The History

of

Cattle Drives

The era of the great cattle drives began right after the Civil War. 
Cowboys originated in Spanish, CA and Mexico then adapted to the Texas drives in the 1870s and 1880s

Early cattle drives were initiated by Nelson Story and Charles Goodnight. 
Cattle were driven across the Chisholm and other trails to cow towns such as Abilene and Dodge City.

Life on the open range changed forever with the invention of barbed wire. Fences, combined with the back to back killer winters of 1886 and 1887, changed the cattle industry forever.

 

 CHISHOLM TRAIL

 WESTERN TRAIL

GOODNIGHT-LOVING TRAIL  

SHAWNEE TRAIL

TASCOSA-DODGE CITY TRAIL

CATTLE TRAILING

CATTLE BRANDS

TEXAS FEVER

BARBED WIRE

BLACK COWBOYS

LONGHORN CATTLE

CATTLE RUSTLING

 

The Chisholm Trail was the major route out of Texas for livestock. Although it was used only from 1867 to 1884, the longhorn cattle driven north along it provided a steady source of income that helped the impoverished state recover from the Civil War. Youthful trail hands on mustangs gave a Texas flavor to the entire range cattle industry of the Great Plains and made the cowboy an enduring folk hero.


When the Civil War ended the state's only potential assets were its countless longhorns, for which no market was availableŚMissouri and Kansas had closed their borders to Texas cattle in the 1850s because of the deadly Texas fever they carried. In the East was a growing demand for beef, and many men, among them Joseph G. McCoy of Illinois, sought ways of supplying it with Texas cattle. In the spring of 1867 he persuaded Kansas Pacific officials to lay a siding at the hamlet of Abilene, Kansas, on the edge of the quarantine area. He began building pens and loading facilities and sent word to Texas cowmen that a cattle market was available. That year he shipped 35,000 head; the number doubled each year until 1871, when 600,000 head glutted the market.


The first herd to follow the future Chisholm Trail to Abilene belonged to O. W. Wheeler and his partners, who in 1867 bought 2,400 steers in San Antonio. They planned to winter them on the plains, then trail them on to California. At the North Canadian River in Indian Territory they saw wagon tracks and followed them. The tracks were made by Scot-Cherokee Jesse Chisholm, who in 1864 began hauling trade goods to Indian camps about 220 miles south of his post near modern Wichita. At first the route was merely referred to as the Trail, the Kansas Trail, the Abilene Trail, or McCoy's Trail. Though it was originally applied only to the trail north of the Red River, Texas cowmen soon gave Chisholm's name to the entire trail from the Rio Grande to central Kansas. The earliest known references to the Chisholm Trail in print were in the Kansas Daily Commonwealth of May 27 and October 11, 1870. On April 28, 1874, the Denison, Texas, Daily News mentioned cattle going up "the famous Chisholm Trail."


The herds followed the old Shawnee Trail by way of San Antonio, Austin, and Waco, where the trails split. The Chisholm Trail continued on to Fort Worth, then passed east of Decatur to the crossing at Red River Station. From Fort Worth to Newton, Kansas, U.S. Highway 81 follows the Chisholm Trail. It was, Wayne Gard observed, like a treeŚthe roots were the feeder trails from South Texas, the trunk was the main route from San Antonio across Indian Territory, and the branches were extensions to various railheads in Kansas. Between 1871, when Abilene ceased to be a cattle market, and 1884 the trail might end at Ellsworth, Junction City, Newton, Wichita, or Caldwell. The Western Trail by way of Fort Griffin and Doan's Store ended at Dodge City.


The cattle did not follow a clearly defined trail except at river crossings; when dozens of herds were moving north it was necessary to spread them out to find grass. The animals were allowed to graze along for ten or twelve miles a day and never pushed except to reach water; cattle that ate and drank their fill were unlikely to stampede. When conditions were favorable longhorns actually gained weight on the trail. After trailing techniques were perfected, a trail boss, ten cowboys, a cook, and a horse wrangler could trail 2,500 cattle three months for sixty to seventy-five cents a head. This was far cheaper than shipping by rail.


The Chisholm Trail led to the new profession of trailing contractor. A few large ranchers such as Capt. Richard King and Abel (Shanghai) Pierce delivered their own stock, but trailing contractors handled the vast majority of herds. Among them were John T. Lytle and his partners, who trailed about 600,000 head. Others were George W. Slaughter and sons, Snyder Brothers, Blocker Brothers, and Pryor Brothers. In 1884 Pryor Brothers contracted to deliver 45,000 head, sending them in fifteen separate herds for a net profit of $20,000.


After the Plains tribes were subdued and the buffalo decimated, ranches sprang up all over the Plains; most were stocked with Texas longhorns and manned by Texas cowboys. Raising cattle on open range and free grass attracted investments from the East and abroad in partnerships such as that of Charles Goodnight and Irish financier John Adair or in ranching syndicates such as the Scottish Prairie Land and Cattle Company and the Matador Land and Cattle Company. Texas tried to outlaw alien land ownership but failed. The XIT Ranch arose when the Texas legislature granted the Capitol Syndicate of Chicago three million acres for building a new Capitol.


The Chisholm Trail was finally closed by barbed wire and an 1885 Kansas quarantine law; by 1884, its last year, it was open only as far as Caldwell, in southern Kansas. In its brief existence it had been followed by more than five million cattle and a million mustangs, the greatest migration of livestock in world history.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Wayne Gard, The Chisholm Trail; with Drawings by Nick Eggenhofer (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954). Wayne Gard, "Retracing the Chisholm Trail," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 60 (July 1956). Joseph G. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest (Kansas City, Missouri: Ramsey, Millett, and Hudson, 1874; rpt., Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1974). Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866-1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973). Donald E. Worcester, The Chisholm Trail (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980).
Donald E. Worcester

