Sunday, November 4

We Were There on the Santa Fe Trail

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Long before I-20, I-40, or I-70, the Santa Fe Trail was America’s first commercial highway.  In 1821, traders established a 900 mile long trail that connected Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It served as the main thoroughfare for trade and travel until the completion of the Santa Fe railroad, and it was a major player in America's Westward Expansion.

After the War of 1812, a Missouri trader named William Becknell learned that Mexico was open for trade, and he loaded up a group of men and wagon train of good to trade and headed for New Mexico.  On the original route, the men followed the Arkansas River to Colorado and then the Raton Mountain Pass into Santa Fe.  They were positively met and encouraged to return with more goods for trading.

As they set back home, the men looked for, and found, a faster route - the soon-popular Cimarron Route - on the Santa Fe Trail.  This route followed the Arkansas River to Cimarron (Dodge City), Kansas before turning into Oklahoma's panhandle and skirting into New Mexico.  The route was about 100 miles shorter than the original route, but came with the added difficulty of Indian raids and being in the desert (leading to water shortage issues).

To aid weary travelers, respite locations were developed along the trail.  These included Bent's Fort, along the Arkansas River, which was originally a fur trading post.  When it had to be abandoned (due to disease), a new site, named Bent's New Fort, was built downriver.  The new fort was a trading post, as well as a meeting site for Indian tribes and government men.  The military even used the site, renaming it Fort Wise (also Fort Fauntleroy).

The military used the fort during the Mexican-American War, as the Americans occupied New Mexico, and then used it as an outpost during the Civil War. The trail stayed very busy with immigration, fortune seekers for the gold rushes, stagecoach travel, and as part of the Pony Express.  Ultimately, however, the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880 led to the demise of the Santa Fe Trail.  Covered wagons couldn't compete with speeding trains.

Our spine novel is We Were There on the Santa Fe Trail

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

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