THE SANTA FE TRAIL
A Twentieth Century Excursion
By Margaret Scholz Sears
The journal account of a personal trek along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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In 1821 William Becknell and five comrades traveled from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, then the northern provincial capital of New Spain, the first Americans to do so legally. And thus was born the Santa Fe Trail, a nine hundred mile long road of commerce to a foreign land. During New Spainís reign, foreign trade had been forbidden, but that changed when Mexico wrested control from the European empire in 1821. Never an active immigrant highway, selling merchandise to goods-starved Mexican residents and returning revenue to economically starved Missouri was the Trailís primary purpose. During the formative years but one town, San Miguel del Vado, forty miles east of Santa Fe, existed along the Trail. By the mid-1840s Mexican merchants were dominant, and their children were sent to American schools. The Mexican-American war erupted in 1846, and Brigadier General Stephen Kearny led the Army of the West into battle along the Trail. The victorious United States acquired much of the southwest, from Texas to California. This changed the nature of the Trail when the many military forts that were built to secure the peace required provisions. During this period the trailhead gradually moved west as the railroad chugged in. In 1880 the railroad reached Lamy, New Mexico, twenty miles south of Santa Fe, and there the Trail died. The present work leads the reader along the Trail, describing specific sites and the nature of the area surrounding each, and the authorís experiences visiting them.
Margaret Scholz Sears is a past president of the Santa Fe Trail Association (SFTA), and has been a member for over twenty-five years. She has frequently traveled the Santa Fe Trail from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has written Trail related articles for Wagon Tracks, the SFTA periodical, and Spanish Traces, journal of the Old Spanish Trail Association. Her imprint can be found on the Trail through development of interpretation sites in partnership with the National Park Service. A music therapist by profession, she earned music baccalaureate and masterís degrees from University of Evansville, Indiana and University of Kansas respectively, and is author/editor of a music therapy text.
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