The town of Franklin, in Howard County, Missouri, was opposite the present City of Boonville. In 1828, the entire site of the town was washed into the Missouri River. It was the cradle of the Santa Fe trade, and for some years it was the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. As population spread to the westward other towns were established along the Missouri River and the headquarters of the trade followed the population. When the Trail was surveyed, in 1825, Fort Osage, on the Missouri, at Sibley, was made the starting-point. Independence, Missouri, was laid out in 1827, and it was soon the headquarters of the Santa Fe trade. Other Missouri towns engaged in the Santa Fe trade, and even the towns of Northwest Arkansas. All these towns opened roads to the Santa Fe Trail. That is why old roads as far south as Fayetteville, Arkansas, are known locally to this day as the Santa Fe Trail. The roads all entered the real Santa Fe Trail east of Council Grove, and most of them came into it east of the present town of Baldwin, in Douglas County, Kansas. One of these trails, known locally as the California Road came out of Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas through the present Fort Scott, Kansas. It passed through what are now Miami and Franklin Counties, Kansas, crossing the Pottawatomie at the present town of Lane. That was Dutch Henry’s Crossing, where John Brown and his men slew the Border-Ruffians in the old border wars. This main California Road had other and lesser “California Roads” coming into it. This statement of the different “Santa Fe Trails” and “California Roads” is intended to explain the confusion which often resulted when strangers passed over the country, in early days. In their letters the Santa Fe Trail may be spoken of as having been in Southwest Missouri, or even as leaving Fort Smith. In such instances it is always the local road of that name which was meant.

The business of outfitting traders made Independence a thriving town. There were dealers in wagons, flour, bacon, oxen, mules, guns, ammunition, ropes, chains and all kinds of hardware, and of the groceries of those days, including whiskey. In the spring when the caravans were getting under way the town presented a busy appearance; and there was almost as stirring times, when, after having completed the tour of the Plains, they drove into the great public square upon their return.

The supplies for one person from Independence to Santa Fe consisted usually of fifty pounds of flour, fifty pounds of bacon, ten pounds of coffee, twenty pounds of sugar, some beans, and some salt. Each man carried a gun, usually a Hawkins rifle, made at St. Louis, and a supply of powder and lead.

The wagons first used in the Santa Fe trade were such as could be obtained at the local towns in Missouri. Some of them were made, no doubt, by local mechanics. As the trade assumed volume the necessity for uniform and strong wagons attracted the attention of manufacturers. Those in use when the trade was at full tide, and even after, were made at Pittsburg, Pa. The pioneer wagon first used had the high curved bed, but those used later had but a slightly curved bed,—only enough to hold the bales and boxes from sliding in going up or down hills or grades. All the wagons had covers of heavy cloth stretched upon bows fixed over the wagon-beds. The device for locking or “putting on brakes” in descending steep places consisted of a chain attached to each side of the bed with which to “chain” or “lock” the hind-wheels. There was a multiplicity of chains used about the equipment of these wagons, the rattling and clanking of which could be heard at considerable distance.

In the beginning of the trade the merchandise was carried on pack-horses. The first wagons used were drawn by mules. After the escort of 1829, when Major Riley used oxen to draw his baggage wagons, oxen came to be used as much as mules. They drew heavier loads, but did not bear the trip so well after the country of the buffalo grass was reached. The continual traveling of the oxen over a grass-covered country were their hoofs smooth and tender, making it difficult for them to travel in the latter stages of the journey. In that day few knew how to properly shoe oxen with iron, and they were sometimes shod with raw buffalo-skin—often an excellent makeshift.

As the trade was conducted through the Indian country, and, from the Arkansas River, through a foreign country as well, it was necessary for the wagons to form a single body or caravan. This organization was effected at the Council Grove, now the town of Council Grove, Kansas. Any early arrivals there awaited the coming of the others. The time was spent in resting and grazing the animals, in the final overhauling of the lading, in the repair of harness, yokes, and wagons, and cutting and preparing timbers to be used in case a breakdown should occur on the road beyond. For there was no substantial timber to be had after passing that point.

