As we have been traveling this trip, I had the idea to start a column called “Homeschool Highway.”
We pulled over at a Kansas Rest Stop and I noticed this sign for the Chisholm Trail. The next time you are driving up to Kansas from Dallas/Fort Worth via Oklahoma City, think about all of those miles. Now think about being on horseback, there’s 10-12 of you cowboys and 2500 head of cattle. Not to mention, you have a remuda of extra horses and a chuck wagon following. There are no highways or acres upon acres of corn, just the Great Plains and perhaps a few Native Americans.
The Chisholm Trail was started by Jesse Chisholm, a half-Cherokee Tennessee trader and Delaware scout and cattle rancher Black Beaver. Texas ranchers from South Texas through North Texas made their way up the trail to the railheads in Kansas. That gives you something else to think about. There were no closer railheads to Texas than Kansas. From 1867 to 1871 the trail ended in Abilene, Kansas, but eventually, railroads were added further south in Newton and Wichita. From 1883 to 1887, the end of the trail was Caldwell. The trail technically started at the trading post at the Red River and ended at the Kansas City trading post, both of which were owned by Jesse Chisholm.
The trail had many obstacles along the way, particularly the Red River in the Arkansas River in the springtime. It was also the start of tolls, as Oklahoma was Indian Territory at the time, trail bosses were charged 10 cents a head to local tribes.
So why would ranchers travel so far? Well in 1866, cattle in Texas were only valued at $4 per head, while they were $40 per head on the coasts. It was definitely worth it for ranchers to make the trip.