The original Santa Fe Trail was a transportation route through central North America, that connected the area around Independence, Missouri, with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Likewise, Santa Fe was the northern terminus of El Camino Real, which came out of Mexico City. (Since El Camino Real was the name of my Spanish language textbook in high school, that phrase always catches my attention!) The highway sign shown in this photo, marks the present-day highway route, that roughly follows the trail's path through the entire length of Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado, and northern New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Trail was pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, and served as a vital commercial route, until the introduction of railroads to Santa Fe in 1880. Historical placards along the route tell details about the scenic and historic byway, in the event you are not traveling with a smart phone, that will let you "google" the topic, to find out more details!
The original Santa Fe Trail followed parts of the Arkansas River during its progress westward. When I was on the Santa Fe Auto Tour Route along Highway 50 in Colorado, the sign on this bridge said I was crossing the Arkansas River. I was amazed at how much dryer the Arkansas River looks in Colorado versus how it looks in Arkansas where I live!
The town of Las Animas along the Santa Fe trail has an interesting history---especially in regards to the origin of its name: A famous legend says that the town and nearby Pergatoire River (Purgatory River) were named for a group of conquistadors, who died without the last rites sacrament of a priest. According to European Catholic belief of that time, their souls would go to Purgatory as a result. The original Spanish name for the town, Las Animas, means "the souls" in Spanish. Thus the surrounding area was said to be La Ciudad de Las Animas Perdido in Purgatorio, which means "The city of lost souls in Purgatory". As the sign reads, it is also the last home of Kit Carson. For any youngsters who might be reading this, Kit Carson was a 19th century frontier legend, because exaggerated versions of his exploits were the subject of dime novels of the early 1900's, and western movies/television shows of the 1950's.
Las Animas is the county seat of Bent County, Colorado, and the site of the 1889 Bent County Courthouse.
This statue of a Calvary Soldier on the lawn is another tribute to this location's importance in the settlement of the western United States.
Today, the Santa Fe Trail is the mode of transport to move the gigantic wind turbine blades that are manufactured nearby, and can be used to supply electrical energy to folks throughout the U.S. This photo shows how the turbine blade takes up almost an entire city block, as it is being transported
I have friends in Arkansas with the name "DAVIES", and they too work in the hospitality industry. It made me wonder if there was a hereditary gene in the Davies family that steered those folks into that career choice!
Unfortunately, this Davies Hotel has been closed for several years, but still remains as a landmark in downtown Lamar, Colorado. But, since the Amtrak train makes two stops daily in Lamar, maybe it will once again open up to provide lodging for weary travelers arriving by train!
The Lamar Amtrak Station also serves as a Colorado Welcome Center. As such, it provides free coffee, clean restrooms, a book exchange, and free WIFI.
The Visitor Center grounds also provide the very significant display for the Madonna of the Trail memorial, shown in this photo. This is one of twelve identical monuments dedicated to the spirit of pioneer women, commissioned by the National Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1928-29, one was placed in each of the 12 states along the National Old Trails Road from Cumberland, Maryland to Upland, California. They serve as a symbol of courage and faith of women who aided greatly in conquering the wilderness and establishing permanent homes. They are 10 feet high and weigh 5 tons. The states of Ohio, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and Maryland each have one of the statues. Even before I knew the national significance of the one I was photographing in Lamar, Colorado, this past June, I knew it was significant to MY family history, because my mother had written a story about her trip in a covered wagon across Indian country west of Arkansas (See the November 6, 2008, blog post called "Covered Wagon Expedition" in the archives of this blog, for more details). What makes it even more significant to me, is that in July of this year, I had the opportunity to be driving in Cumberland, Maryland, and see part of the Cumberland Trail that is referenced in the National Old Trails Road association.
The Visitor Center/Amtrak Station in Lamar, Colorado, also has one of the wind turbine blades in its front yard, for visitors to photograph and touch. Even though it looks huge, I was told that it was a very short one, compared to most of the ones now being used throughout the country to harness wind power.
The best part about stopping at the Lamar Visitor Center was meeting these two ladies, who provided me with a wealth of information for writing this article! Their service at the Visitor Center is leaving a "trail" of respect and gratitude to our pioneer ancestors who had the fortitude to settle our Western frontiers. It is a reminder for me to ask myself, "What kind of a 'trail' am I leaving behind for those who will follow after me?" When I looked in my Bible concordance for the word "trail", this section from I Timothy 5:24-25 came up: "The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others TRAIL behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden." I want the TRAIL that I leave behind to be one that brings you "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia