Main Branch of the Santa Fe Trail
Franklin, Missouri to the Kansas State Line
- State of Missouri
Missouri is rich in history and culture. American Indian warriors, such as the Osage and Missouri, and famous pioneers, such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, were drawn to the vast waterways of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the abundant land and wildlife. The thriving city life found in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as the quiet beauty of limestone bluffs and winding rivers, make Missouri a great place to explore even today.
- Franklin Site
The site of Franklin is north of the Missouri River and about 0.5 mile west of the Boonville bridge on Missouri Highway 87. Franklin was the town where William Becknell and his party started out for Santa Fe in 1821 and followed parts of the Osage Trace. They returned with substantial profits, signaling the opening of the Santa Fe Trail. Franklin was washed away by the Missouri River in 1826-27. The historic site is north of the present river channel.
- Boone's Lick
Boone's Lick is a Missouri state historic site north of Petersburg. The salt lick or natural saltwater spring was the primary salt producer for settlements along the Missouri River from 1805 until the 1830s. Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone, sons of Daniel Boone, developed this economic resource. William Becknell was associated with salt production and owned some of the area. It was at Franklin that the Santa Fe Trail began as an extension of the Boonslick Road, although the route had been used before 1821 as the Osage Trace, a route from Franklin to Fort Osage.
- Arrow Rock
Arrow Rock is the name of a bluff on the west side of the Missouri River that was used as a landmark. The Lewis and Clark expedition passed by here in 1804. About 1811 a ferry across the river was established, leading from the Boonslick Road to what was originally the Osage Trace to Fort Osage, the route later followed by the Santa Fe Trail. The town of Arrow Rock, formed in 1829, was a significant site on the Santa Fe Trail.
- Arrow Rock Landing
Arrow Rock landing, located near the town of Arrow Rock, was in use from around 1811 until 1927. Ruts of the road from the landing to the community of Arrow Rock may still be identified.
- Santa Fe Spring
Santa Fe Spring is at Arrow Rock, Missouri. It is also known as Big Spring, a place that early traders - including William Becknell - used as a point of departure on the trail.
- Huston Tavern
Huston Tavern is in Arrow Rock. The tavern, which is on the south side of Main Street in the center of town, was built about 1834 by Joseph Huston. It is known to have been visited by many who traveled the Santa Fe Trail.
- Neff Tavern Site
Located northwest of Arrow Rock, the Neff Tavern site is where Isaac Neff built a log tavern on the Santa Fe Trail in 1837. The trail went between the tavern and the barn, a later stage station, skirted the family cemetery, and continued to the northwest. The tavern was torn down in 1890. The only remaining original structure is the stone smokehouse at the left rear of the brick residence.
- Harvey Spring/Weinrich Ruts
A fine set of five deep ruts are south of Saline County Road 416. The location is 5 miles northwest of Marshall.
- Grand Pass
A landmark on the Osage Trace, the Grand Pass begins about 3 miles west of Malta Bend. It is a terrace between the Salt Fork and the Missouri River bottoms followed by present US Highway 65. At the east edge of the village of Grand Pass is the community cemetery, which contains excellent ruts of the Santa Fe Trail.
- Tabo Creek Crossing
The Tabo Creek crossing is south of the Missouri River, 8 miles east of Lexington, Missouri, and within sight of US Highway 24. As a major tributary on the south bank of the Missouri River, Tabo Creek presented an obstacle to travelers on both the Osage Trace and Santa Fe Trail routes. In 1821 a license was issued to operate a ferry across the creek. A DAR marker, now in Lexington, formerly stood on the creek bank here.
The Santa Fe Trail entered Lexington on what is now US Highway 24, then followed Missouri Highway 224 west along South Street. It passed the site of "Old Town" where the first courthouse stood and continued to Twentieth Street, turning left and on past the Machpelah Cemetery toward the present US 24 junction. It followed the Osage Trace into Jackson County. Later a branch of the trail went west toward the Missouri River in the vicinity of Jack's Ferry south of the present highway bridge over the river. On Water Street stood a variety of warehouses and other establishments that served the trail. James and Robert Aull outfitted trading caravans from Lexington, and Robert is buried in the Machpelah Cemetery.
