THE OLD SANTA FE TRAIL
THE OLD SANTA FE TRAIL
COLONEL HENRY INMAN
At the commencement of the "commerce of the prairies" in the early
portion of the century the Old Trail was the arena of almost constant
sanguinary struggles between the wily nomads of the desert and the
hardy white pioneers whose eventful lives made the civilization
of the vast interior region of our continent possible. Their daring
compelled its development which has resulted in the genesis of
great states and large cities. Their hardships gave birth to the
American homestead; their determined will was the factor of possible
achievements the most remarkable and important of modern times.
When the famous highway was established across the great plains
as a line of communication to the shores of the blue Pacific
the only method of travel was by the slow freight caravan drawn by
patient oxen or the lumbering stage coach with its complement of
four or six mules. There was ever to be feared an attack by those
devils of the desert the Cheyennes Comanches and Kiowas.
Along its whole route the remains of men animals and the wrecks of
camps and wagons told a story of suffering robbery and outrage
more impressive than any language. Now the tourist or business man
makes the journey in palace cars and there is nothing to remind him
of the danger or desolation of Border days; on every hand are the
evidences of a powerful and advanced civilization.
It is fortunate that one is left to tell some of its story who was
a living actor and had personal knowledge of many of the thrilling
scenes that were enacted along the line of the great route.
He was familiar with all the famous men both white and savage
whose lives have made the story of the Trail his own sojourn on
the plains and in the Rocky Mountains extending over a period of
nearly forty years.
The Old Trail has more than common interest for me and I gladly
record here my indorsement of the faithful record compiled by a
brave soldier old comrade and friend.
W. F. Cody "Buffalo Bill."
INTRODUCTION. The First Europeans who traversed the Great Highway--Alvar Nunez
Cabeca de Vaca--Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado--
Spanish Expedition from Santa Fe eastwardly--Escape of the Sole Survivors.
CHAPTER I. Quaint Descriptions of Old Santa Fe--The Famous Adobe Palace--
UNDER THE SPANIARDS.
Santa Fe the Oldest Town in the United States--First Settlement--
Onate's Conquest--Revolt of the Pueblo Indians--Under Pueblo Rule
--Cruelties of the Victors--The Santa Fe of To-day--Arrival of
a Caravan--The Railroad reaches the Town--Amusements--A Fandango.
CHAPTER II. The Beginning of the Santa Fe Trade--La Lande and Pursley
LA LANDE AND PURSLEY.
the First Americans to cross the Plains--Pursley's Patriotism--
Captain Ezekiel Williams--A Hungry Bear--A Midnight Alarm.
CHAPTER III. Captain Becknell's Expedition--Sufferings from Thirst--Auguste
Chouteau--Imprisonment of McKnight and Chambers--The Caches--
Stampeding Mules--First Military Escort across the Plains--
Captain Zebulon Pike--Sublette and Smith--Murder of McNess--
Indians not the Aggressors.
CHAPTER IV. The Atajo or Pack-train of Mules--Mexican Nomenclature of
TRAINS AND PACKERS.
Paraphernalia--Manner of Packing--The "Bell-mare"--Toughness of
Mules among Precipices--The Caravan of Wagons--Largest Wagon-train
ever on the Plains--Stampedes--Duties of Packers en route--Order of
Travelling with Pack-train--Chris. Gilson the Famous Packer.
CHAPTER V. Narrative of Bryant's Party of Santa Fe Traders--The First Wagon
FIGHT WITH COMANCHES.
Expedition across the Plains--A Thrilling Story of Hardship and
Physical Suffering--Terrible Fight with the Comanches--Abandonment
of the Wagons--On Foot over the Trail--Burial of their Specie
on an Island in the Arkansas--Narrative of William Y. Hitt
one of the Party--His Encounter with a Comanche--The First Escort
of United States Troops to the Annual Caravan of Santa Fe Traders
in 1829--Major Bennett Riley's Official Report to the War Department
--Journal of Captain Cooke.
CHAPTER VI. The Expedition of Texans to the Old Santa Fe Trail for the Purpose
A ROMANTIC TRAGEDY.
of robbing Mexican Traders--Innocent Citizens of the United States
suspected arrested and carried to the Capital of New Mexico--
Colonel Snively's Force--Warfield's Sacking of the Village of Mora
--Attack upon a Mexican Caravan--Kit Carson in the Fight--
A Crime of over Sixty Years Ago--A Romance of the Tragedy.
CHAPTER VII. Mexico declares War against the United States--Congress authorizes
MEXICO DECLARES WAR.
the President to call for Fifty Thousand Volunteers--Organization of
the Army of the West--Phenomenon seen by Santa Fe Traders in the Sky
--First Death on the March of the Army across the Plains--Men in
a Starving Condition--Another Death--Burial near Pawnee Rock--
Trouble at Pawnee Fork--Major Howard's Report.
