Special Announcement: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Program Resources

Skip Navigation
Get Involved Grants & Programs About
Contact Donate


Background Image painting of santa fe trail traders

The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!

“You might think that little bitty Ararat, Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the far southwestern corner of that state is a long way from the Santa Fe Trail.  And you’re right.  I’m Deb Goodrich, and I’m going to show you how it’s connected.  I grew up in that itty bitty place and now I chair the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail.  Join me each week as we go on an epic adventure!” --Deb Goodrich, Host of "The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!" Podcast

In the first episode of the Santa Fe Trail Association’s new podcast, “The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!” started in honor of the trail’s 200th anniversary, Deb Goodrich tells the story of how she fell in love with the history of this celebrated American trade route. 

Listen to the first episode

“I was sitting back in the Blue Ridge Mountains of my youth watching the black and white television when an old movie came on, 'Santa Fe Trail.'”  Featuring Errol Flynn as confederate army general J.E.B. Stuart, Ronald Reagan as Union General George Custer, and Olivia de Haviland as the daughter of Cyrus K. Holliday, the first president of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway,  the 1940 film captured Goodrich’s imagination, and she never forgot it.  

trailer for 1940 Santa Fe Trail filmundefined

Trailer for "Santa Fe Trail" film, 1940

Later, when Goodrich moved to Kansas to study at Washburn University, she reconnected with her old fascination with the history of the Santa Fe Trail.  

“Because I’m from the south and we love dead people,” jokes Goodrich, “I was wandering around a cemetery when I stumbled, literally, over the grave of Cyrus K. Holliday.  Now, the only reason that I knew his name was because he was a character in that movie, Santa Fe Trail, the man that founded the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad.  And as I stood there over his grave in Topeka, Kansas, I realized that all these figures, all these historic figures and events, had played out right here, that these people had walked in the places that I was walking right now, and I was hooked. I wanted to find those ruts that those people had walked through, had driven through, and had fought over.”

aerial view of wagon ruts on Santa Fe Trail

Aerial view of the Santa Fe trail ruts that go through the site known as French Frank's, located in Marion County, Kansas

Now, as the chair of the Santa Fe Trail 200, Goodrich is bringing the stories of the Santa Fe Trail to life. Each episode of “The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!” features another story of those who lived, worked, and died on the Santa Fe Trail as it grew and changed over its two-hundred-year history.  The establishment of the Santa Fe Trail by American soldier, trader, and politician William Becknell in 1821 coincided with Missouri’s first year of statehood and Mexico's independence from Spain. In fact, these events made the trail's existence as an international trade route between the United States and Mexico possible, establishing the Santa Fe Trail as one of the most significant trade routes in US history.  At the same time, the growing popularity of the Santa Fe Trail, which cut across lands owned by twelve different Native American tribes, disrupted the lives of indigenous communities across the region. 

In 1987, the Congress of the United States recognized the trail’s historic significance when it added it to the National Trails System as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. As the trail reaches the 200th anniversary of its founding, Goodrich will be using the new podcast to share just a few of the tales she’s come to know and love during her lifelong study of the trail with a special focus on the trail’s most active historical period from 1821 to 1880.  “The variety of stories is endless,” said Goodrich. “The different cultures along the trail, the different geographies along the trail.  When you’re talking about hundreds of miles of the great plains, you cover some pretty incredible country.”  

“One of the reasons that we study history is to put our lives in context,” shared Goodrich. “When we understand how curious people were about each other, how they wanted to trade, and the failures and successes of that first international trade route, there’s a lot to be learned from that.”

Catch the next episode of The Santa Fe Trail Lives On! at: https://santafetrail200.org/  

Rapid Remedies

HK announces a new resource to help cultural non-profits connect with their communities. The Rapid Remedies white paper is designed to assist cultural non-profits in their continued efforts to quickly and affordably create engaging online stories that fulfill their unique missions, like the "Santa Fe Trail Lives On" podcast. Rapid Remedies includes project models, examples of digital projects from Kansas cultural nonprofits, and tools for creating your own digital projects. Rapid Remedies was written by Sarah Bishop of Coneflower Consulting.

Download Rapid Remedies

Banner Image: "The Trail to Santa Fe" by Ron Kil


Kansans Have
Joined the Movement