History of Trail Drives in Texas

This webpage traces the history of cattle drives and cowboy life along the Chisholm and Goodnight-Loving trails through early-day Texas.

Trail Drive Related Links

History of Cowboys and Trail Drives in Early-Day Texas

Origin of the Maverick

The First Trail Drives (1866)

Cowboys and Hands on a Typical Trail Drive

The First Chuckwagon in Texas

Dangers Along the Trail

The Legendary Chisholm Trail

Goodnight-Loving Trail Across West Texas

End of the great cattle drives (1890)


History of the Texas Region from The Dynasaur Era to Historic Times.

How Texas Got It's Name.

Old 300 Anglo Settlers in Texas.

Will Goyens, early-day Texian

Sam Houston

History of the Texas Revolution.

Texas Declaration of Independence (1836).

Jim Bowie, Hero of the Alamo

William Travis, Hero of the Alamo

Goliad Massacre(1836)

Battle of the Alamo (1836)

Battle of San Jacinto

Officers and Men in the Texas Revolution

Important Documents of Early-Day Texas

General Santa Anna
Indian Captive Cynthia Ann Parker

Military Forts in Early Day Texas

History of the Republic of Texas

General George Custer

Generals Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant

Letters by Early-Day Texas Settlers.

Governor John Conally

State Representative Daniel James Kubiak

Jean Kubiak Cundieff Memorial Page

History of Muleshoe, Hurley, Virginia City, Bailey County, Texas


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True Texas Tales

Photo of early-day cowboy on a trail drive through Texas

History of Cowboys and Trail Drives in Early-Day Texas

Origin of the Maverick

In the mid 1850's, a rancher named Maverick built up a sizeable herd of longhorns. During the Civil War days, he allowed his calf crop to go unbranded. As a result, by the end of the war, there were thousands of his cattle without brands roaming the Texas country side. In Maverick's area, folks would say, "there is a Maverick", when refering to an unbranded critter. The term was taken up by others, and in a short time it was in general use throughout the cattle range country in Texas".

Photo of Cowboy tending herd over longhorn cattle near the area that became Deanville Texas
Tending a Longhorn Herd near Deanville Texas on a spur of the Chisolm trail

Many other ranchers also neglected their herds because Texas was so isolated from all Confederate states east of the Mississippi River. "Being cut off from the market, the ranchers found themselves with worthless stock. In fact, the value of cattle, in Texas, was so low that a rancher would lose money paying hired help to attend to his herd. Therefore, the ranchers gave very little, if any, attention to their herds. The herds multiplied rapidly and when the war ceased, there were thousands of unbranded cattle over all the range, and no one knew to whom the animals belonged.

Cattle Trailing (1600's)

Cattle trailing began in the U.S. in the seventeenth century, especially in the Carolinas, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Easterners, were usually on foot using shepherd dogsand were herding small numbers of relatively tame animals.

Texas trail drives during the nineteenth century usually featured horseback mounted riders and mostly longhorn cattle, 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.

First Recorded Large Cattle Drive in Texas (1846)

The first recorded large cattle drive occurred in 1846, when Edward Piper drove a herd of approximately 1,000 longhorms from Texas to Ohio. However, 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 a huge demand for cattle in the 1850's and soon Texans were herding steers westward through rugged mountains and deserts to West Coast mining camps, where animals worth fourteen dollars in Texas marketed for a hundred or more dollars. 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.

Major Cattle Drives Began in 1866

At the end of the Civil War, there was little or no money in the South and prices were low so herds simply multiplied and no one was interested in taking them to market. After the end of the Civil War, railroad companies built railroad lines down into Kansas and that placed shipping facilities close enough to our range so it was practical to drive herds to the railroads".

"Following the completion of the railroads extention into Kansas, cattle market centers opened up: the principal market points were Camp Supply, For Dodge and Kansas City.

Photo of early-day cowboy on a trail drive through TexasEarly Day Trail Drive Hand

Photo of Trail Drivers stopping at the Deanville Store in Burleson County Texas in the late 1860's
Trail Drivers Shopping at the Deanville Trading Post after the Civil War

Many longhorn cattle drives from Texas to markets in Nebraska and Kansas took place between 1866 and 1900. One such trail known as the Western Trail went through what in now Vernon Texas in 1876. Cattle drivers Millett and Irvin came up through Wilbarger County and crossed a herd near Doans Crossing, so called after the establishment of the Jonathan Doan's trading post nearby.