The Western Trail, also known as the Dodge City Trail and the Fort Griffin Trail, was blazed in 1874 by cattle-drover John T. Lytle, who herded 3,500 longhorn cattle along the leading edge of the frontier from South Texas to the Red Cloud Indian Agency at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Following the defeat of the Plains Indians in the Red River War, Lytle's route supplanted the farmer-laden Chisholm Trail to the east. By 1879 the Western Trail was the principal thoroughfare for Texas cattle bound for northern markets. Feeder routes such as the Matamoros Trail from Brownsville, which ran northward through Santa Rosa, George West, Three Rivers, San Antonio, Beckman, Leon Springs, Boerne, and Comfort, and the Old Trail from Castroville, which ran northward through Bandera and Camp Verde, converged in Kerrville to form the Western Trail. The trail proceeded northward, crossing the James River near the site of present Noxville, the Llano at Beef Trail Crossing, the San Saba at Pegleg Crossing, and Brady Creek west of Brady. The trail left the Hill Country through Cow Gap, where minor feeder trails from Mason, San Saba, and Lampasas counties converged. It crossed the Colorado River at Waldrip and passed through Coleman, where a trail from Trickham and one of two feeders from Tom Green County merged with the trunk route. Beyond Coleman, the Western Trail fanned out to take advantage of grassy prairies; branches passed through the sites of present Baird, Clyde, and Putnam and reunited at Albany, where the Potter and Bacon Trail (or Potter-Blocker Trail) diverged toward the Llano Estacado and Colorado pastures. The Western Trail crossed the Clear Fork of the Brazos near Fort Griffin at the Butterfield-Military Road crossing, where the second feeder trail from Tom Green County, which ran through Buffalo Gap, joined the trunk route. Thence the Western Trail proceeded through Throckmorton, crossed the Brazos at Seymour and the Pease at the site of Vernon, and veered northeastward to leave Texas at what later became known as Doan's Crossing, on the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Several alternative routes crossed Indian Territory to Dodge City, Kansas, on the Santa Fe Railroad, the first and most important terminus of the trail; to Ogallala, Nebraska, on the Union Pacific, the principal alternative for rail shipment; and to northern ranges. Some herds were delivered to Indian reservations on the northern plains.


Several factors such as barbed wire, the introduction of beefier cattle breeds, and the settlement of the frontier contributed to the demise of the Western Trail, but a principal cause was the Texas fever controversy. Carried northward by longhorns, the disease decimated northern herds, giving rise by 1885 to quarantines in many northern states and territories which banned the importation of Texas cattle during warm months. In an attempt to circumvent state legislation, Texas congressman James Francis Miller, Lytle's brother-in-law, introduced legislation that would have plotted a National Trail north of Texas under federal supervision, but the proposal did not pass. The last reported drive on the Western Trail was made in 1893 by John Rufus Blocker to Deadwood, South Dakota. By then, three to five million cattle had been driven to northern pastures and markets along the route.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Harry S. Drago, Great American Cattle Trails (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1965). J. Evetts Haley, Some Southwestern Trails (San Angelo Standard Times, 1948). J. Evetts Haley, Survey of Texas Cattle Drives to the North, 1866-1895 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1926). Jimmy M. Skaggs, "Northward Across the Plains: The Western Cattle Trail," Great Plains Journal 12 (Fall 1972). Jimmy M. Skaggs, "The Route of the Great Western (Dodge City) Cattle Trail," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 41 (1965). Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866-1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973).
Jimmy M. Skaggs
 

The Goodnight-Loving Trail ran from Young County, Texas, southwest to Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River, up the Pecos to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and on north to Colorado. In the spring and early summer of 1866 Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove their first herd of longhorn cattle over the Butterfield Overland Mail route from near Fort Belknap via the Middle Concho River and Castle Gap, to Horsehead (on some old maps marked Dead Horse) Crossing. Leaving the former mail route there, they worked up the Pecos, crossing it from time to time as the terrain and watering places required. They drove a second herd, bought from John S. Chisum, from his Concho River range to Fort Sumner later that same summer.


The northern extension of the Goodnight-Loving Trail was first blazed by Loving in the fall of 1866. Initially, it ran north from Fort Sumner up the Pecos to Las Vegas, then followed the Santa Fe Trail to Raton Pass and around the base of the Rockies via Trinidad and Pueblo to Denver, Colorado. Since that was a roundabout way, Goodnight in the fall of 1867 altered the route fifty or sixty miles to the east, crossing the Gallinas valley and the well-watered plains of northeastern New Mexico near Capulin Mountain before swinging back northwestward to Raton Pass. At Raton Pass "Uncle Dick" Wootton had established a toll station near the summit and charged Goodnight ten cents a head for passage. Goodnight complied, but not without protest. At the head of Apishapa Canyon, forty miles northeast of Trinidad, he set up a ranch and cattle-relay station.


In the spring of 1868 Goodnight entered into a contract with John Wesley Iliff in which he agreed to deliver his cattle to Iliff at the Union Pacific Railroad town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. From the Arkansas valley near Pueblo, Goodnight and his men struck out due north, passing east of Denver, to the South Platte River. They crossed that stream at the site of present Greeley and followed a tributary, Crow Creek, to Cheyenne, where the delivery was made. Afterward, Goodnight and his men went back to New Mexico to buy more cattle from Chisum at Bosque Grande. Returning north, Goodnight further "straightened out" the trail by leaving the Pecos north of Fort Sumner and traveling north to Alamogordo Creek and across the plains via Cuervo Creek and its tributaries to a spot on the Canadian River twenty miles west of Fort Bascom. From there he proceeded to the Cimarron Seco west of Capulin Mountain. In order to avoid Dick Wootton's toll road, Goodnight opened a new, easier passageway through Tinchera Pass into Colorado.
The Goodnight-Loving Trail was thus routed, and although Goodnight himself made only one more delivery at Cheyenne, many cattle concerns from Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado used all or portions of the trail extensively until the advent of railroads in the Southwest in the early 1880s. The trail was sometimes known simply as the Goodnight Trail.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). C. Robert Haywood, Trails South: The Wagon-Road Economy in the Dodge City-Panhandle Region (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).
T. C. Richardson


SHAWNEE TRAIL. Of the principal routes by which Texas longhorn cattle were taken afoot to railheads to the north, the earliest and easternmost was the Shawnee Trail. Used before and just after the Civil War, the Shawnee Trail gathered cattle from east and west of its main stem, which passed through Austin, Waco, and Dallas. It crossed the Red River at Rock Bluff, near Preston, and led north along the eastern edge of what became Oklahoma, a route later followed closely by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The drovers took over a trail long used by Indians in hunting and raiding and by southbound settlers from the Midwest; the latter called it the Texas Road. North of Fort Gibson the cattle route split into terminal branches that ended in such Missouri points as St. Louis, Sedalia, Independence, Westport, and Kansas City, and in Baxter Springs and other towns in eastern Kansas. Early drovers referred to their route as the cattle trail, the Sedalia Trail, the Kansas Trail, or simply the trail. Why some began calling it the Shawnee Trail is uncertain, but the name may have been suggested by a Shawnee village on the Texas side of the Red River just below the trail crossing or by the Shawnee Hills, which the route skirted on the eastern side before crossing the Canadian River.


