Home New mexico united Path made history in New Mexico; those who have walked it too | Local News

Path made history in New Mexico; those who have walked it too | Local News

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The sun filtered through the gray clouds to illuminate the names of the dead below.

Edwin Harrison. Jesus M. Pacheco. FB Delgado. And much more.

They’re all long gone, easily dead for a century or more. But their signatures – carved into a stone monument called Autograph Rock about 30 miles east of New Mexico’s border with Oklahoma – tell a story.

Throughout the 19th century, they signed their names on the Santa Fe Trail, perhaps the country’s first interstate highway – and a thoroughfare that forever changed the city it was named for.

Founded in mid-November 1821 by failed businessman William Becknell, the trade trail began in Missouri and ended in Santa Fe, under Mexican control when that nation broke free from rule. Spanish earlier that year. It was a for-profit venture, ostensibly aimed at selling goods from the East to those in the Southwest – where traders bought and packaged goods for resale in the United States, at less than one half a century of declaring its independence. from England.

“This [the trail] has been a factor in our drive to acquire the southwest, ”said Santa Fe Trail historian Doug Hocking. At a time when the nascent United States, a nation of just 10 million people, lacked a national bank and needed cash, many in the East considered the Southwest under Spanish control and more late Mexican as a land of plenty.

“That’s where the money comes from,” Hocking said of Santa Fe and the Southwest. “And that was a reason to acquire it.”

Equally important, say historians and experts on the Santa Fe Trail, the rutted and dangerous trail provided one of the first collisions between three distinct cultures – Americans pushed west; the native tribes they encountered along the way; and the Hispanics who had been in the high desert for over a century and looked with as much curiosity as suspicion on visitors to the east.

Joy Poole, co-founder of the Santa Fe Trail Association, which is planning a series of events Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the trail’s beginnings, said the trail was “the way to our conquest of Mexico.”

Although the Santa Fe Trail began as a commercial enterprise, Poole said the U.S. military eventually used it to build forts, push west, and fight – and win – the U.S.-Mexico War of the late 1840s, which resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the acquisition of the territory of New Mexico.

The trail has also changed the way of life for locals in the southwest, with hard-to-obtain items such as metal and iron utensils, cotton and silk fabrics, and new types of food including preserves, part of everyday life.

In return, these traders could return home with coins and mules. The famous “Missouri Mule,” say Poole and other historians, was actually a New Mexico mule.

As it was in the early 19th century, travelers on the trail wagon trains could expect to travel most of the way from Franklin, Missouri – where the trail originally began – as their wagons would be loaded flush. edge of goods for sale. The wagons, drawn by oxen or mules, generally averaged 12 to 15 miles per day.

And this for almost 800 or 900 miles, depending on the track option they have chosen.

“The Prairie Schooner was not a Prairie RV,” Hocking said.

For tired, dirty, and anxious travelers on the trail, the Dakota Sandstone Rock Formation in Oklahoma, over 600 miles from Franklin, was a natural signpost where nearby springs provided something they desperately needed to continue.

“They followed the water,” said Carol Sharp, who, along with her husband Dick Sharp, runs a ranch that now contains Autograph Rock, located about seven miles north of Boise City, Okla.

These brave travelers wanted to do something to let people know that they had lived and hiked the trail before, said Jody Risley, executive director of the Cimarron Heritage Center in Boise City, which includes an exhibit on the Santa Fe Trail.

“They wanted to say, ‘I was here,’” Risley said.

But not everyone could utter those words. Some traders died along the way and Carol Sharp said historians believed some of the inscriptions may not have been autographs but names written by others to commemorate comrades who died along the trail.

“They say a lot of it is about the graves,” she said. “People have died and the graves have not been marked. “

As such, Autograph Rock can also serve as a collective headstone, she said.

Autograph Rock wasn’t the only monument along the trail that would have served as the registry for the Santa Fe Trailhead. A much smaller autographed rock is located in the Kiowa Prairies region in northeastern New Mexico. , and there were likely more like this along the way, according to trail historians.

But Oklahoma’s Autograph Rock – no one seems to know when it earned that nickname – was located near a large stream that was one of the few watering holes across what became the shorter route and over. dry from the Santa Fe Trail.

This is because the original trail diverged in Cimarron, Kansas. Trail masters could determine, after talking to those on the westbound commercial train, if they wanted to cross Colorado and then descend into New Mexico via Raton Pass – not a good wagon route. , but one more flush with the water – or drive through Oklahoma before heading to the high desert plains of New Mexico.

The lower trail saved 10 days of arduous travel. But it also exposed travelers to potential problems from Native American nations unhappy with the trespassing on their lands and offered fewer water points along the way.

Once a caravan – with wagons that typically crossed the plains four abreast and not in a single row as is often depicted in the movies – traveled to the fields between Autograph Rock and the creek, the travelers and the animals could rest and take the time to fix the carts and take care of the sick, Sharp said.

And sometimes the trail people were really sick. Cholera was the scourge of the day, and when it struck, it killed. New Mexico Cattle Dog José Librado Gurulé, who helped move and keep cattle with a trailer loaded with goods from Santa Fe to Kansas and back again in 1867 (for which he received a total of $ 8) , recalled a “plague” – cholera – to strike travelers on the return trip to Santa Fe.

From the story of Gurulé, published in the compilation On the Santa Fe trail, edited by New Mexico historian Marc Simmons, the trailer stopped near Cold Spring Creek near Autograph Rock. There, healthy men attempted to cure the sick with a chili-infused whiskey elixir.

“But somehow it didn’t cure cholera, and they lacked New Mexico chili,” Simmons’ book says. “After a 12-day halt, they left with barely enough men on foot to move the caravan forward. … Many died of the plague.

Carol Sharp said a clearing between the spring and the rock formation would have been a suitable place to quarantine a wagon full of plague. But the whiskey and chili remedy does not seem very promising to him.

“They say there are a lot of graves around here,” said Sharp as he walked over the rock, which is about 25 feet high and hundreds of feet long.

She said traders in Santa Fe Trail likely used stones or metal or iron tools to carve their names into rock. Some, like Harrison’s, appear to have been carefully created by a giant typewriter. Sharp said his script suggested a businessman accustomed to smoking a cigar in a living room of a posh East Coast home.

A name – inscribed as T. Potts – could have been that of the famous beaver trapper Daniel T. Potts, one of the few highlanders to leave a cache of letters for historians to study. While Potts is known for exploring and trapping parts of Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, it’s possible that he took part in at least one Santa Fe Trail trailer.

Another entry indicates that members of Company K of the 1st California Infantry Regiment, made up of California volunteers, passed through the area.

Yet other inscriptions date from the post-Santa Fe Trail era – from the 1880s to the 1980s, from both travelers and graffiti fans. Sharp said the route continued to be used by those traveling both east and west for years after the Santa Fe Trail was officially stopped in 1880, the year the route de rail first arrived in Santa Fe. After the railroad arrived, the entire Santa Fe Trail route could be traveled by train, ending the need to ship market goods by railcar.

Sharp and her husband, longtime ranchers who migrated south from Colorado to New Mexico in the early 1980s, wanted to buy the Autograph Rock wrap ranch because it has a “personality.” They have entered into an agreement with the National Park Service to allow visitors to access the site in the spring, summer and early fall.

She said that visitors who visit often touch the inscriptions with their fingers.

“They want to feel the story,” she said.


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