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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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