(1787 or 1788–1856, Amherst County, Virginia
) was a freighter and the first white man to open what became known as the Santa Fe Trail
to trade. Becknell left Franklin, Missouri
in September 1821 on his first trip the western US with a load of freight to deliver to Santa Fe, New Mexico
. The next year Becknell left Franklin with party of traders on a trip that was to open up the Santa Fe Trail to regular traffic and military movement. It became the first and only international trade route between The United States and Mexico
until a railway
to Santa Fe was built in 1880. He became known as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail
Becknell became a politician later in life. His first political appointment was as Justice of the Peace in Saline County, Missouri and he was later elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1828. Becknell, who had been in the War of 1812, later moved to Texas and joined a group of volunteers called the Red River Blues in 1836. He ran unsuccessfully for the Texas House of Representatives in 1826. He supervised the Texas congressional elections in 1845 and US congressional elections in 1846. Becknell died 25 April 1856.
During World War II, a liberty ship was launched as SS William Becknell, but was quickly rechristened .