Fightin’ the Chisholm Trail to move cattle
n By Ol’ jim cathey
On The Back Porch
“Push ‘em toward the north bank an’ keep yore heads up, boys!” River crossings brought danger. Joseph McCoy, an Illinois merchant, had some experience with longhorn cattle that had been driven from Texas ranges into Missouri on what was known as The Texas Trail and later The Shawnee Trail. But Missouri farmers along the trail found their domestic cattle being infected with Texas Fever brought to the area by the tick infested Texas Longhorns.
These Texas herds had developed an immunity to the disease, but it was devastating to the Missouri cattle and opposition to the drives grew resulting in the banning of such drives.
McCoy believed this trail to no longer be a viable trail, so he set out to discover a new cattle driving route. McCoy convinced the Hannibal-St. Joseph railroad to build a terminal at a stockade in a little town named Abilene.
He worked to persuade Texas ranchers to drive their herds to Abilene on the Chisolm Trail thus staying west of Missouri problems. Here, they could receive as much as ten times the amount cattle would bring in Texas.
From Abilene, the cattle would be transported by rail to the northern markets Jessie Chisholm brought trade goods to the Indians during the mid-1800s. He developed a trail from Abilene, Kansas through Indian Territory (todays Oklahoma) crossing the Red River into Texas. This became known as The Chisholm Trail. Chisholm’s freight wagons hauled supplies from Abilene to his trading post located near a favored crossing on the Red River.
The Red River made a sharp bend which slowed the flow of the river current, resulting in a natural crossing used by buffalo, wild horses, Indian tribes, and eventually millions of cattle brought from Texas in massive cattle drives. Drovers would push their herds across the Red until it seemed that cattle were so jammed cowboys could walk across on their backs.
A small settlement soon sprang up around a Civil War outpost established to guard the northern border of Texas against Indian raids and Union invasion from Indian Territory and was known as Red River Station, CSA. After the Civil War, Texas cattle drives used this crossing and often would restock their supplies at the trading post before heading into Indian Territory which today is known as Oklahoma. The Red River has changed course through the years, and now, only a monument located on private property, stands to mark the location of Red River Station. The monument is designated as a Memorial to Texans that served in the Confederacy.
My Ol’ Daddy would say, “Between them injuns, an’ the Yankees, them ol’ boys pert near had their hands full!” My young bride Stella and I eventually found the granite marker that was set near the old crossing on the Red River. The inscription reads, “Red River Station” Jumping off point to the famous Chisholm Cattle Trail (1867-1887) Red River Station was a main crossing and a last place on the trail to buy supplies until Abilene, Kansas – 350 miles north.”
We located this historic point through trial and error, and after several wild goose chases up and down some dusty Texas dirt roads and trails. We crossed three cattle guards and finally found a road marker that let us know we were on the Chisholm Trail. At this point, there was a grass and weed choked farm path around the edge of a plowed wheat field. We pushed our violently protesting vehicle into this forest of unchecked weed growth for about 300 yards to discover the marker for “Red River Crossing.”
We finally stood where legendary cowboys and ranchers, pioneers and soldiers, Indian tribes and massive herds of buffalo, and later longhorns would cross the intimidating Red River.
It was a thrilling moment and we could almost hear the herd-soothing song of the drover and the distant lowing of the cattle, smell the dust and the heat and maybe the pungent river scents, feel the excitement, as well as, the fear of the unknown, experience the presence of Gods Power, whose help was requested by the youthful cowboys as they plunged their mounts into the raging torrent of river and beeves. It was awesome to stand in the tracks of history!
Fightin’ the Chisholm Trail (Part two)
Ol’ Jessie Chisholm’s freight wagons dared to tread
across that Indian land.
They marked a trail from Abilene to the Red,
soon herds would cross that strand.
Cattle was gathered ‘til daylight was done,
from Donna to ol’ San Antone.
The dust of the herd would blot out the sun,
soothed by the hot wind’s moan.
They slapped on a road brand, notched their ol’ ears,
got ‘em ready for the trail.
The weather held, but they each had their fears,
‘cuz fate was fickle an’ frail.
The road brand was the “quarter circle C;”
they branded many a head.
they stretched ‘em out as far as you could see,
a headin’ for the Red.
We bedded the herd east of Little River.
That ol’ crossin’ went fine,
tho early on, it give us a shiver
up an’ down our ol’ spine.
Next, we ‘crost the Brazos somewhere near the falls,
‘bout the only place that they could.
The drags eat the dust, gritty sweat shorely galls,
things like that are understood.
Rain or shine, each day gets them ‘bout ten mile,
it’s the thunderstorms they dread.
But you don’t have time to fret, best you just smile
soon you’ll be crossin’ the Red
Crossin’ those rivers brought cowpuncher’s fear,
Most anything could go wrong.
But they pushed them cows an’ stayed to the rear,
the current was mighty strong.
God Blessed those early pioneers and God continues to Bless America!