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Friday, April 1, 2016

Welcome to the New Santa Fe Trailer!


It’s hard to put into words the objective behind all of this, but I had my reasons…
It all started when I was a little girl. To be clear, I’m a 36 year old single teacher now, but my “little girl status” seems like only a few years ago. But, alas, it has been 30 (gasp!) years, and every year has taught me something new. My genealogical journey truly started when I was about seven years old.
Let me take you back to 1987.
Matt Euston (neighbor and cousin) and I playing in my backyard, 1983
While many were “Livin’ on a Prayer”  and others were “Walking like an Egyptian,”  I was walking up the street to a desolate stretch of land stamped in history. As we built around this land, a time capsule lived on in a small cemetery on Santa Fe Trail in Jackson County, Missouri. My amazing parents, Helen and Larry, built their simple ranch home in a subdivision dubbed “New Santa Fe” in 1974. This little subdivision is nestled in what was then considered south Kansas City.  Just next door, Verona Hills was being slowly developed by J.C. Nichols,  farm roads still crossed the landscape, State Line Road was a two-lane highway with no lights, and the Leawood Drive Inn was the biggest landmark within miles.
This was my home. And my parents made it work.
I heard a lot of amusing stories growing up about how there was a famous trail that crossed within the very foundations of this suburban development. I consider myself so blessed. The area I lived in matured as houses coated the rolling hills – the land to the south of my little house grew into a subdivision called Timber Trace, and I felt as if I traced those woods before any other. I was my own pioneer. My imagination soared; directly across the street from my house was a little field, unoccupied and mowed by Mr. Ron Hodgden. He wished to keep the neighborhood clean and the land was not developed, nor is it to this day. Just to the south of the land was a white barn. And just past that was a home that fascinated me to the core- the Watson Farm- a house built pre-Civil War that originally functioned as a tavern along the Trail. I never thought much about the land in the valley, but I knew it was special.
I grew up with history oozing around me. And, boy, how I am grateful. I used to shimmy through an old fence to trespass on land known as the Watson Farm isolated from everything else. I knew it was old, but how old was a mystery to me. I loved standing in front of the Watson Farm- that old, white brick house that was regal even over a century later.
Growing up on a street nestled next to “Santa Fe Trail” gave me a clue from history class and from stories surrounding me that I was someplace unique- even preserved, in a way.
New Santa Fe Cemetery
When I was seven, I would saunter up the hill to an old burial ground, an area that felt as if it were a time capsule amidst development. This is where my true fascination began, or so I tell people now. Even as a young child, I was drawn to these people marked in stone. I felt connected to them in a way I cannot aptly put into words, nor would I want to. I would enter the New Santa Fe Cemetery as a guest and feel like family. I can remember asking my mother to buy the materials to do grave rubbings. I wanted to connect  with these strangers – these people that lived before me. The Red Bridge Library was my next stop. I danced around the shelves, looking for information about the people that I connected with in that cemetery. I wanted to know everything.
This was my first real attempt at genealogy work, and I was less than a decade old.
Go, Diane!
As the years went by, I stumbled through life doing some amazingly fun things with the neighborhood crew: my brother, Jeff, my cousins, Jason and Matt (who lived in one of the historic lots just up the street), Ralph (aka Angelo) Trozzolo and his sisters, Jill and Sarah, Molly O’Dower, Ray Clark, the McInerney’s, the Syrett's… and a host of other kids. I can vividly remember carving out a trail (ironic) in the woods behind Santa Fe Trail  and in the woods behind  Jason and Matt Euston’s backyard. The objective: find an outlet to the gas station on State Line. In 1987,it was called “Pip’s,” and Pip’s had everything! We would shovel our way through the woods in any season to get some candy and explore. This gas station has been rebuilt and is now called Fleming.
My two best friends, Karen and Mary, moved from California about this time and would come over to our house to do some exploring of our own. This led to “The Mystery Club,” where we would oftentimes trespass on the old Watson Farm’s territory and create new adventures to solve. Did I mention we found a treasure map? And, there was quicksand near the creek?
The first edition of The Santa Fe Trailer, 1984
Nostalgia provided by Angelo Trozzolo
Some of the entrepreneurs of the subdivision New Santa Fe, such as Angelo Trozzolo, used an early Apple computer to publish a neighborhood paper called The Santa Fe Trailer. This is where the name of this blog originated from- the old newspaper. We took an old red wagon and filled it with copies, knocking on doors to distribute the newspaper to the willing recipients. At this time, there was even a “rival” newspaper called 122nd Terrace Express published by the older and wiser Mike Micco.
My childhood in 1987 was awesome.
Who was Dabney Lipscomb? What about his son, Nathan? What do you mean people stopped in this town that no longer existed to gather supplies to explore the west?
I contribute the love of history and genealogy to these experiences, as insignificant and naive as they may seem. In 2000, my grandmother passed away, and everything became very real. I had to know more about my own family. As most amateurs do, I started with my last name – Euston. Within a few years, I had gathered information on their history and had expanded, per my mother’s request, to her side. A visit to distant relatives in Belgium rekindled my true passion for all things historical.
In 2004, I became a certified professional genealogist. It took me ten more years to revisit my first love: New Santa Fe.
A chance meeting at a local store had my mother explaining to the President of the Historical Society of New Santa Fe that I was “really good” at gathering information. An opportunity to help secure a grant through the Daughters of the American Revolution had the Historical Society sold. Within a few weeks, I was 100% devoted to erecting a plaque to honor the members of the church that stood in New Santa Fe (to read more about this incrdible topic , click here). The church was torn down in 1971. 
As I gathered my research, I found the historical records weren’t enough to truly demonstrate the affect this church’s demise had on the pioneer families that continued, even decades after the town had lost its true steam as a town of importance. I spent months combing over records, taking hundreds of pages of notes and organizing information. With the stories running dry and the information weak, I began to contact members of the families who attended the church in this historic, lost town. I learned of sacrifices, devotion and family. I heard of pioneers living on the frontier of injustice in midst chaos of the Civil War. I heard of legends and love lost. Within this time, I, too, fell in love with these people all over again – just as I had when I first met some of them in the cemetery at seven years old.
The development of Verona Hills taken from the cemetery, c. 1971. Photo courtesy
of Doug Harding
I feel today as I am still that tan-skinned, bleach blonde little girl swerving around the graves of the cemetery. I felt as if my research for the plaque wasn’t enough; I needed to tell the story of these people on a deeper level. I had already done a lot of the tough “digging” in records, and I wanted to share with the world what I have found out.  Why not continue the legacy of Washington Township, Oxford Township, New Santa Fe and the area through technology?
This site is dedicated to these pioneers, their stories and the lost memory of people, that even for a few months, stopped in New Santa Fe on their way to their destiny. We can learn so much for their survival and dedication. It is my goal to post regularly to share in the triumphs and failures of these amazing people. I hope only to give their stories credibility, life and circulate information for the generations to come.
I want everyone to feel as if they are that little girl in that cemetery.
-Diane