The Santa Fe Trail (Cornerstones of Freedom)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. The Santa Fe Trail runs between which two locations?
a) Nashville and Natchez
b) Missouri and New Mexico
c) Missouri and Oregon
d) San Antonio and Abilene

b) Missouri and New Mexico. The Santa Fe Trail runs from northeast to southwest between Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. At first, the trail started from Franklin, Missouri. When a flood destroyed Franklin, the trail started from Independence, Missouri.

In the late 1700's, most of the population of the United States of America was located near the Atlantic Ocean. By the early 1800's, settlers and adventurers crossed the Allegheny Mountains and pushed their way west to the Mississippi River.

At this time, the Spanish occupied the territory in the Southwest. Americans believed the Spanish were hiding treasures and riches, and Americans were eager to explore this area.

The Santa Fe Trail was made up of a series of different trails. Sometimes these trails would go in different directions, and sometimes they would cross each other. By the mid-1800's, wagon wheels cut deep ruts in many places along the trail. It was made easier to stay on the trail by following these ruts. Today, most of the ruts have been overgrown with grass. Some traces of the trail can still be seen.

Did you know other famous trails are the Oregon Trail and the Chisholm Trail? The Oregon Trail took pioneers seeking new homesteads from Missouri to Oregon. The Chisholm Trail was used for cattle drives from San Antonio, Texas, to Abilene, Kansas, for sale to the East.

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2. What year did the Santa Fe Trail open?
1822. William Becknell is credited with opening the Santa Fe Trail. In 1822, Becknell led five men from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe. After this journey, Franklin became the starting point of the Santa Fe Trail. In 1828, a flood destroyed the town of Franklin, and Independence, Missouri, became the starting point of the Santa Fe Trail.

From 1822 to 1879, the Santa Fe Trail provided a route from Missouri to Santa Fe. It was a commercial trail created for traders. It opened the Southwest to American trade and provided fortunes for American traders. In 1879, the Santa Fe Trail closed.

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3. How long is the Santa Fe Trail (in miles or kilometers)?
About 780 miles or 1,260 kilometers. The Santa Fe Trail runs across the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains. When the Santa Fe Trail first opened it took several months to travel. Today, it takes about one and a half days by automobile or two hours by airplane.

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4. True or False: The Santa Fe Trail has a Mountain Route and a Desert Route.
True. The trail William Becknell followed in 1822 became known as the Mountain Route. It started in Franklin and went west across Kansas. In the early days, trees lined the creeks and rivers. Over the years, travelers cut down almost all of the trees for firewood. Did you know just west of the Kansas-Missouri border (beyond Olathe, Kansas), the
Oregon Trail would later fork to the north taking settlers to the Pacific Ocean?

Travelers then stopped at what later became Council Grove, Kansas. Teamsters loaded the wagons with goods and prepared for the journey ahead. Teamsters were people who drove the wagons. Council Grown was considered the gateway to the Plains. Today, it is known as "The Rendezvous of the Santa Fe Trail."

One hundred miles west of Council Grove the tall grass of the prairies turned into the short grass of the Plains. This is where the Plains Indians lived. There were plenty of buffalo and antelope. The Plains Indians hunted buffalo. They only killed the buffalo they needed, and they used all of the buffalo for their everyday lives. The traders also hunted buffalo. However, the traders usually killed more buffalo than they needed, and they only used what they needed for food. The Plains Indians were angered by the waste of the buffalo, and they attacked the wagon trains. The short grass of the Plains was another problem for the travelers because it did not provide enough grazing for the pack animals.

The Arkansas River was the next landmark on the Santa Fe Trail. It was the half way point of the journey between Council Grove and Santa Fe. The traders used to sing a song, "The Arkansas, just halfway/From the States to Santa Fe."

Becknell and his group continued across Kansas, following the Arkansas River, and into Colorado before turning south at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They then followed the Purgatoire River to Raton Pass. From Ration Pass, the trail went south and swung around the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Santa Fe.