The Chisholm Trail, which went through Oklahoma, had become so crowed that cattle had great difficulty in finding forage along the way. To avoid this, ranchers scouted and laid out a new trail, the Western Trail, which has also been referred to in the past as the Longhorn Chisholm Trail, the Trail to Kansas and the Fort Griffin and Dodge City Trail.

During the peak of the season many herds where on the trail at the same time, sometimes only a few miles apart. A herd of 2500 to 3000 was considered the most favorable size for long drives. Smaller herd required about the same crew and overhead expense; larger herds faced problems of watering facilities, grass along the trail and general unwieldiness in handling. Daily travel distances were gauged by grass and water, the object being to fatten cattle en route.

A cattle drive typically covered about 10 to 15 miles a day with a drive to western Kansas taking between 25 and a 100 days.

Cowboys and Hands on a Typical Trail Drive

Trail drivers were cowboys who moved cattle from a home range to a distant market or another range. A typical trail driving outfit consisted of a boss, who might or might not be the owner; 10 to 15 hands, each of whom had a string of from 5 to 10 horses; a horse wrangler (remudero), who drove and herded the cow horses and a cook, who drove the chuck wagon. A "hoodlum" wagon carried the bedrolls. During the day, the men drove and grazed the cattle and at night herded them by relays. Ten or 12 miles was considered a good day's drive. Typical meals consisted of bread, meat, beans with bacon and coffee. The wage was around $40.00 a month.

The First Chuckwagon in Texas

The trail drive began in the late spring when grass was plentiful. For three months, a handful of man rode herd over more than 1000 head of wild longhorn cattle, moving them less than fifteen miles a day. The centerpiece of any cattle drive was the chuck wagon. Charles Goodnight is given credit for inventing the first of these by taking an old army wagon and strengthening it with extra hard wooden axles, and having a chuck box mounted on the rear end. A storage area to the front carried supplies and bedrolls.

In many ways the cook or "cookie" was the most important member of the drive, and he generally got paid better than the other men. The cook drove the chuck wagon ahead of the herd and was responsible for selecting campsites in the evenings and stopovers for the noonday meal. Besides the cook, there was the trail boss, an experienced cowboy who had been up the trail before, knew where the grass and water were and also knew the dangers along the trail.

Some cowboys were positioned at the front of the herd while others rode "flank" on the sides of the herd and still others rode "drag" at the back of the herd. All cowboys shared the job of watching the herd at night, hoping that the cattle did not become spooked and begin running. Younger cowboys were often given the job of horse wrangler. Their job was to care for the horses used to herd the animals along the long drive north.

Dangers Along the Trail

On the trail, cowboys encountered the boredom and dangers of riding herd on more than 1000 head of cattle. Cowboys ran into unpredictable weather. Crossing treacherous rivers, some cowboys and cattle drowned. There were rattlesnakes, stampedes, and Indians. In the early days of the cattle drives, Indians still ranged across West Texas, leading a nomadic lifestyle chasing buffalo. Some Comanche ranged across northwest Texas until the mid-1870s when Quanah Parker led his band to Fort Sill, in Oklahoma.

When the cowboys finally reached the end of the trail, they celebrated in grand style. Then it was back to Texas for another drive the next year.

Cattle do not trail in a group, but strung out in a long line. Several natural leaders usually take their places in front, while all the others fall into an irregular line behind them. A herd of 1,000 head might stretch out one to two miles on the trail. The drovers worked in pairs, one on either side of the line of animals. The best of the men were usually assigned to be "pointers," working near the head of the line. The remainder of the men worked the flank and swing positions farther back, with drag men bringing up the rear. Communication was by hand signals, adapted from Plains Indian sign language, or gestures with hats.

The drive would cover about 10 to 15 miles a day and, depending on what delays were encountered, a drive to western Kansas would take between 25 and 100 days.