- The National Frontier Trails Center
During the trails period, thousands of wagons rolled down the hill from the Courthouse Square and passed over the property now known as the National Frontier Trails Center in Lexington, Missouri. The large, free public spring offered emigrants a chance to water their livestock and wash with its fresh water.
- Fort Osage
Fort Osage was at the north city limits of Sibley, Missouri, 14 miles northeast of Independence. It was built in 1808 to fulfill one of the provisions of a treaty between the Osage Indians and the United States. It was sited on a high bluff on the right bank of a big bend of the Missouri River so that the river could be used both for transit and protection. The fort was the westernmost fur trading factory of the U. S. factory system and, due to the efforts of factor George Champlin Sibley, the only profitable one. Fort Osage was also for a time the westernmost U.S. military post. According to the terms of the treaty, the fort was a trade center for the Osage, Kansa, and other regional tribes, and it was also a convenient rendezvous for trappers, mountainmen, and explorers. It became a transition point between overland routes to the west and southwest and waterborne routes on the Missouri River to the east. The U.S. government officially closed the fort in 1822, and Sibley attempted to operate it as a private trading enterprise from 1822 to 1824 but failed. The official U.S. government survey of the Santa Fe Trail in 1825-27, which was headed by Sibley, began 1.75 miles south of Fort Osage, where the Osage Trace crossed the eastern boundary of Indian lands as defined by the 1808 treaty. The survey starting point is commemorated in place names that endure today, such as 110 Mile Creek and 142 Mile Creek. Sibley completed the 165 miles from eastern Jackson County to west of Council Grove in 1827. Fort Osage lasted for a few years as the embarkation point for westward travel on the Santa Fe Trail, but it was soon succeeded by Independence. Today the fort has been partially restored as a Jackson County park.
- Little Blue River Crossing
This crossing of the Little Blue River, near the north end of Lentz Road, is at the site where the Blue Mills were located. Until bridged in 1837, it was a difficult river crossing for Santa Fe Trail travelers.
- Blue Mills
The site of two Blue Mills is at the north end of Lentz Road in Jackson County. Remnants of the 1834 steam-powered gristmill remain, but there is nothing of the 1835 steampowered sawmill. The Santa Fe Trail ran between the two mills. The Little Blue River was crossed by a bridge in 1834. The mills were owned by Michael Rice, Samuel C. Owens, and James and Robert Aull, all merchants and traders on the Santa Fe Trail.
- Lower Independence (Blue Mills) Landing
The Lower Independence Landing is on the right bank of the Missouri River, about 1 mile north of the current intersection of Whitney and Courtney roads and 5.5 miles northeast of Independence. This steamboat landing, and an earlier ferry operation, was used from about 1832 into the 1860s, and countless tons of trade goods bound for Santa Fe went up to Independence from this landing. Today the Santa Fe Railroad tracks cover the site, and no traces remain of the original landing or ferry.
- Upper Independence (Wayne City) Landing
The Upper Independence Landing is on the right bank of the Missouri River, north of the Cement City Road and the Missouri Portland Cement Company and about 3.25 miles north of Independence. This steamboat landing, and an earlier ferry operation, was never as successful or used as long at the Lower Independence Landing. Some of the merchandise unloaded here was carried to Santa Fe. No trace of the landing remains.
- Jackson County Courthouse
The square in Independence has had a brick courthouse since 1829. The present courthouse dates from a 1933 remodeling and expansion overseen by Administrative Judge Harry S Truman. It contains elements of the red brick 1836 courthouse and parts of six later remodelings and expansions. Some of the deeds recorded here mention trails, and some of the magistrate and circuit court cases heard here involved traders' and merchants' delinquent debts and broken contracts. Trading caravans forming to leave Independence for Santa Fe would sometimes nearly encircle the courthouse on the square's four streets before heading south on Liberty Street.
