National Frontier Trails Museum

Interesting Trail Facts

Interesting "Trail Facts" From the Kansas City, Missouri Region

  • The ill-fated Donner Party left from Independence, MO in 1846 for California.
  • Of the more than 250,000 emigrants to California during the decade of the gold rush, only 5,000 were African-American.
  • The trading route of the Santa Fe Trail was used as a military route during the Mexican War, 1846-48.
  • Noted mountain man Jim Bridger lived and died in present-day south Kansas City and is buried in Independence, MO.
  • The explosion of the steamboat “Saluda” at Lexington, MO in 1852 killed many Mormon emigrants bound for Salt Lake City.
  • The first white women to cross North America, Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, left from Liberty, MO in 1836 with their husbands.
  • The first railroad west of the Mississippi River linked Independence, MO with its steamboat landing.
  • Capt. John Sutter lived at Westport, MO before fleeing from creditors and going to California, where his mill and name forever became attached to the 1848 gold discovery.
  • The languages heard along the culturally diverse Santa Fe Trail included English, Spanish, German, French, Dutch, and those of several American Indian tribes.
  • An estimated 400,000 people went on the western migration trails between 1840 and 1860.
  • Hiram Young was a prominent African-American blacksmith in Independence, MO who bought slaves to work in his wagon shops and let them earn their freedom.
  • Sapling Grove Park in Overland Park, KS was the starting point for the first overland wagon train to California.
  • “Kelly’s”, today a popular bar in Westport, MO, was an outfitting store during the trail days.
  • About one in ten trail travelers, or about 40,000 people, died along the western trails in America.
  • Alexander Majors, whose home is open for tours in Kansas City, was an important frontier freighter.
  • Mayor Tyree of Independence went west on the trails and was reportedly never heard of again.
  • The Bent-Ward House in Kansas City was home to two important figures on the frontier, William Bent and Seth Ward.
  • Unlike the Hollywood film versions, very few deaths on the overland trails were related to Indian hostilities.
  • Mr. Ray’s blacksmith shop on the trail was the start of Raytown, MO.
  • Major John Dougherty, later of Liberty, MO, was an early fur trader and Indian agent.
  • The natural springs at Blue Springs, MO were used by Indians, then early Santa Fe Trail traders.