This is not collectible.
While I have lived in Texas for nearly 50 years, I was born and grew to an adult in Kansas. When I tell someone of my origins, they almost always respond in one of two ways: “I have been there but I don’t remember much about it” or “that 400 mile drive across the state on Interstate 70 is really boring.” There is more to the state than that.
Kansas achieved statehood in 1861, but it was far from civilized. Until about 1900 the region was a frontier, and at the center of important events in US history: there was the westward movement of pioneers from Europe and the eastern US and the subsequent conflicts with Native Americans; the Santa Fe Trail crossed the state and the Pony Express and the Oregon Trail passed through a corner; there were border wars because Kansas was a free state and a center of the abolitionist movement, whereas neighboring Missouri was a slave state; and finally the several Kansas railheads were the destinations of cattle drives from Texas. Each trackable in this series of metal travel bugs is named for towns with interesting histories (at least to me), some of which have connections to my youth.
Before the era of the railroads, the Santa Fe Trail was the most important route to the West from the Missouri River to Santa Fe. It was used extensively by traders, freighters, those headed to Pikes Peak, and the military from its survey by the federal government in 1825 until the 1870s. Of its approximate 750 miles, two-thirds of the route lay in Kansas. It also passed through portions of Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.
On September 1, 1821, Captain William Becknell and a party of traders left Arrow Rock, Missouri, to trade horses and mules with American Indians, and hunt wild game on the plains. The expedition met a troop of Mexican soldiers in November and traveled with them to Santa Fe, where they were greeted warmly. Their trade goods, including calico and other printed cloth, sold at high prices in the isolated Spanish town. The Becknell party returned to Missouri on January 30, 1822, after only 48 days travel. Profits from the expedition were so high that other trading ventures were organized almost immediately. Thus began the lucrative trade along the Santa Fe Trail.
The Oregon-California Trail, which also cut across Kansas, was a highway for settlers. Alternatively, the Santa Fe Trail's traffic was mostly traders and the military. This was an active military road during the Mexican War (1846-1848) and afterward served as a supply route for military posts in New Mexico and Arizona territories. In addition to traders' caravans, stage and mail lines often followed the trail and set up stations along the route. The completion of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway to Santa Fe in 1880 ended the trail's reign in the West.
Numerous segments of the trail were considered much safer to travel than others. Those posing greater risks to the traveler and a liability to traders with their cargos were found on the central and southwestern parts of the trail. One such area was known as the Jornado portion, which was located on the "dry routes" to Santa Fe. It lay on what was known as the Cimarron cut-off. This "uninhabitable desert region," as it was known to the early caravans and travelers, encompassed an area bounded on the north by the present-day city of Cimarron.
The Cimarron River, which gives the route its name, flows through southwestern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. Depending upon where the travelers left the Arkansas River, it was a journey of fifty or more miles to reach the Cimarron River. With poor grass and scant water, the sandy Cimarron River, which was often dry, defined the landscape as one of the most risky sections of the entire Trail.
The trail cut southwest across the valley of the Cimarron River near the town of Ulysses before finding its first reliable water supply since leaving the Arkansas River. Wagon Bed Spring is on the north bank of the Cimarron River. Travelers breathed a sigh of relief upon finding the spring as it meant they had survived.
However, that would not be the case for all travelers, as near here, the famous hunter, trapper, and explorer, Jedediah Strong Smith, would lose his life. In 1831, Smith's well-equipped wagon train became lost in the maze of buffalo trails. Seeking water for the dying animals and suffering men, Smith finally found the Cimarron River but was killed by the Comanche Indians near Wagon Bed Spring. His body was never recovered.
Historians note more than 130 trail-related sites along the Kansas portion of the Santa Fe Trail, including segments of trail ruts, campgrounds, forts, trading posts, battle sites, and burials. There are many caches at these trail-related sites, including one called the Cache, west of Dodge City.
There are many reasons I chose Cimarron as the name for this travel bug. US Hwy 56 follows or parallels the track of the Santa Fe Trail. I have been on that road many times. Secondly, among all the mountain men, Jedediah Smith is the one I most admire. He was a New Yorker who went west for adventure. He joined the the Ashley group in Missouri to trap beaver still further west. He later opened trails through the mountains to Utah, then to California. He could draw maps of all his travels from memory. It is just not right that he died while scouting the Cimarron River on the flatlands of my home state. I have camped several times on the banks of the Cimarron River in Morton County. Finally, first time I was in the town of Cimarron I was coaching a girls softball team. We won the regional tournament and the right to go to the state tournament.