Travels on the Santa Fe Trail

The short course I am leading about Footprints in the Dew continues to go very well and last weekend found me at a big bash in Oklahoma City making more contacts for the project. And now to the Santa Fe Trail…..

Welcome back. The year was 1827 and in Kansas City wagon makers, blacksmiths and horse traders were already in demand. After the United States invaded Mexico in 1846 the lands bordering New Mexico became the next great frontier for adventurers and by the end of 1848 the flood gates were open, increasing the demand for these trades even more. At its peak in 1858 one thousand eight hundred wagons were headed west as traders, gold seekers, settlers and the military kept the Santa Fe Trail as busy as many modern day highways. Spaniards called this “La Jornada” or ‘The Journey.”

The trail crossed nine hundred miles across mountains and prairies that were filled with danger. I’ve recently traveled along part of the route, camping at night in some of the same locations where early travelers stayed. With good water, the Santa Fe Trail remained open most of the year except in the winter when the water would freeze. Some travelers chose the shorter Cimarron Trail which started in Dodge City, Kansas and went south but water was much harder to find along this route.

You can see old wagon tracks along both trails along with the grave markers of those who didn’t survive the trip. The end of the Civil War in 1865 brought about the demise of these historic trails as railroads expanded westward. The mud, mosquitos, bad weather and treacherous river crossings that were typical of wagon travel became a thing of the past.

The military outposts that were constructed at strategic points along the trails to protect travelers are mostly gone as well. Forts Mann, Atkinson, Union, Larned and several others attempted to keep the peace from the Indian tribes whose lands were in the area. Dozens of books and movies have depicted the perils of travel along the old trails, including encounters with robbers, dangerous wildlife and hostile Indian tribes.

It’s all an important part of American history and the not for profit Santa Fe Trail Association in Colorado is dedicated to keeping the story of the Trail and the people who traveled it alive. The association maintains maps of the parts of the trail that can still be walked by visitors and the historic landmarks along the way. Now that spring is here you may be looking for a road trip and they are a great place to start and if you want to learn more their number is (620) 285-2054.

Moving along to another story which includes some Oklahoma history. Elder Care’s big fundraiser, The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque took place last weekend at the historic Cross Bell Ranch and despite the threat of bad weather the turnout was great. Hundreds of guests enjoyed great food, music from three bands and an entertaining live auction lead by Roger Skelly. The proceeds from the event support Elder Care’s many programs for senior adults and their caregivers.

For those of you who may not know Elder Care is the only not for profit provider of these services in the region. From humble beginnings in a church basement in 1983, the organization has grown to serve over 800 people each month, including residents of Nowata, Osage and Washington counties. Among the many programs designed specifically for people 60 and older, Elder Care offers physical therapy, professional care management, adult day health and a medical clinic. Over the past year Elder Care has been recognized with several significant awards, most notably Best Not for Profit Organization in Oklahoma in 2014. With over 19,000 not for profits in Oklahoma, I’d say that’s quite an honor.

Elder Care’s Golden Opportunities program which provides a wide range of educational, travel and social opportunities has also been acclaimed as the most innovative program for seniors in the state.

The next time you are on Swan Drive, stop in and take a tour. I have. You may be surprised by all the resources available to you there. They also offer an open house at 10 AM on the first Monday of every month. For more information call (918) 336-8500.

You may have heard that I am offering a short course through OSU’s adult education program about my project Footprints in the Dew. Next week former Osage County D.A. Bill Hall will be joining me to discuss his investigation of the murder of E.C. Mullendroe in the 1970s.

Join us if you can or till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…….