The Santa Fe Trail was a route pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell to transport commercial goods from Franklin, Missouri across “Indian Country” to the northern Mexican city of Santa Fe. It took 8 to 10 weeks to haul goods by packhorse or Conestoga wagon from Western Missouri to Santa Fe. One of the thousands of people who set out on this expedition was Edward “Bullock” Mitchell, who used this leather saddlebag to transport goods across the 1200 mile stretch. In 1842, Mitchell left Saline County, Missouri, with cargo in tow to be sold in Santa Fe or beyond.
Mitchell’s saddle bag is a reminder of the importance of that trade route to the early economic development of Missouri. As the trailhead for the US end of the route, many towns in Missouri became important outfitting depots for those looking to travel west to Santa Fe. In exchange for cloth, tools, and garments, US-based traders often received silver, gold, and mules all of which bolstered the growth of up-and-coming Missouri towns. The infusion of hard currency from the Sante Fe trade substantially contributed to the state’s early financial success. After the US gained control of Santa Fe in the aftermath of the US-Mexican War in 1848, trade and movement along the trail increased as it was used to transport commercial and US military cargo and people moving westward. The trail was heavily used until the Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad line opened in 1880.
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society
Accession Number: 1914-071-0002
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