Pueblo County, Colorado
The Santa Fe Trail

'New' Santa Fe Trail Went West Into Pueblo - Pioneers traveled into the great West on the Santa Fe Trail, which started in Missouri, met the Arkansas River in central Kansas and followed that stream in Colorado. The old trail was established in 1821 and continued to be a thoroughfare for three score years. The trail lost its importance when the railroads pushed westward in the 1870s and 1880s. Early in the 20th century, the Santa Fe Trail was rejuvenated, this time for speedier vehicles with gasoline engines. A meeting was held in Hutchinson, Kan., on July 31, 1919, to organize the association that would build an automobile road over the same route as the old trail. Pueblo County commissioners R.H. Higgins and J.W. Thomson attended. Three years later, Higgins was vice president for the Colorado portion of the trail. Although the old Santa Fe Trail cut off to the southwest at several points and did not come into Pueblo, the new trail did. The trail builders were inspired for several reasons. For one, they wanted the motorists who would be driving to the Panama Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 to come through their towns. The Chieftain reported on Oct. 26, 1991, that Pueblo's portion of the trail was 35 miles of the finest dirt road in the country. It would be several years before gravel surface would be applied. The new road didn't stop in Pueblo. It continued westward through Salida to Grand Junction. This section was called the Rainbow Route. Someone with a vivid imagination suggested that the road between these two points formed a rainbow-like arc. Other said it was named for the rainbow trout. The roads at this time were built by the county. For the four years prior to 1913, the county had the use of state prison convicts for the entire year, the only county to do so. The gang averaged about 20 in the winter and 40 in the summer. The year 1913 saw several important developments in road system improvement. On June 22, the county clerk estimated the Pueblo County road fund would be enhanced about $1,600 to $1,800 a year through the new automobile license law. The licenses were to be issued by the county clerk based on the size of the car, the average to be about $4. Pueblo County figured on issuing about 700 automobile licenses and 200 for motorcycles. Half the amount collected would go to the state. Charles R. McLain of Canon City was a member of the new highway advisory board. One April Sunday the Commerce Club counted the traffic. The club listed 962 vehicles, mostly automobiles on the Santa Fe Trail, 102 vehicles passed on the Canon City road, 355 on the south highway and 302 on the Colorado Springs road. Pueblo Chieftain 9-13-1992

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