Beginning of the Santa Fe Trail
Franklin, Missouri

Franklin Missouri Marker Pole

     Here are a couple of photos of the marker pole at the center of the town square at the site of old Franklin, Missouri, where the Santa Fe Trail began in 1821. The crew above set the pole on March 16, 2005, which Leo Oliva constructed and hauled 400 miles from Woodston, Kansas. Thanks to Denny Davis, the local power company, and the local ready-mix company.

     Denny Davis, chairman of the marker pole committee, gave the following information: Left to right, Surveyor Dexter Slagle, Leo E. Oliva, Landon Hurt and Richard Colvin of Howard Electric Co-operative, and Frank McCreery of Boonville Ready Mix Concrete. Slagle provided the survey on an expenses-only basis. Leo Oliva, the rural electric co-op, and the ready mix concrete company donated their services.

     The photo below was taken by Leo Oliva and shows the watertower at Boonville, Missouri in the background, across the Missouri River from the site of old Franklin.

Franklin Missouri Marker Pole

The town was named after Benjamin Franklin
     In 1819, the Missouri Intelligencer and Boonslick Advertiser became the first newspaper printed west of St. Louis. In 1821, Franklin was the starting point of the first Santa Fe caravan of pack mules to trade with Mexico. This first venture was organized by William Becknell. Although before 1821, there had been occasional parties travelling its general route and ending up in a Spanish jail, the Santa Fe trade which began with Becknell, established in fact the great trail of commerce called the Santa Fe Trail. This was also the year Mexico became independent of Spain, and at once it removed the old Spanish trade restrictions.

     After the success of Becknell with trade in Mexico, other trades from the area were quick to follow. The wagon road between Franklin and Arrow Rock ferry had been laid out in 1816 by way of Cooper's Fort, across the bottom lands. It continued west ward from Arrow Rock, along the north side of Salt Fork Creek as far as Grand Pass in 1819, the first road in Saline County, Missouri. Besides the Arrow Rock ferry, there was a ferry at Boonville, and a ferry across the LaMine River between Boonville and Arrow Rock in 1821. Hardemen's ferry across the Missouri, near the mouth of the LaMine also dates to around 1821.

     This original road to Fort Osage from Franklin, substantially followed the Osage Indian Trace. As early as 1822 the trail across Lafayette county to Jack's ferry at Lexington, was kept in repair, the small creeks bridged.

     The Boone's Lick traders as they were called, useing this road were small investors, who sometimes mortgaged all their property to buy their goods and outfit their wagon trains. As they profited some of them soon began to hire teamsters, hunters and agents. Dry goods and useful articles of cutlery and other light hardware, comprised the bulk of their goods. They obtained their goods and outfits from Franklin merchants most of the time. These goods came to Franklin mostly from Philadelphia and New York, being transported by wagon over the Alleghany Mountains to Pittsburgh, and from there down the Ohio River by small steamboat to St. Louis or even St. Charles. Some of this freight was brought from thence to Franklin over the Boone's Lick Road. But the bulk of this merchandise was brought up the Missouri River in keel-boats, until the steamboatmen became sufficiently familiar with the channel to take their craft up to Franklin.

     As the trade with Santa Fe became more popular and increased, more steamboats came farther up the Missouri, to places like Lexington, Fort Osage Landing, and Liberty Landing.

     The original town was so heavily damaged by floods that most of its people moved in 1828 to New Franklin, just northeast of modern day Franklin. A great flood in 1993 swept away the few foundations of old Franklin that remained, as well as the Missouri Intelligencer monument and a DAR marker that stood beside the MKT tracks. This picture was taken a couple of years after the 1993 flood, and damage is still evident in the dislocation of Missouri 87 (which the Santa Fe Trail followed approximately for several miles west of town) and in the presence of a stagnant pool in a pit scoured by a vortex of the rushing floodwater. At lower right you can see the 1924 highway bridge over the river to Boonville, and just west of it the approach then being built for a new highway bridge.

This was the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail.
Thanks is extended to all involved, from all Trail Buffs for marking this historic site!

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