New Franklin, known as the city where four trails meet, owes its place in history to the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1803-1806; the blazing of the Boonslick Trail pioneered by Daniel Boone from Kentucky to the original historic rivertown of Franklin, Missouri; the beginning of William Becknell's Santa Fe Trade Trail in 1821 from the original town of Franklin; and in 1991, the Katy Walking and Bicycling Trail (Katy Trail State Park) which now traverses the abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas rail beds 225 miles across the State of Missouri from St. Charles to Clinton.
Merriwether [sic] Lewis & William Clark traversed the Missouri River through the Boonslick area in 1804. This, known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition opened up the western frontier at the request of President Thomas Jefferson.
The Boone's Lick Trail began at the Daniel Boone Settlement in southern St. Charles County as an old Indian trail. Early Missouri explorers relied on old Indian "trails" and because of this practice the trails became known as "traces." White men would improve and mark them better by chipping off some of the tree bark as they went along. A "trace" became a "road" when wagons or stagecoaches could pass over it freely. It began as a 'trail', evolved to a 'trace', improved to a road and became a segment of modern Highway 40 (the first transcontinental route across the United States) and was further refined as the present Interstate 70.
There were many petitions during the 1816-1827 period, to establish a road from St. Charles to Franklin. Nathan Boone, (son of Daniel Boone) who mined salt in the Boonslick, was one of those appointed in 1827 to officially survey the road. The Boone's Lick Road was accepted as Missouri's 'State Road' in 1828. During the next 50 plus years, virtually every one going west followed the Boone's Lick Road across Missouri to Franklin. The procession along the road was colorful. Sturdy, high-wheeled covered wagons, often brightly painted, bore the loads of furniture and glassware for the new homes. On the wagon sides hung the axe, skillets and kettles. On the seat, at the front or rear, rode the women and small children. The men usually led the oxen or mules. Food and shelter was obtained from inns and taverns along the way.
This historic road got its name from the Boones. Col. Daniel Boone and his two sons, Daniel M. and Nathan discovered the salt springs in Howard County. In 1807, they transported huge iron kettles to these springs and made salt which was conveyed to St. Charles via the Missouri River. The trail they used from St. Charles to Howard County was called Boone's Lick Trail.
While the Boone's Lick Road ended at Franklin, Missouri, William Becknell's Santa Fe Trail began here as the frontier pushed further west. In 1821, William Becknell, who lived in Franklin, advertised in the Franklin "Intelligencer" for 70 men, "for the purpose of trading horses and mules, catching wild animals of every description that might be for the benefit of the company." Only eleven men showed up at the appointed place. Becknell was chosen captain, and plans were made to take a pack-train overland to Santa Fe. This was the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail.
They left Franklin September 1, 1821 and returned in January 1822, with tales of fabulous profits to be made on the simplest of trade goods. The journey was 900 miles long, taking five to six weeks. During this time there were constant problems of Indians, breakdowns, water shortages and river crossings. On Becknell's second trip in 1822, he took twenty-one men and three wagons of much wanted goods to Santa Fe. Returning by a new route, he cut the travel time between Franklin and Santa Fe to 45 days. They carried merchandise worth $30,000 and returned with merchandise valued at $190,000.
Its origin remained in Franklin until the town was nearly washed away by flooding of the Missouri River in 1826. After Franklin's demise, the trail subsequently began in Boonville, Arrow Rock and Independence, Missouri.
In 1991, the Katy Trail State Park, a walking and bicycling trail was opened. The trail, which is the longest in the country, runs 225 miles across the state from St. Charles to Clinton making use of former railroad right of ways.