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Traces to the past

Many tourists have stopped reading road markers reminiscent of old trails or noticed old road signs on their trips west of the Mississippi. On a six-week road trip west from St. Louis, I was often reminded of the early pioneers who used St. Louis, the "west gate" and other nearby cities in Missouri as "leaping out." Lured by gold, free land and adventure, they hoped for a better life on the new frontier. Many were encouraged by stories of traders and traders promising easy passage through the mountains, and they thought they could find their future through Oregon, Santa Fe, or the Overland Trails. The true footprints of the old trails or roads they followed and the cities that developed as a result of the trails can be enjoyed by today's travelers.

In 1851, John Soule, an editor for the Terre Haute Express, invented "Go west, young man!" the phrase that remains part of America's vocabulary. Although Lewis & Clark had completed their voyage in the early 19th century, no transcontinental railroads still existed. On average, it took four to six months for a family to travel from Missouri to Oregon or California by train. About seven years after Soule's writing in 1858, the first nonstop script left St. Louis for Los Angeles. This 2,600-mile journey took twenty days. The transcontinental railroad did not compete until 1869 and soon made the wagon train and stage travel obsolete.

Lewis and Clark had made a successful trip to the Pacific in the early 1800s, though it took them several months longer than they had planned. False reports of an easy passage through the mountains which members described as "as steep as the roof of a house", as well as deep snow and lack of food caused their delay. Once there, they encountered buckets and buckets of constant rain. At a fifth American moment they decided to vote on where to spend the winter allowing all party members, including blacks, Indians and women, to participate in the decision. They chose the south side of the Columbia River, but still complained that they only had elk to eat and constant rain, and didn't like salmon. They began their return journey in March, and arrived in St. Louis in September, where they were received as heroes. Many Native Americans had helped them, and only a few, like Blackfoot, had prevented them from discovering that they could trade with their enemies.

Lewis and Clark had begun their journey in May 1804 and returned in September 1806. They had traveled a total of 4,162 miles, documenting 122 new species of animals and 178 plants never described before. More important at the time was the fulfillment of President Thomas Jefferson's dream of opening the West to the United States.

Interesting evidence of their journey can be seen in Cairo, Illinois where there is a marker titled, "Going Further." Cairo is located on the course of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It is somewhat of a ghost town now even though it was once a very sharp city as its architecture and wide streets prove. The marker read:

In November 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and their growing contingent of "Corps of Discovery" men, spent five days here teaching one another celestial navigation and observation skills. Using a secret, octane, artificial horizon and reference charts, they successfully obtained the first length and width data they would use during the Expedition. Subsequent maps of the northern and western parts of the United States, prepared using the Lewis and Clark records, began at the confluence of these large rivers, which, in 1803, were located just south of 2nd Street at Nowadays Cairo.

The Spaniards had many paths of their own and were in competition with the United States to reclaim western territories. They had tried to eavesdrop on Lewis and Clark in the fields but were unable to find them. The Spanish National Historic Landmarks are still mapped in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, and it was a historic trade route linking northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe with those of Los Angeles and southern California. Approximately 1,200 miles long, it traversed areas of high mountains, dry deserts and deep canyons. It is considered one of the toughest of all trade routes ever located in the United States and was explored, in part, by Spanish explorers since the late 1500s. The trail saw widespread use by packet trains from about 1830 until the mid-1830s. 1850s.

Today's travelers can also see the footsteps of the old Santa Fe Trail, whose eastern end was in the central city of Franklin in Mislin, on the north bank of the Missouri River. The road through Missouri first used by Becknell, a trader, followed parts of the existing Osage Trail and the Medical Trail. West of Franklin, the trail crossed Missouri near Arrow Rock, which followed roughly the U.S. 24-day Road route. Passed north of Marshall, through Lexington to Fort Osage, then to Independence, also one of the "jumping-off points" for the Oregon and California Trails.

Before Lewis and Clark and Spanish explorers and even French trainers, Native Americans had settled in and traveled west. Tourists can visit places such as the Aztec National Monument, Chaco Canyon, Gallup, Hubbell Trading Post and Chinle and Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation to name a few. The Aztec ruins lie near the shores of the "River of Lost Souls" named by a Spanish exploration party in 1776. They spotted many ancestral Pueblo ruins as they crossed the Animas River valley looking for California. For thousands of years, Native Americans took to the trails for purposes of harvesting, hunting, trading, looting, war, religious fire, and celebration. They may have created trails at least as far back as eight or nine millennia ago, including thousands of miles of interconnected trails stretching from west Texas to the Pacific Coast of California and from north Mexico.

