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The Santa Fe Trail in Missouri

Mary Collins Barile

Publication Year: 2010

For nineteenth-century travelers, the Santa Fe Trail was an indispensable route stretching from Missouri to New Mexico and beyond, and the section called “The Missouri Trail”—from St. Louis to Westport—offered migrating Americans their first sense of the West with its promise of adventure. The truth was, any easterner who wanted to reach Santa Fe had to first travel the width of Missouri.
            This book offers an easy-to-read introduction to Missouri’s chunk of Santa Fe Trail, providing an account of the trail’s historical and cultural significance. Mary Collins Barile tells how the route evolved, stitched together from Indian paths, trappers’ traces, and wagon roads, and how the experience of traveling the Santa Fe Trail varied even within Missouri.
            The book highlights the origin and development of the trail, telling how nearly a dozen Missouri towns claimed the trail: originally Franklin, from which the first wagon trains set out in 1821, then others as the trailhead moved west. It also offers a brief description of what travelers could expect to find in frontier Missouri, where cooks could choose from a variety of meats, including hogs fed on forest acorns and game such as deer, squirrels, bear, and possum, and reminds readers of the risks of western travel. Injury or illness could be fatal; getting a doctor might take hours or even days.
            Here, too, are portraits of early Franklin, which was surprisingly well supplied with manufactured “boughten” goods, and Boonslick, then the near edge of the Far West. Entertainment took the form of music, practical jokes, and fighting, the last of which was said to be as common as the ague and a great deal more fun—at least from the fighters’ point of view. Readers will also encounter some of the major people associated with the trail, such as William Becknell, Mike Fink, and Hanna Cole, with quotes that bring the era to life. A glossary provides useful information about contemporary trail vocabulary, and illustrations relating to the period enliven the text.
            The book is easy and informative reading for general readers interested in westward expansion. It incorporates history and folklore in a way that makes these resources accessible to all Missourians and anyone visiting historic sites along the trail.

Published by: University of Missouri Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Sponsors, Series Information, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction - From Civilization to Sundown: The Santa Fe Trail Begins

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pp. 1-6

It should be easy to describe the Santa Fe Trail: it was a nineteenth-century commercial road stretching from Missouri to New Mexico and beyond. Depending on the route taken, the trail was hundreds of miles of rolling, flat, dusty, wet, hot, dry, green, or sandy track crossing Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico. It was home to...

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Chapter 1 - The Missouri Frontier: “To the Boonslick, to be sure!”

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pp. 7-29

Frontier life was never simple , comfortable, or secure, and it took skill, strength, and imagination to survive. The men and women who settled along the Missouri Trail had very different stories: some were “dirt poor,” arriving in the Boonslick with only a wagon, ...

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Chapter 2 - “As far as we wish to go”: William Becknell Leads the Way

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pp. 30-56

A trail brings people , commerce , and places together. It shows the way. It suffers from bad weather. It has a name and a character. A trail is in some ways, alive. And if necessity was the mother of the Santa Fe Trail and trade, then William Becknell was its...

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Chapter 3 - Life on the Trail

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pp. 57-82

A Santa Fe trader stepped onto the trail and found an even more rough and tumble new world than the frontier. The trip from Franklin to Westport was roughly 150 miles, at least a week’s travel in good weather. Once a trader was on the prairies, he was alone for months with only the men of his caravan for companionship. A...

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Chapter 4 - Wagons and Merchandise on the Missouri Trail

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pp. 83-103

Mexico was ripe for trade long before Missouri traders began to trudge into Santa Fe with packsaddles and hope. Spain had forced generations of New Mexicans to trade only within Spanish-held territories and, particularly, with the southern Mexican provinces. But these provinces lay a thousand miles and more...

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Chapter 5 - The F-A-R W-E-S-T: Missouri Trail Towns

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pp. 104-121

The Santa Fe Trail was never a single trace, track, or path. Men and wagons, like water, find their own levels and directions. Like the Missouri River, the trail had cutoffs, braids, and alternate routes. Arrow Rock could be reached by traveling west across the prairie from Franklin or by crossing the river at Boonville and then...

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Conclusion - The End of the Trail

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pp. 122-126

The Missourians who helped raise the Santa Fe trade from infant to maturity were made of determination and grit. Because the Santa Fe Trail was a commercial venture, more men than women traveled it in the early years. The women settlers of the Boonslick stayed behind to tend the farms while the men set out for...

Appendix - The Language of the Missouri Trail: A Glossary

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pp. 127-138

For More Reading

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pp. 139-140


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pp. 141-144

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 158-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272133
E-ISBN-10: 0826272134
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218803
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218806

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 35 illus, 2 maps, glossary
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 868217899
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Santa Fe Trail in Missouri