Texas herds were taken up the Shawnee Trail as early as the 1840s, and use of the route gradually increased. But by 1853 trouble had begun to plague some of the drovers. In June of that year, as 3,000 cattle were trailed through western Missouri, local farmers blocked their passage and forced the drovers to turn back. This opposition arose from the fact that the longhorns carried ticks that bore a serious disease that the farmers called Texas fever. The Texas cattle were immune to this disease; but the ticks that they left on their bedgrounds infected the local cattle, causing many to die and making others unfit for marketing. Some herds avoided the blockades, and the antagonism became stronger and more effective. In 1855 angry farmers in western and central Missouri formed vigilance committees, stopped some of the herds, and killed any Texas cattle that entered their counties. Missouri stockmen in several county seats called on their legislature for action. The outcome was a law, effective in December of that year, which banned diseased cattle from being brought into or through the state. This law failed of its purpose since the longhorns were not themselves diseased. But farmers formed armed bands that turned back some herds, though others managed to get through. Several drovers took their herds up through the eastern edge of Kansas; but there, too, they met opposition from farmers, who induced their territorial legislature to pass a protective law in 1859.
During the Civil War the Shawnee Trail was virtually unused. After the war, with Texas overflowing with surplus cattle for which there were almost no local markets, pressure for trailing became stronger than ever. In the spring of 1866 an estimated 200,000 to 260,000 longhorns were pointed north. Although some herds were forced to turn back, others managed to get through, while still others were delayed or diverted around the hostile farm settlements. James M. Daugherty, a Texas youth of sixteen, was one who felt the sting of the vigilantes. Trailing north his herd of 500 steers, he was attacked in southeastern Kansas by a band of Jayhawkers dressed as hunters. The mobsters stampeded the herd and killed one of the trail hands; (some sources say they tied Daugherty to a tree with his own picket rope, then whipped him with hickory switches.) After being freed and burying the dead cowboy, Daugherty recovered about 350 of the cattle. He continued at night in a roundabout way and sold his steers in Fort Scott at a profit. With six states enacting laws in the first half of 1867 against trailing, Texas cattlemen realized the need for a new trail that would skirt the farm settlements and thus avoid the trouble over tick fever. In 1867 a young Illinois livestock dealer, Joseph G. McCoy, built market facilities at Abilene, Kansas, at the terminus of Chisholm Trail. The new route to the west of the Shawnee soon began carrying the bulk of the Texas herds, leaving the earlier trail to dwindle for a few years and expire.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Wayne Gard, "The Shawnee Trail," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (January 1953). Joseph G. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest (Kansas City, Missouri: Ramsey, Millett, and Hudson, 1874; rpt., Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1974).
Wayne Gard

TASCOSA-DODGE CITY TRAIL. Tascosa, on the sandy flats above the Canadian River in Texas, and Dodge City, on the hills above the Arkansas River in Kansas, were the liveliest cowtowns in the West during the 1880s. The economic link that made them sister cities was the cattle trade; the physical link was the Dodge City-Tascosa Trail. Tascosa was almost totally supplied by freighters from Dodge hauling huge quantities of supplies for surrounding Panhandle ranches. Each of the larger stores in Tascosa freighted in 25,000 to 50,000 pounds of merchandise each month. As late as 1888 the Tascosa Pioneer noted that 119,000 pounds of freight had been delivered during the previous week. The general configuration of this freight trail was determined by the location of Bob and James H. Cator's ranch. Indians, Comancheros, buffalo hunters, and soldiers had moved southward across the plains, following old paths or their own instincts. There was no permanent route, however, until the Cators began making trips to Dodge City from their Palo Duro station. Their repeated use of the same tracks and crossings produced a fixed trail. The trail was divided into two distinct sections: the northern half through Kansas, which was, in fact, the Jones and Plummer Trail; and the southern leg from Beaver, Oklahoma, to Tascosa. The trail started at Dodge City and ran south to Brown's Soddy, in Meade County, Kansas, just south of the city of Meade. It then crossed the Kansas-Oklahoma border near Hines Crossing on the Cimarron River. From there it turned southwest toward Beaver, Oklahoma. It crossed the Oklahoma-Texas border near Chiquita Creek in the northwest corner of Ochiltree County, Texas, and ran southwest to Cator's Zulu Stockade in the southwest corner of Hansford County. The trail continued southwest to the Little Blue stage stand, which was located just south of the site of modern Dumas, Texas. At this point the trail branched. The northern branch led to Tascosa by way of Hartley County; the southern branch hit Tascosa after turning south and then west through Potter County. The isolation of Tascosa made the trail important to the town. Although the physical difficulties of the trail were not as formidable as those of other Panhandle trails, the great distances between way stations and the absence of settlements made it a long, lonesome haul. The trip from Dodge covered approximately 240 miles. A stagecoach took thirty-four hours one way, and an ox team required from a month to six weeks for a round trip. The trail remained in use as an interstate road well past the time when other freighting trails had been abandoned. The stage line from Meade, Kansas, continued in operation until the turn of the century. Although Tascosa continued to exist until World War I, its importance as a freighting center declined as the railroads bypassed the town. First the Fort Worth and Denver City built its station on the south side of the Canadian River, opposite Tascosa, in 1887; then the Chicago, Rock Island and Mexico built elsewhere in 1901. Area ranchers began to receive their freight from Amarillo and Channing on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway, and the Tascosa-Dodge City Trail was gradually abandoned.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cator Family Papers, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas. J. Evetts Haley, The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado (Chicago: Lakeside, 1929; rpts., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953, 1967). John L. McCarty, Maverick Town: The Story of Old Tascosa (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; enlarged ed. 1968). José Ynocencio Romero and Ernest R. Archambeau, "Spanish Sheepmen on the Canadian at Old Tascosa," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 19 (1946).


