|Know Your History!
The cattle that were driven up the trail served
several purposes, and not all purposes were
benevolent. They meant profit and
opportunity, but also geared up the movement
to rid the West of the buffalo and therefore
drive the Indian to extinction.
A Range Recipe
Sourdough biscuits were staples of the chuck
wagon. So if you want to try to make your own
the way the cowboys did, feel free to try this
You'll need to make your own yeast first. This is
called the "starter."
1. Boil 2 medium potatoes, cut up, in 3 cups of
water until tender - or boil the skins of 4 medium
2. Take out the potatoes and drain off about a
cup of water.
3. In a mason jar, mix the remaining potato water
with 2 cups of flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Cover the jar with a lid or cloth, then keep in a
4. Ferment for about 2 days, stirring daily and
praying for bubbles in the mixture (that'll tell you
that the yeast is living)
5. Keep the jar for as long as you want, but once
a week add 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water,
otherwise the yeast will die. Also, always keep a
cup of mixture in the jar, or you won't have any
To make the biscuits:
1. Combine half a cup of starter with 1 cup of milk
in a glass bowl, then let it sit overnight.
2. Add 1 tsp of baking powder, 3/4 tsp of salt, 1/4
tsp of baking soda, ½ cup of flour. Stir it lightly,
then knead it. Don't knead it too much, or the
biscuits will be tough. Just enough to make a
3. Pinch some dough off or roll it (not too thin)
and cut out rounds with a jelly glass. Grease a
pan and put the biscuits close together in a 350
degree oven until they become a light golden
4. They should be flaky and light, or you did
something wrong. Just don't blame the recipe!
|End of the Trail marker in Abilene, Kansas
|Retracing the Trail
The Chisholm Trail can be retraced on US Highway 81. The original trail runs a mile or five
west of the road, and large swaths of land, cut by the hooves of the longhorn, can still be
seen in several parts of Oklahoma. We'll start in Fort Worth, where the feeder trails merged
to form one big push into Indian Territory. The longest feeder trail extended into
Brownsville at the delta of the Rio Grande.
FORT WORTH: Fort Worth is truly a showplace for southwestern culture, yet it still proudly
holds onto its cow town reputation. The Stockyards, north of downtown, holds daily cattle
drives complete with official longhorns and cowboys. Although used during the Chisholm
Trail days as a hold over for the cattle before the journey northward, the Stockyards are
now a remnant of a later past, when the Armour and Swift processing plants were in high
gear. The holding pens, some converted into shops, are still in good condition; the
excursion train Tarantula takes tourists to Grapevine for a stroll; and a cool museum is
housed in the Exchange Building. The area is pretty touristy, and many foreign visitors
come to get an authentic feel for the Wild West. The stockyards also host the Chisholm
Trail Roundup in June. In downtown, make sure to visit Sundance Square, with its grand
mural of the Chisholm Trail - this was once known as Hell's Half Acre, where the cowboys
would let loose one last time before heading north. For more information, visit
fortworth.com or call the Convention and Visitor's Bureau at 800-433-5747.
DECATUR: A charming city where patron and rancher
Waggoner left his indelible mark. The Baptist College
building (oldest junior college in the nation) is now the
Wise County Heritage Museum. A very interesting Tourist
Camp dating from the 1920s lies on Business 81. Call the
Chamber of Commerce at 940-627-3107 or visit
decaturtx.org for more information.
RED RIVER STATION: This is where the cattle crossed the
Red River into Indian Territory. There used to be a saloon
and a blacksmith shop - now there's nothing save for a
historical marker. The crossing is located on private land,
but is accessible from Red River Station Road off of FM 2849.
The river isn't visible from the site anymore, thanks to shifting
sandbanks - but when it was there, thousands of cattle
crossed at one time, allowing a (fearless) cowboy to walk
on the backs of the cattle and never get his feet wet.
SPANISH FORT: On FM 103, north of US 82. A few miles to the east from Red River Station,
Spanish Fort, now a ghost town, was once a bustling place where cowboys could rest up,
buy supplies, and even have their boots mended by H.J. Justin.
FLEETWOOD: About 5 miles down Main Street in Terral on US 8. This town was established
a few years after the first crossing, where a trading post was set up. It was the first place of
reference in Indian Territory before the long, isolated walk ahead. The old store has been
replaced by a newer structure, which is now abandoned.
RYAN: Check out the mural on a downtown building. East of the town's main intersection
sits a quiet, roadside park, where cattle bedded down near a stream.
WAURIKA: Right off US 81 and US 70 you'll find the Chisholm Trail Museum, an interpretive
museum with some original artifacts. It's opened only on weekends from 10a-4p, and is
closed the first Sunday of the month and on any holiday that falls on a weekend. Call the
Chamber of Commerce at 580-228-2081 to find out more.
ADDINGTON: On Eva Road (north of downtown, turn east), Monument Hill beckons. As the
largest hill for miles around, it served as a camp site and look out for cowboys on the trail.
The monument, carved from beautiful red granite, tells the history of the trail on the four
sides of its base. The grave of trail driver Tom Latimore (died 1944) lies in the southeast
corner. Standing on this hill, overlooking the vast Plains on all sides, one can truly
visualize the immense undertaking of the Chisholm Trail.
