Cover image for The Santa Fe Trail : its history, legends, and lore
The Santa Fe Trail : its history, legends, and lore
Dary, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : A.A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 368 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F786 .D37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
F786 .D37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F786 .D37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
F786 .D37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From 1610, when the Spanish founded the city of Santa Fe, to the 1860s, when the railroad brought unprecedented changes: here is the full, fascinating story of the great Santa Fe Trail which ran between Missouri and Kansas and New Mexico--a lifeline to and from the Southwest for more than two centuries. Drawing from letters, journals, expedition reports, business records, and newspaper stories, David Dary--one of our foremost historians of the Old West--brings to life the people who laid down the trail and opened commerce with Spanish America: Native Americans and mountain men, traders, trappers, and freighters, surveyors and soldiers, men and women of many different nationalities. Their firsthand accounts let us experience up close the spectacular scenery; the details of camping out in both friendly and hostile Indian territory; the constant danger from natural disasters or sudden attack; the hardworking, often maverick men who were employed on the wagon trains; the pleasures and entertainments at the southern end of the journey. The book makes clear how in the early years trade started and stopped at the whim of the Spanish, and how the trail finally grew and prospered, bringing the settlement of new towns and the creation of new wealth along the route. We also learn how the rapid spread of the railroads across the country inexorably replaced the long caravans of mule- and ox-drawn wagons, and the way of life they represented. With his comprehensive knowledge and his exceptional storytelling skills, David Dary has given us a vivid re-creation of an important time and place in American history.

Author Notes

David Dary is a writer, journalist, and social historian.

Dary worked for newspapers in Kansas and Texas early on in his career and eventually moved on to work for both CBS and NBC news. He then took the position of professor at the William Allan White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.

The themes of Dary's books center on many aspects of life in the western United States. Dary has written Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West, Entrepreneurs of the Old West, and Seeking Pleasure in the Old West, which received a Western Writers of America Spur Award. He has also received a Cowboy Hall of Fame Wrangler Award and the Westerner's International Award for his book Cowboy Culture.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Unlike the Oregon Trail, a conduit for emigrants, the Santa Fe Trail was primarily a route for commerce. It prospered, despite terrific dangers to those who traveled it, because goods brought over the trail were considerably less expensive than those brought to Santa Fe via the competing route to Chihuahua and Mexico City. For devotees of the history of the West, Dary is the consummate guide to the annals of the trail. Opening with background on the Spanish crown's conquest and establishment of the province of New Mexico, and Santa Fe's founding in 1610, Dary passes quickly over the somnolent century and a quarter that followed and quickens the story with the first French traders, who pushed off from the Missouri River to brave the parched plains. The first recorded attempt, in about 1715, failed, but one in 1739 succeeded, with its leader writing of his near-death experience in an Indian attack. Indeed, a red-blooded and often brutal motif reigns over Dary's narrative, with trader/Indian skirmishes running right through to the trail's decline with the coming of the railroad in the 1860s. The dangers of ambush induced an occasional trader to bury his bullion rather than lose it to the Pawnees or Comanches, creating legends of buried treasure that Dary integrates with well-known facts about life on the trail. As he proceeds from Zebulon Pike's trek to Santa Fe in 1807 to the daring pioneering trading caravan of William Becknell in 1821 to the growth of trading posts and towns along the trail, the reader grows increasingly impressed with Dary's rendering of a balanced, comprehensive, and suitably dramatic story: it should become the standard source for the trail's history for some years to come. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The famous trail of romantic western lore was established in about 1610 by Spanish settlers of Mexico who had explored western and southern regions of North America long before the French and English arrived. Stretching 900 miles from its origin in Santa Fe through present-day Colorado and Kansas, the trail, originally a combination of many old paths worn down by buffalo, ends in Franklin, Mo. Enterprising Americans from the east soon discovered that the Spanish of Santa Fe and the nearby Indians had many material needs (cotton prints, factory products, including the latest guns and ammunition, whiskey) that they could supply very profitably. Thus the Santa Fe Trail came to be known as a key commercial link to the west. On their return trips, tradesmen brought back Mexican products like wool, buffalo hides and horses, mules, gold coins, gold dust and silver. Dary (Cowboy Culture; Red Blood and Black Ink, etc.), a leading historian of the Old West, draws on original newspaper stories, letters, diaries, books and expedition records to re-create the adventures of many tough and colorful people who endured a journey that might take more than two months, if they were lucky enough to survive severe hardship, bad weather, broken axles and marauding tribes. The Santa Fe Trail continued to serve as the heart of the "commerce of the prairies" until it was replaced in the 1860s by railroads. (Nov. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Unlike the Oregon and California trails, which were primarily emigration routes, the Santa Fe Trail was a commercial route linking the United States with the chief city of the Southwest. Western historian and Oklahoman Dary (Red Blood and Black Ink; Seeking Pleasure in the Old West) provides a well-written account of the trail from the time of the Conquistadors to the arrival of the railroad in Santa Fe in 1880, which brought an end to the use of the trail. This is a solid account, grounded in available original sources, and Dary is careful to note that most business records did not survive, allowing for only an estimate of the extent of the Santa Fe trade. Far from writing a dry business history, Dary has an engaging style that allows him to relate some of the lore and legends and show that they are just lore and legends. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.DStephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1 From Conquest to de Onate, 1492-1610p. 3
2 The Attraction of Santa Fe, 1610-1762p. 23
3 Trails to Santa Fe, 1762-1807p. 36
4 Destination Santa Fe, 1807-1822p. 55
5 The Santa Fe Trail, 1822-1825p. 74
6 Surveying the Road to Santa Fe, 1825-1827p. 93
7 The Business of Trade, 1821-1829p. 107
8 The Growth of Trade, 1830-1835p. 123
9 Over the Trail, 1835-1840p. 146
10 Years of Change, 1840-1845p. 166
11 The Mexican War and the Santa Fe Trade, 1846-1848p. 184
12 Forts, Emigrants, and Freighting, 1849-1852p. 208
13 New Tensions and Trade, 1853-1860p. 228
14 The Civil War, 1861-1865p. 254
15 The Slow Death of the Trail, 1866-1880p. 277
16 The Legacy of the Trail, 1880-2000p. 293
Glossaryp. 313
Notesp. 323
Bibliographyp. 341
Indexp. 355