Political Corridors

In order to overcome the formidable physical discouragements to travel presented by the rugged Southwestern landscape, Anglo-American newcomers and visitors to the region had to discover and use routes that for centuries had offered the least resistance to human efforts to journey about the region. These courses included the Rio Grande River route, also known as El Camino Real and, later, the Chihuahua-Santa Fe Trail, with its infamous jornado del Muerto cut-off; east-west trails from California through north-central Arizona, including the Palatkwapi Trail, to the pueblos of the Four Corners area and past Inscription Rock to Santa Fe; other east-west routes such as the Gila Trail in southern New Mexico and southern Arizona; and north-south trails within Arizona. During this time settlers and travelers developed and used the Santa Fe Trail; the Pecos River route, also known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail; and the Old Spanish Trail through southern Utah, which skirted the Grand Canyon and other forbidding landforms. D. W Meinig has shown that by the late nineteenth century, Anglo-American settlement in and development of the Southwest region increasingly became connected to transportation corridors, corridors that oftentimes were determined more by political than topographical influences (see map 14).
Up until the Mexican War, only a few Americans--explorers, soldiers, trappers, and merchants--had visited the Southwest. There simply was no sense in it. Hot, vast, remote from other centers of habitation; rugged, waterless, a place filled with unfriendly Indians, together with superficially hospitable but resentful and suspicious Hispanics, the region lacked enough attractions to encourage danger-flled American intrusions there. During the war with Mexico, General Stephen Kearny invaded northern New Mexico via the Raton route of the Santa Fe Trail. Meeting little resistance, Kearny established Ft. Marcy at Santa Fe in 1846 to assert American control and to protect the frontier settlements nearby. He then continued on down the Rio Grande, crossed over westward to the Gila River, and went on to California, using, essentially, the old Gila Trail. During the war, expeditions led by Colonel Philip St. George Cooke and Colonel Alexander Doniphan also explored the region.
Soon after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Americans wasted no time in developing plans to exploit the region. To learn more about the place, Lt. James Simpson went to reconnoiter Navajo land in 1849, and in 1851 the Army Corps of Engineers sent Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves out to find a suitable route on which to build a wagon road from Fort Smith, Arkansas through Zuni to California. During the next few years, due to the region's physiography, climate and hostile Indians, Anglo-American immigration into New Mexico and Arizona by Americans remained minimal. To protect travelers, miners, and other settlers from the Indians, the United States government began to locate army posts at key sites. By the time the Civil War had started, more than twenty manned forts had been established within the physiographic Southwest. In the meantime, however, American east-to-west travel ambitions quickly became more grandiose. An American national interest in a transcontinental railroad system manifested itself as early as 1832 when The Emigrant, a weekly newspaper published at Ann Arbor, Michigan, suggested that the country should begin to make plans for an East Coast-to-West Coast railway. In early 1845, Asa Whitney, a New York businessman and China trader, proposed to Congress that the government grant a sixty-mile-wide strip between Lake Superior and the Oregon country to any company willing to risk construction. But little broad interest could be found before 1848. That year, two dramatic and historically important but coincidental events took place only nine days apart: the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, California, on January 24, and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the War with Mexico, on February 2. Each of these events, of course, had a profoundly significant impact on the subsequent demographic development of the Southwest. And each complemented the other: travelers to California needed transportation routes and the newly acquired territory offered places for these routes.
The perception that the nation needed a transcontinental railroad gained broad support after the middle 1850s, and few people of influence opposed the idea that the United States government had to provide major financial aid to such a project. But a route had to be determined. Regional influences became fervid. The growing antagonistic sectionalist expansionism of the period fueled route rivalries: northemers wanted a railroad from Missouri via Wyoming's South Pass to Portland, Oregon, or to San Francisco, California; southerners demanded a New Orleans-to-Southem California line, or, at least, a route that would follow the Canadian or Red rivers in north Texas.
Under the tenth and eleventh sections of the Military Appropriation Act, approved March 3, 1853, the United States Congress appropriated $150,000 to the War Department to conduct such explorations and surveys "as might be deemed necessary in order to ascertain the most practical and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean." Several possible rights-of-way were debated. Interested parties gained serious consideration for routes that would follow the 45th, 42nd, 37th, 35th, and 32nd parallels. Southerners led by United States Secretary of War Jefferson Davis aggressively sought land for a southern (32° N.) transcontinental railroad. With this objective in mind as well as several other considerations, United States Minister to Mexico James Gadsden signed a treaty with Mexico on December 30 agreeing to buy the appropriate lands south of the Gila River in New Mexico and Arizona for ten million dollars. The U.S. Congress ratified the treaty on June 30, 1854. To explore the various United States southwest quadrant routes, in 1853 the U.S. Army sent Lt. John W. Gunnison to explore the 38th and 39th, Lt. Amiel W. Whipple the 35th, and Lt. John G. Parke the 32nd-parallel routes.
