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Santa Fe’s Path of Commerce

Back in the mid-19th century the economic growth for Santa Fe was dependent on the coming of the railroad. In 1860, the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railways began with the intention of connecting those two cities in Kansas with Santa Fe. In 1873 the first train tracks reached the Kansas-Colorado border. Finding the terrain too difficult to lay tracks, the train never reached Santa Fe. Instead, a spur railway line was built in Lamy, 18 miles from Santa Fe. The economic stability that a railway in Santa Fe would have provided never came to fruition, but the name of the Atchison Tokepa & Santa Fe Railways became synonymous with progress in the West.

Routes of Commerce

William Becknell, known as the father of the Santa Fe Trail, arrived in Santa Fe shortly after Mexican independence. Having established the trade route from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, he received a warm welcome from its citizens. After years of isolation, Santa Fe was being introduced to people and merchandise they never knew existed. Initially only a few wagons made the journey, which took a month to complete, but by 1835, 75 wagons hauled an estimated $140,000 in goods. By 1843 the value of goods had risen to $250,000, and by 1855 the annual haul was about a half million dollars.

The Other Las Vegas

Santa Fe was not the only community in New Mexico to benefit from the new trade route. In 1826 the community of Las Vegas, 66 miles from Santa Fe, had also established a thriving business community. Hispanic merchants like Miguel Romero and his sons brought merchandise west over the trail. They quickly opened stores, and Las Vegas also became a major trading hub in the southwest.

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