Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail was named for Jesse Chisholm. Jesse was a Scot-Cherokee Indian trader. In 1865, he began hauling trade goods from his post near the future town of Wichita, Kansas, 200 miles south near the North Canadian River. From San Antonio, the trail went through Austin, Waco, and Forth Worth, then along the modern Highway 81 through Oklahoma and Kansas cow towns.
Before white traders the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) had raised and sold cattle to markets in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Regular trade had developed by 1847. During the Civil War, soldiers of both armies raided their herds. The Indians had to rebuild their herds and by 1884 had 700,000. In the 1830s, small herds were driven by whites to New Orleans, Missouri, Ohio, and California. By 1842, many drove herds to supply army posts. Some also drove them to California mining areas where they were sold for up to $100 a head. During the 1860s, Comanche and Kiowa ran off thousands of Texas cattle to trade in New Mexico. During the Civil War, ranches were short-handed so many cattle didn't get branded. This was when rustling started in earnest.
In 1866, Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight blazed a trail to New Mexico. It was a hazardous trail due to the lack of water and the Mescalero and Comanche attacks. He was the first to establish a ranch in eastern New Mexico, near Fort Sumner. Cattle dealer Joseph G. McCoy was responsible for getting the markets established in Wichita City. Further east, Texas cattle were banned because of the fear of tick disease from the Longhorns. McCoy made arrangements with various railroads and city fathers to provide transport and holding corrals. St. Louis declined the opportunity to be a shipping center because of the tick disease, so Chicago became the main market. Now all that was needed as a good route to get the cows to Kansas. The Chisholm Trail became the main route to market.

-Copyright 2000 by Beth Gibson