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Santa Fe in Santa Fe County, New Mexico — The American Mountains (Southwest)
 

Life on the Trail

Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway

 
 
Life on the Trail Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, October 12, 2021
1. Life on the Trail Marker
Inscription.  
Come and Get It!

The ingredients were meager and the menu was basic: biscuits, bacon, and coffee for travelers on the trail in the 19th century.

But with those simple ingredients, supplemented by fresh meat killed on the trail and dried into jerky, mess cooks were often inventive and, if supplies lasted, the food was adequate, though perhaps not by today's standards.

Forks were unknown. Each man had a tin cup and a tin plate scratched with its owner's mark. Salt pork was soaked overnight, cut into small pieces and fried or used as shortening in breads and stews. Coffee was essential and, in the early days, the beans were roasted each day over the fire.

A Typical Day

The travelers rose early, hitched up their wagons and hit the trail. Stopping mid-morning, they put their herds out to pasture, had a light meal which was called breakfast, and then rested. At midday, the caravan stopped again to eat their main meal, an event called "nooning." Scouts usually rode ahead to find water and possible campsites. After walking all afternoon, the caravan stopped for the night, made
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camp, greased their wagons, tended to their animals, and then ended the day with a light supper around the campfire.

Encounters with Indians

Although the clash of cultures brought about vicious behavior, with both sides attacking and retaliating, more trail travelers died from disease, accidents, or exposure than from Indian attacks. Many encounters were peaceful and trade with Indian tribes formed a large part of frontier life.

Tough Cures

One had to be hardy to survive an accident or illness on the trail, for first aid was a primitive business. Bleeding and purging were the accepted treatments for a variety of ailments and rather than cure the patient, those practices most often hastened an untimely death. The exception was the treatment for "the ague" (malaria). Quinine had just been accepted as a treatment and was dispensed in the form of Dr. Sappington's Anti-Fever Pills which were very effective.

Typhoid, measles, and dysentery were problems. Cholera was a big killer and was treated with opium, camphor, and cayenne pepper, all of which did nothing to prevent a swift death. Gunpowder was sometimes burned onto the skin to treat snakebites.

Rubbing Up

Near the end of the trail in preparation for their triumphant entry into Santa Fe, the travelers paused outside of town to "rub up."

"The
Life on the Trail Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, October 12, 2021
2. Life on the Trail Marker
Marker is in front of the Santa Fe Visitor Information Center.
men here was their faces and hands and those possessed of that luxury would don a clean shirt. But those having no spare clothes would content themselves with fixing up shirts and trousers by substituting splinters for buttons and tying a handkerchief around their necks in such a way that it would cover the holes in their shirts as much as possible."

James Josiah Webb, trail trader, 1845

(side quote:)

"We suffered greatly for want of salt; but, by burning the outside of our…steaks, and sprinkling a little gunpowder upon them, it did not require a very extensive stretch of imagination to fancy the presence of both salt and pepper."

Captain Randolph B. Marcy, author of The Prairie Traveler, 1859
 
Erected by America's Byways.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native AmericansRoads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Santa Fe Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1845.
 
Location. 35° 40.979′ N, 105° 56.262′ W. Marker is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in Santa Fe County. Marker can be reached from Old Santa Fe Trail south of East De Vargas Street. Marker is behind the Lamy Building, behind the Santa Fe Visitor Information Center.
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Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 491 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe NM 87501, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Long Haul (here, next to this marker); The Santa Fe Trail (here, next to this marker); Lamy Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Welcome to the Pink Adobe (within shouting distance of this marker); San Miguel Church (within shouting distance of this marker); The "Oldest" House (within shouting distance of this marker); Barrio de Analco (within shouting distance of this marker); Mother Magdalen and the Sisters of Loretto (1852-1968) (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Santa Fe.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 2, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 2, 2021, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 201 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 2, 2021, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.

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Feb. 25, 2024