- Jackson County Log Courthouse
Located at 107 West Kansas in Independence, this structure was built in 1827 as temporary quarters for the Jackson County government. Deeds to commercial property on the square were issued and filed here, and merchants' and ferry operators' licenses for the early traders and businessmen in Independence and Jackson County were issued here. Independence merchant and Santa Fe trader Samuel C. Owens was a county clerk who handled some of these deeds and licenses; Samuel D. Lucas, another merchant and Santa Fe trader, was his deputy. The log courthouse was moved from its original site to its current location in 1916. The building was altered during the 1920s to its present appearance.
- Kritser House
The Martin O. Kritser house at 115 West Walnut in Independence was built in 1847. Kritser made at least one trip to Santa Fe three years before he built this residence. It is typical of the average middle class home in Independence during its heyday as the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail.
- Jackson County Jail
Located at 217 North Main in Independence, the jail was built in 1859 and served as the center for county law enforcement in the waning days of the Santa Fe trade in Independence.
- Lewis-Webb House
The Lewis-Webb home, at 302 North Mill in Independence, was built in 1834, with an addition in 1853. John Lewis, the builder, was a saddler and Santa Fe freighter.
- Ferril-Henley House
The William Ferril-Alonzo F. Henley house is at 3940 South Crysler in Independence and was built about 1830 by Ferril, who may be related to the Henry Ferril who traveled to Santa Fe on Becknell's second trip. After a series of owners, Henly bought the house in 1856. Henley and his wife's family, the Gentrys, were active in the Santa Fe trade.
- Noland House
Located at 1024 South Forest in Independence, the small, two-room back section was built in 1831 and the large two-story brick front section was built about 1850 for Smallwood Noland. Noland was the proprietor of the Washington House, a well-known hostelry on the square and one frequented by Santa Fe traders and travelers.
- 205 North Main
This commercial structure is possibly one of the oldest intact commercial buildings in the Independence Square area. There is a corbeled gable at the rear of the building, and there was also one at the front until the building was remodeled. Corbeled, or stepped, gables were typical of early construction; examples on similar structures can be seen on the 1866 Bird's-Eye View of Independence, owned by the Jackson County Historical Society.
- 207-209 North Main
This commercial building was built about 1850 and was remodeled about 1920. Most of the building is probably the same structure housing the 1850 Kenton House Hotel. The first story has been extensively remodeled; the second story, however, remains intact.
- 206-208 North Main
Like the Independence courthouse, this building is a good example of the evolutionary nature of buildings on Independence Square. Portions of Smallwood Noland's 1846 hotel can be seen from the back courtyard. The building has suffered numerous fires and has been rebuilt, but it was never completely torn down. Although various lacunae make interpretation difficult, the structure remains important to the history of the square.
- Woodlawn Cemetery
The cemetery is on Noland Road in Independence. It was first patented by Robert Rickman in 1837, and the site was being used as a county and city burial ground before 1845. The present cemetery complex consists of the original city cemetery, the Stayton family cemetery, St. Mary's cemetery, the segregated black cemetery, and a potter's field. Dozens of people who were important to the Santa Fe Trail story are buried here, including Hiram Young, Samuel and Robert Weston, freighter John Lewis, hotel proprietor Smallwood Noland, Mexican War veteran John T. Hughes, merchants William and John McCoy, and attorneys William Chrisman and Samuel Woodson.
- Jabez Smith Overseer's House
Located in Independence on North Broadway, this house was attached to the farm operation of Jabez Smith, a slave speculator and farmer in the 1850s who also had connections to the Santa Fe trade.
- Lewis Jones House
This house is at the northwest corner of Main and Elizabeth streets in Independence. The land was purchased by Jones in 1836. Jones was a wagonmaker and owner of the 1849 Nebraska House hotel in Independence. As a Santa Fe trader, merchant, and financial backer for other Santa Fe merchants and traders, Jones was an unusually successful businessman.
