Please purchase a subscription to read our premium content. Thank you for reading! Jesus M. The sandstone bluffs of Autograph Rock, where many passing travelers on the Santa Fe Trail carved their names.
Autograph Rock is near Cold Springs Creek, making it a rare, important stop for water on that part of the trail. Carol Sharp walks by the sandstone bluff of Autograph Rock on Nov. Delgado owned a mercantile business and was one of the principal owners of a mule and ox train that hauled freight on the Santa Fe Trail.
Carol Sharp stands next to Autograph Rock on Nov. Sharp and her husband, Dick Sharp, run the ranch that contains Autograph Rock. atures from 19th century travelers — etched into a stony monument called Autograph Rock about 30 miles east of New Mexico's border with Oklahoma — tell a story. It was a profit-driven venture, ostensibly aimed at selling goods from the East to those in the Southwest — where the traders would purchase and pack up goods to sell back in the United States, less than a half-century removed from declaring its independence from England.
At a time when the fledgling U. The trail also changed the way people in the Southwest lived, with difficult-to-obtain goods such as metal and iron utensils, cotton and silk fabric and new types of food, including canned goods, becoming part of daily life. In return, those traders could return home with silver coins and mules. The wagons, pulled by oxen or mules, generally averaged 12 to 15 miles a day. For weary, dirty and anxious travelers on the trail, the Dakota sandstone rock formation in Oklahoma, more than miles from Franklin, was a natural post where nearby springs provided something they desperately needed to keep going.
Those hardy travelers wanted to do something to let people know they had once lived and traveled the trail, said Jody Risley, executive director of the Cimarron Heritage Center in Boise City, which includes a Santa Fe Trail exhibit. But not everybody could utter those words.
Some traders died along the way, and Carol Sharp said historians believe some of the inscriptions may not have been autographs, but names written by others to commemorate comrades who died along the trail. Autograph Rock was not the only monument along the trail that would have served as a registry for the Santa Fe Trail.
A much smaller autographed rock is located in the Kiowa grasslands area of northeastern New Mexico, and there were likely others like that along the way, trail historians say. Trail masters could determine, after talking to those taking part in the trade train west, if they wished to cross into Colorado and then down into New Mexico through Raton Pass — not a good route for wagons, but one more flush with water — or cross down into Oklahoma before moving into the high desert plains of New Mexico.
The lower trail saved 10 days of arduous travel. But it also exposed the travelers to potential trouble from Native American nations unhappy with the intrusion on their lands and offered fewer watering holes along the way. Once a caravan — with wagons that typically traveled across the plains four abreast and not in a single row as is often depicted in movies — pulled into the fields between Autograph Rock and the creek, travelers and animals could rest and take time to repair wagons and tend to the sick, Sharp said.
And sometimes, the trail folk were really sick. Cholera was the scourge of the day, and when it struck, it killed.
There, the healthy men attempted to doctor the sick with an elixir of chile-infused whiskey. Carol Sharp said a clearing between the spring and the rock formation would have been an appropriate place to quarantine a wagon full of plague. She said the Santa Fe Trail traders probably used stones or metal or iron tools to etch their names in the rock. Sharp said his script suggests a businessman accustomed to smoking a cigar in a parlor in some fancy East Coast house.
One name — inscribed as T. Potts — might have been famed beaver trapper Daniel T. Potts, one of the few mountain men to leave a cache of letters for historians to study. Another inscription indicates members of Company K of the 1st California Infantry Regiment, made up of volunteers from California, passed through the area.
Yet other inscriptions date to the post-Santa Fe Trail era — from the s to the s, from both travelers and graffiti fans. Sharp said the route continued in use for those traveling both east and west for years after the Santa Fe Trail formally stopped inthe year the railroad first came to Santa Fe.
He is ased to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general asment beat. Up. Log In. Purchase a Subscription.
We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content. We hope that you enjoy our free content. Edit Close.
Toggle Menu. Welcome, Guest. Up Log In. Dashboard Logout.
Close 1 of 5. Home News Local News. Edwin Harrison.
And many more. And this for nearly or miles, depending on which of two trail options they took.
As such, Autograph Rock also may serve as a collective tombstone of sorts, she said. She said visitors who visit often touch the inscriptions with their fingers.
Your notification has been saved. There was a problem saving your notification.
Manage followed notifications. Close Followed notifications.
Please log in to use this feature Log In. Don't have an ? Up Today. Videos Sorry, there are no recent for popular videos.
The key takeaways from the new U. Will Webber. Building Santa Fe. Etiquette Rules! Rescue report.
Notifications Settings. Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.
Breaking News Subscribe. ZIP: 87537