When the traders had all arrived at Council Grove a meeting was held for the purpose of effecting a quasi-military organization for the remainder of the journey to Santa Fe. There was elected a Captain of the Caravan, whose duty it was to direct the order of travel and select the camping-places. The caravan was separated into divisions, the number depending on its size. For each division a lieutenant was selected. His duties were to ride in advance and inspect the road and the crossings, to look out for bad points on the trail and give notice of the same, and to superintend the forming of the encampments at night. The encampment was formed by parking the wagons and making an enclosure. The first wagon was halted at an angle. The second wagon was driven by it to the same angle, halting with its “near” hind wheel against the “off” front-wheel of the first wagon. This process was continued until the enclosure was completed. It was sometimes in the form of a square—one division to each side if the caravan was composed of four divisions. But it was as often in a circle or an oval. The wheels were frequently chained and locked solidly together. Thus was constructed a sort of temporary fort or stockade. In case of attack it afforded a defense, and the animals were sometimes driven into it. The encampment was made where wood and water were to be had, if possible,—and where the grass was sufficient for the animals of the caravan. Guards were always set at night, and every man was expected to take his turn at guard-duty. Sometimes a second lieutenant was elected for each division, as well as a chaplain, and court, composed of three members, for the caravan.

The teamsters, or drivers, became expert in their duties. The wagons were usually drawn by eight mules or the same number of oxen—four spans of mules, or four yoke of oxen. The driver of a mule-team rode the “near” wheel mule—that is, the mule on the left-hand side of the span hitched next to the wheels of the wagons. He carried a heavy leather whip with a short flexible handle, and he held in his hands lines for the guidance of the spans of mules hitched ahead of him. The driver of an ox-team walked on the left-hand side of his team. He did not use lines to guide his oxen, but depended on his commands, delivered in a loud voice, and reinforced by a long plaited leather whip having a handle or staff of such length as he might choose, usually a little better than four feet. This staff was made of second-growth hickory, tough and flexible, tapering from a heavy butt to the diameter of half an inch at the end where the whip was attached. This whip was always pointed with a buckskin “cracker” fifteen inches in length. It was a cruel implement, but the good driver rarely struck an ox with the full force of it. In the hands of an expert it would lay open the side of an ox for several inches at each stroke. Many teamsters boasted of having driven to Santa Fe and return without “cutting the blood” from any ox on his team. The ox is an intelligent animal, and he soon knew whether he or the teamster was to be master. If he had a poor driver he would “lag in the yoke” and not pull his part of the load unless closely watched and sometimes punished. On the other hand, if he recognized in his driver a master, he “pulled up in the yoke” and did his part. The Americans always yoked their oxen by attaching the yoke by a bow around the neck. This method enabled the ox to throw his whole weight and all his strength against the yoke pulling his load instead of having to push it when the yoke was bound upon his horns, as was the Spanish and Mexican custom.

The whip used for driving oxen in America had not been entirely neglected in literature. In that masterpiece of Ingalls—Blue Grass—there is a crucifixion of the Border-Ruffians of Missouri, the redemption of whose country he submits a plan for:

Seed the country down to blue grass and the reformation would begin. Such a change must be gradual. One generation would not witness it, but three would see it accomplished. The first symptom would be an undefined uneasiness along the creeks, in the rotten eruption of cottonwood hovels near the grist mill and the blacksmith’s shop at the fork of the roads, followed by a “toting” of plunder into the “bow-dark” wagon and an exodus for “outwest.” A sore-back mule geared to a spavined sorrel, or a dwarfish yoke of stunted steers, drag the creaking wain along the muddy roads, accelerated by the long-drawn “Whoo-hoop-a-Haw-aw-aw” of “Dad” in butternut-colored homespun, as he walks beside, cracking a black-snake with a detonation like a Derringer.

Gregg compiled a table showing the extent of the Santa Fe trade for a number of years. It is the best authority on the subject and is appended:

Years.: 1822
Amt. Mdse.: 15,000
W’gs.: …
Man.: 70
Pros.: 60
T’n to Cha´: 9,000
Remarks.: Pack-animals only used.