CATTLE TRAILING. Cattle trailing was the principal method of getting cattle to market in the late nineteenth century. It provided Texans with a practical, economical means of marketing surplus livestock. It also achieved mythological stature as an aspect of the American frontier. Although their heyday was from 1866 to 1890, organized livestock drives to market in the United States date to the seventeenth century, especially in the Carolinas, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Easterners, however, often afoot and aided by shepherd dogs, herded relatively tame animals, whereas Texas drives during the nineteenth century usually featured mounted riders tending decidedly wilder beasts, at first mostly longhorn cattle and usually mavericks. As early as the 1830s, opportunists drove surplus Texas cattle from Stephen F. Austin's colony eastward through treacherous swamp country to New Orleans, where animals fetched twice their Texas market value. After statehood, during the 1840s and 1850s, some cattlemen drove Texas cattle northward over the Shawnee Trail to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, where they were sold mostly to farmers who fattened them for local slaughter markets. The first recorded large cattle drive occurred in 1846, when Edward Piper herded 1,000 head from Texas to Ohio. Outbreaks of "Texas fever" during the mid-1850s caused both Missouri and Kansas legislatures to quarantine their states against "southern cattle." The gold rush to California created substantial demand for slaughter beeves, and during the early to mid-1850s some adventurous Texans herded steers westward through rugged mountains and deserts to West Coast mining camps, where animals worth fourteen dollars in Texas marketed for $100 or more. During the Civil War some Texans drove cattle to New Orleans, where they were sold, but, mostly, animals were left untended at home, where they multiplied.
At the war's end, Texas possessed between three million and six million head of cattle, many of them wild unbranded mavericks worth locally as little as two dollars each. However, the same beasts were potentially far more valuable elsewhere, especially in the North, which had been largely denuded of its livestock by wartime demand and where longhorns commanded forty dollars or more a head. As early as 1865 a few Texans reportedly tested export markets by trailing cattle to Mexico and Louisiana, but most cattlemen waited until the spring of 1866 to mount large trail drives, especially to the North. That year Texans drove more than 260,000 cattle to assorted markets. Some went eastward to Louisiana, where many animals were shipped by boat to Cairo, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri. In search of possible sales among Rocky Mountain miners, veteran cattleman Oliver Loving and his young partner Charles Goodnight that year drove a herd of cattle westward through dangerous Indian country to New Mexico and sold them profitably at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and at Denver, thereby inaugurating the famed Goodnight-Loving Trail. Yet the vast majority of Texans who drove cattle to market in 1866 apparently followed the familiar and safer Shawnee Trail through Indian Territory either to Kansas City or to Sedalia, Missouri, both of which possessed railroad facilities for transshipment eastward, especially to meatpackers at Chicago. While many drovers found profitable markets and sold cattle for as much as sixty dollars a head, others encountered armed, hostile farmers, especially in Missouri, where new outbreaks of Texas fever engendered much anger. Therefore, many cattlemen reportedly resolved not to drive cattle northward again. A number of states, including Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky, either barred or severely restricted the trailing of Texas cattle across their borders. The restrictions included fines up to $1,000, and in some areas herds were either impounded or killed.
Postwar cattle trailing might have ended had not Illinois cattle buyer Joseph G. McCoy established a marketplace away from settled areas. Selecting Abilene, Kansas, near the center of the mostly uninhabited Great Plains-then a veritable sea of grass-McCoy enticed Kansas Pacific Railroad executives to provide sidings and other facilities and even to pay him a commission on each carload of cattle it shipped from Abilene. He also persuaded Kansas officials not to enforce the state's quarantine law at Abilene in order to attract trail herds; he later successfully lobbied the Illinois legislature to revise its restrictions to allow entry of Texas cattle that had been "wintered" in Kansas, documentation of which soon accompanied every shipment eastward. McCoy advertised his facilities with handbills and by word of mouth, attracting drovers and an estimated 35,000 head of cattle in 1867. Thereafter, until closed to southern cattle by renewed quarantine in 1873, Abilene, Kansas, was the principal railhead-market for Texas cattle. The most important cow path from Texas to Abilene was the Chisholm Trail. Between the Civil War and 1873 more than 1.5 million Texas cattle were driven over it to Abilene, as well as to Wichita and Ellsworth, rival Kansas cattle towns along the trail.
This enormous traffic gave rise to contract drovers, who, for a fee (usually $1 to $1.50 per head) walked Texas animals to market for their owners, large and small cattle raisers alike who mostly remained at home, tending their breeding stock. Railroad connections with northern and eastern markets, available in Texas after 1873, did not immediately diminish trail traffic because freight rates were two to three times more expensive than drovers' fees. Numerous Texans, mostly young former Confederates, became contract drovers. The most active of these was probably John T. Lytle, who, in association with at least three partners between 1871 and 1886, delivered about a half million head of cattle to Kansas markets. Also important were John R. and William B. Blocker, George W. Littlefield, Ike (Isaac Thomas) Pryor, Moses Coggin, Eugene B. Millett, Charles Goodnight, William H. Jennings, and numerous others, most of whom also became substantial ranchers. In addition to contract deliveries, they often included their own livestock on drives, as well as animals they bought cheaply in Texas and drove to market for speculation. However, most of their profits derived from volume and efficient use of manpower. All told, contract drovers accounted for as much as 90 percent of total trail traffic between 1866 and 1890, the rest being moved by those who had actually raised the animals.
A herd delivered by contract drovers typically consisted of as many as 3,000 head and employed about eleven persons. An estimated two-thirds of these individuals were whites-"cowboys" mostly, youths aged twelve to eighteen who were readily available for seasonal work as "waddies," as trail hands then were often called. Trail bosses and ramrods-also usually whites-were somewhat older, often in their twenties. The rest were members of minorities-blacks, Hispanics, or Indians-mature men usually, who often served as cooks and as horse wranglers. A few adventurous young women rode the trail, frequently disguised as boys. Wages ranged from $25 to $40 a month for waddies, $50 for wranglers, and $75 for cooks and ramrods, to $100 or more for trail bosses, who often also shared the profits. With chuck and equipment wagons leading the way toward suitable campsites, followed closely by horse wranglers and remudas (spare horses), drives were herded by a couple of waddies on "point," two or more on "flank," and two or more on "drag," that dusty rear position often reserved for greenhorns or meted out as punishment to enforce discipline. Little of the work was glamorous. Most days were uneventful; a plodding, leisurely pace of ten to fifteen miles a day allowed cattle to graze their way to market in about six weeks. Drudgery was occasionally punctuated with violent weather, stampedes, dangerous river crossings, and, rarely, hostile Indians. Even so, few trail bosses allowed youthful waddies to carry pistols, which were prone to discharge and stampede cattle. The gun-totin' image of cowboys owes more to Hollywood than to history.
About 1876 most northern cattle drives shifted westward from the Texas Road (or Chisholm Trail) to the Western (Dodge City or Ogallala) Trail. By then much of the eastern trail in Texas traversed settled country, and farmers strenuously objected to cattle being driven through their fields. Civilized tribes in Indian Territory increasingly demanded grazing fees from the drovers who crossed their reservations. And, after 1873, Texas herds capable of carrying Texas fever were quarantined from Abilene, Ellsworth, and Wichita, forcing drovers who continued to use the Chisholm Trail westward to Hays. Looking for an alternate route and market, in 1874 contract drover John Lytle blazed the Western Trail to Dodge City, but few of his contemporaries immediately followed his path. Most of them waited until Comanche and Kiowas Indians had been disarmed and forced onto reservations after the Red River War (1871-76). Thereafter, until Kansas and other northern states and territories totally quarantined themselves against Texas fever in 1885, the trail to Dodge was the principal thoroughfare over which between 2.7 million and 6 million Texas cattle were moved to market. To forestall the end of trailing, contract drovers and South Texas cattlemen sought to circumvent quarantines by asking Congress to establish a National Trail, a federal highway for cattle that would have departed the Western Trail south of the Kansas border, run westward through the Oklahoma Panhandle, and then turned northward to pass through Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana, ending at the international boundary. But the bill died in the House of Representatives. By then the Western Trail had been blocked in innumerable places with barbed wire fences, legally erected and not, both in Texas and north of the Red River. With the movement of cattle thus greatly impeded by quarantines and barbed wire, Texas cattlemen increasingly shifted to railroads to transport their animals to market.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Edward Everett Dale, The Range Cattle Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930). Wayne Gard, The Chisholm Trail; with Drawings by Nick Eggenhofer (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954). J. Evetts Haley, "Texas Fever and the Winchester Quarantine," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 8 (1935). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Terry G. Jordan, Trails to Texas: Southern Roots of Western Cattle Ranching (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981). Joseph G. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest (Kansas City, Missouri: Ramsey, Millett, and Hudson, 1874; rpt., Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1974). Joseph Nimmo, Jr., Report in Regard to the Range and Cattle Business of the United States (Washington: GPO, 1885; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1972). Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866-1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973). Jimmy M. Skaggs, Prime Cut: Livestock Raising and Meatpacking in the United States, 1607-1983 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Jack Weston, The Real American Cowboy (New York: Schocken Books, 1985).
Jimmy M. Skaggs


