BIBLIOGRAPHY

SINCE THE LIFE OF BECKNELL, AS FOUNDER OF THE TRAIL, AND THE STORY OF THE TRAIL ITSELF ARE SO INTERWOVEN MY SOURCES ARE COMBINED BELOW. THE EXPLANATION/ANNOTATION, CONTAINED AS PART OF EACH SOURCE LISTING, EXPLAINS THE VALUE OF EACH SOURCE AS USED BY THIS AUTHOR AND SHOULD ASSIST IN GUIDING READERS IN CHOOSING THE SOURCES WHICH INTERESTS THEM THE MOST. THE CONTENT OF THESE HISTORIES AND THE BIBLOGRAPHIES ARE UPDATED AS NEW INFORMATION IS RECEIVED BY THE AUTHOR- LAST UPDATED: NOVEMBER. 2015.

Note of caution: A bain of a researche’rs life is the fact that information contained in even highly regarded sources is ocassionally information which is not truly based on evidence. There are several reasons why this can occur. The most prevalent reason is the tendency of some researchers to accept what has become regarded, over time, as “proven” information and assumed to be documentable fact just because the source has been available and unchallenged over that time.

This occurs because, at some point in the past, something was written which used undocumented or insufficiently documented information or even “guess-work”. Then, when published, that writing was not sufficiently vetted by experts with the result that it became accepted as based upon total fact. Then, over the years that source became regarded as a reliable source about the subject while, in fact, it contained less than documentable information or even total myth.

The best method for a new researcher to avoid this situation from degrading their work is to cross-check each declaration of an event or item with several sources. Just because it has been stated previously in a particular source does not mean that it is reliable information. When in doubt, information which is not sufficiently documented such as the circumstances surrounding Becknell’s loss of his first wife and marriage to a second, should be mentioned in a footnote or as an end note rather than omitted.  It must be indicated as being based upon insufficient documentation or as being based upon vague information which requires that a supposition be made. All “guess work” must be noted as such or the author risks having his work regarded as unreliable.

SOURCES

 Gregory Hancks, “The World of Hannah Chribbs Evans”. https://chribbs.wordpress.com/becknell/, 2014. This new website contains detailed information relating to Becknell and his activities from the time he arrived in Missouri (1810) until his death in Texas (1856). It contains extensive documentation often in the form of photostated documents from over a dozen sources. As such it is a “must read” for those interested in the details of Becknell’s life. Among other topics it illustrates is  Becknell’s impulsiveness and the legal troubles which that resulted in. There is an indication by the author that additional information will be added to this website in the future. 

As time and verification allows, this website (williambecknell.com) will be updated based upon some of the new information contained in this new source.

Beachum, Larry Mahon. “William Becknell the Father of the Santa Fe Trail”. El Paso: Texas Western Univ. Press. 1982. This is, perhaps, the single most informative and comprehensive document about Becknell’s life. Written by the author as his master’s thesis, it covers Becknell’s life from his birth to his death. However, it does leave out some valuable information. For example: Becknell’s siblings as well as his children and the disappearance from all records of his first wife, Jane, and his remarriage to Mary Cribs. That information,admittedly sketchy, was obtained from old US Census documents available at AncestryLibrary.Com.

Beachum, “The Many Careers of William Becknell” ( Dallas: Texas, Southern Methodist Univ., 1979- out of print but maybe still available by contacting the University). The primary value of this source is to cross-check the information contained in other sources.

“The Journals of Captain Thomas Becknell…” (“ Missouri Historical Review”, Jan. 1910, Vol.5) see also Vol. 6, Oct. 1911 for additional information. This can be obtained from the NM State Univ. Interlibrary Loan- Lending Library or from Google. The Journals describe the writer’s (William or perhaps his brother, Thomas) experiences during both trips to Santa Fe in 1821 and in 1822.

Jackson, Hal E. “Boone’s Lick Road” (Woodston, KS, 2012, Trails Press) This new book describes the early 1800s road used to settle northern Missouri and the establishment of Franklin MO the home of Willian Becknell. Generous use of maps and illustrations helps to explain the impact of this road upon the settlement of the west and the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail.

M. Olsen and H. Meyers ”The Diary of Pedro Ignacio Gallego”, (Santa Fe Trail Association’s “Best of Wagon Tracks”, Vol.7, Nov.1992, No. 1). The source related to how many men were in Becknell’s party and the welcome which they received in 1821 as they approached Santa Fe.

M.M. Marmaduke “Journal From Franklin to Santa Fe in 1824”, (Missouri Historical Review, Vol. VI, No. 1).
More information related to the earlier days of the Trail and the logistics and experiences related to traveling the Trail.