CHAPTER VIII. The Valley of Taos--First White Settler--Rebellion of the Mexicans
THE VALLEY OF TAOS.
--A Woman discovers and informs Colonel Price of the Conspiracy--
Assassination of Governor Bent--Horrible Butcheries by the Pueblos
and Mexicans--Turley's Ranch--Murder of Harwood and Markhead--
Anecdote of Sir William Drummond Stewart--Fight at the Mills--
Battle of the Pueblo of Taos--Trial of the Insurrectionists--
Baptiste the Juror--Execution of the Rebels.
CHAPTER IX. Independence--Opening of Navigation on the Mississippi--Effect of
FIRST OVERLAND MAIL.
Water Transportation upon the Trade--Establishment of Trading-forts--
Market for Cattle and Mules--Wages paid Teamsters on the Trail--
An Enterprising Coloured Man--Increase of the Trade at the Close of
the Mexican War--Heavy Emigration to California--First Overland Mail
--How the Guards were armed--Passenger Coaches to Santa Fe--
CHAPTER X. The Tragedy in the Canyon of the Canadian--Dragoons follow the Trail
of the Savages--Kit Carson Dick Wooton and Tom Tobin the Scouts
of the Expedition--More than a Hundred of the Savages killed--
Murder of Mrs. White--White Wolf--Lieutenant Bell's Singular Duel
with the Noted Savage--Old Wolf--Satank--Murder of Peacock--
Satanta made Chief--Kicking Bird--His Tragic Death--Charles Bent
the Half-breed Renegade--His Terrible Acts--His Death.
CHAPTER XI. Neglect of New Mexico by the United States Government--Intended
Conquest of the Province--Conspiracy of Southern Leaders--
Surrender by General Twiggs to the Confederate Government of the
Military Posts and Munitions of War under his Command--Only One
Soldier out of Two Thousand deserts to the Enemy--Organization
of Volunteers for the Defence of Colorado and New Mexico--
Battle of La Glorieta--Rout of the Rebels.
CHAPTER XII. The Ancient Range of the Buffalo--Number slaughtered in Thirteen Years
for their Robes alone--Buffalo Bones--Trains stopped by Vast Herds--
Custom of Old Hunters when caught in a Blizzard--Anecdotes of
Buffalo Hunting--Kit Carson's Dilemma--Experience of Two of Fremont's
Hunters--Wounded Buffalo Bull--O'Neil's Laughable Experience--
Organization of a Herd of Buffalo--Stampedes--Thrilling Escapes.
CHAPTER XIII. Big Timbers--Winter Camp of the Cheyennes Kiowas and Arapahoes--
INDIAN CUSTOMS AND LEGENDS.
Savage Amusements--A Cheyenne Lodge--Indian Etiquette--Treatment
of Children--The Pipe of the North American Savage--Dog Feast--
CHAPTER XIV. The Old Pueblo Fort--A Celebrated Rendezvous--Its Inhabitants--
"Fontaine qui Bouille"--The Legend of its Origin--The Trappers
of the Old Santa Fe Trail and the Rocky Mountains--Beaver Trapping--
Habits of the Beaver--Improvidence of the Old Trappers--Trading with
"Poor Lo"--The Strange Experience of a Veteran Trapper on the
Santa Fe Trail--Romantic Marriage of Baptiste Brown.
CHAPTER XV. Uncle John Smith--A Famous Trapper Guide and Interpreter--
UNCLE JOHN SMITH.
His Marriage with a Cheyenne Squaw--An Autocrat among the People
of the Plains and Mountains--The Mexicans held him in Great Dread--
His Wonderful Resemblance to President Andrew Johnson--Interpreter
and Guide on General Sheridan's Winter Expedition against the
Allied Plains Tribes--His Stories around the Camp-fire.
CHAPTER XVI. Famous Men of the Old Santa Fe Trail--Kit Carson--Jim Bridger--
James P. Beckwourth--Uncle Dick Wooton--Jim Baker--Lucien B.
Maxwell--Old Bill Williams--Tom Tobin--James Hobbs.
CHAPTER XVII. Uncle Dick Wooton--Lucien B. Maxwell--Old Bill Williams--Tom Tobin--
UNCLE DICK WOOTON.
James Hobbs--William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill).
CHAPTER XVIII. Maxwell's Ranch on the Old Santa Fe Trail--A Picturesque Region--
Maxwell a Trapper and Hunter with the American Fur Company--
Lifelong Comrade of Kit Carson--Sources of Maxwell's Wealth--
Fond of Horse-racing--A Disastrous Fourth-of-July Celebration
--Anecdote of Kit Carson--Discovery of Gold on the Ranch--
The Big Ditch--Issuing Beef to the Ute Indians--Camping out with
Maxwell and Carson--A Story of the Old Santa Fe Trail.