CATTLE BRANDS. Cattle brands still play an important role in identifying an animal's owner in Texas cattle ranching. The practice of branding is ancient. Some Egyptian tomb paintings at least 4,000 years old depict scenes of roundups and cattle branding, and biblical evidence suggests that Jacob the herdsman branded his stock. Burning an identifying mark into the hide of an animal was, until the invention of the tattoo, the only method of marking that lasted the life of the animal. The practice of branding came to the New World with the Spaniards, who brought the first cattle to New Spain. When Hernán Cortés experimented with cattle breeding during the late sixteenth century in the valley of Mexicalzimgo, south of modern Toluca, Mexico, he branded his cattle. His brand, three Latin crosses, may have been the first brand used in the Western Hemisphere. As cattle raising grew, in 1537 the crown ordered the establishment of a stockmen's organization called Mesta throughout New Spain. Each cattle owner had to have a different brand, and each brand had to be registered in what undoubtedly was the first brand book in the Western Hemisphere, kept at Mexico City. Soon after the Spaniards moved north into Texas and cattle raising developed on a large scale during the middle eighteenth century, the crown ordered the branding of all cattle. The early Spanish brands in Texas were more generally pictographs than letters. The Spaniards chose their brands to represent beautiful sentiments in beautiful ways. Most of the early Spanish brands found in the Bexar and Nacogdoches archives are pictographs made with curlicues and pendants. A cattle raiser would compose his own brand. When his first son acquired cattle, a curlicue or pendant was added to the father's brand, and as other sons acquired their own cattle, additional curlicues or pendants were added to what became the family brand. Only a few Spanish brands found in the Bexar and Nacogdoches archives are made of letters.
Many early Anglo-American Texas ranchers were unable to interpret the brands used under the Spanish and Mexican regimes. Texans often referred to them as "dog irons" or "quién sabes" (quién sabe?="who knows?") since they could not be read. Most of the early brands of Texans, by contrast, were made of initials and could be read with ease. Richard H. Chisholm owned perhaps the first recorded brand, registered in Gonzales County in 1832. During the years of the Republic of Texas, the recording of brands was provided for but not rigidly enforced. The oldest brand records under state government are those found along the Texas coast. Harris County began keeping records in 1836. Stephen F. Austin recorded his initial brand in Brazoria County in 1838, about four years after he began using it. Galveston County records began in 1839, the year Gail Borden, Jr., first recorded his brand, the first one entered in the Galveston County brand book. When Nueces County was organized in 1847, brands were recorded, but the cattle industry in the county was not dignified by having a separate brand-registration book. During the first seven years brand registrations in Nueces County were sandwiched between marriage licenses, sales of slaves, declarations of citizenship, oaths of office, bonds for administration of estates, wills, and construction contracts. Beginning in 1848, Texas provided for recording brands with the county clerk, with the stipulation that an unrecorded brand did not constitute legal evidence of ownership. This provision was modified in 1913 after thefts went unpunished where unrecorded brands were involved. A considerable body of Texas law deals with brands. At one time the office of hide and cattle inspector was an elective county office.
Many western counties did not begin brand registration until the 1870s or 1880s. By then letters, numerals, and even names were popular brands in Texas. Though such brands were easily read, others have to be seen. Among them are the "Hogeye," "Fishtail," "Milliron," "Buzzard on a rail," "Coon on a rail," "Saddle Pockets" or "Swinging blocks," "Quién sabe," "Grab-all," and countless others with intriguing names. Representations of such common subjects as an anvil, truck handle, hash knife, door key, bridle bit, spur, pitchfork, old woman, doll baby, broadax, boot, shoe, hat, rocking chair, frying pan, and so on were commonplace.
In branding terminology, a leaning letter or character is "tumbling." In the horizontal position it is "lazy." Short curved strokes or wings added at the top make a "Flying T." The addition of short bars at the bottom of a symbol makes it "walking." Changing angular lines into curves makes a brand "running." Half-circles, quarter-circles, and triangles were frequently used in late-nineteenth-century brands. An open triangle was a "rafter." If a letter rested in a quarter-circle it was "rocking." There were "bars," "stripes," "rails," and "slashes" that differed only in length and angle. When a straight line connected characters, a "chain" was made. A picture of a fish marked the cattle owned by Mrs. Fish of Houston. A. Coffin of Port Lavaca used a representation of a coffin with a large A on it. Bud Christmas of Seminole had his XMAS brand, and S. A. Hightower of Breckenridge placed "HI" beside a mushroom-like object.
C. C. Slaughter, who was instrumental in organizing the Texas Cattle Raisers' Association, established his cattle business on the Trinity River in Freestone County during the 1850s. He became dissatisfied with his location and moved twice, finally locating the Long S Ranch at the headwaters of the Colorado River in 1877. His brand, however, was not recorded until September 1879, when it was subsequently run in Howard, Martin, Dawson, Borden, Cochran, and Hockley counties. Many old-time Texas cattlemen believed that during the latter half of the nineteenth century more cattle were sold in the open markets with Slaughter's brand than with any other brand in the world. The famous XIT brand of the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company, once registered in nine counties, was designed by Ab (Abner P.) Blocker, a well-known traildriver.
No law dictated the exact spot on a cow's hide for the branding, yet through the years the left side of the animal, especially the hip, became the customary spot. Nowhere in old documents or recollections does anyone say why the left side was chosen, but the recollections of some old-time cowboys suggest that cattle have a peculiar habit of milling more to the left than to the right; hence brands on their left sides would be more visible to cowboys inside the roundup herds. Still other cowboys recalled that cattle were branded on their left hips "because persons read from left to right" and thus read "from the head toward the tail." As one cowboy added, "A right-handed roper would ride slightly to the left of the animal and could see the brand better if it were on that side." Regardless of the reason for the position of a brand on an animal, the position was recorded in brand books.
Marks besides brands were used. Some ranchers marked their cattle with a wattle, a mark of ownership made on the neck or the jaw of an animal by pinching up a quantity of skin and cutting it. The skin, however, is not cut entirely off, and when the cut is healed, a hanging flap is left. Wattles, however, were not as common as earmarks, which were used by nearly every cattleman during the open-range days and were recorded along with brands. As the name suggests, an earmark was a design cut into one or both ears of an animal. Sometimes a portion of the ear might be removed. A semicircular nick was an "underbit" or "overbit." A square clip at the tip of roughly half of the ear was a "crop," while cutting the ear close to the head was a "grub." A V-shaped cut in the tip of the ear was a "swallow-fork." The same mark on both ears became known as a "flickerbob." A "double over-bit" was the mark made by cutting two triangular pieces in the upper part of the animal's ear. One of the better-known earmarks in Texas was the "jinglebob," a deep slit that left the lower half of the ear flapping down. Many cattlemen considered it one of the most hideous earmarks ever devised. It was the mark of John S. Chisum, whose great ranch lay in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
By the 1940s numerous brands that were no longer in use had been registered in county records. On April 14, 1943, the Texas legislature passed a bill designed to deregister many of the unused brands. The bill included a grace period until October 1, 1945, giving cattlemen the opportunity to reregister their brands. Among the oldest continual brands is the Running W of the King Ranch, which was originated by Richard King in 1869 and reregistered in 1943. See also RANCHING, RANCHING IN SPANISH TEXAS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Oren Arnold and John P. Hale, Hot Irons, Heraldry of the Range (New York: Macmillan, 1940). David Dary, Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries (New York: Knopf, 1981). Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). Wayne Gard, Cattle Brands of Texas (Dallas: First National Bank, 1956). J. Evetts Haley, The Heraldry of the Range: Some Southwestern Brands (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1949). J. Evetts Haley, The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado (Chicago: Lakeside, 1929; rpts., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953, 1967). Hortense Warner Ward, Cattle Brands and Cow Hides (Dallas: Story Book Press, 1953). Manfred R. Wolfenstine, The Manual of Brands and Marks (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).
 

