12 Oct 2016

Welcome to the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail

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We are a clearing house for research on the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail. The years were between 1829 and 1848 when annual caravans traveled between the Pueblo of Santa Fe and the San Gabriel Mission in Alta California.  The North Branch was one of many routes that facilitated commerce in the region.  One must look to the state actors in this drama to have an understanding of the times.

With the Louisana Purchase of 1803, the United States was able to double it’s size with territory stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.  The lower border of the United States became the Arkansas River, stretching from the reaches of present Lake County in Colorado to present day Oklahoma and Arkansas. The addition of new territory brought trappers and traders into the region with St. Louis being the hub of activity. The early part of the 18th Century, the Santa Fe Trail was established with commerce moving across the Kansas Plains crossing from the United States into New Spain in the area of Southeastern Colorado. Bent’s Fort (Fort William) was established in 1833 on the north side of the Arkansas River as the center of Bent, St. Vrain Company’s trading empire. Trade was established with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, first for buffalo robes and later for beaver pelts from the rich streams of the Rocky Mountains. Bent’s Fort provided American merchants an opportunity to trade with Santa Fe once Mexico gained independence from Span. The Fort was the only permanent outpost that was not under the control of the Mexicans or the Plains Indians.

The Adams-Onis Treat of 1819 between the United States and New Spain codified the border between the United States and New Spain. The Treaty settled border disputes giving the United States land from the Arkansas River and it’s headwaters on the east spine of the Rocky Mountains north to the 42nd parallel going west to include the Oregon Country. In the region of New Mexico the local government, required that trappers to become naturalized citizens of Mexico if they wanted to trade or trap on the Western Slope of Colorado west to the Green River and north into the Uinta.

It was the year 1821 that the citizens of New Spain overthrew Spanish rule and declared independence. Life changed in New Mexico with the revolution as American traders were allowed to move into the area for fame and profit. By 1824, Taos became a trading hub, with trappers moving into the San Louis Valley over into the Elks and further southwest into the San Juan Mountains.

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