While most Native American trails were for travel, others served unsafe purposes, for example, the 400-kilometer network of "roads" radiating from the famous Chaco Canyon complex Anasazi Puebloan, the early second millennium "Rome". of northwest New Mexico. These roads had long straight segments, sometimes 30 feet wide, with curbs, boundary walls, berms and small "motels" off the road. They usually linked Chaco Canyon, the commercial and religious capital of the region, to remote communities. Some archaeologists think they were for trade while others think they were ceremonial, but their purpose remains a mystery.

Although many intersections of native culture and pioneer culture resulted in conflict or bloodshed, one happy exception was the Hubbell Trading Post. It still remains as it was originally and a National Historic Site has been announced. The first established use of the old wagon path was the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776.

John Lorenzo Hubbell bought the trading post in 1878; ten years after the Navajo were allowed to return to their homeland by their terrible exile in Bosque Redondo, Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. During the past four years at Bosque Redondo, Navajos was introduced to many new items. Dealers like Hubbell supplied those items after returning home.

Hubbell had a lasting influence on the weaving of Navajo carpets and the jeweler because he constantly sought and promoted excellence in craftsmanship. He built a trading empire that included stage and freight lines, as well as several trading posts. Beyond the question, he was the biggest Navajo trader of his time. Members of the Hubbell family ran the trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1967. The trading post is still active, operated by a nonprofit.

Religious and ethnic persecution also led groups to take paths to the west. Tears and the Navajo's Long Journey are examples of ethnic persecution leading to forced displacement as Mormons sought salvation from religious persecution. In 1846 the Navajo were offered peace by the US, but in 1863 Colonel Kit Carson launched a brutal campaign against the Navajo. The Navajo used the Canyon de Chelly as a refuge, hiding in rocky alcoves. They collected food and water. Despite these precautions, Carson's troops entered the eastern edge of the Chelly Canyon and pushed the Navajo to the mouth. Most were captured or killed. Troops destroyed hogs, orchards and sheep. The survivors were then forced to march over 300 miles to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Many died along the way and suffered from poor food and shelter and disease in the Fort. In 1868 they were finally allowed to return to their homes. Trading posts like Hubbell helped Navajo survive. Today Dine thrives in Chinle and around the Canyon de Chelly. As one Navajo Nation leader once said, "We will be like a rock that a river must go." (Ailema Benally, Navajo)

The Mormons were expelled from Missouri and Illinois and forced to travel west on the Mormon Road. It extends from Nauvoo, Illinois, which was the principal settlement of the Latter-day Saints from 1839 to 1846, in Salt Lake City, Utah, which was settled by Brigham Young and his followers beginning in 1847. By Council Bluffs , Iowa, up to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, the trail follows much the same route as the Oregon Trail and the California Trail; these trails are collectively known as the Migrant Road.

In 1856, the church inaugurated a system of card companies to allow poor European immigrants to make the journey cheaper. Postcards, two-wheeled carts that were drawn by immigrants, rather than predetermined animals, were sometimes used as an alternative means of transport from 1856 to 1860. They were seen as a faster, easier and easier way. free to bring European conversions to Salt Lake City. The difficult stretches of the trail were littered with clusters of "levers," items that immigrants had to "leave" here precisely to ease their wagons. In later years, Mormons made a cottage industry to rescue leeverites and sell them back to immigrants passing through the Salt Lake Valley.

Although most postcard groups passed it, some groups had large numbers of victims. Two groups began their journey dangerously late and were overwhelmed by heavy snow and high temperatures in central Wyoming. One of the groups made it to Fort Laramie in hopes of replenishing their food supplies, but food was scarce there. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way. John Chislett, a survivor, wrote: "Many a father pulled his cart, with his young children on it, until the day before his death." Passengers will enjoy visiting Laramie, which was close to Overland Stage Road and the Union Pacific section of the first railroad.

If you're traveling in June, the "Mormon Miracle Pageant," performed every June at Temple Hill in Manti, Utah is an interesting historical reappearance. It covers the whole community and recounts the extraordinary story of how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormon pioneers who colonized the West was founded.