TEXAS FEVER. Readers of the Veterinarian, an English journal, were informed in June 1868 that a "very subtle and terribly fatal disease" had broken out among cattle in Illinois. The disease killed quickly and was reported to be "fatal in every instance." The disease was very nearly as fatal as the Veterinarian claimed. Midwestern farmers soon realized that it was associated with longhorn cattle driven north by South Texas ranchers. The Texas cattle appeared healthy, but midwestern cattle, including Panhandle animals, allowed to mix with them or to use a pasture recently vacated by the longhorns, became ill and very often died. Farmers called the disease Texas fever or Texas cattle fever because of its connection with Texas cattle. Other names included Spanish fever and splenic or splenetic fever, from its characteristic lesions of the spleen. The disease is also known as hemoglobinuric fever and red-water fever, and formerly as dry murrain and bloody murrain. To protect their cattle, states along the cattle trails passed quarantine laws routing cattle away from settled areas or restricting the passage of herds to the winter months, when there was less danger from Texas fever. In 1885 Kansas entirely outlawed the driving of Texas cattle across its borders. Kansas, with its central location and rail links with other, more northern markets, was crucial to the Texas cattle-trailing business. The closing of Kansas, together with restrictive legislation passed by many other states, was an important factor in ending the Texas cattle-trailing industry that had flourished for twenty years. (See also, e.g., SHAWNEE TRAIL.)


Though Texas fever was clearly associated with Texas cattle, its cause remained for many years a mystery. Various theories were proposed to account for a fatal disease being transmitted by apparently healthy animals. One held that the longhorns ate poisonous plants that did not hurt them but that made their wastes so toxic that the smallest amount accidentally ingested by a nonimmune midwestern cow could cause illness and death. By the 1880s the work of pioneer bacteriologists Robert Koch of Germany and Louis Pasteur of France, among others, was widely known and accepted. These men had identified several specific disease-causing bacteria, and Pasteur had devised vaccinations to prevent chicken cholera and anthrax. Hoping for similar success, scientists studying Texas fever also were looking for a microorganism. In 1893 Theobald Smith and Fred Lucius Kilborne of the federal Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., announced their isolation of the pathogen of Texas fever. They demonstrated that the disease is caused by a microscopic protozoan that inhabits and destroys red blood cells. Smith and Kilborne named the protozoan Pyrosoma bigeminum. It is now recognized that either of two species of the renamed genus Babesia, called Babesia bigemina and Babesia bovis, may be involved in Texas fever. From this is derived the modern name babesiosis, which is applied both to Texas fever and to infections caused throughout the world by these pathogens and other members of the same genus. Besides identifying the microorganism responsible for babesiosis, Smith and Kilborne discovered that the disease was spread by cattle ticks. After sucking blood from an infected animal, a tick would drop off into the grass and lay eggs from which would hatch young ticks already harboring the protozoan. Weeks after the original tick dropped from its longhorn host, its progeny were still capable of infecting other cattle. Several different species of tick are now known to spread babesiosis.


