Chisholm Trail

This page is dedicated to Oklahoma's part of the Chisholm Trail


Fort Worth, Tex., Dec. 6 – Captain Henry Speaks, the frontiersman who many years ago blazed the way for millions of Texas and Oklahoma longhorns between the southwestern range and Kansas, is nearing his seventy ninth birthday in Calera, Bryan county. Footprints of this pioneer’s herd were beaten into the historic Chisholm trail the origin of which, until now has been a mystery.

Ranchmen and cowboys, especially those who preceded the railroads upon the plains of Texas, have long disputed various claims, regarding the origin of the Chisholm Trail – now the right-of-way of the Santa Fe Railroad through Oklahoma and much of Texas. But the story from Captain Speaks clears the mystery and determines its history.

Trappers Made Trail

Though John Chisholm, trapper, made the trail with his wagon all the way from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, Captain Speaks, following later with a herd of cattle, was the first to utilize and lengthen it. Four cowboys accompanied Speaks on this trip, one of whom survives and now lives in Centralia, Missouri.

Chisholm’s trail became the Santa Fe Trail of the southwest. Over it trod longhorns from all of Texas and most of Oklahoma, seeking the Kansas markets and the Kansas railroad terminals. So advantageous became the trail that the Santa Fe railroad paralleled it from Kansas into Northern Texas.

Trapper Chisholm didn’t mean to be a trail blazer when he left Oklahoma City in the spring of 1866. His wagons were heavy with furs, for the winter had been a profitable hunting season. He turned north from the Canadian river at the point where Oklahoma City now stands and reached the Santa Fe Trail up in Kansas, thence to Kansas City.

Wagons Started North

A few days later Chisholm and his wagons started north. Speaks and his four cowboy friends reached the Canadian river crossing with a herd of longhorns. The cattle had been driven from southern Oklahoma, beating out a path as they came. Two Indian guides had lead the way.

But at the Canadian river, the stockmen decided to dispense with the guides, as the wagon tracks of Chisholm pointed the way so well. They followed these tracks to a juncture with the Santa Fe Trail. Other Oklahoma and Texas stockmen soon followed in the wake of Speake and his associates, and soon the Chisholm Trail was the recognized highway between all the world and Texas.

It remained a great highway until the railroad came. Many branches of the Chisholm Trail were opened and some even took the name of the parent highway, but the original trail according t Speake was that between Oklahoma and the Santa Fe route. (The Chickasha Daily Express, December 7, 1910, page 2)


Pioneer Texas told of John Chisholm; he Likes Chickasha

“I went over the Chisholm trail the first time in 1879, driving a herd of cattle from Texas to the Larrimie plains,” said Capt. T. T. D. Andrews of Fort Worth, who stopped off here today on his way home from the El Reno road meeting. “We followed the trail as far as Fort Sill and then veered off toward the northwest.”

“Fort Worth is deeply interested in the proposition to make a great national highway out of the old trail,” continued Capt. Andrews. “It means much to the entire southwest to have this road opened from the north to the gulf.” Capt. Andrews made an eloquent and earnest address at El Reno in favor of the movement.

Capt. Andrews has been a Texas since 1854, going there with his parents when he was quite young. He has lived in Fort Worth since 1878, having been a stockman in the early days. He says the old trail derived its name from John Chisholm who lived in Paris, Texas. Chisholm was a pioneer cowman and at one time was regarded as the largest ranchman in the state. He is supposed to have blazaed the trail which bears his name. The last big venture of Chisholm was to drive a herd of cattle from western Texas to Roswell, N.M., where he established a large ranch. One of his employees was “Billy the Kid,” the famous desperado, afterward killed by Capt. Pat Garrett, sheriff at Roswell. Billy didn’t get along very well with Chisholm, a bitter feud arising between them in later years.

“I knew much of Chickasha although I had never been here,” said Capt. Andrews, “and I thought I would just stop off to take a look at the town and to renew the warm friendship formed years ago with Scott Jones. The location of the town always struck me as exactly right and I am more than pleased with what I have seen here. If I was going to leave Ft. Worth, I’d locate in Chickasha.” (Chickasha Daily Express, Wednesday, August 30, 1911, front page)


Enid Man Gathering Data; Daughter of Chisholm interested

Enid, Sept. 1 – Frank Hogden, appointed chairman of the Chisholm Trail Good Roads association on historical research to preserve the history of the Chisholm trail began his work yesterday following a comprehensive plan. Letters were gotten out of offices along the old trail asking them to cooperate in the effort to secure information while the men who are in possession of it are still alive. Letters were also sent to a large number of the more prominent pioneers, among those to whom Mr. Hodgen has written are General Nelson A. Miles, of the U. s. A., retired who was stationed for some time at Fort Reno and who is familiar with the early history of the southwest.

