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Santa Fe Trail

James Monroe

Santa Fe Trail: James Monroe was the 5th American President who served in office from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825. One of the important events during his presidency was the opening of the Santa Fe Trail.

Definition and Summary of the Santa Fe Trail

Summary and definition: The Santa Fe Trail was one of America's great trade routes, used as a commercial, military and emigrant trail from 1821 until 1880, when it was replaced by the railroad. It ran 900 miles from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe (now New Mexico)

The Santa Fe Trail for kids: Background History
The Spanish conquered the are they called
"New” Mexico" in 1598. The Spanish were jealous of their lands in the New World and closely guarded Spanish territory.

Contact with other Europeans was discouraged and the Spanish prohibited trade with their neighbors to east of Mexico and effectively closed their lands to foreigners.

The Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) resulted in victory for the Mexicans over the Spanish. Mexico allowed a large population of American people to settle in Texas and freedom to travel and trade with Mexico.

The departure of the Spanish opened a great gateway to the West - the Santa Fe Trail.

Importance and Significance of the Santa Fe Trail
The importance and significance of the Santa Fe Trail was:

  • Trade via the route brought much needed silver to the United States

  • The trail tied the New Mexican Southwest economically to the rest of the U.S. and hastened American infiltration of the region

  • Use of the route paved the way for American claims to New Mexico in the Mexican-American War

Facts about the Santa Fe Trail History for kids
Interesting History Facts about the Santa Fe Trail History are detailed below. The Santa Fe Trail History is told in a series of facts providing a simple method of relating the growth of trade along the 'Santa Fe Trail'. The facts answer the questions of when the Santa Fe Trail was opened, its  length, types of transport along it and its significance to the United States of America.

The route was pioneered in 1821 by a trader called William Becknell (1796–1865). Because the road began in Santa Fe, it was called the Santa Fe Trail.

William Becknell was the first American trader to do business in Santa Fe following the departure of the Spanish

William Becknell traveled through the mountains of northeastern New Mexico that became known as the Santa Fe Trail - he is called the 'Father of the Sante Fe Trail'

Apart from the inhospitable terrain it also carried many other dangers - it was located in a foreign country and Indian territory

The Trail had two main routes: the Mountain Fork, which went through Colorado, and the Cimarron Fork, which went through Kansas

The Mountain Fork, the northern route, went through the Colorado Rockies which was a difficult passage for wagons

The southern Cimarron Fork shortened the journey by 100 miles but carried the danger of offering limited water. 75% of people chose this route.

Most goods were hauled across the "prairie ocean" in wagons that were driven by either oxen, mules, or horses

Wagons traveled in parallel columns - two abreast in eastern Kansas and four abreast in the dangerous Indian territory

At night the wagons circled to make camp, usually after crossing a stream

Council Grove was the only trading post between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The route got its start in 1821, when an advertisement in the Missouri Intelligencer by William Becknell, seeking 'men willing to join and invest in a trading expedition to the west'

In 1825 a treaty was signed between the Osage Indians and the United States Government obtaining the right of way for a public highway known as the "Sante Fe Trail."

Bent's Fort (Fort William), fur trade post on the upper Arkansas was established in 1834

Trade goods into Mexico included cloth, hardware, glass and books. Trade goods from Mexico into the United States included Mexican blankets, beaver pelts, wool, mules, and Mexican silver coins

Westward Expansion was encouraged further by the belief in the Manifest Destiny of the US. The number of wagon trains increase, usually leaving in the early summer to make the 40 - 60 day trip then returning after a months stay in Santa Fe.

In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo confirmed the cession of New Mexico to the US

The U.S. Army built a series of forts along the trail to protect wagon trains. Traffic along the route expanded to include a mail and stagecoach service.

The introduction of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in 1880 made wagon travel a less attractive option, and the Santa Fe Trail fell into disuse.

The Santa Fe Trail for kids: Transportation Systems in America
The Santa Fe Trail was just one of the massive transportation projects undertaken in the 1800's. Another migration route for early settlers also started in Independence Missouri, it was called the Oregon Trail.

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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Updated 2018-01-01

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