Years.: 1823
Amt. Mdse.: 12,000
W’gs.: …
Man.: 50
Pros.: 30
T’n to Cha´: 3,000
Remarks.: Pack-animals only used.

Years.: 1824
Amt. Mdse.: 23,000
W’gs.: 26
Man.: 100
Pros.: 80
T’n to Cha´: 3,000
Remarks.: Pack-animals and wagons.

Years.: 1825
Amt. Mdse.: 65,000
W’gs.: 37
Man.: 130
Pros.: 90
T’n to Cha´: 5,000
Remarks.: Pack-animals and wagons.

Years.: 1826
Amt. Mdse.: 90,000
W’gs.: 60
Man.: 100
Pros.: 70
T’n to Cha´: 7,000
Remarks.: Wagons anly hanceforth.

Years.: 1827
Amt. Mdse.: 55,000
W’gs.: 55
Man.: 90
Pros.: 50
T’n to Cha´: 8,000

Years.: 1828
Amt. Mdse.: 150,000
W’gs.: 100
Man.: 200
Pros.: 80
T’n to Cha´: 20,000
Remarks.: 3 men killed, being the first

Years.: 1829
Amt. Mdse.: 60,000
W’gs.: 30
Man.: 30
Pros.: 20
T’n to Cha´: 5,000
Remarks.: Ist U. S. Fed., 1 trader killed.

Years.: 1830
Amt. Mdse.: 120,000
W’gs.: 70
Man.: 140
Pros.: 60
T’n to Cha´: 20,000
Remarks.: First oxen used by traders.

Years.: 1831
Amt. Mdse.: 250,000
W’gs.: 130
Man.: 390
Pros.: 30
T’n to Cha´: 80,000
Remarks.: Two men killed.

Years.: 1832
Amt. Mdse.: 149,000
W’gs.: 70
Man.: 150
Pros.: 40
T’n to Cha´: 60,000
Remarks.: Party defented on Canadian.

Years.: 1833
Amt. Mdse.: 180,000
W’gs.: 105
Man.: 185
Pros.: 66
T’n to Cha´: 80,000
Remarks.: 2 men killed. 3 perished.

Years.: 1834
Amt. Mdse.: 150,000
W’gs.: 80
Man.: 100
Pros.: 30
T’n to Cha´: 70,000
Remarks.: 2nd U. S. Escort.

Years.: 1835
Amt. Mdse.: 140,000
W’gs.: 73
Man.: 140
Pros.: 40
T’n to Cha´: 70,000

Years.: 1836
Amt. Mdse.: 180,000
W’gs.: 70
Man.: 135
Pros.: 35
T’n to Cha´: 50,000

Years.: 1837
Amt. Mdse.: 150,000
W’gs.: 80
Man.: 160
Pros.: 35
T’n to Cha´: 60,000

Years.: 1838
Amt. Mdse.: 90,000
W’gs.: 50
Man.: 100
Pros.: 20
T’n to Cha´: 80,000

Years.: 1839
Amt. Mdse.: 250,000
W’gs.: 130
Man.: 230
Pros.: 40
T’n to Cha´: 100,000
Remarks.: Arkansas Expedition.

Years.: 1840
Amt. Mdse.: 50,000
W’gs.: 30
Man.: 60
Pros.: 5
T’n to Cha´: 10,000
Remarks.: Chihuahua Expedition.

Years.: 1841
Amt. Mdse.: 150,000
W’gs.: 60
Man.: 100
Pros.: 12
T’n to Cha´: 80,000
Remarks.: Texan Santa Fe Expedition.

Years.: 1842
Amt. Mdse.: 160,000
W’gs.: 70
Man.: 120
Pros.: 15
T’n to Cha´: 90,000

Years.: 1843
Amt. Mdse.: 150,000
W’gs.: 200
Man.: 220
Pros.: 30
T’n to Cha´: 390,000
Remarks.: 3d U. S. Ex.—Purts closed.