CHAPTER XIX. The Bents' Several Forts--Famous Trading-posts--Rendezvous of the
Rocky Mountain Trappers--Castle William and Incidents connected
with the Noted Place--Bartering with the Indians--Annual Feast
of Arapahoes and Cheyennes--Old Wolf's First Visit to Bent's Fort--
The Surprise of the Savages--Stories told by Celebrated Frontiersmen
around the Camp-fire.
CHAPTER XX. Pawnee Rock--A Debatable Region of the Indian Tribes--The most
Dangerous Point on the Central Plains in the Days of the Early
Santa Fe Trade--Received its Name in a Baptism of Blood--
Battle-ground of the Pawnees and Cheyennes--Old Graves on the
Summit of the Rock--Kit Carson's First Fight at the Rock with
the Pawnees--Kills his Mule by Mistake--Colonel St. Vrain's
Brilliant Charge--Defeat of the Savages--The Trappers' Terrible
Battle with the Pawnees--The Massacre at Cow Creek.
CHAPTER XXI. Wagon Mound--John L. Hatcher's Thrilling Adventure with Old Wolf
FOOLING STAGE ROBBERS.
the War-chief of the Comanches--Incidents on the Trail--A Boy
Bugler's Happy Escape from the Savages at Fort Union--A Drunken
Stage-driver--How an Officer of the Quartermaster's Department
at Washington succeeded in starting the Military Freight Caravans
a Month Earlier than the Usual Time--How John Chisholm fooled
the Stage-robbers--The Story of Half a Plug of Tobacco.
CHAPTER XXII. Solitary Graves along the Line of the Old Santa Fe Trail--The Walnut
A DESPERATE RIDE.
Crossing--Fort Zarah--The Graves on Hon. D. Heizer's Ranch on
the Walnut--Troops stationed at the Crossing of the Walnut--
A Terrible Five Miles--The Cavalry Recruit's Last Ride.
CHAPTER XXIII. General Hancock's Expedition against the Plains Indians--Terrible
Snow-storm at Fort Larned--Meeting with the Chiefs of the
Dog-Soldiers--Bull Bear's Diplomacy--Meeting of the United States
Troops and the Savages in Line of Battle--Custer's Night Experience--
The Surgeon and Dog Stew--Destruction of the Village by Fire--
General Sully's Fight with the Kiowas Comanches and Arapahoes--
Finding the Skeletons of the Unfortunate Men--The Savages' Report
of the Affair.
INVASION OF THE RAILROAD.
Scenery on the Line of the Old Santa Fe Trail--The Great Plains-- The Arkansas Valley--Over the Rocky Mountains into New Mexico--
The Raton Range--The Spanish Peaks--Simpson's Rest--Fisher's Peak
--Raton Peak--Snowy Range--Pike's Peak--Raton Creek--The Invasion
of the Railroad--The Old Santa Fe Trail a Thing of the Past.
For more than three centuries a period extending from 1541 to 1851
historians believed and so announced to the literary world
that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado the celebrated Spanish explorer
in his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola and the Kingdom of Quivira
was the first European to travel over the intra-continent region
of North America. In the last year above referred to however
Buckingham Smith of Florida an eminent Spanish scholar and secretary
of the American Legation at Madrid discovered among the archives
of State the _Narrative of Alvar Nunez Cabeca de Vaca_ where for
nearly three hundred years it had lain musty and begrimed with the
dust of ages an unread and forgotten story of suffering that has no
parallel in fiction. The distinguished antiquarian unearthed the
valuable manuscript from its grave of oblivion translated it into
English and gave it to the world of letters; conferring honour upon
whom honour was due and tearing the laurels from such grand voyageurs
and discoverers as De Soto La Salle and Coronado upon whose heads
history had erroneously placed them through no fault or arrogance
however of their own.
Cabeca beyond any question travelled the Old Santa Fe Trail for
many miles crossed it where it intersects the Arkansas River
a little east of Fort William or Bent's Fort and went thence on
into New Mexico following the famous highway as far at least
as Las Vegas. Cabeca's march antedated that of Coronado by five years.
