Chisum Trail

John Chisum got involved in the cattle business in 1854 and became one of the first to send his herds to New Mexico. He purchased land along the Pecos River and eventually became the owner of a large ranch and over 100,000 head of cattle.

When Joseph McCoy established Abilene in 1867 he made full use of the trail used by Chisum. The route ran north across central Texas and the Indian Territory in Oklahoma before reaching Kansas. The Chisum Trail was popular with cowboys as it had plenty of grass and the rivers Colorado, Brazos, Red, Cimarron, Canadian and Arkansas provided constant supply of water for the cattle.

It is estimated that between 1867 and 1871 about 1.5 million longhorns took the Chisum Trail to Abilene. When Dodge City replaced Abilene as the major cattle town in Kansas, the Chisum Trail branched off near Caldwell.

Primary Sources

(1) John Wesley Hardin, Life of John Wesley Hardin as Written by Himself (1896)

About the last of February we got all our cattle branded and started for Abilene, Kansas, about the 1st of March. Jim Clements and I were to take these 1,200 head of cattle up to Abilene and Manning; Gip and Joe Clements were to follow with a herd belonging to Doc Bumett. Jim and I were getting $150 per month.

Nothing of importance happened until we got to Williamson County, where all the hands caught the measles except Jim and myself. We camped about two miles south of Corn Hill and there we rested up and recruited. I spent the time doctoring my sick companions, cooking, and branding cattle.

After several weeks of travel we crossed Red River at a point called Red River Station, or Bluff, north of Montague County. We were now in the Indian country and two white men had been killed by Indians about two weeks before we arrived at the town. Of course, all the talk was Indians and everybody dreaded them. We were now on what is called the Chisum Trail and game of all kinds abounded: buffalo, antelope, and other wild animals too numerous to mention. There were a great many cattle driven that year from Texas. The day we crossed Red River about fifteen herds had crossed, and of course we intended to keep close together going through the Nation for our mutual protection. The trail was thus one line of cattle and you were never out of sight of a herd. I was just about as much afraid of an Indian as I was of a coon. In fact, I was anxious to meet some on the warpath.