Mr. Hodgen also wrote to Col. W. F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill,” one of the pioneers who has traversed the Chisholm trail in the early days. Among others Mr. Hodgen has written to Col. Littlefield, at Austin, Texas, Col. Slaughter, of Dallas; Arthur Larkin of Ellsworth, Kansas; Henry B. Johnson, of Chickasha; Captain E. B. Millet, of Albuquerque; T. T. V. Andrews of Fort Worth, and S. B. Burnett of Ft. Worth. Mr. Hodgen expects to secure a large amount of exceptionally interesting material which will be put in proper form for preservation.

The secretary of the Chamber of Commerce has received a letter from a daughter of Col. Chisholm who blazed the whole trail, expressing her interest in the movement to commemorate the work of her father in the construction of a permanent road. She has been asked to give such information as she may possess concerning the life and work of her father and the history of the Chisholm Trail. (The Chickasha Daily Express, September 1, 1911, page 1)


We don’t know whether it is authentic or not but the following bit of history concerning the Chisholm Trail appearing in the Kansas City Times, is interesting in view of the movement to make a national highway out of the old trail.

The Chisholm Trail is one of the historic highways of the Southwest. It was the only thoroughfare followed by freighters and cattle men, in passing across what is now Oklahoma between Kansas and Texas. The herds of cattle driven from Texas northward over the trail, averaged annually between 250,000 and 300,000.

“The man who laid out this trail Jesse Chisholm lived all his life in the outskirts of civilization. He was born in Tennessee about 1808. His father, Ignatius Chisholm was the son of John D. Chisholm the last hereditary war chief of the Cherokees. His mother was Martha Rogers, daughter of Charles Rogers, whose two other daughters, Talihina and Maria, were respectively the wives of General Sam Houston and John Drew. Senator Robert L. Owen’s mother, Narcissa Chisholm who died recently was a granddaughter of John D. Chisholm. Jesse Chisholm died March 4, 1868, about twenty miles west of the present town of El Reno.

“Jesse Chisholm, with his retinue of employees, trappers and painted Indians, established a camp in 1864, near what is now Wichita, Kansas. They built cabins and corrals. In the fall Chisholm started to mark a trail southward to his old camp at Council Grove, about six miles west of the present site of Oklahoma City. Several years later, when Texas cattle men were looking for an outlet to the railroads to the north, they utilized the trail and made it a great highway to Wichita.”

According to the recollections of a Ft. Worth man whose interview appeared in the Express a few weeks ago, Mr. Chisholm was one of the largest ranchmen in the southwest and lived many years in Paris, Texas, going from there to New Mexico and establishing a large ranch near Roswell. (The Chickasha Daily Express, September 14, 1911, page 4)


One old timer says there is no Chisholm trail, declaring that it is “Chism.” Another says it is Chisholm but it doesn’t derive its name from John Chisholm, the Texas cattle man, but from a half-breed Indian. It is evident that the historians have a big task before them to straighten matters out, but meantime work on the building of the great highway need not be interrupted. The name is not the most important part of a good road. (The Chickasha Daily Express, October 17, 1911, page 4)


Oklahoma City, Okla. – Alex W. Fain for many years agent of the Seminoles, declares that the name of the famous trail was “Chisholm” and not “Chism,” as contended by some in connection with a controversy which has arisen over the proper naming of the proposed highway. Mr. Fain says: “I knew Jesse Chisholm, son of William E. Chisholm. I went up the Chisholm trail from Barrett’s ranch, Bell county, Tex., now Temple, Tex., to Ellsworth, Kan., in 1871.” (The Dover News, Thursday, October 26, 1911, page 3)

Chisholm Route is Cause of Dispute

Whether trail went south west via Fort Sill or was directly south from Enid is question

Congressman Ferris Got Little Assistance from Government in Effort to Get Correct Report

Oklahoma City, Sept. 2 – Not even the United States government, which has been called upon for information in the matter, has been able to settle to the satisfaction of all parties concerned just where the old Chisholm Trail ran. The controversy has arisen in connection with the plan to establish a north and south highway across Oklahoma along the line of the old trail.

