History of the Chisholm Trail
On Tuesday, February 11, 2011, a dedication took place in front of Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel, where recently a Chisholm Trail marker was discovered. Learn more about the Chisholm Trail below.
The Chisholm Trail was the major route out of Texas for livestock. Although it was only used from 1867 to 1884, the longhorn cattle driven north along this route provided a steady source of income that helped the impoverished state recover from the Civil War. Youthful trail hands on mustangs gave a Texas flavor to the entire range cattle industry of the Great Plains and made the cowboy an enduring folk hero.
When the Civil War ended, the state's only potential assets were its countless longhorns, for which no market was available-Missouri and Kansas had closed their borders to Texas cattle in the 1850s because of the deadly Texas fever they carried. In the East, there was a growing demand for beef, and many men, among them Joseph G. McCoy of Illinois, sought ways of supplying it with Texas cattle.
In the spring of 1867 he persuaded Kansas Pacific officials to lay a siding at the hamlet of Abilene, Kansas, on the edge of the quarantine area. He began building pens and loading facilities and sent word to Texas cowmen that a cattle market was available. That year he shipped 35,000 head; the number doubled each year until 1871, when 600,000 head glutted the market.
First Hand Account of What it was Like to Go On a Traildrive
A herd of 1000 cattle, three and four years of age, and 2000 four and five year old beeves were gathered to fill a million pound beef contract set for delivery on Blackfoot Indian Reservation in the northwest corner of Montana, nearly 3000 miles distant. The five month drive averaged 15 miles a day under the leadership of foreman Jim Flood, boss foreman for Don Lovell, cowman and drover.
"The herd crossed at Doans, the crossing which had been in use but a few years at that time. A new ferry had been established for wagons."
"Red River, this boundary river on the northern border of Texas, was a terror to trail drivers. The majestic grandeur of the river was apparent on every hand, with its red bluff banks, the sediment of its red waters marking the timber along its course, while the driftwood, lodged in trees and high on the banks, indicated what might be expected when she became sportive or angry. The crossing had been in use only a year or two when we forded, yet five graves, one of which was less than ten days made, attested her disregard for human life. It can safely be asserted that at this and lower trail crossings on Red River, the lives of more trail men were lost by drowning than on all other rivers together." The country (in No-Man's Land across Red River) was as primitive as in the first day of its creation. The trail led up a divide between the Salt and North forks of Red River. To the eastward of the latter stream lay the reservation of the Apaches, Kiowa's and Comanche's.
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