We have had several conversations about the portion of the Santa Fe Trail which crosses Baca County. Most recently we posted Jim Womack’s “Ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, The Aubrey Trail Cutoff.” The following article in the Springfield Herald (Springfield, Colorado) May 31, 1907, is attributed to the Syracuse Journal, but no specific issue. It briefly provides the account of a Syracuse Judge A. L. Martin who in his younger days would have traveled across present-day Baca via the Aubrey Trail. Additionally, it briefly discusses Major Aubrey, the cutoff’s namesake.
The Old Santa Fe Trails
Syracuse Journal: The committee appointed to determine where the Santa Fe trail crossed what is now Main street (Syracuse, Kans.) have performed their duties with a promptness and exactness that is commendable. In a signed report made to Hon. H. N. Lester, chairman of the local association, they say:
“From the original field notes of the survey of this territory and form our own personal knowledge we have located said trail on Main street just south of the Fort Aubrey irrigation ditch and 875 feet south of the center of the main line track of the Santa Fe railroad 101 degrees, 46 minutes, 12 seconds west longitude and 37 degrees 59 minutes, 25 seconds north latitude.
At the spot indicated two deeply worn, grass-grown wagon tracks come together and they are certainly scars of the old trail. The spot is a good one for the stone and will be set with suitable ceremonies.
Ex-Probate Judge A. L. Martin, in conversation Tuesday with the writer about the Santa Fe trail, said he made the trip from Fort Leavenworth to Sante Fe in 1848 when he was about twenty-one years old, his twenty-first birthday occurred on the 19th of October of that year when his wagon train was on his return trip.
His train consisted of sixty wagons and sixty-five men and they left Fort Leavenworth June 22d, and returned on Christmas day six months later. After they left the vicinity of Council Grove they did not see a white man’s habitation until they came to Fort Mann, near where Larned is now. They crossed the Arkansas river about where the town of Ingales is now and from there to the Cimarron river was a stretch of dry country called Horn Alley because of the bleached bones of an ox train that had been killed by the Indians. The old trail took them by Point of Rocks in Morton country and here one of their men died and was buried on the return trip.
They met Major Aubrey while he was making his famous ride from Sante Fe to Independence, Missouri, on a wager of $2,000. He says Aubrey was a slim dark-complexioned man. They saw him first in the distance coming toward their camp on a gallop, riding one horse and leading another. When he came up he dismounted, asked for a bite to eat and to be given a place to sleep a certain number of minutes. They woke him as directed and after drinking a cup of coffee he again mounted one of his horses and left on a gallop. Mr. Martin’s recollection is that the terms of the bet were that Aubrey was to cover the distance between the two points, about 800 miles, in seven days, and that he won the bet and had six hours to spare. It was on this ride that Aubrey was deflected from his route by the Indians at a point that is now in Morton county and this caused him to strike the Arkansas river near where he afterward built the government fort which was named after him. Major Aubrey afterward built the government fort which was named after him. Major Aubrey afterward engaged in freighting and established a regular trail southwest from Ft. Aubrey. In going westward Mr. Martin’s train left stores of provisions at Fort Mann, which was, in fact, nothing but a few small buildings enclosed in a stockade of posts send on end with portholes to shoot through, and they ran out of grub three days before they returned to Ft. Mann, where they found their supplies as they had left them.
Mr. Martin says the grass was fine all over these prairies and especially in the river bottoms where the buffaloes did not graze. Buffaloes were more numerous than cattle have been since and they grazed on the shorter grass of the uplands. With their formidable outfit, they were not disturbed by the Indians. The commerce wagon trains to Santa Fe in those days amounted to about seven millions of dollars. Mr. Martin says they made aobut twenty five miles a day with their ox teams.