The original plan called for a road straight north and south, striking the towns along the main line of the Rock Island railroad, which it is claimed, followed the old trail in a general way when its line was built across the state. Later on, however a movement was started to deflect the road to the westward toward Lawton and Fort Sill and the claim was raised that that was the real route of the old Chisholm trail.

To this claim Chickasha Duncan and the other towns which would be left off the route by the change are offering strenuous objections. They assert that there is no question that the old trail ran on south through Grady, Jefferson and Stephens counties and that it is still distinguishable, while there are many pioneers still living in those counties who traversed the trail in the cattle days and can give authentic testimony in regard to it.

As a result of the controversy, Congressman Scott Ferris interested himself in the matter recently and asked the department of the interior for information in regard to the location of the old trail. The department gave in that connection an excerpt from Cutler’s “History of the United States,” giving the description of a trail “extending for a distance of 220 miles from a point near Wichita, Kan., to a site of of the Wichita agency in the former Indian Territory.”

Wichita Clearwater, Caldwell, Pond Creek (now Jefferson, Okla.) Skeleton Ranch (Enid), Buffalo Spring (Bison), Cheyenne Agency (Darlington), Wichita Agency (Anadarko and Fort Still were named as the principal points. On May 14, 1872, a government post road was established “from Wichita via Sumner City, Caldwell, Cheyenne, Washita Agencies and Fort Sill to Jackssboro, Texas.” It is shown on the general land office map as “Abilene cattle trail and state road” and according to the department in its letter to Mr. Ferris, “is practically the same as the Chisholm trail as described by Cutler.”

A careful search through the statutes at large, says the department, fails to disclose any resolution or act of congress setting aside or designating the trail as a public highway.

The Chickasha people do not question the establishment of the government post road, but contend that it did not follow the Chisholm trail all the way and swung off from the trail at a point near Darlington, where the old trail crossed the North Canadian river in order to pass Fort Sill.

Prof Joseph B Thoburn of Oklahoma university who is unquestionably the best authority in the state on Oklahoma history and the most thorough and painstaking investigator into that subject says that the reail Chisholm Trail was the one followed by Jesse Chisholm on his trips out of Wichita in 1865 and subsequent years for the purpose of trading with the Wichitas and afflicated Indian tribes in the camping grounds on the Washita and that the trail started in 1868 by the Texas cattlemen crossing the Red River at Red River station and running almost due north a few miles west of the 98th meridian, met and merged with the original Chisholm trail just north of the Cimarron crossing, near the present village of Dover in Kingfisher county, but that the name, Chisholm trail was eventually applied to the entire line of cow paths which extended to the Red river, and even beyond into Texas.

To this fact, in Professor Thoburn’s opinion, is due the popular misconception in Texas as to the origin of the name. Many people there insist that it was named for John Chisholm a prominent Texas cattleman, who is claimed to have driven the first herd of cattle north over the trail to Abilene, Kan., but Professor Thoburn in his researches has demonstrated to his satisfaction that Col. John Chisholm never did drive a herd through to Abilene and had nothing to do with the naming of the trail, which took its name from Jesse Chisholm, the Cherokee pathfinder. (The Hugo Husonian, Thursday October 2, 1913, front page)

CHISHOLM TRAIL -  Old Timer Tells How Chisholm Trail Bore South

Wichita, Kas – An accurate description of the route of the old Chisholm trail has not yet been made public thru the columns of the press, according to John A. Blair, an early day cow man. Mr. Blair owned a ranch on Pond Creek in the Indian Territory more than forty years ago and he moved cattle over the trail many times, he says.

“Traces of the Chisholm can be seen now between Wichita and Clearwater in plowed fields and where it crossed streams,” said Mr. Blair. “The trail stated at the west end of the Douglas avenue bridge and bore southwest passing west of Oatville. It crossed the Cowskin about one mile west of the Missouri Pacific railroad. Crossing the Ninnescah river nearly due south of Clearwater, the trail continued south, passing five miles west of Wellington, where it crossed Slate creek. It crossed the Chikaskia river due north of Caldwell, going right thru the town over the spot now occupied by the Rock Island depot. From Caldwell the trail went southwest crossing Pond creek a half mile east of the present town of Jefferson, and continuing thru the west edge of the present town of Pond Creek due south Kremlin.

