Eighteen twenty-one was a pivotal time in the trans-Mississippi West. In that year, Missouri was granted statehood and Mexico won its freedom from the iron hand of Spain. Also, in that year, the first of many trading expeditions was conducted between Missouri and New Mexico resulting in what became known as the Santa Fe Road or as Thomas Hart Benton declared "A highway between nations." The eastern terminus of the road was the village of Franklin on the Missouri River about 200 miles upstream from St. Louis, Santa Fe, located in the northernmost province of Mexico, was over 900 miles from Franklin. This then is the tale of two cities, the village named Franklin and the villa known as Santa Fe.
Franklin, Missouri was founded in 1816 on the north bank of the Missouri River. A year later, The Missouri Intelligencer and Boon Lick Advertiser was established in the village, the first weekly newspaper published west of St. Louis. Old issues of he paper are a treasure trove of information about the early days of the Santa Fe trade. Following a devastating flood in 1828, the citizens of the village moved to higher ground and established New Franklin. By that time the eastern terminus of the road had been moved upstream to Independence, Missouri. Ironically, The Missouri Intelligencer and Boon Lick Advertiser marker was swept away in the flood of 1993.
William Becknell with a company of five men and a string of Pack Horses loaded with trade goods set forth from Franklin to an unannounced destination in September, 1821. Reaching Santa Fe in November, he quickly sold the merchandise and returned to Franklin in January, 1822. In the same year, Becknell led a second expedition to Santa Fe with twenty-one men, three wagons, and trade goods valued at $3,000. The merchandise was sold in Santa Fe for $60,000, a profit of 2,000 percent.
In the spring of 1610, Don Pedro de Peralto, governor of LaProvincia de Neuvo Mexico, laid out La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco in the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Included in the survey were six districts for the villa and a square block for government buildings. In the same year, construction was initiated on what became known as the Palace of the Governors.
The Place of the Governors completed in 1812, is the oldest public building in the United States. It served as both office and residence for successive governors; Spanish, Mexican, and American. Presently housing the Museum of New Mexico, the architecture of the building still retains its structural integrity.
Dispatched from St. Louis in 1806, Lt. Zebulon Pike was commissioned to conduct an exploratory expedition of the Southwest. Trespassing into Spanish territory, he was apprehended by Spanish soldiers and escorted to Santa Fe. There, he was interrogated and taken to Chihuahua for further questioning before being returned to the United States. Pike's notes and maps, published in 1810, provide the information by which Missourians found their way to Santa Fe fifteen years subsequent to Pike's expedition.
At the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846, Col. Stephen W. Kearny organized the Army of the West, 1,500 strong, at Fort Leavenworth. Marching to Santa Fe, he led his command to the city's ancient plaza and claimed New Mexico as a territory of the United States. Two years later, the Treaty of Guadelupe-Hildago was signed making New Mexico, indisputably, a part of the United States.
Today, little, if anything remains of Franklin's original town site. On the other hand, Santa Fe, a city of 45,000, is a center of culture and tourism. Much of its architecture is reminiscent of the flattopped mud houses which greeted William Becknell in 1821.
Used With Permission of the Author:
Symposium at Franklin, Missouri - 2009
Presented by The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
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