Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale was a significant figure in 19th century America. In his long career, he was a naval officer, military general, explorer, diplomat, rancher and frontiersman. He fought in the U.S. - Mexico War, emerging as a hero of the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846. He also carried the first gold sample from California to the east, contributing to the gold rush. Under President Franklin Pierce, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis began the Pacific Railroad surveys to determine possible routes for a proposed railroad. Under the following president, James Buchanan, Lieutenant Beale was appointed under Jefferson Davis to survey a southern route to Los Angeles, California.
The Beale Wagon Road has been well documented and marked from Los Angeles through Arizona, New Mexico and the Indian territory of Oklahoma. The upper counties of the Texas panhandle were the connecting link that made this road possible to connect the east with the west and made migration easier and safer with an established road. Two earlier roads passed through Hutchinson County, the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail blazed by Josiah Gregg in 1840 and the Marcy Trail established by Captain Randolph B. Marcy in 1849. It was logical for Edward Beale to use the trails that had already been established. During the 20th century these established trails became the famous Route 66 and later developed into Interstate 40. Today, there are still parts of the Beale Wagon Road which are visible, recalling thousands of pioneers who traveled the road in its early days.