Diary of Dr. Rowland Willard
Dr. Rowland Willard was a physician who traveled west along the Santa Fe Trail in 1825 - just four years after William Becknell opened the trail. Willard left St. Charles, Missouri in May of that year and by early July was in Taos, New Mexico. After a summer-long sojourn there, he headed south along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. He crossed the Jornada del Muerto in mid-October, continued south, and arrived in Chihuahua on November 5. Often serving as the Chihuahua's only doctor, he remained in the city until early 1827, when the diary ends. Willard's diary details the conditions along both the Santa Fe Trail and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. In addition, his diary provides a revealing glimpse into the medical procedures employed during the 1820s and of the physician's status in frontier society. Two recently drawn maps (one for each trail) help the reader follow the progress of Willard's travels. Willard's diary resides at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Historian Joy Poole transcribed Willard's diary, after which she and Ben Brown provided extensive annotations that increase the reader's understanding of Willard's diary entries.
To learn more about this project, email the NPS National Trails Intermountain Region.