To this intrepid Spanish voyageur we are indebted for the first
description of the American bison or buffalo as the animal is
erroneously called. While not so quaint in its language as that
of Coronado's historian a lustrum later the statement cannot be
perverted into any other reference than to the great shaggy monsters
of the plains:--
Cattle come as far as this. I have seen them three times
and eaten of their meat. I think they are about the size
of those of Spain. They have small horns like the cows
of Morocco and the hair very long and flocky like that
of the merino; some are light brown others black. To my
judgment the flesh is finer and fatter than that of this
country. The Indians make blankets of the hides of those
not full grown. They range over a district of more than
four hundred leagues and in the whole extent of plain over
which they run the people that inhabit near there descend
and live on them and scatter a vast many skins throughout
It will be remembered by the student of the early history of
our country that when Alvar Nunez Cabeca de Vaca a follower of the
unfortunate Panphilo de Narvaez and who had been long thought dead
landed in Spain he gave such glowing accounts of Florida and the
neighbouring regions that the whole kingdom was in a ferment
and many a heart panted to emigrate to a land where the fruits
were perennial and where it was thought flowed the fabled
fountain of youth.
Three expeditions to that country had already been tried:
one undertaken in 1512 by Juan Ponce de Leon formerly a companion
of Columbus; another in 1520 by Vasquez de Allyon; and another by
Panphilo de Narvaez. All of these had signally failed the bones
of most of the leaders and their followers having been left to bleach
upon the soil they had come to conquer.
The unfortunate issue of the former expeditions did not operate as
a check upon the aspiring mind of De Soto but made him the more
anxious to spring as an actor into the arena which had been the scene
of the discomfiture and death of the hardy chivalry of the kingdom.
He sought an audience of the emperor and the latter after hearing
De Soto's proposition that "he could conquer the country known as
Florida at his own expense" conferred upon him the title of
"Governor of Cuba and Florida."
On the 6th of April 1538 De Soto sailed from Spain with an armament
of ten vessels and a splendidly equipped army of nine hundred chosen men
amidst the roar of cannons and the inspiring strains of martial music.
It is not within the province of this work to follow De Soto through
all his terrible trials on the North American continent; the wonderful
story may be found in every well-organized library. It is recorded
however that some time during the year 1542 his decimated army
then under the command of Luis de Moscoso De Soto having died
the previous May was camped on the Arkansas River far upward towards
what is now Kansas. It was this command too of the unfortunate
but cruel De Soto that saw the Rocky Mountains from the east.
The chronicler of the disastrous journey towards the mountains says:
"The entire route became a trail of fire and blood" as they
had many a desperate struggle with the savages of the plains
who "were of gigantic stucture and fought with heavy strong clubs
with the desperation of demons. Such was their tremendous strength
that one of these warriors was a match for a Spanish soldier
though mounted on a horse armed with a sword and cased in armour!"
Moscoso was searching for Coronado and he was one of the most humane
of all the officers of De Soto's command for he evidently bent
every energy to extricate his men from the dreadful environments
of their situation; despairing of reaching the Gulf by the Mississippi
he struck westward hoping as Cabeca de Vaca had done to arrive
in Mexico overland.
A period of six months was consumed in Moscoso's march towards the
Rocky Mountains but he failed to find Coronado who at that time
was camped near where Wichita Kansas is located; according to his
historian "at the junction of the St. Peter and St. Paul" (the Big
and Little Arkansas?). That point was the place of separation
between Coronado and a number of his followers; many returning
to Mexico while the undaunted commander with as many as he could
induce to accompany him continued easterly still in search of
the mythical Quivira.
How far westward Moscoso travelled cannot be determined accurately
but that his route extended up the valley of the Arkansas for more than
three hundred miles into what is now Kansas is proved by the statement
of his historian who says: "They saw great chains of mountains and
forests to the west which they understood were uninhabited."
Another strong confirmatory fact is that in 1884 a group of mounds
was discovered in McPherson County Kansas which were thoroughly
explored by the professors of Bethany College Lindsborg who found
among other interesting relics a piece of chain-mail armour
of hard steel; undoubtedly part of the equipment of a Spanish soldier
either of the command of Cabeca de Vaca De Soto or of Coronado.
The probability is that it was worn by one of De Soto's unfortunate men
as neither Panphilo de Narvaez De Vaca or Coronado experienced any
difficulty with the savages of the great plains because those leaders
were humane and treated the Indians kindly in contradistinction to
De Soto who was the most inhuman of all the early Spanish explorers.
He was of the same school as Pizarro and Cortez; possessing their
daring valour their contempt of danger and their tenacity of purpose
as well as their cruelty and avarice. De Soto made treaties with
the Indians which he constantly violated and murdered the misguided
creatures without mercy. During the retreat of Moscoso's weakened
command down the Arkansas River the Hot Springs of Arkansas
were discovered. His historian writes:
And when they saw the foaming fountain they thought
it was the long-searched-for "Fountain of Youth" reported
by fame to exist somewhere in the country but ten of the
soldiers dying from excessive drinking they were soon
convinced of their error.
After these intrepid explorers the restless Coronado appears on