Gregg, Josiah. ”Commerce of the Prairies”. Edited by Max L. Moorhead. Norman: Univ.of Oklahoma Press. 1950. This, the most referenced documentation about the Trail, provided an overview as to the basic operation of the Trail and its importance as well as to verify Becknell’s involvement in the early days of the Trail (p.13 and pp.37-43).

Rittenhouse, Jack D. “Trail Of Commerce And Conquest”. Univ. of New Mexico Press. 1973, (Reprinted 1987 by Santa Fe Trail Council under this title). This extract from the original book “The Santa Fe Trail, A Historical Bibliography” by the same author was the introduction to that book and provides a reasonably accurate and concise overview of the history and prehistory of the Trail. It can be obtained from the Santa Fe Trail Association located in Larned Kansas, phone: 620-285-2054.

Cleland, Robert G. “This Reckless Breed of Men”. New York: Random House, 1950. This book provides a look at early attempts by Anglos to trade with the Spanish in Santa Fe and their disastrous results It underscores the risk which Becknell took and the emotional and legal (debt) implication which influenced his desperate journey to Santa Fe with only five companions in spite of this history. To understand Becknell one must understand not only his character which demanded that he pay his debts but also his anger at being in debtor’s prison. Pages 128-132 describe Becknell’s trading trips to Santa Fe (1821-24).

See Chapter Four for the early history of trade with the area west of Missouri, Zebulon Pikes’ Expedition, Becknell’s physical features and character are described and other pertinent information.

Stanly Vestal The Old Santa Fe Trail”, (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1939).
Worth reading in order to see how information about the Trail has been expanded over recent years.

Ralph E. Twichell, Leading Facts of New Mexico History” (Cedar Rapids, Torch Press, 1911,, 1950) 2 Vols.).
Lots of Trail related information. Some of this information is not included in other sources and maybe an interputation made by the author. But worth reading as an aid to putting the pieces of the Becknell puzzle together.

Simmons, Mark. “Opening the Santa Fe Trail”. Cerrillos: Galisteo Press. 1971. A good, contemporary overview of the history of the Trail written by a recognized historian who has specialized in the history of New Mexico. Simmons’ reputation for accuracy is held in high regard.

Hulbert, Archer B. Southwest on the Turquoise Trail”. 1933. Information about the history of trade with Mexico including trade from Missouri to Mexico City.

Pat B. Clark, “The History of Clarksville and Old Red River County”, Mathis Van Nort and Co., Dallas, 1937,pp.10-17. This out of print book contains information about Becknell’s troops in 1836 and their experiences at the Battle of San Jacinto. In addition it documents to some degree the stories about Davy Crocket’s visit to Becknell in 1835, Santa Anna’s Masonic apron and razors as well as Becknell’s service, for three months, with the Texas Rangers in 1853.
Note: Some historians are loathe to include mention of out-of-print sources but, sometimes, knowing about them enables the researcher to locate a copy somewhere (Try the library or the historical society in Clarksville Texas) and to profit from the information obtained.

The Journals of Capt. Thomas (i.e. William) Becknell from Boone’s Lick to Santa Fe.” Missouri Historical Review, Vol.: 4, Issue: 2, Jan. 1910. Becknell’s accounts of his first and second trips to Santa Fe. Printed in 1823 in the local newspaper in Franklin MO, it is not clear who actually wrote it as it finally appeared. However this should be considered a primary source. Also in existence are Becknell’s accounts of his 1824 trip to Santa Fe and his ill-fated winter trapping adventure including his visit to Mesa Verde ruins.
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“The Expulsion Of Spanish From Mexico”, Harold Dana Sims, The Pitt Latin American Series, 1991, p.13. Mention is made on p.13 of the Spanish occupation of a fort (San Juan de Ulua) located on an island in the harbor of Mexico’s principal port of Vera Cruz. Bombardments by the Spanish forces, located there from 1822 to 1828, discouraged foreign commerce which provided most of Mexico’s imported items. Logically this made Mexico more dependent upon trade via the Santa Fe Trail/El Camino Real.

“Heros Of The Santa Fe Trail”, Randy D. Smith, Boson Books, Raleigh, 2006. Useful information about the background/ history preceding the opening of the Trail, as well as the James-Mc Knight Party, Becknell, Mexican Traders, The Texas Invasion of the Trail in 1843 and Jed Smith.

