Francois Xavier Aubry was a dedicated young man who constantly searched along the Santa Fe Trail to find faster and safer routes to New Mexico. By 1850, when he was just 26-years-old, he had made dozens of trips along the Santa Fe Trail, gaining a reputation as a skilled captain among wagon trains and setting the time for the fastest speed across the trail.
In 1848 and 1849, Aubry was actively engaged in the Westport-Santa Fe trade utilizing many different routes other than the regular Cimarron Cutoff and the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail. Though he usually used the Cimarron Route because it was faster, he also recognized its weaknesses. Along this route was a long stretch of 65 miles between the Arkansas River and the lower spring of the Cimarron River (Wagon Bed Spring) that was called the Jornada. Not only did travelers along this path need to worry about water, but it was also very dangerous because the Indians in the area regarded it as their own hunting ground.
The problem led Aubry to begin his search for another route, preferably one with less distance between watering points and less trouble from the Indians. In 1850, when he was coming up to the Cimarron Crossing of the trail through Grant County, Kansas, hostile Indians forced him back to the west. He then made an encircling trip and discovered Bear Creek, east of the Colorado line, and angled northeast until he came to Choteau Island on the Arkansas River, where the French traders had established a post, a few miles west of present-day Lakin, Kansas.
Afterward, he continued to use this new route on all his trading ventures to Santa Fe and encouraged others to use his trail because he was convinced it was the best and safest route.
The trail began along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail at Aubry Spring on the north in eastern Hamilton County, Kansas before cutting through Stanton County, Kansas, through the extreme southeastern corner of Baca County, Colorado, and on to Cold Spring in Cimarron County, Oklahoma near Boise City. Here the Aubry Cutoff joined the Cimarron branch of the Santa Fe Trail and continued past Camp Nichols.
Nowhere along the trail was the distance between water more than 30 miles, and there was less Indian trouble, as there was little game in the area. Although it was somewhat shorter and easier to travel than the Cimarron Cutoff, the trail didn’t flourish among other Santa Fe travelers, who tended to use the first cutoff they came to.
© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December 2020.
Francois Xavier Aubry – Skimmer of the Plains
Branches of the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail – Highway to the Southwest
Santa Fe Trail Research