Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE CHISHOLM TRAIL

Post by Alana Cash

The Chisholm Trail conjures up romantic notions of cowboys on the range, herding cattle out of Texas to the rail stations in Kansas.  Working on horseback, living under the open sky, searching out strays, and finally getting paid at the end of the line.  I didn’t know how the trail got its name when I first heard about it, but assumed that if it was named after a person, that the person would be a cattleman from Texas


Come to find out, Jesse Chisholm was not a cattle rancher, but a trader, interpreter, and adventurer. Chisholm’s mother was Cherokee and he was fluent in 14 Native American dialects. Before the Civil War, Chisholm traveled around Texas working as a guide and interpreter, assisting Sam Houston by getting the Indians in Texas to attend meetings for negotiating treaties.  

During the Civil War, he lived in Kansas, and ventured into Indian TerritoryOklahoma and Arkansas – to negotiate trade between the Confederate Army and the Indian tribes. Later on, he was an interpreter for the Union Army.

When the war ended, Chisholm and some of his friends established a line of trading posts through Indian Territory from Wichita, Kansas to Red River Station in North Texas.  Needing supplies, when the cattlemen drove their herds to the railheads, they traveled along this line of trading posts and this was the original Chisholm Trail (currently, Interstate Highway 81 runs pretty much along the trail).  The first rancher to “discover” the Chisholm Trail was O.J. Wheeler who planned to graze his cattle in Indian Territory before leading them to California.  But instead, when the cowboys saw a wagon track leading off from Red River Station they just followed it to Kansas.

After the Civil War, Texas was broke and hoped to get the economy back on its feet by selling longhorn cattle, but even before the war Missouri and Kansas had banned the longhorns because they carried ticks that spread what was called Texas or Spanish fever.   The longhorns were immune to the disease, but the short-horned cattle weren’t and on some ranches in Missouri and Kansas 100% of the cattle died off.  Since they couldn’t be sold, cattle in Texas multiplied and the price plummeted to $4 a head.

 An entrepreneur from Illinois, Joseph McCoy, convinced the Kansas Pacific railroad to lay in a spur 150 miles east of Kansas City where the longhorns could be quarantined.  Knowing this little railroad depot would be the end of the line for cowboys who would be getting paid after a long trail drive, McCoy built a hotel, stockyard, office, and bank at what became Abilene, Kansas.  Once McCoy made the deal with the railroad, he began advertising to ranchers in Texas that he could ship their cattle to Chicago.  McCoy estimated he’d ship 200,000 longhorns to Chicago within 10 years.  He beat his estimate by shipping 2,000,000 within four years.

Ranchers in the Rio Grande drove their herds to San Antonio and then north to Fort Worth, being joined along the way by other cattle drives. From Fort Worth the cattle were headed for the Chisholm Trail commencing at Red River Station.  Pretty soon, instead of heading for the Chisholm Trail, the entire cattle track from South Texas to Kansas became known as the Chisholm Trail.


Randy Travis singing "The Old Chisholm Trail:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAMVxZlNHXI

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