William Becknell: Opening The Trail


William Becknell opened up the Santa Fe Trail, between the Missouri River and the Mexican provincial capital of Santa Fe, in the fall of 1821. The route played a major role in bringing people, goods, and ideas to and from Santa Fe for the next 59 years. However, the Santa Fe Trail was rarely a static entity, because both the route across the plains and the eastern terminus of the trail was constantly in flux. This was especially true during the last 15 years of the trail’s history, when the westward push of the railroads incrementally shortened the distance between Santa Fe and the most recently-built, end-of-track, “hell on wheels” railroad town.

National Park Service trails staff  have compiled a series of 22 maps that collectively attempt to answer the question, “At any given time during the trail’s history, what were the trail’s endpoints, and what was the shortest or most direct way for travelers to go to or from Santa Fe via this trail?”

These maps do not attempt to show every route; instead, only the most likely routes have been shown.

NationalParkService.”Travel the Trail:Map Timeline 1821-1845″.



The Great Prairie Highway


You can almost hear the whoops and cries of “All’s set!” as trail hands hitched their oxen to freight wagons carrying cargo between western Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through five states and you’ll find adventure and evidence of past travelers who made this remarkable trip before you!


Love On The Trail

“In 1851, Marion Sloan made her first journey on the Santa Fe Trail, travelling with her mother, Eliza, and older brother Will, to Santa Fe where Eliza ran a boardinghouse on a corner of the Santa Fe Plaza (where the Fine Arts Museum stands now). One spring afternoon as she was walking home from school, Marion met Col. Kit Carson. He became a boarder at her mother’s place whenever he was in town on business. His pet name for her was “Maid Marion” and they would often walk hand-in-hand around the Plaza.

In her teens, Marion visited Fort Union, northeast of Las Vegas, and met and fell in love with Lt. Richard Russell. One day he rode to Santa Fe and, finding her at the Post Office, he proposed. They were wed in the military chapel at Fort Union with Kit Carson as a witness. After he was mustered out of the Army, they settled on a ranch in the Stonewall Valley, west of Trinidad, Colorado.


“Pioneer Women on the Santa Fe Trail” Sangres.


Social Media

Information about the Santa Fe Trail Travelers and Their Descendants Conference can also be found on our social media pages! Click on the links below and please go like, follow, and share the word with others!









William H. Hagan, from Kentucky who later moved to Missouri,  was a “Trail Captain” on the Santa Fe Trail, also called a WagonMaster. He wasn’t a WagonMaster to start off with; he was working for a freighting firm around the 1850’s of West, Majors, Russell and Waddell. Mr. Hagan signed on for a round trip on the Santa Fe Trail. The Wagon train consisted of about twenty-five to thirty wagons. He went on the trip with another man in charge as WagonMaster. After the journey the WagonMaster took off to the California gold rush and William H. Hagan became the WagonMaster or as called the “Trail Captain”. He was trail captain until 1874.