DUNCAN: This city is very proud of its Chisholm Trail heritage. In April - May it hosts
Chisholm Trail Days and Rodeo, and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center (1000 N 29th Street),
a state-of-the-art interpretive center, is open daily. It is also home to the On the Chisholm
Trail Association and a world class statue by Paul Moore showing a cattle drive. Also visit
Stephens County Museum on US 81. Downtown commemorates several of its great citizens,
including actor/ director Ron Howard (Opie!) Contact the Duncan Convention and Tourism
Bureau at 800-782-7167 or duncanok.org.
EL RENO: On US 81 and historic US 66, northwest of Oklahoma City. Visit the Canadian
County Museum in the train depot. This is also close to the site where Jesse Chisholm is
buried. His grave is located near the northern county line by Greenfield and Geary (take I
40 west to US 270/281 north). His tombstone reads, "No one left his home cold or hungry."
The Chamber of Commerce can tell you more. Call 405-262-1188.
KINGFISHER: This town is very proud of its Chisholm Trail heritage. The Chisholm Trail
Museum is located directly on the trail and displays many everyday cowboy artifacts. Visit
the open-air museum, a tribute to homesteading, and also see the Seay Mansion, home of
the 2nd territorial governor. Call Chamber of Commerce at 405-375-4445.
DOVER: Little Dover used to be the Red Fort Station, a shipping point for cattle on the trail.
ENID: Enid was voted one of the best cities in America to live. It definitely is one of
Oklahoma's most history-minded towns. The Humphrey Heritage Village depicts life during
the land rush. In nearby Aline (US 60/412 west to OK 8/58 south) the only sod house left in
the Southwest is on display. The Cherokee Strip Museum focuses on the land rush. The
Chamber of Commerce can direct you at either enidchamber.com or 580-237-2494.
JEFFERSON: Visit the Medford Homesteader Monument by the Salt Fork of the Arkansas
CALDWELL: You'll see silouhettes of cowboys and
longhorn as soon as you enter into Kansas - check them
out as you read the historical marker. This small town
was called the "Border Queen" and was the first piece
of American civilization that the cowboys encountered
in the early years. Later, Caldwell was a rail stop. The
city hosts a Chisholm Trail Festival in early May. Call
the Chamber of Commerce at (620) 845-6666 or
WICHITA: Apart from Fort Worth, Wichita's the biggest
city on the trail and has tons to offer for its visitors. The city has collected its Chisholm Trail
memories in the Old Cowtown Museum, an open air museum depicting life during the cattle
drives. Call the Tourist Bureau at 800-288-9424 or go to visitwichita.com for more
ABILENE: Abilene is the "final destination" for the cows on the Chisholm Trail. There's a
Chisholm Trail Festival and the Old Abilene Town and Museum, complete with entertaining
gun fights. President Eisenhower and his family are buried on the grounds of his house,
which is open for tours. Call the Visitor's Bureau at 800-569-5915 or go to abileneks.com.
I waded through tons of reading material to bring
you the most accurate information possible about
the Chisholm Trail.
I found discrepancies regarding the actual time
span of the Chisholm Trail, the number of cattle
that crossed the Red River (anywhere from
260,00 to one million have been estimated), and
the authentic towns on the route. Also, Texas
claims to be part of the Chisholm Trail, but no
trail was ever officially designated as such by
You'll notice that many of the original sites are
now only ghost towns, and some don't even have
enough artifacts left to be called ghost towns. A
lot of the trail is paved over, plowed over, planted
with trees - but in certain spots the deep grooves
left by the cattle are still visible, and seeing them
can give chills to a history nut. Here are the
books that I've read and recommend:
The Chisholm Trail by Wayne Gard. This is the
most authoritative book about the trail, with
historical anecdotes and written in a very easy
Jesse Chisholm: Trail Blazer, Sam Houston's
Trouble-Shooter Friend, Kin to the Cherokee by
Ralph B. Cushman. This biography focuses on
Chisholm's career as a peacemaker between the
Comanche and the US.
Storm & Stampede on the Chisholm Trail by
Hubert E. Collins; Warpath & Cattle Trail by
Hubert E. Collins, William W. Savage, and James
H. Lazalier (newer edition of Storm & Stampede).
This book is a collection of memories by the
author about ranching days in Oklahoma.
Chisholm Trail and Other Routes by T.U. Taylor.
Published in 1936, this is one of the earliest
accounts of the trail.
The Chisholm Trail: High Road of the Cattle
Kingdom by Don Worcester. A good essay
published for the Fort Worth Historical Society.
A Bride on the Old Chisholm Trail in 1886 by
Mary Taylor Bunton. Memories of a Wild West
pioneer, published in 1939.
|The trail today by Addington, Oklahoma
|Grave of trail driver at Addington Monument
|A Chisholm Trail drive. From the Library of Congress.
|Retracing the Chisholm Trail
|Trees planted as a shelter belt near Red River
|The Stonewall Saloon in St. Jo, Texas, became a
place for business and recreation for drovers
following the "beef trails."
|Many of the towns that today line US 81 in
Oklahoma are not contemporaries of the
Chisholm Trail, like Ryan.
|Take your horse, cattle, chuckwagon, biscuits, etc. and read about the Chisholm Trail!