Some Worry That Their Property Rights Will Be Violated

WELLINGTON ---- Like veins through the wild-west heartland, America's inter-states were once dirt trails carved out by travelers, cattle and cowboys.  Now all that flows through those veins is history --- a history the National Parks Service is hoping to preserve along the Chisholm Trail.

The trail stretches from Texas through Kansas, including Abilene, Hays and Ellsworth.

The parks service is gathering information in an effort to make the trail a National Historic Trail.

The Chisholm Trail would join the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the Oregon National Historic Trail as national landmarks.  The Chisholm Trail stretches nearly 800 miles.

"We're still really toward the beginning of the process," said Frank Norris, with the National Parks Service.  "A year ago in March, Congress passed a bill requesting the Secretary of Interior to study the Chisholm Trail and the Western Trail for feasibility as National Historic Trails."

The parks service has held public meetings along the trail, including one in Wichita earlier this summer.  "To an overwhelming degree, there has been public support expressed thus far for the trail," Norris said.  "People like the idea of recognizing the heritage of the trail."


However, there are still questions being asked by area landowners, whose land is touched by the Chisholm Trail.

Sue Noland, of Clearwater, started the Chisholm Trail Landowners Alliance.  The trail bisects three-quarters of her family's 160 acres.  She said people trespass on her land already because of a railroad track that runs through it----they think because of the tracks, the land is open to the public.  She is worried this will happen to a higher degree should the Chisholm Trail become nationally recognized.

"If there's some big deal made about, 'This is where the Chisholm Trail was' on farm ground," Noland explained, "I don't want people thinking, 'Oh, we can walk through there'."

Currently there is a small cement post that says "Chisholm Trail" on their property.  Noland said she is fine with that being there.  She just wants to make sure her land is protected now and in the future, when the family farm is passed down to the next generation.

"Can they come in at some point and say, 'OK, we're just going to designate this 200 feet, but you can't cross it with your machine'?" Noland asked.  "Well, then we'd have to go out on the road, a half-mile down and a half-mile up to get to that same field."

The National Parks Service basically said landowners can be as involved as much or as little as they want.  "It's an established fact (that) essentially all of Kansas is privately owned land," Norris said.  "There is no power that the parks service has for National Historic Trails in which in any realistic mode we would ever acquire any property or ever infringe on the rights of existing private property rights."

He said he realizes there will be owners who are at both ends of the spectrum --- some wanting to show off their segment of the trail, some who don't want the public to be on their land.

"And that's perfectly OK as far as we're concerned because this is entirely a cooperative partnership effort," Norris said.  "We're not treading on property rights whatsoever."


As far as landowners who might want to build on the possible National Historic Trail, Norris said that was also not an issue.

"If they want to build a series of condos or a hotel and it happens to be right on the trail trends, more power to them, because there was never any anticipation that there was going to be any kind of land reclamation to be able to create genuine historical trail routes," Norris said.

He said the parks service isn't entirely sure, even in Kansas, about exactly where the trail was.  The trail does run through Caldwell and Sumner County.

Richard Gilfilan, at the Chisholm Trail Museum in Wellington, thinks the historic trail designation would be a good thing.

"It can't hurt," Gilfilan said.  "I'm hoping that it might bring visitors to our museum."

There is still a long way to go before the Chisholm Trail becomes a National Historic Trail.  Norris said the NPS is in the process of creating a "scoping report."  The report is a record showing all of the public comments, concerns and thoughts that have been gathered.  The scoping report will let everyone know what everybody else is thinking on the subject.

"Within a month of so we'll have up on our website a copy of this scoping report, in which we'll identify the process, where meetings were held, what we've done so far," Norris said. 

Only an act of Congress can turn a trail into a National Historic Trail.  The public comment segment of the project closed earlier this summer.  Noland thinks more could be done.

"They had 12 meetings from Texas to Abilene; that's all," Noland said.  "To me, two meetings in Kansas during harvest was not a good plan."

She just wants to make sure his property won't be opened to the public.

"We're not rich or anything," she said.  "We just want to live our simple life outside of Clearwater, farming, without some big thing going through there."

In the presentation shown at the public meetings, the timeline was presented for the Chisholm Trail to become a National Historic Trail. If all goes according to schedule, that will take place in the fall of 2012.  "We want to do what we can to preserve, protect, and interpret the trail," Norris said, "without treading on property rights."
(Salina Journal ~ Monday ~ September 13, 2010)


Moran claims further proof lies in field notes of an 1873 survey which documents the location of the Wichita Agency, a government outpost and stopover point to aid Indians and traveling Army troops.

OKLAHOMA  CITY --- A retired Oklahoma surveyor says he can prove the historic Chisholm Trail --- cut through Indian territory traders in the 1860s and later used to drive cattle from Texas to the railroad in Kansas --- has been mismarked for more than 100 years.

But historians say it will take more than ruts etched in sandstone to change the currently accepted route.

"There is tradition backing the location of the Chisholm Trail," said Oklahoma Historical Society President W. D. Finney.  "It would be a major undertaking to change the minds of historians."

The Chisholm Trail, long celebrated in cowboy song, is recorded in history as the first of many major routes used to herd Texas cattle to market after the Civil War, crossing what is now Oklahoma to reach the railhead at Abilene, Kan.