When Becknell's group reached Santa Fe in 1823, Old Mexico had gained its independence from Spain, and the citizens of Santa Fe were glad to see the traders. The Mexicans needed supplies, and the American traders sold their goods at high prices. Becknell went back to Missouri for more goods.

Becknell wanted to return to Santa Fe with more goods than the pack animals could carry. He and twenty-two men loaded up three Conestoga-style wagons with goods. The wagons were also known as prairie schooners. A schooner is a fast moving sailing ship, and the wagons resembled a schooner sailing through the tall prairie grass. The wheels of the wagons were six feet tall. The wagon held more than two tons of cargo and had curved canvas tops. At least eight animals were needed to pull one wagon.

Becknell knew his wagons could not cross the rocky Raton Pass through the Rocky Mountains. Rather than follow the same Mountain Route, Becknell turned south at Cimarron, Kansas. This route would later become known as the Desert Route. It would also be called the Dry Route because there is a 50 mile stretch were there was no water available. Travelers on this route would sometimes encounter Comanche Indians.

In the 1820's, there were so many traders using the Santa Fe Trail that the Mexican government raised tariffs (or taxes). This decreased the number of traders.

Fighting among the traders and Indians continued on the Santa Fe Trail. U.S. Army soldiers were sent to escort caravans. However, these soldiers could not legally go across the Arkansas River because this land was not part of the United States.

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5. Which of the following events led to the closure of the Santa Fe Trail in 1879?
a) The Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean
b) Forty-niners headed to California for the gold rush
c) The American Civil War ended
d) The railroad reached Santa Fe

d) The railroad reached Santa Fe. In 1849, the Santa Fe Trail became more crowded as gold seekers traveled to California for the gold rush. Gold seekers were called "forty-niners" as a reference to the year, 1849. Did you know more than 85,000 people went to California to look for gold? In 1859, gold seekers again used the trail looking for gold in Colorado.

In 1862, the fighting of the Civil War reached Santa Fe. Confederate troops from Texas invaded New Mexico, and seized Santa Fe. The troops planned to seize the entire Southwest for the Confederacy. The Confederate and Union troops met on the Santa Fe Trail about 20 miles east of Santa Fe. This location is known as Pigeon's Ranch. After fighting for six hours, the Union army defeated the Confederate army in the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

In the 1860's and 1870's, railroads were moving across the United States which brought rapid and permanent change to the West. Railroads made it quicker and easier to travel, transport, and settle in the West. New towns popped up almost over night along the railroad tracks.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad moved west on a path south of (but generally parallel to) the Santa Fe Trail. Goods were shipped by rail to the end-of-the-line town, and then taken down the rest of the Santa Fe Trail in wagons. With each new end-of-the-line town, the towns behind it lost the trade business because the goods sped through town on a train. Many end-of-the-line towns disappeared when the railroad moved beyond them.

In 1879, Santa Fe became the end-of-the-line. The headline in the New Mexican newspaper read, "The old Santa Fe Trail Passes into Oblivion." Today, a granite marker on the Plaza in Santa Fe proclaims the official end of the trail. The Santa Fe Trail had been used for almost sixty years, and it brought the Southwest into the United States.

In 1987, the Santa Fe National Historical Trail was established by the National Park Service.

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Adobe: Traditional southwestern bricks made of water, clay, and straw

Barter: To trade in an exchange of goods rather than for money

Caravan: Group of people or vehicles traveling together

Rendezvous: Meeting place

Republic: Form of government in which the people elect representatives who manage the government

Saddlebag: Covered pouch laid across the back of horse behind the saddle

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. Who was Zebulon Pike?
The first American to explore the Santa Fe Trail in 1806.

Three year before, in 1803, the United States had purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. This is called the Louisiana Purchase, and it doubled the size of the United States. The territory included land from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. From 1804 to 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition explored this newly acquired area. They traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1805, Zebulon Pike had traveled northward to the source of the Mississippi River.