“It crossed Skeleton creek one mile east of where the Rock Island depot stands in North End going thru the center of Enid,” continued Mr. Blair. “The Rock Island depot at Hennessey stands right on the old trail. From there it ran south to the north bank of the Cimarron river at Dover. It followed the river southeast, crossing it east of the mouth of Kingfisher creek, going three miles east of the town of Kingfisher, then south, crossing the North Canadian river west of the town of Yukon. From there it ran south to Red river, crossing it at Doane’s store.

“I am satisfied that the trail did not go to Fort Reno, because the fort was not established until 1874. The Chisholm trail was started in 1868,” concluded Mr. Blair. (The Independent, Cashion, Okla., Thursday, January 22, 1914, page 3)


At some unknown spot on the north bank of the Canadian river near Blackwell is the grave of Jesse Chisholm, and according to Jim Richey, this grave is to be found and a suitable marker put on it. The Chisholm trail, leading southwest from Wichita to Anadarko was laid out by Jesse Chisholm in 1865. (The Calumet Chieftain, Friday, May 12, 1916, page 2)



Oklahoma City --- Edward Herbert Eikler, 84-year-old southwestern pioneer who drive the second herd of cattle down historic Chisholm Trail, died here Saturday. Death was caused by a cerebral hemorrhage.

Eikler played a colorful part in early Oklahoma history. He was a lieutenant under Capt. David L. Payne, the famous Sooner who sought to force the issue of white settlement in Oklahoma by moving in without government authority.

Coming to Oklahoma from southern Kansas, Eikler helped to organize the Cimarron Territorial government of Oklahoma's Panhandle when it was known as No Man's Land. As a reward for his labors, what was then Benton county nominated him as its choice for governor of No Man's Land.

As a boy of 18, Eikler drove cattle down Chisholm Trail. He herded cattle in the Osage country in the early '80s, and made the run into Oklahoma territory, settling in Kingfisher county.

Eikler had lived here since 1916 with his daughter and only survivor, little Eikler. (Hutchinson, KS, News Herald ~ Sunday ~ June 5 1938 ~ Page 1 ~ Submitted by Lori DeWinkler)


YUKON, Okla. - Seven years ago, Enid-resident Robert Klemme set out to help America remember an important line to its past.

He designed 200-pound markers and lugged them to particular spots largely by himself to mark the Chisholm Trail. Each marker, 7 feet high and 6 inches square, bears the legend "Chisholm Trail" in bold black lettering.

Now 71, Klemme was among the 500 or more people gathered in Yukon on Friday under the blazing late summer sun to place the last of 400 posts marking the Chsholm Trail's path through Oklahoma.

"I'm going to have to think of another project," Klemme joked.

The ceremony was as much a celebration of the American cowboy as it was a celebration of the 130-year-old trail they made famous.

Joining Klemme on Robert Funk's Express Ranch for the ceremony was Hollywood cowboy actors, Oklahoma Gov. Frank keating, national media crews and the grandsons of the man who founded the trail, Jesse Chisholm.

Horses and their riders, period re-enactors and multitudes of men wearing cowboy hats milled about a huge tent as presentations were made to recognize Klemme and the impact of the Chisholm Trail.

Tens of thousands of cowboys drove an estimated 6 million head of cattle and 1 million horses north along the trail that stretches from San Antonio, Texas, to Abilene Kan.

The Chisholm Trail became a main route after 1867, when Abilene, Kan., cattle dealer Joseph McCoy built stockyards at a rail spur.

He encouraged rangers to bring their longhorn cattle north, offering to pay 10 times the going price they could get in Texas.

At the trail's peak use, cattle herds as big as 10,000 head were driven up the trail, although the average herd ranged from 2,000 head to 3,000 head.

Klemme set out seven years ago to mark the trail. With an 1871 government map and a passion to salute Western history, he began setting the posts at every section line the trail crossed. With help from three Boy Scouts, Klemme dug the 2-1/2-foot-deep holes that would support the posts.

While Kingfisher and Canadian counties paid for the concrete and reinforcing rods in those counties, Klemme paid the expenses in the seven other counties.

"I'm hoping our kids in the future will take more of an interest in our history," Klemme said. "We've got the best history in this state." (The Iola Register ~ Iola, KS ~ Saturday ~ September 20, 1997 ~ Page 8 ~ Submitted by Lori Dewinkler)

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