Identification of the pathogen and vector of babesiosis still did not explain the apparent good health of the Texas cattle that carried the disease. Modern research indicates that calves are born with a natural partial resistance to infection that lasts a month or two after birth and goes away gradually. In areas like nineteenth-century Texas (and other southern states), where the disease was widespread, the calf suffers a mild attack at an early age, then develops enough immunity to keep from being overwhelmed but not enough to rid itself of the pathogen. By the time the animal reaches adulthood, it has a shaky balance with its protozoan parasites that allows it to live in reasonably good health while remaining a carrier. Babesiosis is still a serious threat to livestock in many parts of the world. In the United States it has been eliminated by a vigorous program of cattle dipping, which eradicated the tick vector. King Ranchqv manager Robert J. Klebergqv is credited with building the first dipping vat in the state. Before the disease was eradicated in this country, nonimmune American cattle were protected from it by elaborate federal quarantine laws separating southern cattle from others in railway cars and stockyards. Northern cattle imported to the South for breeding purposes could be immunized by receiving injections of small amounts of blood from infected animals. Mark Francisqv of Texas A&M was a pioneer in the development of this method of immunization.

 

BARBED WIRE. By the 1870s westward expansion of the agricultural frontier across the Great Plains had been halted by the lack of adequate fencing material to protect crops from cattle. Texas substitutes for the stone and wood fences common in the East included ditches, mud fences, and thorny hedges, the most popular being those of Osage orange or bois d'arc. Bois d'arc is native to Texas and Arkansas, and export of its seed was an early enterprise in Texas. Hedges of it were claimed to be "pig tight, horse high, and bull strong." Experiments with varieties of thorn hedges and smooth wire failed to solve the problems of plains ranchers and farmers, however, and so their features were combined into barbed wire fences.

 

On November 24, 1874, Joseph F. Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois, was granted a patent for fencing material consisting of barbs wrapped around a single strand of wire and held in place by twisting that strand around another. Known as the "Winner," this was the most commercially successful of the hundreds of eventual barbed wire designs. Another DeKalb inventor, Jacob Haish, who had applied for a patent on a similar "S barb" design earlier in 1874, undertook a protracted legal battle that failed to halt the progress of the Glidden design. In partnership with Isaac L. Ellwood, Glidden sold his interests, which included other barbed wire patents, to the Massachusetts wire manufacturer Washburn and Moen in May 1876. Ellwood remained an active partner in the new organization as sole agent and distributor for the South and West. Washburn and Moen, eventually absorbed by United States Steel Corporation, had acquired all major barbed wire patents, except that of Haish, by 1876, thus achieving a near-monopoly on this important product.

 

Henry Bradley Sanborn traveled to Texas in 1875 as representative of Glidden and Ellwood's Barbed Fence Company. Though he sold the first barbed wire in the state, he failed to exploit the large potential market. In 1878 John Warne (Bet-a-Million) Gates conducted a famous demonstration on the Military Plaza in San Antonio in which a fence of Glidden's "Winner" wire restrained a herd of longhorn cattle. Gates reportedly touted his product as "light as air, stronger than whiskey, and cheap as dirt." Sales grew quickly thereafter, and barbed wire permanently changed land uses and land values in Texas.

 

Charles Goodnight, a pioneer of the open plains, fenced along the Palo Duro Canyon, accepting the need for clear title to grazing rights and hence the eventual end of the open range. Enclosure of the open range upon which the early cattle industry had been based resulted in the fence-cutting conflicts of the early 1880s. More controlled livestock breeding was made possible by the enclosure of herds, thus virtually eliminating the demand for the longhorn cattle, which were most suited to the open range. The wire simultaneously contributed to the end of the long cattle drives and Indian raids. Barbed wire, still an essential tool in the livestock industry, is today a popular collector's item. The official depository of the papers of the Texas Barbed Wire Collectors Association is the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert T. Clifton, Barbs, Prongs, Points, Prickers, and Stickers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum, The Wire That Fenced the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965). Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains (Boston: Ginn, 1931).

Frances T. McCallum and James Mulkey Owens

 

LONGHORN CATTLE. The Texas longhorn is a hybrid breed resulting from a random mixing of Spanish retinto (criollo) stock and English cattle that Anglo-American frontiersmen brought to Texas from southern and midwestern states in the 1820s and 1830s. "A few old-timers," J. Frank Dobie wrote, "contend that both the horns and bodies of the Texas cattle were derived from importations from the States out of Longhorn Herefords of England," but he was convinced that the Texas longhorn was largely Spanish. Spanish cattle had roamed in Texas probably before the eighteenth century. The old-timers were probably right. Some cattlemen observed that not only the horns and bodies, but also the colors of many Texas longhorns resembled the English Bakewell stock brought from the Ohio valley and Kentucky. Criollo cattle are of solid color ranging from Jersey tan to cherry red. Black animals are few and brindles rare. Spanish and Anglo cattle mixed on a small scale in the 1830s and after, but by the Civil War the half-wild Texas longhorns emerged as a recognizable type. They behaved like Spanish stock but had an appreciable amount of British blood. Old steers (four years old and older) had extremely long horns, and the large number of these animals in postwar trail herds produced the popular misconception that all Texas cattle had unusually long horns. In the 1880s, when younger cattle with improved blood were trailed north, the average horn spread was less than four feet.

 

In the 1850s Texas longhorns were trailed to markets in New Orleans and California. They developed an immunity to Texas fever, which they carried with them and passed on to herds on the way. In 1861 Missouri and the eastern counties of Kansas banned Texas stock, and during the second half of the nineteenth century many states attempted to enact restrictive laws in an effort to fight the fever. After the Civil War, however, millions of Texas longhorns were driven to market. Herds were driven to Indian and military reservations in New Mexico and Arizona, and in 1867 Illinois cattle dealer Joseph G. McCoy arranged to ship cattle from Abilene, Kansas, to the Union Stockyards in Chicago. Over the next twenty years contractors drove five to ten million cattle out of Texas, commerce that helped revive the state's economy. Longhorns, with their long legs and hard hoofs, were ideal trail cattle; they even gained weight on the way to market.

 

After the buffalo herds were slaughtered and the Plains Indians confined in the late 1870s, private and syndicate ranches spread northward to the open range and free grass on the Great Plains. Texas longhorns, accompanied by Texas cowboys, stocked most of the new ranches; the trailing era made the cowboy a universal folk hero. The "Big Die-up" of 1886-87, together with the rapid spread of barbed wire fences, brought an abrupt end to the open-range cattle boom and with it the dominance of the longhorn. Fencing made possible controlled breeding, and with the end of free grass it was economically advisable to raise cattle that developed faster than longhorns. By this time ranchers had begun crossing longhorns with shorthorn Durhams and later with Herefords, thus producing excellent beef animals. Longhorns were bred almost out of existence; by the 1920s only a few small herds remained.