In Spring, 1806, the U.S. Army sent Lieutenant Pike on a military expedition to explore the Spanish Southwest. He was twenty-seven years old. Pike and twenty men began in St. Louis, Missouri. One of these men was a civilian named John Robinson. Robinson told Pike he wanted to recover goods that had been stolen from him in the Southwest. It is possible, however, that Robinson was a spy.

The expedition traveled up the Missouri River in a keelboat to a location near present-day Kansas City, Missouri. Then they traveled by horseback.

One of Pike's assignments was to visit American Indian tribes to make treaties between them and the United States government. The Pawnee warned Pike a Spanish force of six hundred men was looking for Pike and his group. Pike did not turn around. He and his men continued meeting with the different tribes. Did you know the Pawnee lived on the prairies in the area between present-day Nebraska and New Mexico?

In late November, 1806, Pike and his men reached the Rocky Mountains. In Colorado, Pike reached a tall mountain peak. He tried to climb it, but he did not reach the top. Today, this mountain is known as Pike's Peak. It is 14,110 feet high.

Their journey was slowed when they lost their packhorses and compass in the mountains. They did not have the appropriate clothing or sufficient amounts of food to survive the winter in the Rocky Mountains. Pike did not give up. They eventually made it to a tributary of the Rio Grande in Colorado and built a log fort.

The military expedition could not enter New Mexico because this area was controlled by the Spanish. Robinson, however, was a civilian, and he could enter New Mexico. In February, 1807, Robinson left the group and headed for Santa Fe. Spanish troops followed Robinson's tracks back to Pike's group. Pike was captured and taken to Santa Fe. They reached Santa Fe on March 3, 1807.

Pike had expected to find riches and treasures. There were none. Instead, there was a small town of a few adobe stores and houses. Most of the goods in Santa Fe were brought almost 2,000 miles from Old Mexico (the present-day country of Mexico). It was a very long trip, and the items cost more in Santa Fe than they did in either Old Mexico or St. Louis. Pike noted this in his journal.

The Spanish governor of New Mexico thought Pike and his men were spies, and they were sent to the province of Chihuahua in Old Mexico. They were later released and returned to the United States. Pike never returned to the Southwest. He died six years later during the War of 1812.

After his death, Pike's journal was made public, and the merchants of St. Louis realized Santa Fe could be a new market for their goods.

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b. Who were Charles and William Bent?
They were brothers, trappers, and traders who played an important role in the history of the Santa Fe Trail.

Charles Bent was the older brother of William Bent. In 1829, Charles was captain of his first caravan along the Santa Fe Trail. In 1831, he used oxen rather than mules to pull his wagons. Mules had been used because they were faster and had tougher hooves. However, mules were more expensive and were more likely to be stolen by Indians. Charles used oxen on his trip because he reasoned oxen were too awkward for an Indian to ride, and its meat was too tough to eat. After this journey, most wagons were pulled by oxen.

Charles is credited with the idea of forming a partnership of having one partner stay in Santa Fe to sell goods while the other partner brought goods from Missouri. His partner was Ceran St. Vrain, a French trapper who lived in Taos, New Mexico (north of Santa Fe).

William Bent was the younger brother of Charles Bent. William built a trading post on the Arkansas River for trade with the Plains Indians. The Indians brought him buffalo robes in exchange for knives, pots, and lead. In 1832, William asked Charles Bent to leave some goods from Missouri at the fort to trade with the Indians. To do this, Charles would have to travel the Mountain Route and cross Raton Pass. Charles and William Bent made a path through Raton Pass so the wagons could travel this route.

William's trading post was so successful Charles and his partner, Ceran St. Vrain, began building the largest trading post in the American West in 1833. Today, it is known as Bent's Old Fort. It may be the single most important landmark on the Santa Fe Trail. The adobe walls were 14 feet thick, and they surrounded an area that was 120 yards (the size of a football field). Riflemen were placed in high towers to defend the fort, and a man with a telescope stood guard in a watchtower. Meals were announced with a bell tower. Three hundred to four hundred horses were kept in a corral, and one hundred people could stay there.