“ Wagon Tracks “ (Santa Fe Trail Association, Larned KS.). The official publication of The Santa Fe Trail Association, this source is known for its carefully researched articles written mainly by scholars who are interested in various facets of the Trail. THEIR INDEX OF CAREFULLY RESEARCHED ARTICLES WHICH HAVE APPEARED IN  “WAGON TRACKS” OVER THE PAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS CAN BE FOUND AT: santafetrail.org.  Note:  No scholarly work involving either Becknell or the Santa Fe Trail should be considered to have been thoroughly researched without consulting this source.

Also found at this valuable website is an overview of the history of the Santa Fe Trail from prehistory to the present. Written by Trail Historian and SFTA Operations Manager, Harry C. Myers and edited by the current SFTA Operations Manager, Joanne VanCoevern, this overview is particularly valuable to acquire a summary of the Trail’s entire history.

Note: My friendship with the former Association’s Operations Manager, Mr. Harry C. Myers of Santa Fe, as well as my being a past officer of the “End of Trail Chapter” and a current (2012) member of the board, has opened up doors of information, which, while available to others, is not often sought. An example is Harry showing me the location of Becknell’s encounter with the Mexican troops near Las Vegas NM in 1821. He has also led many field trips to various locations along the trail which have served to help me envision what Becknell actually saw and experienced when I write and when I “become” Becknell during my reenactments.

Exploring The American West“, (National Park Handbook;116), 1982, p.39. A brief history of mountain man and explorer, Ezekiel Williams who worked for fur company operator, Manuel Lisa, and discovered the rich trapping area called Colorado and explored the surrounding areas, 1811-13, which opened them up to trapping and further exploration.

“A Guide to Muster Roles ,1836-1874”, University of Texas- Austin, This contains the names of soldiers who served under Captain William A. Becknell in 1836. It appears that two muster roles were made that year. The first role was made in April 1836 and the second in July of that year. It seems to indicate that the first role was made up of volunteers who participated at the time of the San Jacinto battle (fought April 21,1836). The second role may consist of volunteers who served later in 1836 to help protect the territory against marauding Indians and bandits.

The Handbook of Texas (The Texas Historical Association) provides an overview of Becknell’s life including his years in Texas to help tie together the vast amount of Becknell/SF Trail information available.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A good starting point for basic background information about: the War of 1812, William Becknell, The Santa Fe Trail’s history, Trade with Mexico, El Camino Real, Clarksville and Red River County Texas, the Battle of San Jacinto, Davy Crockett, Thomas H. Benton, Kit Carson, Zeke Williams, James Clark, John “Billy” Stiles, Jedediah Smith, Franklin Missouri, Independence and Westport Missouri and wagon types of the Santa Fe trail.
Useful to see how others have organized the information about these subjects and to acquire a basic frame-of-reference related to these subjects. But always use additional material to cross-check this information.

Ancestry Library.com and Ancestory.com provided access to census and other records dating back as far as 1714 and useful to establish Becknell’s name, ancestry and descendents. This site is a subscription site accessed by the author at the New Mexico Archives in Santa Fe.

The Handbook of Texas Online. Beachum, Larry M. . Texas State Historical Ass’n. Basically a brief summary of Beachum’s earlier thesis but with a few additional bits of later discovered information of minor importance added.
This site also provides much information related to Becknell’s presence in Texas from 1835 on.
For example, under “Billy Stiles”, Becknell’s friend and fellow soldier during the Texas War for Independence in 1836, is an indication that Becknell’s militia arrived one day after the Battle of San Jacinto and was given the task of guarding Santa Anna.

“The Journals of Capt. Thomas (i.e. William) Becknell from Boone’s Lick to Santa Fe.” Missouri Historical Review, Vol.: 4, Issue: 2, Jan. 1910. Becknell’s accounts of his first and second trips to Santa Fe. Printed in 1823 in the local newspaper in Franklin MO, it is not clear who actually wrote it as it finally appeared.  However this should be considered a primary source.

“The Expulsion Of Spanish From Mexico”, Harold Dana Sims, The Pitt Latin American Series, 1991, p.13. Mention is made on p.13 of the Spanish occupation of a fort (San Juan de Ulua) located on an island in the harbor of Mexico’s principal port of Vera Cruz. Bombardments by the Spanish forces, located there from 1822 to 1828, discouraged foreign commerce which provided most of Mexico’s imported items. Logically this made Mexico more dependent upon trade via the Santa Fe Trail/El Camino Real.

“Heros Of The Santa Fe Trail”, Randy D. Smith, Boson Books, Raleigh, 2006. Useful information about The background/ history preceding the opening of the Trail, The James-Mc Knight Party, Becknell, Mexican Traders, The Texas Invasion of the Trail in 1843 and Jed Smith.

Parrish, William E., Oklahoma Historical Society ”Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture”. Basically valuable to support information about Becknell but with the understanding that much information about Becknell may have been gathered from the same sources years ago and just repeated. So beware.

