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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Land of Enchantment is As Enchanting Today As Ever!

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe TrailLand of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail by Marian Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marian Russell, her mother and brother traveled the Santa Fe Trail many times during her youth. Her first trip on the trail was at the age of seven when her widowed mother decided to move with her children to the gold fields of California and reunite with her family who had gone before her to the Coast. Before she was able to get there she learned her family had died in illness and so she and the children stopped in Santa Fe. Through the years she took them back to Kansas for several years, but homesick for New Mexico and also loving the excitement of the trail she returned to the West. This pattern was to continue throughout her life but Marian married a young lieutenant stationed at Ft Union during one of the stays in the West and from then on she remained there.

In her memoirs, Marian tells of the Santa Fe Trail excursions and her fellow travelers. She speaks of her childhood in school in Santa Fe and in Kansas. She speaks of the " Mexicans" and the Indians, both friendly and savage. Then after marriage there is the time as the young wife of a Lieutenant protecting those who ventured into Indian territories, their leaving the military, starting a family, moving away from Forts into the small towns of New Mexico and finally the establishment of their final home near the Colorado town of Trinidad where the Trail turns southward through the Raton Pass.

Her memories are so vivid and well told that it is not hard to feel the same sensations, smell the same scents, see the same sunsets and sunrises and hear the same singing voices she experienced throughout her life in the unsettled West. She died in 1936 after being run over by an automobile in Trinidad. Though the world had changed very much by then--especially the Western US--her story comes to life through her words. Having been to the places she of which she speaks, it is easy to roll back through time and imagine the young Marian arriving at Ft Union at 7yrs old sitting on the springboard seat of a prairie schooner. Also it is not hard to imagine her love of the place, because it is truly still an enchanted and enchanting land.

And as an added bonus, her brief mention of the Maxfield Land Company and its interference in the Stonewall Valley of Colorado inspires further research into the history of the land.

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