In 1849, the U.S. Army wanted to buy Bent's fort. William Bent burned it rather than sell it. Today, a reproduction of this fort is maintained by the National Park Service as Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site. It has stores, a blacksmith shop, storerooms, a kitchen, and a trading post. The staff wears costumes from the 1830's and 1840's, and travelers get a glimpse of life on the Santa Fe Trail.

Later, William Bent built Bent's New Fort about 40 miles east of the original fort.

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c. Describe ONE of the following people:
Lieutenant Zebulon Pike: He was the first American to explore the Santa Fe Trail in 1806. Pike's Peak is named after him.

William Becknell: He is credited with opening the Santa Fe Trail in 1822.

Kit Carson: He made his first trip on the Santa Fe Trail in 1826, when he was sixteen years old. He became the West's most famous trapper, scout, and Indian fighter. He was also a Civil War officer. He stopped at Bent's Old Fort.

Josiah Gregg: He wrote about his experiences in Commerce of the Prairies. It was published in 1844, and is considered the best first hand account of life on the Santa Fe Trail. He stopped at Bent's Old Fort.

Susan Magoffin: When she was eighteen years old, she and her husband traveled the Santa Fe Trail on their honeymoon in 1846. She was one of the first white women to cross the Santa Fe Trail, and she kept a detailed journal while staying at Bent's Old Fort. She died in 1855.

Stephen Watts Kearny: He was a general in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War. In August, 1846, he took possession of Santa Fe, and appointed Charles Bent as governor.

"Uncle Dick" Wootten: In 1865, he blasted rocks, cut away hillsides, and built a toll road across the Raton Pass in the Rocky Mountains. At the summit, he built a toll house and collected fees from travelers. Today, a four lane highway crosses this pass.

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d. What year did Texas gain its independence?
1836. Before 1836, Texas was controlled by Old Mexico. In 1836, Texas gained its independence. Texas now claimed Santa Fe and most of New Mexico. This land was west of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Mexican government refused to recognize the claim. In 1841, 275 Texas volunteers were unsuccessful in trying to capture Santa Fe.

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e. What year did the Mexican War begin?
1846. In May, 1846, the United States and Mexico fought a war called the Mexican War. The Santa Fe Trail was closed during the fighting, and the price of goods increased. In August, 1846, General Stephen Watts Kearny took possession of Santa Fe. Shortly afterwards, Kearny's army left Santa Fe, and Kearny appointed Charles Bent as governor. Bent was killed in January, 1847, in Taos.

In 1848, the United States won the Mexican War, and the Southwest became a territory in the United States.

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f. Name ONE of the American Indian tribes living along the Santa Fe Trail.
Pawnee, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, Ute, and Jicarilla Apache.

The Pawnee and Arapaho did not attack the traders along the Santa Fe Trail because they had a good friendship with Charles and William Bent.

The traders and the Comanche, Kiowa, Ute, and Jicarilla Apache fought one another. After the Mexican War, the U.S. Army was sent to protect the traders along the Santa Fe Trail. The more the U.S. Army attacked the Indians, the more the Indians attacked the U.S. Army and traders.

The U.S. Army established more forts along the Santa Fe Trail to protect traders and settlers.

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g. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Spanish houses are made out of adobe.

My uncle likes to barter when we go to the market.

My family caravans to the park for our big birthday parties.

Where would you like to rendezvous before we go to the movies?

The United States is a republic.

Horse riders use a saddlebag to carry their goods.

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h. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about The Santa Fe Trail:
Santa Fe National Historic Trail (NPS)
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site (NPS)
Santa Fe Trail Map (NPS)
Santa Fe Trail Association
Santa Fe Trail Center (Larned, Kansas)
Santa Fe Trail Links
Kaw Mission State Historic Site
Santa Fe Trail Map (Kaw Mission State Historic Site)

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Happy Learning!

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