The railroad survey's findings went to Congress in 1855. These recommendations showed that four routes seemed practical. Included among them was a route along the Red River to Southern California and another line across southern Texas and the Gila Valley, also to Southern California. In 1859, a Kansas corporation received a charter authorizing it to build a track to connect Atchison, Kansas, with that states capital, Topeka. In 1863 the federal government awarded the corporation a land grant which permitted the company to extend its track on to Santa Fe, in New Mexico Territory.
But due to the nation's preoccupation with the Civil War and the attendant high construction costs, work on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (the "Santa Fe") did not continue until 1868. In 1873, the line reached La Junta, Colorado. That year the company found itself in stiff competition with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for expansion into the Southwest. The Panic of 1873 stopped construction by both lines for three years, but the better financed Kansas railroad pressed on over one of the disputed routes and pushed its track through Raton Pass, on the Colorado-New Mexico border. On January 1, 1879, the Santa Fe reached Las Vegas, New Mexico. The following year the AT&SF bought another struggling line, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, and this purchase gave the Santa Fe a right of way to connect St. Louis with California. Workers completed this fink in 1883.
In the meantime, the Texas and Pacific Railroad, which had been chartered in 1871, began to build westward along the 32nd Parallel to Yuma where it was to meet the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad. But by 1877 the Texas and Pacific was bankrupt and unable to proceed. Desperate to create a southern linkup, the Southern Pacific, without federal financial aid but with charters obtained from the Arizona and New Mexico territorial governments, continued construction eastward rapidly. In 1882 the two roads joined, and a year later the Southern Pacific secured its own line across Texas (see map 14).
To a remarkable degree, the railroads used the old routes, which seems only natural. The 35th-Parallel route roughly followed the old Indian and Spanish trails, while the 32nd often tracked the Old Gila Trail. But at times this was more coincidence than planning. Though well explored before any decisions had been made, the 35th-Parallel route was politically determined (with a nod to being "practicable and economical") in Washington and, we can assume, in New York City as well, as was the 32nd-Parallel route. Later, in the early twentieth century, paved highways and national interstates would shadow the earlier railroad routes. And so these political factors determined the regional linkage and developmental demographic corridors that characterize the Southwest today.
It would be easy to demonstrate that the goals and activities of the Southwest's Anglo conquerors paralleled the Spanish ones. Both types lusted for gold, murdered and abused the natives, hyperbolized their "adventures" and maintained a "colonial" environment. But this explanation would ignore certain less conspicuous contrasts. The Spanish colonists were tied to the crown and the church and, thus, were more thoroughly "colonial." Both English and Spanish colonists sought wealth and power, but true to the English tradition in the New World, the Anglos also sought sanctuary. Despite founding many permanent settlements in the Southwest, most Spaniards in Northern New Spain possessed a primary objective to serve both church and crown, to exploit rumored great wealth and return to Mexico, even to the mother country, to live in splendor. If they did remain in the New World, it was, in many cases, due more to inordinate substantial success--or, more likely, the extreme and humiliating lack of it--in realizing the region's riches than due to an original intention to remain there permanently.
To the contrary, starting on the main North American continental east coast in 1607, most of the Anglo settlements in the New World were established in order to escape the power of the crown and the church, which were one and the same in seventeenth- and eighteenth- century England. Starting in Virginia and Massachusetts, the Anglo-American colonials established a settlement pattern which maintained general constancy as long as there was real estate to occupy--either peacefully or not. These people expected to remain here, to establish new governments, and to develop agriculture and commerce. Simply stated, the Spanish colonials were imperialists, while their English colonial counterparts were expatriates. Whatever similarities one might find in the Anglo and Hispanic settlements in the Southwest, closely viewed they were but superficial and transient.
While Arizona and New Mexico may have possessed routes to California for gold and silver seekers, it was only a matter of time before these barren areas became known for their own sake. The Anglo-American presence occurred last in the Southwest's demographic evolution, but the disruptive substance of the physical and cultural impact of this presence has been many times greater in one century than all the region's other inhabitants had effected in tens of centuries. And the Anglo presence has done the least to adapt to the region; instead it has forced the region to adapt to traditional Anglo purposes. They did more to exploit and tame the physical challenges of the region; they established absentee owned and controlled corporate industry, corporate irrigation, corporate trade, corporate transportation. When the region had become even more docile and domesticated, health seekers, tourists, and retirees moved into the area. Mines, "reclamation" projects, freeways, dams, railroads, pipelines, canals, smelters, cities and suburbs, deforestation, and watershed manipulation testify to this exploitive and manipulative process. The Anglo culture has made little attempt to adapt to the region's physical qualities. Phoenix's manicured Indiana-type residential landscapes, multilake housing and commercial "developments," "Big Surf," and the fountain at Fountain Hills attest to that. Instead, the Industrial Revolution made the unpromising and vast land productive by creating a demand for copper to make electrical wiring for refrigerated railroad cars in which to ship Arizona agribusiness produce. Swimming pools--thousands of them, and air conditioning, whole malls of it--have made the Arizona heat tolerable. Heavy investment capital from outside the Southwest has made possible hydroelectric generating stations, huge copper mines and state-of-the-art smelters, real estate capital, corporate agriculture, building construction, and "clean" manufacturing plants. The out-of-state investors have been well repaid in profits.

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