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American History
The Chisholms
contributed by Lu Hickey


For hundreds of years the Chisholm name has left significant marks in American History.

Adam Chisholm, captured at Preston and was transported to American on the Elizabeth and Ann from Liverpool 29 June 1710.

Donald Chisholm, from Blairy was in Glengarry's regiment.  Was held prisoner at Inverness and transported 21 March 1747.

Donald Chisholm, a farmer from Glenmoriston. Served in Glengarry's regiment. Prisoner at Inverness and transported 21 March 1747.

John Chisholm was a weaver from Invercannich. Served in Chisholm's regiment. Transported from London 31 March 1747.

Records indicate James Chisholm married Catherine _____at Robeson County NC in 1803, he died in 1833 and is buried at Stewartsville NC.

Jesse Chisholm himself was an early day "chain store" having prosperous trading posts along the cattle trails beginning in South Texas north to Abilene Kansas. The original Chisholm Trail actually started as a trade route through Indian Territory from Fort Leavonworth and Fort Riley in 1860, continuing southwardly to the Pecos River and near Cuero Texas.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries explorers and emigrants from Spain brought with them a wild raw-boned strain of cattle.  Ranchers were stocked with these hardy critters. The animals adapted easily to the warm dry climate and rugged conditions.  The multiplied rapidly and soon began spilling over into Texas from Mexico.

When the civil war ended, there were more than five million head roaming the country on the Texas  side looking for food and water.  They were dangerous when cornered, spooked easily, pawing the ground and snorting before attacking a human being with their long horns.

Because of the limited available markets, herds were building up faster than they could be slaughtered. Texas were becoming cattle poor. There was a great need for more markets, packers and consumers. The only available markets were a few gulf ports and other southern cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.

Some markets became flooded with cattle.  Other disadvantages, such as embargoes, Indians, diseases and other factors kept the available markets unsteady.  At times the market price was good and others very low, dipping from ten dollars to three dollars a head.  Thousands were slaughtered for their hides, tallow, hoofs and horns. some cattlemen who had supplied beef to the army were paid in Confederate money which was found to be worthless.

Back east and up north beef was growing in demand, but how to get the wild cattle from South Texas to the railheads up north posed a problem.  Several attempts had been made, but the interference was too strong and not profitable and a very big gamble.

On northern drives toward Missouri, Kansas and Illinois were turned back for fear of fever, Indians, anti-herd laws, stampedes and border patrol rustlers.  Some Indian tribes not only objected to cattlemen crossing their land but extracted huge fees of money or cattle and would then sometimes killed the drovers.  Honest homesteaders bitterly resented the herds of wild cattle and organized against them.

A young ambitious Illinois lawyer named Joseph McCoy interested in the livestock trade, became more interested in cattle when he decided more money could be made in this business than in practicing law.  He had keen insight and the financial backing that made him one of the early day tycoons.

Sensational developments were in the making in the cattle country, and they came fast, McCoy felt there had to be a way to get the cattle to market.  In the early spring of 1867 he heeded the advice of the old saying: "Go west young man, go west" and that he did.

With assistance from his two brothers and a few close friends he was determined to build a stockyard and market to which Texas drovers could drive their cattle unmolested, and with reasonable assurance of finding an honest buyer.

McCoy began first to check and study maps.  His first consideration was Fort Smith Arkansas, from where the river boats could transport cattle to Cairo Illinois, thence by rail to various markets.  But McCoy never made it that far.  He took a train to Kansas City, a new little town on the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.

A member of a firm that trade goods for cattle in the Indian Territory along the Red River in Texas told McCoy of the advantages of Central Kansas as a shipping point.  The Kansas Pacific railroad was building westward from Kansas City and McCoy saw this as a lucrative business possibility.

McCoy rode the train to the end of the line west of Abilene. He made good usage of his time there by talking to the townspeople about what they thought of building a stockyard.  He received some encouragement but went on west to the village of Solomon and Salina where he received harsh rebuffs. The homesteaders did not want anything to do with longhorns from Texas, thusly, McCoy returned to Abilene and made a deal that turned that town into the first roaring cattle town of the west.

McCoy ran into another good piece of luck when he met a settler named Charley Thompson who had came west in 1857 and they teamed up in a land deal business.  They acquired a section of land that included the townsite of Abilene which they staked out. Tim Hershey had land for sale, he, being educate back east as a civil engineer knew how to handle land office transactions, negotiated to sell the entire townsite of 480 acres to McCoy for $5.00 per acre or $2400.00.  McCoy agreeable headed for St. Louis to raise the capital and to work out an agreement with the railroad, which he had few problems as they were looking for new business to help finance construction onwards to Denver.

Col. John Myers was a prominent Texas  cattle drover from Lockhart, drove a herd of 600 cattle from Texas to Utah in 1866.  This feat plus the help and advice that Myers gave McCoy probably did more to influence the "trail-rail" adventure than anyone or anything else.

McCoy asked Col. Myers what the Texas drovers needed to persuade them to drive their cattle to Kansas. The reply " An honest market where we can sell our cattle and not be hounded by rascals and thieves".  This prompted McCoy to enquire::"Could you bring me twenty five thousand head if I opened such a place?"  Col. Myers replied:"We could bring you a million."

THE BIRTH OF THE CHISHOLM TRAIL

Jessie Chisholm was a prosperous cattleman in that he had several trading posts along the routes used by the Union forces.. He remained neutral during the civil war and advised Indian tribes to do the same. Soon after the war broke out, he led a large band of peaceful Indians and whites north of Wichita Kansas.  They remained there throughout the war and by the time the fighting was over, Chisholm had another important trading post in his organization. After the war, Chisholm grouped the wagon trains together again and took the people back south to their homes.  On the return trip south, he marked the trail that eventually became the worlds most famous cattle trail.

A few years later while out on one of his expeditions, he became ill from food poisoning and died in 1868 at the age of 63.  He was buried near Watonga Oklahoma.  An historical marker has been erected at his grave site.

If the Texas cattle trade had not sprung up at this time, the name Jesse Chisholm would never have achieved fame in history.  As the longhorns began to move, there were trails from just about every point, they were gradually drawn into a long path from South Texas to Kansas on the Chisholm Trail. The drovers gave the name of Chisholm to the 900 mile trail, which was the trail of tears, or road of no return for the longhorns.

The main stem of the trail from deep in the heart of Texas crossed many major rivers and smaller streams with flash floods and tornados always a threat.  Herding a large herd of longhorns safely across a river, even under calm circumstances, required the skill of an experience trail boss and good cowhands.  Indians were always around to barter.  Stampedes were a constant threat.

The longer the trail was used the wider it became.  In 1870 through 1872, it became three miles wide most of the way across the 900 miles. The first herd to arrive in Abilene was late August 1867.  Eventually with the expansion of railroads, the movement along the trails became extinct.

The history of the Chisholm Trail and the hardy Scotsman that ram-rodded it is a memory that will live forever. A historical marker north of Wichita Kansas reads:

"At the close of the civil war when millions of longhorns were left on the plains of Texas without a market, the Union Pacific was building west across Kansas.  Joseph McCoy, an Illinois stockman, believed these cattle could be herded over the prairies for shipment.  He built stockyards at Abilene and sent agents to notify Texas cattlemen.  The trail he suggested ran from the Red River in Texas and took its name from Jesse Chisholm, Indian Trader.  In 1867, the first drives were made and during the next five years more than a million head moved north."


 

 


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