Zce pcditiao of Aajor Robert S.
deig bors to El Paso in 1849
KENNETH F. NEIGHBOURS
THE SUCCESSFUL opening of a wagon road to El Paso in
1849 by Major Robert Simpson Neighbors was the cul-
mination of a long-felt desire on the part of Texans, go-
ing back as far as the Texan Santa Fe Expedition of 1841, to
make contact with the lands along the upper Rio Grande and
beyond. The latest manifestation of this desire had been the ex-
pedition of Colonel John Coffee Hays the previous year, 1848,
which wound up in Chihuahua.- The acquisition of the Mexican
Cession led the general government to desire communication
with the West Coast, and the Sutter's Mill incident aroused a
nation-wide, indeed international, desire to open up communica-
tion with the new El Dorado. Newspapers of the time were filled
with projects for connecting the Mississippi Valley with Califor-
nia by land, and other routes were proposed by sea and across
the Isthmus of Darien. Texas newspapers during the winter of
1848-1849 were filled with notices of expeditions organizing in
Texas to get an early start to California in the spring.
John Salmon Ford intimated that the initiative for making
the expedition to El Paso was taken by Major Neighbors, who
obtained the assent of Major General William Jenkins Worth,
commanding general of the Eighth Military Department.2 Neigh-
bors stated that General Worth requested him to make the
expedition. Worth sent another expedition of fifteen men along a
more southerly route from San Antonio to El Paso under Lieu-
tenant William Henry Chase Whiting, who left on February 12,
1849.3 The purpose of the military was to open communication
between the Gulf and West coasts.4 Neighbors' interest in making
'John Coffee Hays to P. Hansborough Bell, quoted in Northern Standard (Clarkes-
ville), February io, 1849, p. 1.
2John Salmon Ford, Memoirs (transcript, 7 vols.; Archives, University of Texas
Library), III, 503.
8Whiting to Totten, June lo, 1849, House Executive Documents, 31st Cong., 1st
Sess. (Serial No. 569), Document No. 5, pp. 281-293.
4Deas to Bryan, June 9, 1849, Senate Executive Documents, 31st Cong., Ist Sess.
(Serial No. 562), Document No. 64, p. 25.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101158/. Accessed April 21, 2015.