- Santa Fe Trail Park Ruts
The trail is visible as a swale at the creek crossing in this Independence city park near Santa Fe Road and 29th Street.
- Santa Fe Trail Ruts
31st Street and Santa Fe Road
Ruts of the Santa Fe Trail in Independence are visible about 450 feet south of 31st Street and about 500 feet east of Santa Fe Road, on the west side of Santa Fe Terrace. Near 3126 Santa Fe Road, on the east side of the road, is a clearly visible Santa Fe Trail ramp down part of a high creek bank.
- Lewis-Bingham-Waggoner House
Located at 313 West Pacific in Independence, this 19-acre tract is along the route of the Santa Fe Trail as it left the square area. Osage Street, which borders the tract on the east, was part of the trail alignment before 1835. The width of the trail has not changed since that time; a road-cut on the southeast corner of the property where Osage turns into Linden Street also dates from that period. Lewis built part of the house. The property was owned for six years after the Civil War by George Caleb Bingham, Missouri's genre artist, and his wife. In 1879 the Waggoner family, who owned the mill across Pacific Avenue, purchased the acreage with the house. The main house was built in the 1850s and was extensively remodeled in the 1890s; it is now a house museum.
- Public Spring Site
This spring is on a plot of land north of the National Frontier Trails Center and a railroad spur, and it may be the first dedicated park land, 1827, in the state. It was from this spring that traders bound for Santa Fe could fill their wagon barrels before heading out to the trail on Osage Street, just east of the Lewis-Bingham-Waggoner house. This property remained in municipal hands until the 1920s, when it was sold to private interests. The spring was buried in the 1970s.
- Overfelt-Johnston House
This house, at 305 South Pleasant in Independence, was built about 1850 by John Overfelt, who owned and operated the city mills at the public spring on the Santa Fe Trail. This structure remains in nearly original condition.
- Gilpintown, River Boulevard and Kentucky Road
This was the site of a real estate scheme conceived by geopolitician William Gilpin about 1855. It is adjacent to the Upper Independence, Wayne City, Landing. The failure of the development caused Gilpin to enter into a legal battle with Santa Fe trader and Gilpintown investor David Waldo; both men, who were from Independence, had served together in the Mexican War. Gilpin was an Independence resident until 1860, and he served on both the city council and the public school board. It was due to Gilpin's influence that a port of customs for the Santa Fe trade was established in Independence in 1845.
- William McCoy House
William McCoy was the first mayor of Independence (1849). He was a Santa Fe trader and a backer of other Santa Fe traders, as well as a banker, a merchant, a contract freighter for the army, and a partner in early stagecoach operations on the trail. His home, at 410 West Farmer, may have been built by another Santa Fe trader, Samuel C. Owens.
- Big Blue River Crossing
The actual crossing site of the Big Blue River near old US Highway 40 is no longer visible. Traders who went from Independence to Westport to outfit used this less popular crossing of the Big Blue. The ruts going northwest up the steep hill west of the river are still visible at 27th and Topping Avenue.
- Archibald Rice Farmhouse
At 8801 East 66th Street in Raytown, Missouri, is the farmhouse of Archibald Rice. The house was reportedly built in the 1830s, although it has been somewhat changed. The Santa Fe Trail passed northeast of the house, and travelers wrote about stopping for produce.
- Red Bridge Crossing
The Red Bridge crossing in Kansas City, Missouri, was initially a ford, one of many difficult river crossings on the way to Santa Fe. The Red Bridge was constructed at this site in 1859. This important river crossing is about 300 yards north of the present Red Bridge.
- Minor Park Ruts
An excellent set of ruts crosses Minor Park, which is administered by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. Easily accessible, these ruts are among the best on the entire trail.
- Harris House
The Harris house was built by Santa Fe trader John Harris in 1855 at the corner of Westport Road and Main Street and was moved to its present location at 4000 Baltimore in 1922. Still located within the confines of the Historic Old Westport District, the home now serves as a museum and headquarters for the Westport Historical Society.
