Kansas  Chisholm  Trail


Bleaching Skulls Marks the Most Famous of Old Cattle Roads

The most famous of the old cattle roads was, according to Scribner's Magazine, the "Chisholm Trail."  It was named after John Chisholm, an eccentric frontier stockman, who was the first to drive over it.  Chisholm lived at Paris, Tex., was a bachelor, and had many thousand head of cattle on the ranges in the southern part of the state.

From two hundred to four hundred yards wide, beaten into bare earth, it reached over hill and through valley for over six hundred miles (including its southern extension), a chocolate band amid the green prairies, uniting the north and the south.  As the marching hoofs wore it down and the wind blew and the waters washed the earth away it became lower than the surrounding country and was flanked by little banks of sand drifted there by the wind.  Bleaching skulls and skeletons of weary brutes who had perished on the journey gleamed along its borders, and here and there was a low mound showing where some cowboy had literally "died with his boots on."  Occasionally a dilapidated wagon frame told of the breakdown, and spotting the emerald reaches on either side were the barren circle-like "bedding grounds," each a record that a great herd had there spent a night.

The eight of an empire passed over the trail, leaving its mark for decades to come.  The traveler of today sees the wide, trough-like course, with ridges being washed down by the rains and with fences and farms of the settlers and the more civilized red men intercepting its track, and forgets the wild and arduous life of which it was the exponent.  It was a life now outgrown and which will never again be possible.
(Wichita Daily Eagle ~ Tuesday ~ March 14, 1893 ~ Page 8)



Crooks and Thugs Made the Wild West Wooly


Steers Bought for $8 Per Head Sold for $30 at Abilene

Frontiersman Makes Two Fortunes and Loses Them

Hutchinson, Kans., Aug. 28 --- The Texas cowboy has come down in the history of Kansas as the "bad man" who made Abilene, Dodge City, Newton and other Kansas cattle shipping stations "bad towns."

But according to Thomas J. Anderson, a former ranchman now living a retired life in Hutchinson, the Texas cowboy has been much maligned all of these years.

For a decade following the close of the war, Mr. Anderson was engaged as a drover in bringing big herds from Texas to Abilene and Dodge City.  He is a native of Texas and an ex-Confederate soldier.  He knew the Texas cowboy of the '60s and '70s intimately, being one of them.

"There as no more honorable, upright, honest and kind-hearted man living than the Texas cowboy," said Mr. Anderson.  "It makes my blood boil sometimes to read the things printed about the 'toughs from Texas.'  I knew all of the drovers who brought cattle up to Abilene over the old Chisholm trail, and I don't know a one who could be regarded as a tough.

"The bad men of Abilene and Dodge City were not from Texas.  They were not cattle drovers.  The real bad men were the blacklegs from Kansas City, Chicago and the east who had come out here to Kansas to rob our Texas boys when they would get to market.


"Naturally, after being on the trail for two or three months, without getting sight of a white person or a human habitation, our boys would be ready to have a good time on reaching Abilene or Dodge.  But their good time did not consist, as has been charged, of shooting up the town and shooting down bystanders.

"Often, when we would approach Abilene with our herds it would be with fear and trembling, for our boys realized that they would have to go up against the tough blacklegs from the east.  In all of the trips I made to Abilene in the tough days of that town I never spent a night there.  I was disgusted with the way they carried on.

"Our Texas cowboys were honorable and upright gentlemen compared with a lot of the people who held themselves to be leading citizens of Abilene and Dodge City in those days."


Mr. Anderson used the main Chisholm trail as did the other Texas drovers in bringing their herds north.

The Chisholm trail was so named because it was first used and "broke through" by a Texas cattleman named Chisholm.

"There was good money in cattle driving in the latter '60s and early '70s," remarked Mr. Anderson.  "I bought cattle in western Texas for from $1 to $8 a head.  It would cost us about $2 a head to drive them through to Kansas.  We would get from $7 to $30 a head for them at Abilene.  In 1868 the price that cattle sold for in Texas was spoken of as a 'dollar a head.'


Historic Chisholm Gateway to Texas Panhandle a Highway

Caldwell, Kan., Sept. 6 --- The board of county commissioners of Sumner county, Kansas, Tuesday established as a county road the old Chisholm Trail from Wellington to Caldwell, Kan., and to the state line, from whence it has been established as a county and state road through the state of Oklahoma to the Red river.

At Wellington, Kan., it connects with the north and south Meridian road which, as such, continues to the north line of the state of Kansas.

It was over the old Chisholm Trail that great herds of cattle were driven every year in the early days of the west from the Texas ranges to the railroad shipping points in Kansas.  Originally  the northern terminus of the Chisholm Trail was at Abilene, in the wild and woolly days of that town's history.  Cowboys and cattle owners, coming north with their herds, were a fruitful source of income for the bad men, gamblers and thugs who flocked to Abilene.  After the Santa Fe was built the northern terminus of the Chisholm Trail shifted from Abilene to Dodge City, and all the bad men who had made Abilene notorious flocked to Dodge.

The Commercial club of Caldwell is responsible for the establishment of this historic old trail as a great north and south highway from Galveston, Tex., northward through the states of Texas and Oklahoma to the city of Wellington from whence it will be taken up and continued as near as may be on the sixth principal meridian to Winnipeg, Canada.
(Topeka Daily State Journal ~ Wednesday ~ September 6, 1911 ~ Page 10)


The Chisholm Trail Across Kansas and Oklahoma Prominent

The good roads agitation has brought forth many interesting stories concerning the old Chisholm trail which is a part of the interstate highway extending from Winnepeg, Canada to Galveston, Texas.

Jess Chisholm of Ringold, Texas, first blazed the trail in 1867, and later his brother, John Chisholm, a cattle man of considerable means, carried the work on farther north.  The trail was first blazed to Abilene, Kansas, and as the railroad facilities came farther wet and south the trail gradually shortened until in 1890, the last year of the trail's active history, the terminal facilities of the Rock Island had reached Minco, Okla., and it was here that the last herds driven over the Chisholm trail were loaded for market.

The trail is straight and is the shortest route possible between Ringold, Texas, and Caldwell, Kansas.  It followed a divide and is well drained.
(Topeka Daily State Journal ~ Saturday ~ October 14, 1911 ~ Page 7)

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