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Stories from Canyons & Plains

Uncle Dick’s Toll Road

The Mountain Route and its most important geologic feature, Raton Pass, played a significant role in travel along the Santa Fe Trail. Although the Mountain Route had been used since the 1830s, the torturous 7,835-foot, axle-breaking Raton Pass was both a barrier and a gateway.

It was not until 1865 that improvements were made to this gateway by Richens Lacy “Uncle Dick” Wootton who made it “somewhat passable” for the stage lines. Wootton, after briefly operating a buffalo ranch near Pueblo, Colorado, had settled near Trinidad and leased land from Lucien Maxwell, owner of the Maxwell Land Grant, and obtained a franchise from the territorial legislatures of Colorado and New Mexico to build a 27-mile toll road over Raton Pass.

Wootton relied on the strength of the local Ute as laborers to build the road and thereafter allowed the Ute or member of other tribes to use the road for free. Others were charged $1.50 per wagon or buggy or 25 cents for a horse and rider to pass.

… hostilities continued as Texans raided Mexican parties along the Santa Fe Trail…

Being ever the entrepreneur, Uncle Dick then erected a boarding house, and the location of the toll gate soon became well-known as a “stage station, with provisions, liquor and weekly dancing.” This soon became the favorite watering hole for the young folks of Trinidad and the surrounding area.

This fall Trinidad will host a week-long commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Santa Fe Trail. Click here for more information.

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