About a year before Latter-day Saint immigrants, the Reed-Donner wagon train carved the first route through the last geographical barrier between Big Mountain and the Salt Lake Valley. About halfway through, the group changed course and went up and down the final stretch near the mouth of the valley. The resulting brutal ascent of rock and sage will most likely contribute to their historical tragedy by delaying them for several days. When a team advanced from the Latter-day Saint vanguard enterprise came across the same area, she chose to climb the valley floor and make her way to the bench overlooking the Great Salt Lake Basin in less than four hours. . Lansford Hastings who had suggested the alternative route received death threats. An immigrant confronted Hastings about the difficulties they had encountered saying, "Of course he could not say anything, but that he was very sorry and that he meant well." Historians have described the episode as one of the most spectacular tragedies in California's history and Western migration record. Travelers through the Wasatch Mountains can see the marker saying the Donner Party had passed there. One can almost understand their presence, and they seem to have been commemorated by the numerous wild flowers that adorn the trail.

As Douglas Adams once wrote, "In an infinite universe, the only thing sentimental life cannot afford is a sense of proportion." Some early settlers and more recent historians have blamed leaders like Brigham Young or George Donner for these tragedies, but the pioneers themselves were so anxious to travel west for a better life that they really should not no specific person is blamed. They were unaware or chose to ignore the vast desert proportions commensurate with their small carriage or handcart. Of the roughly 360,000 people traveling west on the Oregon Trail before the Transcontinental Railroad, about ten percent or 20,000 to 30,000 people died. This number is lower than expected, given the chances against them including the weather, large bodies of water, deserts, mountains, food shortages and disease. Ironically some sick people believed that the journey would heal them. Medicine brings together pioneers in the treatment of diseases and wounds involving "naturalizing" pills of patent medicines, castor oil, rum or whiskey, peppermint oil, malaria quinine, snakebite marmalade, citric acid for scurvy, opium, laudanum , morphine, calomel, etc. camphor solution. It is surprising that only one in every ten immigrants died along the way. Contrary to popular belief, Native Americans did not pose a major threat to these pioneers.

Boredom was another problem that modern travelers don't often think about. One pioneer said it was so boring that it welcomed the Indian attacks (though they were few). The children were known to entertain themselves by dancing a swollen buffalo like a springboard. Toys and pets often occupied children while adults enjoyed songs, dances and stories. There were beautiful spots known for celebrations at certain times of the year, and inns, taverns and commercial outlets along the way eased the monotony. Women often had a much longer day than men who enjoyed hunting and fishing as women taught children, cooked, washed, and dyed their clothes and carried out a variety of tedious tasks.

The return trip for St. Louis commuters can follow old highways such as US 40, the old national road that used to be the national highway. It runs parallel to and along Interstate 70 for much of the route to St. Louis. Arrow Rock is an interesting stop. This high-limestone bluff first appeared on a 1732 French map as "pierre a fleche", literally translated as "arrow rock". Archaeological evidence indicates that for nearly 12,000 years indigenous cultures used the Bluff Arrow as a manufacturing site for flying tools and weapons.

In the 1820s, the earliest travelers on what became the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river on the Arrow Rock ferry and filled their barrels with fresh water on the "Great Spring" before heading west. While the village is small, it remains a vital community. In 1963, the whole city was designated a National Historic Landmark because of its association with Westward Expansion. Arrow Rock, Missouri is also a certified site at Lewis & Clark and Santa Fe Trails.

Back in St. Louis travelers must cross the Mississippi to Illinois to see the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, is an excellent center of indigenous Mississippian culture. Cahokia's location near three large rivers and four ecosystems made it a perfect location for setting up an agricultural center. In A.D. 1250 was bigger than London. But the knowledge obtained from previous inhabitants going back to 10,000 B.C. allowed these people to be so successful. They also benefited from great travel distances along the trade routes already established by the Woodland Indians. They took copper, mica and sea shells and also incorporated aspects of other cultures into themselves. We take advantage of some of their paths today.

Learning more about old trails and the groups that took them adds a "time travel" dimension to a trip and greatly enhances visits to historical sites and museums. Today travelers no longer have to worry about getting the wrong mountain pass or a host of other difficulties that they suffered in early times, but can experience the journey in comfort. Following in the footsteps of the pioneers offers an opportunity to travel the trails in the past.

Note: Thank you to the Oregon-California Trails Association which is the largest and most influential organization in the country dedicated to preserving and protecting immigrant trails on land and the immigrant experience.