By Jill Draper
An international highway once ran through Minor Park and the Red Bridge and Hickman Mills neighborhoods, serving as a trade route that influenced economies in New York City, London and other far-away places. Long before there were UPS trucks or Amazon deliveries, the Santa Fe Trail was a 900-mile dirt road for covered wagons hauling goods to and from New Mexico and the western boundary of the United States. For many decades, that boundary was Missouri.
The trail was established 200 years ago in 1821, and cities all along its route are holding bicentennial celebrations this month. On Saturday, Sept. 18, the Historical Society of New Santa Fe is sponsoring a day of family fun at the Trailside Center at 99th Street and Holmes Road.
The free event begins at 10 a.m. with a program by the Prairie Dulcimer Club. Various historical items will be displayed, including several vintage quilts on loan from the Harris-Kearney House in Westport. Popcorn and lemonade will be available for visitors.
At noon Gary Hicks will speak about the history of the trail, which was used by traders, gold-seekers, hunters, American Indians, missionaries and at various times, military troops. At 12:45 p.m. Hicks will appear in costume as a re-enactment of Colonel Alexander Majors. Known as “the great freighter of the West,” Majors started hauling freight on the Santa Fe Trail in the mid-1800s and was an important figure in the nation’s western expansion. His house on State Line Road still stands today. Hicks has presented first-person talks as Majors to over 50 organizations and serves as president of the Kansas City Area Historical Trails Association.
Historian Diane Euston will speak at the celebration.
Dulcimer music will continue throughout the day, as well as music from an organ grinder. At 2 p.m. Diane Euston will speak. Euston writes a popular column on local history for The Telegraph. The event ends at 4 p.m.
The Santa Fe Trail (which overlaps with other historic trails throughout Kansas City) goes through the following local spots:
Cave Spring, a 39-acre park at 8701 East Gregory Blvd. near Blue Ridge Boulevard, is noted on the original survey of the Santa Fe Trail and was a landmark for emigrants.
Hart Grove, on Hickman Mills Drive south of Marion Park Drive, was used as a campsite by trail travelers and is located 10 miles or a day’s walk from Independence.
Hickman Mills school grounds (Santa Fe Elementary and Smith-Hale Middle School) include a retracement pedestrian-bicycle trail along Old Santa Fe Road.
Minor Park, 235 acres at Red Bridge and Holmes roads, contains visible trail ruts from the Santa Fe Trail along an area west of the Blue River.
New Santa Fe “Three Trails” Swales, Madison Avenue at Santa Fe Trail, includes swales extending through the New Santa Fe Cemetery.
Schumacher Park, 6201 E. 93rd St., is a site on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails and includes a native prairie restoration.
3-Trails Bus Transfer Station, south of Old Santa Fe Road and Blue Ridge Boulevard, is near the trail and has exhibits on some of the early Black travelers.
Wieduwilt Swales, 85th Street and Manchester Avenue, is a site on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails.
Many of these sites have informative panels, and the swales and ruts cited are on the National Register of Historic Places.