveled which looked at one invented by Ben Franklin. This article is an example of a technology focus which we will keep to the fore. In this case, miles were the enemy more so than others that are known, such as weather. We have looked at rivers and other waters as a means for travel as well as being a barrier.
|May 2021 issue of|
Another source for information is the Kansas Historical Society whose state is crossed diagonally by the trial. We have referenced this source before; an example was our earlier look at Col. Thomas W. Higginson who was from New England and was out in Kansas supporting abolitionism and John Brown.
There are many persons to look at. Right now, let's consider Isaac Bowen and his wife Katie. He was in the military and brought his wife with him as he did his duties in several locations. She kept a diary and wrote to her mother on a regular basis. This is the KSH Overview of Santa Fe Trail Diaries - Katie Bowen. In 1996, the KHS published the diaries which is available for public reading: A Faithful Account of Everything.
Their first visit out west was pre-Civil War and about the time of Col. Higginson. Post the conflict, there was another dynamic related to technology, the railroad. The National Park Service provides a timeline from 1866-1873 which is interactive and provide information by time and place with respect to the trail. As the railroad came in, people road the train to the endpoint of its rails and then continued in the mode of laborious travel.
Unto this point, we have looked at New England and flow from east to west toward the southwest. We will be looking further at the northern route, too, as we take a deeper look at Oregon. Even up there, we will be considering New Spain as the extent of the U.S. was not the west coast until later.
The Santa Fe Trail ended at a terminus of Camino Real in New Mexico whose existence needs more attention since it gets us more aware of European activity in Texas and points west. The trail used by Butterfield and others ran along those southern routes that were pioneered by New Spain and before them, the American Indians. The Camino Real is traversed today in a north-south direction from El Paso TX to Albuquerque NM.
Just like we can see wagon wheel ruts today along the route of the Santa Fe Trail in areas where development has not blotted out the past, the same is true for those earlier travelers along the Spanish trails. An example can be see at Fort Selden with tracks along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro still visible.
Our interest is primarily New England but with scope large enough to cover the prior periods thoroughly. Our southern border, from TX to CA, has a lot of history still to be told, where generalization does not trump truth.
The southern trail ran from 1820s to the 1880s. Putting this into the context of generations, that was post Jefferson's purchase and during the start of the push to the west where we had a century of frontier experiences in many places with results such as lost generations.
11/12/2022 -- We need to add New France into the triad in order to know how the U .S. is a phenomenal experiment in the experience of being, inner and outer. In other words, our focus will be on the long reach of New England but with a context filled in as only the internet will allow.