While on the trail, the Goodnight outfit made use of home remedies for illnesses. Coal oil was used to combat lice, and prickly-pear poultices were thought to help wounds heal. Flowers of the bachelor's button plant were used to cure diarrhea, salt and bison tallow were used for piles, and bison-meat juice was drunk as a general tonic.

The Legendary Chisholm Trail

The first cattle drives from Texas on the legendary Chisholm Trail headed north out of DeWitt County about 1866, crossing Central Texas near the towns of San Antonio, Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown, Salado and Waco toward the markets and railheads in Kansas. The trail was named for Indian trader Jesse Chisholm, who blazed a cattle trail in 1865 between the North Canadian and Arkansas rivers. That initial trail was expanded north and south by other drovers. The trail was not one fixed route. As one historian remarked, "trails originated wherever a herd was shaped up and ended wherever a market was found. A thousand minor trails fed the main routes."

Roughly, the Chisholm Trail went from the Rio Grande near Brownsville through Cameron, Willacy, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, Bee, Karnes, Wilson, Guadalupe, Hays, Travis, Williamson, Bell, McLennan, Bosque, Hill, Johnson, Tarrant, Wise and Montague counties. It crossed the Red River and continued to Dodge City and Abilene, Kans. Another popular route approximately paralleled the main trail, but lay farther east. Fixed points on the trail, which all the drives on the Chisholm Trail used, were the crossing on the Colorado River near Austin; Brushy Creek near Round Rock; Kimball's Bend on the Brazos River; and the Trinity Ford in Fort Worth below the junction of the Clear and West forks.

The peak year on the Chisholm Trail was 1871. After interstate railroads came to Texas in the mid-1870s, trailing cattle to the Midwest became unnecessary. The Chisholm Trail was virtually shut down by the 1884 season.

Goodnight-Loving Trail Across West Texas

The Goodnight-Loving Trail was one of the first of the post-war trails to be blazed across part of West Texas. Charles Goodnight established a herd of cattle in the Keechi Valley of Palo Pinto County in the late 1850s and ranged his cattle across Palo Pinto, Parker and Young counties.

After serving in the frontier militia during the war, Goodnight rounded up his cattle in the spring of 1866 and headed for the Rocky Mountain mining region. To avoid Indians, he decided to use the old Butterfield stagecoach route to the southwest, follow the Pecos River upstream and proceed northward to Colorado. This route was almost twice as long as the direct route, but it was much safer.

While buying supplies for this trip, he encountered Oliver Loving, and the two decided to join forces. The combined herd numbered about 2,000 head when they left their camp 25 miles southwest of Belknap on June 6, 1866. Their route took them past Camp Cooper, by the ruins of old Fort Phantom Hill, through Buffalo Gap, past Chadbourne, and across the North Concho River 20 miles above present-day San Angelo. They crossed the Middle Concho and followed it west to the Llano Estacado, crossed New Mexico and proceeded to Denver. With this drive, the Goodnight-Loving Trail was born.

Goodnight and Loving used this trail several times before Loving was mortally wounded in an Indian attack in New Mexico in September 1869. Just before he died, Loving made Goodnight promise to see that he was buried in his home cemetery in Weatherford. Loving's remains were temporarily interred in New Mexico while Goodnight and his outfit completed the drive. Returning to New Mexico, Goodnight had his cowboys flatten out all the old oil cans they could find and solder them together to make a tin casket. Loving's remains were placed into a wooden coffin, which was then put inside the tin casket. Powdered charcoal was packed between the two containers, and metal lid was sealed, and whole contraption was crated and transported to Weatherford for burial. Loving's grave in Weatherford's Greenwood Cemetery has a Texas state historical marker.

It was always understood by pioneer cattlemen that they would strike the Chisholm Trail when they crossed Red River at Red River Station at the mouth of Salt Creek in Montague County into the Indian Territory.

From evidence gathered from reliable sources of the Old Trail Drivers' Association designated the trail that crossed the Red River at Doans Crossing as the Western Texas-Kansas Trail. The term "trail" has been used in Texas to designate routes used by Indians, buffalo hunters, military expeditions, immigration movements and cattle drives.