- Ewing-Boone Store
The Ewing-Boone store, at the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania, was constructed in 1850-51 by William and George Ewing, who were licensed traders with the Shawnee Indians across the border in Kansas. The store was sold to Albert Gallatin Boone in 1854, the same year Kansas became a territory and the Shawnee Reservation was terminated. This building remains today at its original location; however, it was drastically remodeled in the 1890s.
- Jim Bridger's Store
Jim Bridger's store was built just west of the Ewing-Boone store, on Westport Road. It was built in 1850 by Cyprien Chouteau, who sold it to Jim Bridget in 1866. Bridger's son-in-law, Albert Wachsmann, operated a store in the building. The building remains today, but it has been altered considerably to serve its current use as a restaurant.
- William Bent House
The William Bent house is at 1032 West 55th Street, in Kansas City, Missouri. William Bent, who built Bent's Fort in partnership with his brother Charles and Ceran St. Vrain, stayed here on occasion, and his second wife, Yellow Woman, and children may have spent time here. The land was bought in 1858 by Bent, but the small house was already standing, having been built and occupied for 18 years by the Matney family. Adeline Harvey Bent married William in 1867, and she owned the land after his death in 1869 and sold it in 1871. When her husband died, she came into a great deal of money, and she built the north end of the north/south configuration of the big house.
- Westport Landing
The Westport landing is where Grand Avenue meets the southern bank of the Missouri River just below the mouth of the Kansas River. The historic landing itself has been obliterated by modern developments, but its overall use remains that of a river port. The town of Westport, 4 miles south of the Westport landing, has long since been incorporated by Kansas City, but it remains defined by the Old Westport Historic District and includes the historic buildings that are associated with the Santa Fe Trail. Westport was the major point of embarkation on the Santa Fe Trail after it superseded Independence in the late 1840s to the early 1850s. Only Fort Leavenworth rivaled Westport as the point of organization of wagon trains for travel to Santa Fe after 1850.
- New Santa Fe
New Santa Fe is now at the southern edge of the Kansas City metropolitan area, west of the intersection of Holmes and Santa Fe Trail Street and behind the present Santa Fe Bible Church. New Santa Fe grew up at the western edge of Missouri, where the Big Blue campground developed west of the Red Bridge crossing (approximately 3 miles southwest of the Blue River). Trading stores were established here, especially to sell liquor, which was prohibited in the Indian lands west of Missouri. There also was a Santa Fe Trail stage station at this site in the 1850s. A cemetery and historical marker (located behind the church) are all that remain of this site today. It was never a large settlement.
- Watts' Mill Site
The site of Watts' Mill is on Indian Creek one block east of State Line Road on 103rd Street in southern Kansas City, Missouri, and behind the present-day Watts' Mill shopping center. The Fitzhugh Mill was erected at this site in 1832, and Santa Fe Trail wagon trains sometimes rendezvoused at this site, where there was plenty of water and grazing for livestock. Anthony Watts purchased the mill in 1850 and operated it in later Santa Fe Trail days. Some of the grain ground at this mill was undoubtedly used to supply traders on the trail. Some foundations and the millstones remain today, and plans are underway to reconstruct the mill.
- Alexander Majors House
The Alexander Majors house was built in 1855 on the east side of State Line Road near 85th Street in Kansas City, Missouri. Majors was the leading freighter on the Santa Fe Trail from 1848 to the Civil War, being the primary contractor for military freight on the route. In partnership with William Russell and William Waddell, Majors sent thousands of wagons over the trail. The house has been restored as a museum.
- The Steamboat Arabia
In the steamers galley, a hearty dinner of roast pork was prepared for the hungry passengers. The porters busily wound in and out of the assembling travelers, preoccupied with last-minute supper details. As twilight cast its long shadows across the serene river valley, the pilot stood his post on the upper-most deck. Unaware, like those below, of the terror and disaster that would momentarily grip all those aboard the ill-fated Arabia.
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