Disc A-13. Trail to Santa Fe
© words & music by Annie Wilson 2014

Album Note:  This song takes us on the epic trading trail which
crossed the Flint Hills from 1821 to 1866.   I am thankful for the
careful research and kind help of Steve and Glenda Schmidt, who
own Marion County land with real Santa Fe Trail ruts going across it.


These ruts you see before you  where the land is sunk and bowed,
Are remnants of the pathway  to Nuevo Mexico.
Near sixty years the wagon trains passed along this way,
As wealth and power moved along this trail to Santa Fe

Across the wide Missouri  / back in eighteen twenty-one,
This “commerce of the prairies” had only just begun.
They traveled west with cloth and shoes, mirrors, buttons, beads;
Returned with gold and silver and donkeys for the East.

No this was not a one-way trail  for emigrants bound west;
These travelers were merchants seeking markets that were best.
They wagered fortunes, bet their lives  against the desert sun,
Going back and forth to Santa Fe  and past the Cimarron.

Cross-the rolling wide “green ocean,” Kansas prairies fed them well.
A sea of grass without a tree as many diaries tell
They camped along at water holes a day’s walk in between
And passed by herds of buffalo  the likes they’d never seen

Nine hundred miles they traveled far beyond the bluestem grass,
Past sandy plain, blue desert sky, and rugged mountain pass,
To that valley of adobe homes and Mission San Miguel,
The Plaza, and Palacio, and Santa Fe’s sweet bells.

When war broke out with Mexico, the Army filled the trail
With goods for all its western forts and bags of precious mail.
Each day you’d hear the hoof-beats of the oxen and the mules,
The creak of wood and leather as they’d lift their iron shoes.

Comanche, Kaw, and Kiowa, the Cheyenne, and Osage
In sadness watched as thousands rode this trail they first had made.
Every day more people came like sands upon the shore
The buffalo were hunted out and the-Indians grew poor

But the lifeblood of this trading trail would soon no longer flow.
Steel rails had reached Pueblo lands within New Mexico.
In eighteen eighty Santa Fe’s first railroad cars came through;
So-the oxen and the mule trains on this trail were finished, too.

Today the story lies between these ruts of hooves and wheels,
Of lives and fortunes gained and lost in ventures mercantile.
That will to trade and wander to places far away
Led all those souls to follow the trail to Santa Fe.
Map of Santa Fe Trail - courtesy of Santa Fe Trail Association
Other photos - courtesy of Steve Schmidt - and SFTA re-enactors
click note for
music sample
click triangle to go Back to Main Sky & Water, Wind & Grass CD Page - of Tallgrass Express Website (for more CD info, etc.)
"Trail to Santa Fe" is now
the "Official Song" of
the Santa Fe Trail Association.
We are so glad to be part of all the good work
SFTA does to preserve our western heritage!
* For more information about the Santa Fe Trail, see
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A Yoke of Oxen with Bullwhacker (far side) and
traveler (near side).  Wagons were pulled by up to 6
Yoke of Oxen.  This number might be doubled at
difficult stream crossings or steep hills.  A "Yoke of
Oxen” was two oxen.  There would be one
bullwhacker (ox-team driver) per wagon.  
Trapper or Scout on Mule
Native American along Santa Fe Trail:  
Kaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and
Osage tribes lived along the trail
Wooden  Ox yoke
Iron oxen shoes (for split/cloven hoof) - Two
shoes were used on each hoof
Bullwhacker (Ox-team driver) with a yoke of oxen
and freight wagon
Wagon wheel linch pin
Four-Mule Team and Stagecoach
Santa Fe Trail ruts (today).  Note:  these are not wheel tracks.  Wagons were actually traveling in two and sometimes three columns, one line of wagons in each depression
Click here to see an illustration of how this looked.
Army Wagon and Four-Mule Team (Fort Larned)
Flag Retreat Ceremony (Fort Larned)
Palace of the Governors:  Originally constructed in the
early 17th century as Spain's seat of government for
what is today the American Southwest, the Palace of the
Governors chronicles the history of Santa Fe, as well as
New Mexico and the region.
Tar Bucket - Axles were
lubricated on a regular
basis by elevating the
wagon, removing the
wheels one at a time, and
applying the lubricant, a
mixture of pine tar and
tallow kept in this bucket.
San Miguel Mission, also known as San Miguel Chapel,
is a Spanish colonial mission church in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. Built between approximately 1610 and 1626, it is
claimed to be the oldest church in the United States.
A teamster was a term for drivers of teams of horses.  Mule skinners were drivers of mule teams.