 

In 1927 the Texas longhorn was saved from probable extinction by Will C. Barnes and other Forest Service men, when they collected a small herd of breeding stock in South Texas for the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. A few years later J. Frank Dobie, with the help of former range inspector Graves Peeler and financial support from oilman Sid W. Richardson, gathered small herds for Texas state parks. After the wildlife-refuge herd had increased to several hundred, the Forest Service held annual sales of surplus animals. Cowmen at first purchased them as curiosities, then rediscovered the longhorn's longevity, resistance to disease, fertility, ease of calving, and ability to thrive on marginal pastures. Its growing popularity in beef herds was spurred by a diet-conscious population's desire for lean beef. 

In 1964 Charles Schreiner III of the YO Ranch took the lead in organizing the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, which maintains a registry in order to perpetuate the breed in a pure state. Since then the number of longhorns and their use in cross-breeding have steadily increased, and their future appears secure. In the 1990s the official state Texas longhorn herd was kept at Fort Griffin State Historical Park and was owned and managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Smaller longhorn herds were located at Possum Kingdom State Recreation Area, Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park, Abilene State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Copper Breaks State Park.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Will C. Barnes, "Wichita Forest Will Be Lair of Longhorns," The Cattleman, April 1926

CATTLE RUSTLING. Cattle theft by Indians was a common hazard of early settlers in Texas. Though the Indians more often stole horses, when their food supply was short, they drove off and butchered beeves, dairy cows, and oxen. Sometimes they stole beyond their needs to avenge wrongs or to drive white settlers from their hunting grounds. Occasionally they started stampedes and killed cattle they could not drive off. In the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, Mexican rustlers gave much trouble along the border. In claims made against the Mexican government, it was asserted that from 1859 through 1872 Mexican bandits stole 145,298 cattle from various South Texas ranches. The depredations of Indian and Mexican rustlers, however, fell far short of those perpetrated by white renegades. In fact, ranchmen in Mexico often were victimized by Texas thieves who swam large herds of "wet stock" across the Rio Grande by night and trailed them to Kansas markets. Other rustlers stampeded herds on the northward trails and drove off as many cattle as they could, using six-shooters to defend themselves if pursued. Many preyed on herds that grazed on the western ranges, especially where canyons or high brush afforded hiding places.

 

Most rustlers of the open-range era were cowboys who had drifted into dubious practices. They knew the cattle country and were adept at roping, branding, and trailing. One needed only to buy a few cows, register a brand, and begin branding strays. Many cowboys' herds increased so rapidly that some ranchmen refused to hire any hand who had stock of his own. The altering of brands was a frequent practice among rustlers. Instead of the stamp iron used by most cattlemen, the rustler used a running iron-a straight rod with a curve at the heated end. When this was outlawed, he sometimes used a piece of heavy wire that he could bend into any shape and carry in his pocket.

 

More common was the theft of large unbranded calves. When a ranchman neglected to brand some of his calves before they were weaned, it was easy for the rustler to cut a pasture fence, drive the calves to his corral, and stamp his own brand upon them. Often he was not content with this but would return to take also the smaller calves, not yet weaned. This was more ticklish procedure, since Longhorn cows and calves had a strong instinct for returning to each other, even when separated by miles. Such reunions had to be prevented, for if a ranchman found a calf with a rustler's brand nursing from one of his cows, there likely would be trouble. Before branding unweaned calves, often the rustler kept them penned until they quit bawling and learned to eat grass. Other measures used to keep them from getting back to their mothers and to hasten weaning were to cut the muscles supporting the calf's eyelids and thus make it temporarily blind, to apply a hot iron between the toes to make the calf's feet too sore for walking, or, in uncommon cases, to split the calf's tongue to prevent suckling. The rustler might also kill the mother to make the calf a genuine orphan.

 

With county seats far apart, grand juries disinclined to indict, and trial juries reluctant to convict, early cattlemen often had to take law enforcement into their own hands in dealing with rustlers. Following the transition from the open range to fenced ranches, rustling gradually was lessened by efforts of local officers, the Texas Rangers, and inspectors of cattlemen's associations, who checked brands as cattle were sold at livestock markets. Rustling was not entirely stamped out, however, and in the 1930s it broke out in a new form. Thieves equipped with fast trucks stole cattle at night, butchered them in nearby thickets, and sold the meat the next day in markets perhaps several hundred miles away. The extent of this rustling and the fact that the thieves often crossed state lines led Congress in 1941 to pass the McCarran Act, which provided a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and five years in prison for transporting across state lines stolen cattle or meat from such cattle. This measure, however, did not prevent the sale of stolen meat in black markets during World War II.

 

BLACK COWBOYS. Black cowboys have been part of Texas history since the early nineteenth century, when they first worked on ranches throughout the state. A good many of the first black cowboys were born into slavery but later found a better life on the open range, where they experienced less open discrimination than in the city. After the Civil War many were employed as horsebreakers and for other tasks, but few of them became ranch foremen or managers. Some black cowboys took up careers as rodeo performers or were hired as federal peace officers in Indian Territory. Others ultimately owned their own farms and ranches, while a few who followed the lure of the Wild West became gunfighters and outlaws. Significant numbers of African Americans went on the great cattle drives originating in the Southwest in the late 1800s. Black cowboys predominated in ranching sections of the Coastal Plain between the Sabine and Guadalupe rivers.


A number of them achieved enviable reputations. Bose Ikard, a top hand and drover for rancher Charles Goodnight, also served him as his chief detective and banker. Daniel W. (80 John) Wallace started riding the cattle trails in his adolescence and ultimately worked for cattlemen Winfield Scott and Gus O'Keefe. He put his accumulated savings toward the purchase of a ranch near Loraine, where he acquired more than 1,200 acres and 500 to 600 cattle. He was a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association for more than thirty years. William Pickett made his name as one of the most outstanding Wild West rodeo performers in the country and is credited with originating the modern event known as bulldogging. He was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971.


Black cowboys have continued to work in the ranching industry throughout the twentieth century, and African Americans who inherited family-owned ranches have attempted to bring public recognition to the contributions of their ancestors. Mollie Stevenson, a fourth-generation owner of the Taylor-Stevenson Ranch near Houston, founded the American Cowboy Museum to honor black, Indian, and Mexican-American cowboys. Weekend rodeos featuring black cowboys began in the late 1940s and continue to be popular. These contests owe their existence to the Negro Cowboys Rodeo Association, formed in 1947 by a group of East Texas black businessmen-ranchers and cowboys.
 


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Evetts Haley, "Texas Fever and the Winchester Quarantine," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 8 (1935). Miodrag Ristic and Julius P. Kreier, Babesiosis (New York: Academic, 1981).
Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866-1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973).
Tamara Miner Haygood


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