Drives to northern markets began after the "rise" of grass in the spring and continued through the summer. During the peak of the season many herds where on the trail at the same time, sometimes only a few miles apart. A herd of 2500 to 3000 was considered the most favorable size for long drives. Smaller herd required about the same crew and overhead expense; larger herds faced problems of watering facilities, grass along the trail and general unwieldiness in handling. Daily travel distances were gauged by grass and water, the object being to fatten cattle en route.

Trail drivers were cowboys who moved cattle from a home range to a distant market or another range. A typical trail driving outfit consisted of a boss, who might or might not be the owner; from 10 to 15 hands, each of whom had a string of from 5 to 10 horses; a horse wrangler (remudero), who drove and herded the cow horses; and a cook , who drove the chuck wagon. A "hoodlum" wagon carried the bedrolls. During the day the men drove and grazed the cattle and at night herded them by relays. Ten or 12 miles was considered a good day's drive. Typical meals consisted of bread, meat, beans with bacon and coffee. The wage was around $40.00 a month.

The first among the cow hands to arrive at Doans (established in 1878) each spring were the trail cutters, men who represented the big cattle interest and who were ready to begin cutting out the strays from the big herds. Some of the trail cutters were J. K> Payne, official county trail inspector; Bob Munson, who was taken away by the Texas Rangers and never returned to Doans, and George Briggs of Granite, Oklahoma. The coming of the trail cutters was anticipated with much pleasure by the belles of Doans and Vernon,; it meant the social activities would be stimulated. The men would remain as long as possible at Doans before returning to the ranches 'down below'.

The coming of the herds meant a time of business activity at Vernon and Doans. It might be likened to a good cotton fall. Here the herds were outfitted for their long trail to the north and 'sow bosom, Stetson hats, ammunition and provisions were sold in carload lots. C. F. Doan & Company hand two stores, one at Doans and one at Vernon, and each employed seven men. Wood & Son at Vernon did a thriving business. This was in the 1880's. Supplies were purchased at Denison, Sherman, Gainesville and later Wichita Falls, and were freighted in.

John Lytle, who with a cousin operated one of the most outstanding trailing firms in Texas, and his secretary would spend a month each year at Doans outfitting his herds and everything would be shipshape when they crossed Red River. Furnaces and corrals were erected at Doans for branding purposed, and other herds where outfitted there.

Taylor Creager, who came as a settler in 1888, first went through with a herd of cattle in 1885 on his way to Mobeetie. His herd was watered on Paradise Creek south of Vernon while the men got water and supplies at Condon Springs (the present-day site of Hillcrest County Club). The cowboys had to get off their horses and wade out in the river to drive the cattle off sand bars to cross Pease River.

S. L. Mallow, who became a frontier cowboy when he was a 12 year old boy, "went up the trail" with a big herd through Vernon and Doans several years before coming back in 1886 to settle in this county.

Pease Flats would sometimes be covered with cattle for miles if the river was too high for the cattle to ford. Walter Lorance, who for many years was chief horse wrangler for Waggoner Ranch, once noted that in early days thousands of cattle were gathered on the prairies around Harrold waiting for shipment to market when that was the terminal of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway.

First Hand Account of What it was Like to Go On a Traildrive

The following first hand account of what it was like to go on a trail drive came from an interview in Waco with an elderly gentleman in a retirement home in 1932. "A herd of 1000 cattle, three and four years of age, and 2000 four and five year old beeves were gathered to fill a million pound beef contract set for delivery on Blackfoot Indian Reservation in the northwest corner of Montana, nearly 3000 miles distant. The five month drive averaged 15 miles a day under the leadership of foreman Jim Flood, boss foreman for Don Lovell, cowman and drover.

"The herd crossed at Doans, the crossing which had been in use but a few years at that time. A new ferry had been established for wagons.

"Red River, this boundary river on the northern border of Texas, was a terror to trail drivers. The majestic grandeur of the river was apparent on every hand, with its red bluff banks, the sediment of its red waters marking the timber along its course, while the driftwood, lodged in trees and high on the banks, indicated what might be expected when she became sportive or angry. The crossing had been in use only a year or two when we forded, yet five graves, one of which was less than ten days made, attested her disregard for human life. It can safely be asserted that at this and lower trail crossings on Red River, the lives of more trail men were lost by drowning than on all other rivers together." The country (in No-Man's Land across Red River) was as primitive as in the first day of its creation. The trail led up a divide between the Salt and North forks of Red River. To the eastward of the latter stream lay the reservation of the Apaches, Kiowa's and Comanche's.

