Death on the Santa Fe Trail

In the 1830s Manuel Salustiano Delgado, an enterprising businessman developed cholera. He died along the Santa Fe Trail in route from Franklin, Missouri. His death occurred during the summer hundreds of miles from New Mexico. With the heat and distance his remains didn’t get to Santa Fe for a proper burial. Instead, an Indian guide by the name of Susano Leyba chose a familiar site for his burial. Delgado’s body was wrapped in burlap and his grave was lined with coal. As his fellow merchants lowered his body into the grave liberal amounts of brandy were poured over his body.

A Return to Santa Fe

Once the gravesite was properly marked the wagon train proceeded along the trail. During the winter Susano returned with a group of men. They exhumed Delgado’s body finding it in an almost perfect state of preservation. The cadaver travelled back to Santa Fe. Upon arrival Manuel Salustiano Delgado received a proper funeral attended by friends and family at the San Miguel Cemetery.

The Road to Fortune

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 became aware of people and merchandise they never knew existed. Initially only a few wagons made the journey. By 1835, 75 wagons hauled an estimated $140,000 in goods. In 1843 the value of goods had risen to $250,000. Twenty-one years later the annual haul was about a half million dollars.

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