This is the 28th year that the Independence Pioneers Chapter, NSDAR, has sponsored a fourth grade Trails Essay Contest in the Independence School District. This contest was initiated by Jane Short Mallinson in 1986 and the participation is always outstanding. This year entries were submitted from students at Bryant, Little Blue and Santa Fe Trail elementary schools.

Evan Neubauer, a student in Ashley Brixey’s class as Bryant, received first place. The title of the essay is “The Santa Fe Trail - Travel to Trade.”

The second place winner, also from Bryant, is Cadence Meany-Jackson, a student in Miss Davies' class. Amanda Watson from the same class will receive an Honorable Mention ribbon.

Honorable Mention ribbons were also presented to the following students in Mrs. Wadle’s class at Santa Fe Trail: Ashlyn Lupton, Joshua Huff, Seth Nelson and Hunter Mullendore. All students who entered essays received participation certificates in recognition of their efforts.

Below is a portion of the winning essay, which, at just over 2,000 words was too long for publication.

‘The Santa Fe Trail - Travel to Trade’

By Evan Neubauer

Three Trails Essay

‘William Becknell - Let’s Take a Trip’

For hundreds of years, Natives have used the present-day Santa Fe Trail as a trade route across the Great Plains. They race across the undisturbed plains, treasures filled their saddle bags.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson was shaking hands with Napoleon Bonaparte, sealing the Louisiana Purchase. This deal tripled the U.S. in size from 13 colonies lining the ocean to a vast land in the West. When Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory for two cents an acre, nobody knew what lay ahead until the Expedition of Lewis and Clark took place from 1804 to 1806. These brave explorers displayed maps, diagrams, diaries, treasures, plants, and even a live animal or two they had collected. Now, aware of the living conditions, the pioneers headed west.

Independence Missouri was the starting point of the now famous three trails; the Oregon, Santa Fe and California. Independence became the place where pioneers were able to buy necessary goods, such as food, water, clothes, oxen and spare parts. The Pioneers had to time their departure just right in fear of getting stranded in the harsh winter mountains. They also had to travel light. Oxen were strong, but the Missouri River was prepared to take lives as well as supplies to a watery grave. Medicine was also a big part of the trip, as famine and sickness were often at risk. On the trail, less than 45 % made the trip on the Oregon Trail alone. But that was a risk that most were willing to take. So with life at stake, they trudged on to their destination. Those who made the trip changed civilization forever. The American West began to form.

The Santa Fe trail was one of many 19th century transportation routes. It lead through central North America. This was connected with Franklin, Mo., and Santa Fe, N.M. Beginning as a simple trading route, the Santa Fe Trail became the invasion route of New Mexico in 1846, the Mexican American War.

William Becknell, born 1788, in Rockfish Creek, Virginia, was a farmer, hunter, trader and a carpenter. He was schooled in survival skills, and skilled in marksmanship; an ideal leader. Becknell was red-headed and not a school boy. He himself was described as short-tempered and in possession of a quick sense of right and wrong, and was seen as a brave and persuasive leader. Apparently, he was not much into fun, but this boy was SMART. He was the reason for the Santa Fe Trail, now famous for the trading that it led. Here is to this over-mature boy and the big chunk of history that he gave us.

‘The Santa Fe Trail - What the Heck and Why?’

When and why, many considered these important questions as they packed up to move to Santa Fe. Trading was a large part of life for English settlers. They set out on the Santa Fe Trail in hope of trading the dusty and normal life on the sea shore for an exciting life on the trail, which many got.

When the pioneers traveled on the Santa Fe Trail, they expected a place where they cold trade for agricultural goods. According to Becknell, they would find all that and more. Apparently, these were some desperate people: Many did not make it to the wonderful place called Santa Fe.

‘Let’s Pack Up - Bare Necessities’

Goods that were traded were limited. The wagon had to fit other necessary goods, such as food, clothes, spare parts, and toiletries. So by the time they had to ride in the wagon across rivers, there was not a whole lot of room left.

‘Travel to Trade - What You Give is what You Get’

Pioneers traveling on the Santa Fe Trail were driving conestoga wagons laden with treasures to trade. (Some of the goods that were traded are listed in the following paragraph.) Cloth was the main tool, it included silks, furs, and an assortment of others. Goods, such as buttons, needles, threads, shawls, handkerchiefs, and more, were also traded, as were tools, some examples were axes and files. They were rewarded with gold and silver-stamped coins.

After the trade, most sold the ox and the wagon. They did not intend to return to Missouri after they found that Becknell was right, but rather stayed in Santa Fe. Life in Santa Fe was all they every wanted.