February 13, 2018

The Ghost of Kit Carson: Women’s History Along the Santa Fe Trail

When you imagine the Santa Fe Trail, what do you see? Prairie schooners? Rough men in beards drinking at a trading post? Buffalo grazing in waist-high grass? Now imagine that you are visiting the trailside settlement that was the last home of Kit Carson. Does the picture focus more? Perhaps you see buckskin jackets and long rifles. Replace those images with a real picture of Kit Carson’s wife, Josefa Jaramillo Carson, and their son, Kit Carson Jr.

Does she look like a denizen of the Santa Fe Trail? Well she ought to, because, like Kit, Josefa lived along the trail—at Boggsville, Colorado, a National Trust National Treasure. Despite the familiar trope of solitary scouts and traders, men like Kit Carson often negotiated their world with the help of women. And like Josefa Carson, those women were likely to be from a different cultural background. In Trails: Toward a New Western History, Peggy Pascoe wrote: “Scholars are beginning to tell a different story of intercultural contact, one in which women in general—and women of color in particular—are at the center.” That book was published in 1991, so it seems time to ask: Have historic sites caught up with those scholars? Are they telling this different story?

To read the rest of this story, head to Preservation Leadership Forum, the network of preservation professionals brought together by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Josefa Jaramillo Carson and Kit Carson, Jr.

photo by: Kit Carson Museum, Taos, New Mexico

Josefa Jaramillo Carson and Kit Carson, Jr.

Amache Ochinee Prowers.

photo by: History Colorado

Amache Ochinee Prowers.

By: Bonnie J. Clark

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