In 1821, Missourian William Becknell must have heard rumors that Mexico had gotten its independence from Spain. He came up with a plan to get rich and get himself out of debt. He placed an ad in the Franklin newspaper, the Missouri Intelligencer and Boon’s Lick Advertiser, looking for men to join him in search of “wild horses.” It seems obvious today that Becknell didn’t really want to catch wild horses, but rather he planned to go across unknown lands to Santa Fe—a trip of 900 miles. Once there, he planned to sell highly-prized trade goods to the people.
Becknell’s plan worked out. He became the first American trader to successfully take goods to Santa Fe and return with a profit. His trip from Franklin, Missouri, opened the important international trade route. That is how Franklin became the birthplace of the Santa Fe Trail and its first jumping-off point. That is also how William Becknell became known as “The Father of the Santa Fe Trail." The trail was traveled for more than 60 years.
A few years after Becknell’s first trip, the town of Franklin was destroyed by a flood and the townspeople moved to higher ground. Their new town was called New Franklin. The few remains of the original town were referred to as Old Franklin. The jumping-off point of the Trail continued to move further west as steamboats made their way up the Missouri River. Soon Boonville, with its steamboat landing, would become the starting place. The landing made it easier to take cargo off the steamboats coming from St. Louis and place it in freight wagons bound for Santa Fe.