― from American Monthly, October 1911, page 185-187.
The old trails, stamped out by nature’s engineers—the buffalo and the Indian—were considered the best natural route across the State by the pioneer Missourians; path-finders in a primeval forest seek the ridge-road, the direct road and safest river bends. Such were the Boone’s Lick Road and the Santa Fé Trail, along which the star of empire first blazed its western course.
The Boone’s Lick Road led from St. Louis, westward 150 miles to Old Franklin; it turned immigration to central Missouri, and brought Missouri into the Union as a State. It was the forerunner of the Santa Fé Trail. In 1804, two sons of Daniel Boone, Daniel Morgan Boone and Nathan Boone, made salt at the famous salt lick, in the wilderness of central Missouri; they floated the salt in hollow logs down the Missouri river to St. Louis; this traffic in two years made a settlement at Boone’s Lick and shortly afterward, Old Franklin, twelve miles away, was also founded; the necessity for a highway between Old Franklin and St. Louis resulted in the Boone’s Lick Road.
The Santa Fé Trail led from Old Franklin westward to Santa Fé, about 900 miles away; what Boone’s Lick Road had been to central Missouri the Santa Fé Trail was to western Missouri and all that territory indistinctly known as the “Far West.” Wm. Beckwell [sic, Becknell], “the father of the Trail,” in 1820, started from Old Franklin and made the first successful overland trade expedition to Santa Fé; he used pack mules. Calico bought in Missouri for a few coppers sold in Santa Fé for several gold dollars. The resulting “prairie commerce” developed not only Missouri, but all the territory of the West, or, as an old plainsman expressed it, “between civilization and sundown.”
Missouri became the great mother of the West; she created sons who conquered desert, prairie, Indians and wild beasts; she nurtured sons who explored, colonized and governed the West. No more daring, picturesque nor romantic tale could be woven than the homespun histories of her intrepid heroes; James Bridges*, Kit Carson, John Sutter, F. X. Aubrey, Reuben Gentry**, Wm. Beckwell, Francis Storrs†, Moses Austin, Peter Burnett, Major Gilpin, Col. Doniphan, Gen. Kearney and the great host of trappers, voyageurs, mountainmen, Indian-fighters, wagon-masters, goldseekers and empire builders.
Missouri men, by the road-making power of hoof and wheel built a good road along Nature’s highway, half across the continent, nearly a century ago; these Missouri argonauts, of yesterday, sailed the desert sea in search of gold; the Missouri argonauts of to-day set sail across the State, this summer, in fifty motor cars seeking the best route for a cross-State highway. The party was headed by Gov. Herbert S. Hadley and the State Board of Agriculture. Four members of the Santa Fé Trail committee, Kansas City Chapter, were members.of the official party; Mrs. John Van Brant, chairman; Miss Elizabeth Butler Gentry vice-chairman; Mrs. W. J. Anderson and Miss Margaret Teasdale. They were the guests of Mr. Edward P. Moriarty in his beautiful automobile, especially decorated for the occasion.
The Northern, the Central, or Old Trails Route and the Southern Route were inspected; “boosters” for each route were aroused to fever-heat to obtain the official designation of State highway. The “Old Trails Route” was made specially prominent by its championship by the Daughters of the American Revolution, thus publicly declared, besides being the shortest and the most practical route, it has the historic and patriotic interests.
The Kansas City Chapter organized the Daughters of the American Revolution along the Santa Fé Trail and Boone’s Lick Road; the commercial club of each town was assisted by the local D. A. R. Chapter in entertaining the “Good Roads” party of State guests; the ladies fried the chicken, baked the cake and made the lemonade that was offered at every crossroads; Old Glory was flying from every milepost across the State, over this route; the men and women whose homes were along this route joined hands in this patriotic work and forged a human chain across the State that was unbreakable; country churches and schoolhouses were decorated with flags and crowds of country people gathered there to wave flags to the motorists sailing by; gateposts of many farms were decorated with garlands of farm products interwoven with garden flowers.
At each county seat Daughters of the American Revolution badges and literature urging the Old Trails route were distributed; local regents made speeches, offered petitions and memorials, to Governor Hadley and the board members.
The Kansas City Chapter, Santa Fé Trail Committee, by organizing the Daughters of the American Revolution along the route and getting such splendid response, were enabled to accomplish in four days what they had been struggling for during the past four years. The tact and gentle persistency and patience of Mrs. Van Brunt, the chairman, achieved its purpose; her sweet womanliness in addressing roadside meetings and formal banquets won sympathy and interest to her cause.
After the motor trip, Governor Hadley called a meeting at the State capitol, Jefferson City, of advocates of each route to present the claims of each route. The Daughters of the American Revolution were allotted thirty minutes on the programme; Mrs. Van Brunt and Miss Gentry spoke for the Trails routes as a whole; they were joined at Jefferson City by Mrs. Ryland Todhunter, Regent of the Lexington Chapter, who spoke for the Santa Fé Trail end, and by Mrs. W. Rosser, Regent of the Fulton Chapter, who spoke for the Boone’s Lick end; Mrs. W. P. Nopton, of Marshall Chapter, and Mrs. Zannie Ellis, of Fulton, also joined the party. Mrs. Hadley, wife of the Governor and member of the Jefferson City Chapter, entertained the party at luncheon at the mansion.
After keen competition, the Central or Old Trails Route was adopted as the cross-State highway; it will be the Missouri link in the “ocean to ocean” highway now under consideration by Congress.
The work of the Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico Chapters in marking the Santa Fé Trail from beginning to end is now about finished; in addition the Missouri Daughters of the American Revolution has been a factor in preserving two historic roads by joining the Good Roads movement for a cross-State highway; it was accomplished largely by the appeal to State pride and State spirit to build the road as a memorial to Missouri pioneers.
Sentiment builds not only roads; it builds nations; the people devoid of it perish ; it is the flower of civilization.
ELIZABETH BUTLER GENTRY,
Vice-Chairman, Santa Fé Trail Committee, Kansas City Chapter.
* Likely the old friend of Daniel Boone, a settler at Fort Boonesborough, who also came to Missouri.
** Ruben Gentry was one of the first settlers of Boone County, Missouri. His son, also Ruben Gentry, was an early trader on the Santa Fe Trail. The Gentry family was related to the Boone family.
† An early trader and promoter of the Santa Fe Trail..