Jesse Chisholm, who was of Scottish and Cherokee Indian ancestry, is credited with forging the trail that bears his name and later using it to herd Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight's livestock to Kansas.

Some early accounts spell the trail's name "Chisum," after John Chisum, the Texan from whom Goodnight bought cattle for the trail drive.

The traditional route places the trail along the slightly east of present-day U.S. 81, but retired surveyor Ed Moran of Anadarko, Okla., says he has all the proof necessary to show Chisholm actually carved his now-famous trail about 20 miles west of the highway.

Moran said the original Chisholm Trail ran from Wichita, Kan., to the Wichita Indian Agency near Anadarko, and was established as a supply route during the Civil War.

"They were pulling in here during the Civil War on that Chisholm Trail to start," Moran said.  "It ran north (from Anadarko), forded the South Canadian River and went on up north by Kingfisher.

"Then these people subsequently, and after the Civil War, started driving cattle north," Moran said.  "They first hit good grass over here by Chickasha, intersected the trail up there and forded the river where the Chisholm Trail had been crossing the river.  Usage dropped that trail farther south, past Duncan and Waurika."

Moran said he was positive the western route was the original Chisholm Trail because it had been pointed out to him 60 years ago by a man who had seen it in use.

"A man who was here at that time and saw terrific over it told me, and showed me where it was," he said.

Chisholm originally carved the trail, Moran said, while hauling difficult-to-obtain supplies over soft sandstone bluffs to the Wichita Indian Agency north of Anadarko.  In 1873 the trail had become a rough road, designated as a path for transporting supplies into the wilds of Indian country.

Vague tracks in the rugged bluffs of Caddo County north of Anadarko was evidence of the original trail, Moran said.

"It's a foregone conclusion.  That's all there is to it," the 75-year-old Oklahoman said.  "The tracks come down over the hills to the old foundation of the Wichita Agency.  The foundation of the agency still stands."

"The Chisholm Trail is recorded in the 1873 survey," Moran said, but it is not labeled as such.

"The survey didn't call it the Chisholm Trail because it wasn't named that then," Moran contends.  "Nobody cared what it was called; they just wanted to know where it went."

Because state Historical Society officials are in charge of markers and documents commemorating various state landmarks, Moran's dreams of honoring what he believes is a misplaced piece of state history may never come to pass.

The Society bases its stand on research done by the state Engineering Department and a resulting map.

"The information was documented by the engineering department of the Oklahoma Highway Commission in 1933," said Mac Harris, museum sites supervisor for the state Historical Society.  "Nothing in our documentation indicates the Chisholm Trail came through Anadarko.

"He (Moran) may have found a wagon trail but there are many of those in Oklahoma," Harris said.

The Historical Society knows about trails that crisscrossed Indian Territory in the early days of settlement.  They ranged from narrow-rutted wagon paths to wide sweeps across grazing land cleared by cattle drives.

Many, including a military route between two early forts, touched the Anadarko area.

"We know there was a trail from Fort Sill to Fort Supply but to call it the Chisholm trail is something entirely different," said Finney.  "We would be jumping out on a limb by calling that the Chisholm Trail.  We need authentication"

Historians never have agreed on authentic paths of the Chisholm and other trails.  At least two trails through Oklahoma pass close to the documented Chisholm route and are confused  in various accounts of the famous path's origin.

But Moran says he knows the answer.  The Abilene Trail, used on cattle drives, ran west of the Chisholm.  Stage Road followed the Chisholm but came after it, he said.

Why did early territorial pioneers change the trail's name from Chisholm to Stage Road?

"It had become the stage road; the one you stood on to catch the stage," Moran said.  "That's simple."

Documentors of Oklahoma history have trouble mapping the Chisholm Trail, passing from Kansas into Oklahoma and eventually into Texas.  Maps show it anywhere from a line parallel to U.S. Highway 81 through central Oklahoma to distant lines on either side.

Muriel Wright, writing for the Chronicles of Oklahoma, verified Moran's claims that the trails originally ended near Anadarko, as did historians Joseph B. Thoburn and Isaac M. Holcomb.

Other historians traced the route through Enid, in northwestern Oklahoma, to the points east of Anadarko.

Oklahoma Historical Society librarian John Heisch said various trails meandered from the San Antonio area to Red River Station, in Montague County, Texas, where they joined to form the southern end of the Chisholm Trail.  The trail crossed into Oklahoma south of Waurika and ran northward to a place called Silver City, just north of present-day Tuttle, Okla., where it split into eastern and western branches.

However, Heisch said both branches stayed well to the east of Anadarko, with the one used principally for cattle drives generally following the present route of U.S. 81.  The branches rejoined on the north banks of the Cimarron River near Dover, Okla., and proceeded northward, entering Kansas at a point south of Caldwell.

Moran claims he has known the location of the original trail for 60 years and has decided it is time to "firmly establish the location."

But Finney said firm establishment of the popular trail could make Moran's desire for commemoration an impossibility.

"I'd like to talk to (Moran) about it," Finney said.  "But the trail he found will have to be authenticated."

"With tradition backing the common trail, that's almost impossible to do."
(Salina Journal ~ Tuesday ~ December 25, 1979)


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