NPS map of the Santa Fe Trail in 1871 (click to zoom; more maps here)
The American Solar Challenge is on again in 2021, and includes a road race along the Santa Fe Trail on 4–7 August, from Independence, MO to Santa Fe, NM (exact route still to be decided).
To get myself in the mood, I’ve been reading Land of Enchantment, the memoirs of Marion Sloan Russell, who travelled the Santa Fe Trail multiple times. After marrying, she was an “army wife” for some time, before setting up a trading post beside the Trail. In 1871, she moved to a ranch in the mountains west of Trinidad, CO, where her husband was murdered during the Colfax County War. Towards the end of her life she visited many important sites along the Trail. They were already falling into ruin:
“At Fort Union I found crumbling walls and tottering chimneys. Here and there a tottering adobe wall where once a mighty howitzer had stood. Great rooms stood roofless, their whitewashed walls open to the sky. Wild gourd vines grew inside the officers’ quarters. Rabbits scurried before my questing feet. The little guard house alone stood intact, mute witness of the punishment inflicted there. The Stars and Stripes was gone. Among a heap of rubble I found the ruins of the little chapel where I had stood—a demure, little bride in a velvet cape—and heard a preacher say, ‘That which God hath joined together let no man put asunder.’”
Marion Sloan Russell died in 1936 (aged 92) after being struck by a car in Trinidad, CO. She is buried in Stonewall Cemetery.
Fort Union in 2006 (credit: Scott; click to zoom)
Other posts in this series: Santa Fe Trail #1, Santa Fe Trail #2, Santa Fe Trail #3, Santa Fe Trail #4.
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