"Antelope came up in bands.. while old solitary buffalo bulls turned tail and lumbered away to points of safety. Very few herds had ever passed over this route, but buffalo trails leading downstream, deep worn by generations of travel, were to seen by hundreds on every hand."

"Father anticipated a mighty upturn in the cattle business when he learned about the railroads extending Westward. Basing his action on the well founded conclusions, he devoted his efforts to creating a large herd. "We moved to McCellan co., for the purpose of securing a more suitable ranges. We located on the Brazos River, where we operated for two years and then moved to Coryell county on the Colorado River, just south of Gatesville. "It is obvious to anyone, that with the range being open, it was impossible for a person to indentify any particular unbranded critter as belonging to him. Because of this fact, there took form a sort of gentlemens agreement to govern the branding of the Marvicks and the only logical rule, it was that a rancher had the priviledge of branding the unbranded cattle which were found with his critters or grazing on the range under his control.

Many individuals started a herd by the simple process of locating a watering place, adopting a brand and then going out on the range to hunt and brand Mavericks. "When we moved to McCellan co., father had a few cattle; maybe 500. We branded all the Mavericks we could find in our section with our 'AG' brand. I, at the time, was about 11 years old and large enough to help ride the range. Father hired two hands, with whom I worked and all we did was to gather and brand mavericks.

"When we moved to Coryell co., we had a herd 1500 cattle. In Coryell co., we continued thur process of branding all stock in our section, and with the natural increas, our herd soon numbered up to better than 5000.

"Our camp, at first, we consisted of tents for shelter, which we used when inclement weather existed. When the weather was element, we slept outside. Blankets were kept in the area of the chuck wagon and when nights were chilly, we would roll in a cover, otherwise, we did not.

Photo of early-day Chuckwagon

"Our food was coarse, but whole-some. It consisted principally of beef, beans, both corn and wheat brand and dried fruit. We also, generally managed to have some canned vegetables. Black coffee was supplied in large quanities as was necessary to satisfy the appetite of our waddies and they drank a large amount of the breverage.

"The cook was good camp cook and was especially good at cooking meat and beans. He varied the manner of cooking the beef and beans, so the two foods did not become tiresome. "Living as we did in the open, our appetite was always good.One would arise each morning with an excellent appetite and would relish the broiled steak, sour-dough bread, sop, lick and black coffee. "Sickness was a rare condition among we waddies, and we were always able to stay on the job to do what was necessary, even if it was two or three days and nights without rest, which happened occasionally.

"While the range was open and the cattle grazed where their desires lead the herd, we rode the range constantly during the day keeping the cattle bunched and more of less to our range section. After the herd bedded down at night we left just one rider one duty at a time to keep watch, unless inclement weather was existing or threatening.

Thunder and Lightning Meant Stampedes

"It was necessary to keep several riders on duty when inclement weather was apparent, because in the event a storm set in the herd would tend to drift and during severe weather, would drift fast and far, unless held back. Then when thunder and lightening were persisting, there always was danger of a stampede starting, with its resulting loss, unless the riders were on hand to hold the run down to the miminum.

"I have experienced periods of two and three days and nights when our entire crew, of six to eight riders, was on duty the whole time without any rest. During the winter was the period of the year when inclement and threating weather would presist for several successive days, at Occasionally, during the winter, a presisting sleet and rain storm, accompainied with cold, would set in. Such weather was the hardest kind of weather to work in and, also, required the most work, because the cattle would insist on drifting with the storm. Just before a storm would arrive, it was the cattle's instinct which enabled the animal to realize a storm was on its way and would want to drift to shelter. The only shelter was the gullys, wood brake ot hills.

