A plaza is an open, public marketplace, usually in the shape of a square. The idea of a plaza was brought to this area by the Spanish. Most of the early Spanish-sett led towns and villages in New Mexico have a plaza. The plaza in Santa Fe has been the center of public activity since the village was founded in 1610. When the Santa Fe Trail was in its early days, Missouri merchants brought their merchandise to the plaza and unloaded it for all to see. Later, with the wagons bringing so many goods, merchants began to rent or buy rooms close to the plaza to use as stores from which they sold their goods. Before 1846, even one end of the Palace of the Governors was used as a store!
The grey granite DAR marker, located on the southeast corner of the plaza, marks the end of the long journey which fi rst started in Franklin, Missouri. (The marker can sometimes be hard to find due to vendors being close to it.) This journey, of nearly one thousand miles, took three months of travel through rain, sleet, and snow. For the traders, reaching their destination, and being alive to tell about it, was the fi rst step. The next step was to sell all their goods, spend a little money buying Mexican goods, and return to Missouri. Many traders made substantial profits from these trips. Soon Mexican traders were taking goods to Missouri and back, everyone coming and going from this plaza. The 33-foot tall monument, called The Soldiers Monument was dedicated in 1867. This large structure was placed in the center of the plaza to honor the Union soldiers who died at the nearby Bat le of Glorieta Pass as well as other military or Indian conflicts. Some of these events occurred on the Santa Fe Trail.