“A Guide to Muster Roles ,1836-1874”, University of Texas- Austin, This contains the names of soldiers who served under Captain William A. Becknell in 1836. It appears that two muster roles were made that year. The first role was made in April 1836 and the second in July of that year. It seems to indicate that the first role was made up of volunteers who participated at the time of the San Jacinto battle (fought April 21,1836). The second role may consist of volunteers who served later in 1836 to help protect the territory against marauding Indians and bandits.

“The Handbook of Texas” (The Texas Historical Association) provides an overview of Becknell’s life including his years in Texas to help tie together the vast amount of Becknell/SF Trail information available.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A good starting point for basic background information about: the War of 1812, William Becknell, The Santa Fe Trail’s history, Trade with Mexico, El Camino Real, Clarksville and Red River County Texas, the Battle of San Jacinto, Davy Crockett, Thomas H. Benton, Kit Carson, Zeke Williams, James Clark, John Stiles, Jedediah Smith, Franklin Missouri, Independence and Westport Missouri and wagons of the Santa Fe trail.
 Useful to see how others have organized the information about these subject and to acquire a basic frame-of-reference related to these subjects.

Bicknellnet/beckhome.htm> Mentions Billy Stiles’ and Becknell’s experiences during the Battle of San Jacinto including the guarding of General Santa Anna and Stiles’ acquiring General Santa Anna’s Masonic Apron and shaving kit. This may not qualify as historical “proof” but it lends substance to the tale. Also see ” 10,000 Famous Freemasons”, K-Z,vol.3, p.97, (available through Amazon.com)for information which contends that Santa Anna actually gave those items to Billy Stiles who also was a freemason. The claimed location of those items, circa 1937, is also stated as well as the current location is given as the Houston (Texas) Masonic Library (verified under Googling the same institution where a picture of the apron is shown).

Ancestry Library.com and Ancestory.com provided access to census and other records dating back as far as 1714 and useful to establish Becknell’s name, ancestry and descendents. This site is a subscription site accessed by me at the New Mexico Archives in Santa Fe.

END NOTES:

A. Becknell’s children, as reflected in various US Census records, were:
1. Mary Jane- born in 1815 and died in 1858 in “Red River”;
2. John Calhoun. – born 1817 and died in 1883 in “Maraposa”;
3. William Alexander – born 1817 and died in 1858 in “Red River”;
4. Lucy – born in 1818 and died in 1850 in Titus, Missouri, and
5. Cornelia- born in1827 and died in 1868 in Titus,

6. Apparently an unnamed child born about 1830 but who seems to have died soon after birth.

B. There exists some conflicting information about when Becknell’s first wife, Jane Trusler, who he married in Virginia in 1807, actually died. Thus, confusion exists as to who, exactly, is the mother of Becknell’s children: Mary Jane, John, William Jr. and Lucy. Becknell’s marriage to Mary Cribbs is given variously as 1817 and 1818 in public census records. But, adding to further confuse this issue, various family postings to Ancestory.Com, on the Internet, claim Becknell married Mary Cribbs as early as 1814. While this issue needs to be explored to arrive at what can be considered as fact, the subject of his children and the death of his first wife or marriage to his second wife has little impact in regard to telling Becknell’s life or his accomplishments.

C.  Confusion exists among Becknell scholars as to his date of his birth (1786, 1787 or 1788) as well as the date of his death (1856 or 1865). Nothing which I can find is enlightening as to his date of birth and it is given as “about 1788”. As to his date of death, he is listed in the Census of 1850 but not listed in the 1860 Census while his wife is listed in that Census (she died in 1864). Thus, I suspect that someone, at sometime, transposed the numbers of his date of death (1856) to read “1865”. This information can be found in the subscription web site: “AncestoryLibrary.Com.

D.  Mr. Marion Lowe, Clarksville, Texas has been active in locating Becknell’s home and making improvements to the gravesite including making corrections to the date of Becknell’s death which appears, erroneously, as 1865 on the tombstone located there.

E.  In Mary Chribbs Becknell’s will, executed October 7, 1862, she states her desire to have a monument put over William’s grave: “…with this inscription, Capt. Wm. Becknell, born in the state of Virginia, Amherst County, died in the state of Texas Red River County, on the 30th day of April 1856 A.D., aged sixty-eight years. He whose merit deserves a temple can scarce find a tomb.”

F. For contextual information about life and personal deeds in the early Clarksville, Texas area and the type of men who participated in the settlement of the west in general see: “Frontiersman James Selen Stout” at: Records Ancestory.com.

© Copyrighted 2015 by Allan J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.

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