"During the years when cattle roamed the open range, there were a few winter storms when thousands of cattle perished from exposure. My memory does not serve me well as it did in the farmer days, but I think it was during the late 80s, thousands of cattle perished on the range. The storm started with rain, turned to sleet and then turned to snow with low temperature. The inclement weather continued for a week or more. During the storm, a large number of the weaker cattle perished from exposure to the cold. Then, when the storm subsided the ground was coated with ice, and snow, covering the grass which prevented grazing. This condition resulted in many more cattle perishing from starvation.

"Many ranchers were ruined by reasons of their cattle loss during the siege of weather. One could travel over the range for miles and never be out of sight of dead animals. "Father's loss was about 50 percent, but he was able to meet the disaster. He even withstood the attack by heel-flies on the cattle which followed the coming of mild weather.

"The heel-fly is so named because it attacks the cattle in the heel. Evidently, the fly has a painful sting, because when one of the flies hits an animal, the critter will throw its tail in the air, let out a snort and start running for a bog or a water-hole. "The heel-fly is very wearing to the stock and continued attacks from swarms of the flies, will prevent grazing and keep the cattle standing in water or a bog, where they can keep their heels submerged. The cattle will lose wight and finally die. During the heel-fly acreage the cattle crowded the bogs and river in the locality. We were kept busy pulling critters out of bogs, but the animals would go back the second a fly hit it. Many of the cattle became so weak that they become mired and died, before we could get to the animal and pull it out of the mierer. We were faced with a herculean task which was beyoud our ability to perform completly. We worked, both horses and men, to exhaustion dragging mired critters out of bogs.

Our method of dragging out a mired critter was to put a loop around its horns and with the rope tied to the horn of the saddle the horse would pull the animal out.

"Our next most dreaded difficulty which we were compelled to encounter was the stampedes. You may attempt to picture in your mind what a stampede of several thousand longhorn cattle is like, but one can't visualize the actual scene. I shall attempt to draw a mental picture of what the old rawhide viewed and contended with during a cattle run.

"Of course, during a storm we were expecting a possible run and were on the watch for it, but during clement weather a stampede is not looked for unless something scares the cattle. Many things can scare a herd. For instance, a wolf which runs into a herd to pull down a calf or something that may startle just one animal the fear caused to the one animal will spread through the whole herd instantly. While a herd is on their own ground it is not so easily scared, but when bedded off their home range, for instance, when on a drive, the herd is prone to stampede over triffles. These conditions, mentioned, are what we had to be on guard against at all times.

"The herd may be bedded and arise instantly. Looking at a herd arising, appears as if the earth is heaving up with an accompanying roar, a swish like sound, and the clashing of horns. While the cattle are running, the pounding to their feet on the earth sounds as the roll of many muffled drums. The clashing of the horns given off a sound similar that many muffled cymbols. The two sounds is quite a symphony, but broken by the discordance yell of the waddies trying to divert the hreds attention and put and put the animals to milling. "What I mean by milling is to start the cattle to running in a circle, instead of straight away. If the herd was not scared too badly and not running too fast, the critters will follow their leaders. Our job was to force the leading critters from their straight course. That was performed by riding at the side and to the front of the leading animals and crowding the critters. "Most of the time we could accomplish our purpose in stopping a run, but occasionally we would fail. If we failed the cattle would be scattered hither and yon'.

"Of course, while on the home range, a scattered herd was not so disasterous, because we could eventually gather the cattle and those which we could not locate at the time, we would find during the following roundup. So far as the breeding stock was concerned, we were not so much concerned about those becoming scattered, but it was the market cattle we did not want to lose track of and be delayed in their sale until after the roundup.

"Suppose it was dark and storming while a stampede was in progress, which it often was. Then imagine, if you can, riding at the head of several thousand wild, frightened and running cattle, and while riding, crowding your mount against the running cattle trying to force the aminals off their course. Suppose your horse stumbled and threw you in front of the running cattle? Of course, the result of such event is obvious. Talk about daring riders, that was one position the word daring does not express strong enough; sand in your gizzard, as the cowhand use to say, expresses such riders more accurately.

"While on a drive with a herd is when a stampede was liable to cause our worse loss. Then we would be in a strange country and if any of our cattle strayed away, most likely our strays would be a permanent loss. Of course, the critters would eventually mingle some other herd, but if we, from Texas, were driving a herd in Kans., when the run took place we would not be in Kans., during the roundup to cut out our brand.

