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Red River Station on the Cattle Trail

Updated: Sep 7, 2023


Photo
A cowboy from England has his photograph taken at Red River Station in the 1880s (University of Texas, Arlington).

Red River Station in Montague County, Texas is a ghost of the cattle trail driving past.


I've written about this town a few times before, and its location is documented in my books, Traveling History among the Ghosts and Traveling History up the Cattle Trails and in my video, Monument Hill in Addington, Oklahoma. But sometimes, photos and stories just have to be shared again!


Situated along the river west of Spanish Fort (itself a ghost town!), Red River Station started as a place that meant business, first as a camp for Texas Rangers, then as a post office named Salt Creek, then as a camp for the Tenth Cavalry (known as the Buffalo Soldiers), and then as a cattle handling and camping site during the post-Civil War cattle drives that led bovines from various places in Texas to the Abilene Cattle Trail, which in 1882 was designated the "eastern trail" by the Stockmen's Convention. Before entering Indian Territory along the trail, the drovers camped to let their stock graze and fatten or to wait for the Red River to subside. To paint a picture: in a letter from June 1873, cowboy J.V. Shiner wrote that his outfit had "been encamped here five days, waiting for the Red River to fall. It has been consistently raining for eight to ten days, and the river has been very high. It is estimated that there are about 30,000 cattle in this vicinity waiting to cross the Red River."


Due to the transient nature of the commerce conducted here, residents of Red River Station had to contend with a number of troubles. A gang of horse thieves led by Jim Reed was captured after a shootout at Red River Station in 1874; a forger from Mississippi was arrested at Red River Station in 1881; vigilante justice was perpetrated against a supposed killer from Mexico in 1873; "Jack Haley, a cattleman" was murdered during a quarrel over a blanket (!!!) in 1884; William Linzenby was killed execution-style by a kidnapper in 1885; J.W. Kerr was robbed and murdered along Salt Creek in 1885; and Houston Fleetwood, a Cherokee rancher, was murdered after being accused of having cut a fence in 1888. In 1890, Mrs. J.J. Lyons, who lived at Red River Station, wrote to the Fort Worth Gazette that her husband "went to Dallas to work on the railroad... and has never been heard from since." Whoa!


Amid this calamity and mayhem, a tornado during hit this little settlement of about 250 people, too. What a place!


Red River Station was never slated to have a railroad come through, although there has been speculation about by historians. Newspapers named another place as "Red River station" in this time period, but this place was actually north of Sherman: the town that Houston & Texas Central Railway founded and later called "Red River City."


By the late 1880s, cattle trails had given way to ranching. Trailing took place to stock the ranches after the railroads came to Texas to ship cattle locally. Residents of Red River Station may have moved to the little (now ghostly!) town of Rowland just to the east.


Red River Station is no more but it sure did live up to its name in its brief existence.


Photo
Cowboys from the Goodnight outfit at Red River Station in the 1870s (University of Texas, Arlington).
Photo
Cowboys with their chuck wagon and remuda (extra horses) preparing for the drive in the 1870s (University of Texas, Arlington).

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