The Murder Of Chavez

The Santa Fe trade continued without interruption until the year 1843. The Mexican forts on the American frontier were closed in that year in consequence of military activity along the Santa Fe trail by the armed forces of Texas, whose north line was, for some distance, the Arkansas River. In November, 1842, it was reported in Santa Fe that Texan forces were planning to attack traders passing over the Trail, as then in use, in the coming spring. Giving little heed to that rumor Don Antonio Jose Chavez, of New Mexico, started from Santa Fe to Independence, Missouri, in February, 1843. He took with him five servants. He had two wagons and fifty-five mules. He carried some twelve thousand dollars in gold and silver, and some bales of furs. Severe weather was encountered, the month of March proving unusually cold. The men were frost-bitten, and all the mules save five perished in the storms. By the 10th of April Chavez had come to the waters of the Little Arkansas, a hundred miles or more over the line into American territory. There he was intercepted by a company of fifteen men commanded by one John McDaniel. He had enlisted and organized his band on the frontier of Missouri for the purpose, as he said, of joining a certain Colonel Warfield, then on the Plains claiming to be in the service of the Republic of Texas, and intending to attack the Santa Fe caravans. Chavez was made captive and taken off the trail. He was robbed, and his effects were divided among this banditti, seven of whom immediately set out for Missouri with their portions of the spoil. The others decided to murder Chavez, which they presently did, shooting him, in cold blood. They then packed their loot upon upon the mules of Chavez and also departed for Western Missouri. But information of what they had done soon came to the Missouri authorities, and several of them were arrested. Some of the most guilty escaped, including three of the actual murderers. But John McDaniel was tried at St. Louis and hanged for his crime.

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