"Here in Texas, each rancher would have his cowhands working in the roundup crews and as the cattle would be gathered, the different [brands?] would be [separated?], held together and driven back to their home range.

"During the severe storm of the early 80s, cattle drifted for more than 100 miles from their home range. The cattle were scattered and mixed from one end of the range country to the other. Many ranchers didn't know whether or not he still had a herd until after the Spring roundup. "Each Spring and Fall there was held a general roundup at which all ranchers participated. working as one big crew under one boss.

"During the Spring roundup the young stock would be branded, and the young bulls castrated. and the herd counted. During the Fall roundup. the herd was counted and cattle branded which were missed during the spring. All the strays were drifted back to their home range. Those animals among the herd which we would want to market would be cut out and held separated from the other cattle. Such cattle would be herded carefully to keep the critters from straying. We were not so particular about the others.

"My father was among the first who entered the business of driving cattle from Texas, to the Northern market, when the railroad penertrated into Kansas..

"Father did not have much cash. In fact, when he made his first trip, he had just about enough cash to pay traveling expenses, and no wages. He cut out all the critters in our herd which were ready for the market, and then gathered small bunches of cattle from small ranchers to make up a herd of 3500 head. "Those cattle gathered from other ranchers were not for at the time we gathered the animals, but driven to the market and sold, and then paid for. No note or other evidence of debt was given by father to any of the ranchers for whom he took cattle to market. When he returned, he paid each person the money due, less their share of the expense incurred making the drive and a precentage.

"We used a crew of from 12 to 14 men to handle a herd of 3500 cattle. I made two drives as a member of the driving crew. I worked as one of the pointers. A pointer is a term applied to the rider who rides at the side of the herd keeping the animals together and headed in the proper direction. "After we had gathered the herd to be driven, we would make an early start in the morning and drive the herd at a fast walking gait all day. The purpose for[making a hard drive the first day, was to be far away from the home bedding ground as possible the first night. If a herd would be near their home ground when bedding time arrived, they would give us considerable trouble by trying to drift back to their ususal bedding ground.

. "With each days drive, the critters would become accustomed to the drive and the work of handling the herd would, likewise, become easier. After the first day we would allow the animals to take their own time and graze, but we keep the herd headed up the trail always. The pointers would allow the animals to spread out a distance of about a mile. Thus each critter would have a chance to get grass. If we would want to move the herd faster than their grazing gait, we would tighten up. That is to say, reduce the spread and urge the animals forward. Often we would want to make some certain point for bedding or reach a watering hole and would have to force drive. "A herd of cattle will travel about 12 miles a day and graze the while, but the distance a herd would travel, as the crow flys, would average about seven miles.

"We followed the Chisholm Trail out of Coryell co., going through Hill, Johnson. Tarrant, Wise, Montigue and Clay Counties. Thence West to Doan's Crossing of the Red River and into the Territory (now Okla.,). The trail was a general course Northward. We followed where the grazing and water was sufficent. "From many directions in Texas, cattle were trailed to Doan's crossing and during the hight of cattle driving, one could see herds fording the Red River most any time of the day.

"While driving a herd it was necessary to maintain constant watch over the herd at night. We worked four night riders and the four riders worked four hour shifts and then would be releaved by another crew of four. Of course, the remainder of the crew were close at hand and could be called to duty in a few minutes. We all slept with most of our cloth on, scattered around the chuck wagon and if called to ride, all we had to do was to pull on our boots and grab our hat, in the event anything happened needing our help.

"Stampedes were the thing we dreaded, therefore, the night rider not only watched the critters, but kept watch for anything which may approach the herd and scare it. Any unsual noise or object may scare one or two animals and their fright is taken up by the rest of the herd quickly. Because of that fact, every precaution was excersized to not disturb the cattle.

"We always prayed and trusted for good weather while on trail drive. When a strom was approaching we were always set for anything and looked for tho worst to happen with the herd.

"When a storm descends on a herd of cattle with lightening flashing and thunder clapping, the animals are going to move. [Especially so when the herd are on strange ground. A herd will drift with a strom and if lightening stricks close to a herd a stampede is most sure to follow. During a strom, at night, is the worst time for a stampede to accure.

