Chishom Trail

(Deb) Come along boys and I’ll tell you tale, I’ll tell you of my troubles on the old Chisholm Trail. How many times has that song been sung throughout Kansas? The Chisholm Trail names for Jesse Chisholm who was a part Scottish, part Cherokee, trader, interpreter, guide, businessman and occasionally even a finder of lost or kidnapped children. He traveled that trail numerous times, but the cattle that made it famous, you know they only used it a year or so before Jesse died. He died in March of 1868, barely a year after the cattle herds from Texas had begun to use his wagon trail from the North Canadian River to Wichita, Kansas. Only a few herds followed the trail while he was alive. You know, that cattle industry was so important of course, in creating a booming economy in Kansas after the Civil War was over. Those Texas Longhorns, all those cattle that had been created from just a few that the Spaniards had brought over years and years before, they were just virtually everywhere in Texas. Now Missouri, where they had been marketing those cattle, wouldn’t let ’em in any more. They had some kind of tick that carried a disease so the Missourians wouldn’t let ’em in. And that opened up an opportunity for Baxter Springs. Yes, Baxter Springs, first cow town in Kansas- Baxter Springs. They built up stock yards and corrals. They could hold 20,000 cattle at a time with plenty of grass and water. They quickly developed the same sort of reputation that a lot of those other cow towns got though, you know, one of the historical society comments was every third door was a gambling house or liquor saloon because you know all those cowboys had to unwind after several months on the trail. And there was lots of flowing liquor, card games and all sorts of other entertainment for ’em. Some of the other cow towns that sprang up of course, Abilene comes to mind first drawing herds from 1867 through 1871. Waterville a small Kansas town a little north Abilene attracted herds in ’68 and ’69. Junction City in ’69 and 1870. Meanwhile Chetopa and Coffeyville in the far southeast corner of Kansas saw the peak cattle trade in ’69. Salina and Solomon, rivals with Abilene for the cattle trade also served as cattle destinations in 1869 through ’71. And then the trade moved on. Of course, Ellsworth and Great Bend continued through the year 1875. Wichita, cattle town primarily from 1872 to 1876. But the Chisholm Trail days didn’t end in 1876 as the last great herds arrived in Wichita four years later in 1880, Caldwell became a rip snorting cow town and continued to serve that purpose through 1885. You know, there were some cases where the townfolks just asked the cow herds to just move on to some place else because they just couldn’t take it. That economic boom had a big cost when all those rowdy cowboys came into town. And of course, Dodge City that sprang up as all those herds moved to the west and the trails moved to the west. But no matter how many years it lasted, the impact and the mystique around the cowboy and those cow towns and the Chisholm Trail lingers on and man there’s a lot of Kansas history for you to explore there. Get out and see it sometime. We’ll be right back.

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