Mountain Men and Hispanic Traders on the Old Spanish Trail, 1822-1853
FOR NEARLY TWO centuries French, English, and Anglo-American trappers had been slowly, moving westward, first up the St. Lawrence River, then along the Appalachian Mountains, and finally west from there until they reached the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. West of there, the Great Plains, stretching virtually from the Mississippi River to New Mexico, posed a barrier for several decades. After crossing the plains, in 1739 French trappers reached Santa Fe and began trading in the area. By the early nineteenth century, Anglo-American trappers also had reached Santa Fe from their rendezvous camps north of New Mexico. The way to the Great Plains from the Mississippi and Missouri river drainages had been blazed by Spanish trappers from St. Louis, before the Lewis and Clark expedition ( 1802-03). By 1821 a route known as the Santa Fe Trail had been developed from Missouri to New Mexico. That route linked up at Santa Fe with the Old Spanish Trail. Very quickly, a renewed interest in exploiting the Old Spanish Trail as a way to get to California attracted New Mexicans and Anglo-Americans alike. The Santa Fe Trail also linked up with another ancient road known as the camino real de tierra adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior, leading to Mexico City from Santa Fe. The Santa Fe-Chihuahua Trail became a famous route named for that segment of the Camino Real from Albuquerque to Chihuahua.