"One must expect stampedes with cattle on a drive. We had to contend with stampedes [frequently?], on the two drives I made. We handled the runs successfully with the exception of two. I shall explain what we experienced one night while in the Territory.

"The weather was one of those real Territory busters , which contain all the elements: wind, rain, lightening, and thunder.

"At the start of the storm, the herd was fretful, but we were holding it successfully, until a clap of thunder hit in the center of the cattle. That thunder seemed to split and start the herd running in several directions form the point of the hit. The herd did not act, as a running herd usually did which is all run in the same direction, but it divided into several directions. "Of course, it being dark, we could not see except when the lightening flashed, but the cows was riding trying to keep the animals together. We knew it was impossible to stop the run until the cattle became run down or the storm stopped. "The storm stopped after an hour's time and we put what critters were left to milling, but we had only half of the herd. The rest were scattered to' the four winds'. which properly expresses the condition.

"We spent four days attempting to gather our herd, but were compelled to be satisfied with about [?] of the cattle. Some of the ranchers in the Territory had a few cattle added to their herd. This incident took place before the Cattlemen's Association was organized. and had extended its influence beyond Texas. "The barganing of the present Cattlemens's Association was organized in 1877. and the organization soon established rule whereby strays picked up by others would be sold and the owner paid the salo money through the Association.

"After the Cattlemen's Association became organized, about the only loss the drovers suffered from straying animals would be when the cattle fell into the hands of rustlers. The rustlers would blot the brand, and by several methods change the brands. However, a large number of those cattle were intercepted, by the Association's inspectors, at the markets and thousand of dollars were saved for the ranchers by the inspectors.

"When a drover or rancher lost cattle, the fact was reported to the Association's inspection department. If the critters were offered for sale at any of the markets containing the reported brands or brands which showed evidence of being tampered with, the seller would be compelled to give satisfactory account of how he came into possession of the cattle in question. If the party failed to produce the necessary facts, the cattle were sold and the money paid to the rightful owner, less expense.

"Rustling became a well organized business in many sections of the range country. Coryell co., and its vicinity, was one of the localities where a tolerable lot of rustler trouble existed. "The condition became so bad that the ranchers were forced to organized and deal with the situation directly. Committees were organized to handle the rustlers. Those committees would notify a rustler to leave the community. If the party failed to heed the demand, then the committee would catch the accused and hold a trail.

The trials were under a kangraoo court arrangement. One member of the committee would act as the judge, another the prosecutor. The evidence for and against would be heard. The verdict would be rendered according to the majority vote of the committee. Many were sentenced to be hanged and the hanging would take place on the spot. Some of the accused were turned loose with a warning and given another chance.

"The actions of the committees in Coryell co., had a wholesome effect on the rustlers and their depredations were checked considerably.

"At the age of 17, I entered Baylor university at Waco and spent two years at Baylor and then engaged in teaching school in the rual districts for a period of two years. Following my period of teaching. I again entered the cattle business. I returned to Coryell co., and took charge of my father's ranch and continued in the business until the panic of 1893.

"At the time I returned to ranching, which was in 1876, the T.P. railroad had entered Fort Worth, then our market for cattle was Fort Worth.

"About this time conditions changed rapidly, due to fencing and settlers taking up land for cultivation. The large ranchers moved farther West and the small rancher fenced his range. By the Panic of 1893, the open range virtually disappeared and cattle drives became a thing of the past!


The cattle drive era was a unique period in American history, but it did not last long. The days of the long drives were coming to an end by the 1890s. The railroads continued to build lines further west into Kansas and eventually lines were built to Ft. Worth, shrinking the drives from South Texas significantly. Also, Texas cattle carried ticks which in turn carried a disease called Texas Fever that destroyed large herds of cattle. As settlers moved west, they planted crops around which the cowboys had to take their cattle herds. Barbed wire was a major factor in ending the long cattle drives. By 1881 there were 1229 United States government patents for wire. Also, the invention of the refrigerated car by Gustavus Swift led to the decline of the long drive. But the major blizzards that stuck the midwest in the 1880's killing millions of cows in the feeder lots was the final blow to perhaps the most colorful period in western history.


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