Most travelers on the Trail could count on a warm reception in Santa Fe where they could make a hefty profit. That was provided the people in New Mexico were accepting of outsiders and the travelers didn't get caught in any blizzards along the way.
Robert McKnight, James Baird and Samuel Chambers along with other traders made a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1812. They were inspired by Zebulon Pike's explorations into New Mexico which revealed potential buyers for items from the east and valuable commodities in the Southwest they could bring back to Missouri. Furthermore, there were rumors that Mexico, of which New Mexico was part, would soon gain independence from Spain.
When they arrived, they found the reports of Mexico becoming independent were premature. Since Spain prohibited trade from anyone outside the Spanish Empire, officials confiscated their goods and most of the men spent the next nine years in a Chihuahua, Mexico jail.
The Mexicans released the men in 1821 when Mexico finally achieved independence. At the same time, Mexico sanctioned trade with the United States and William Becknell conducted the first successful "business trip" to Santa Fe that year.
Once again Baird and Chambers were inspired to make the journey to Santa Fe. On September 2, 1822, they set out for New Mexico with new partners. The group consisted of 19 men and 60 packhorses and mules.
Again, they miscalculated. Having left too late in the year, they were stranded for three months by a blizzard just west of present day Dodge City. Most of their animals died from the winter cold.
When early spring arrived, the men dug holes in the ground where they stashed their goods before going on to Taos, New Mexico to buy replacement pack animals. They returned to the "Caches," retrieved their goods, and went back to New Mexico to sell the recovered wares.
The trading party dissolved while in New Mexico and most of the men returned to St. Louis in November of 1823 - over a year after they started their trip on the Santa Fe Trail. Baird and Chambers must have had enough of these disastrous undertakings. They remained in New Mexico and became Mexican citizens.
For decades the Caches were a landmark along the Santa Fe Trail. In 1846, Mrs. Susan Shelby Magoffin wrote in her diary as she traversed the Trail, "the Caches are large holes dug in the ground some what the shape of a jug. They are situated about a quarter of a mile from the river, on the rather elevated piece of ground, and with in a hundred yards of the road which runs at present between their and the river. They are quite as noted as any point on the road and few travelers pass without visiting them."
Today there is a marker commemorating the Caches west of Dodge City on a dirt road one-quarter mile north of US Highway 50, one and three tenths miles west of its Business Route junction. It is thought the nearby house was constructed over the top of the Caches. There is also a larger monument close to the highway addressing the Caches and nearby Fort Atkinson.