The Chisholm Trail (Cornerstones of Freedom)
What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the
1. The Chisholm Trail
runs between which two locations?
a) Nashville and Natchez
b) Missouri and New Mexico
c) Missouri and Oregon
d) San Antonio and Abilene
d) San Antonio and Abilene. The Chisholm
Trail was a north/south route used for cattle drives from San
Antonio, Texas, to Abilene, Kansas. Other routes were the Goodnight-Loving
Trail, the Kansas Trail, and the Shawnee Trail. These routes were
established by the American Indians on buffalo hunts, by traders
in their wagons, and by settlers moving into Texas. Did
you know Texas is called the Lone Star State?
Texas cattle were a special breed. They
were called longhorns. Did you know
they got their name because of their wide, sharp horns? They were
descendants of the Spanish cattle Christopher Columbus had brought
with him on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493. The first
cattle to reach Texas were probably brought by Spanish explorer
Vásquez de Coronado on his search
for the Seven Cities of Gold in 1541. When the Spanish explorers
left, the animals roamed free. By 1715, the original herds had
Longhorns were very adaptable to their
new surroundings. They were long-legged and able to walk great
distances. They could go without water for extended periods. They
had a powerful sense of smell which helped them find water many
miles away. They found vegetation in even the barest landscapes.
These qualities would help the longhorn during difficult cattle
drives to the north.
By 1730, Spanish missions in Texas had
their own herds of cattle. In 1770, the mission in Goliad had
40,000 head of cattle. This was the beginning of the great cattle
industry in Texas.
2. What was the reason
for the first cattle drives in Texas in the 1830's?
a) Cowboys were looking for new markets to sell their cattle
b) The cattle pulled the wagon trains
c) As settlers built new towns, the cattle moved north to find
d) Texas was flooded in the 1830's, and the cattle moved to higher
a) Cowboys were looking for new markets
to sell their cattle.
By the late 1830's, cowboys were looking
for new markets to sell their cattle. Cattle drives were used
to reach these new markets. In 1838, James White drove a herd
from Galveston Bay to the Mississippi River. Within a few years,
other cattle drives occurred regularly. In 1846, Edwin Piper drove
1,000 cattle from Texas to Ohio. This was one of the first big
cattle drives. In the 1850's, the Kansas Trail and Shawnee Trail
brought cattle to the North. In 1854, fifty thousand longhorns
were moved from Texas to the North.
3. True or False: In
1860, there were more than 3,000,000 cattle in Texas.
True. In 1830, there were about 100,000 wild cattle in Texas.
By 1850, they were 330,000. In 1860, the number of cattle in Texas
had increased to 3,000,000.
4. What year did the
American Civil War end?
1865. The American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when Robert
E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army to Ulysses S. Grant at
Appomattox Court House, Virginia. 600,000 Americans had died during
the four years of fighting. In 1865, the Union was saved and slavery
The Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865.
During this time, President Abraham Lincoln forbade all trade
with the Confederate states. Texas was a Confederate state. The
cattle drives from Texas to the North stopped.
Some cowboys drove cattle east to Shreveport,
Louisiana. These cattle were used to feed Confederate troops.
When the Union captured Shreveport, the cattle were rerouted to
Mobile, Alabama. The cattle had to swim one mile across the Mississippi
River to reach Mobile.
When the American Civil War ended in 1865,
Texas and the South were devastated. Southern money was worthless,
and jobs were scarce. Texas, however, had an abundance of cattle.
As cities in the North grew and settlers moved west, the demand
for more beef increased and cattle drives resumed. This helped
supply the demand for beef, and it helped reunite the country.
Ranchers decided cattle drives were the
best way to get the cattle from Texas to the North. Steamboats
and railroads were not used. Although steamboats carried goods
over rivers, they were not able to carry enough cattle. Railroads
were still being constructed in Texas, and would take years to
complete. Cattle drives connected the open range with the railroad
in the north. From 1865 to 1885, ranchers drove the cattle to
Kansas towns where the railroad terminals were already completed.
From Kansas, the cattle were shipped to Chicago and other northern
5. Name ONE of the cattle
trails established after the Civil War.
The Chisholm Trail, the Goodnight-Loving Trail, the Kansas Trail,
and the Shawnee Trail. The Chisholm Trail ran from San Antonio,
Texas, to Abilene, Kansas. The Goodnight-Loving Trail ran from
Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Kansas Trail ran from Texas to
Ogallala, Nebraska. The Shawnee Trail ran from near Goliad, Texas,
to Sedalia, Missouri. Did you know
these cattle trails helped supply beef to the nation and reunite
the nation after the Civil War?
6. How many heads were
in a cattle drive?
They could range from a few hundred heads to more than twelve
thousand heads. Usually, there were two thousand to three thousand
A drive was started by "making the gather."
Stray cattle were rounded up and a herd of two thousand to three
thousand heads was gathered. Ranchers combined their cattle to
drive north and chose a cowboy to lead the herd. This cowboy was
called the trail boss. He was trusted with directing the drive,
delivering the longhorns, and bringing back the money.
Cattle drives followed routes established
by the American Indians on buffalo hunts, by traders in their
wagons, and by settlers moving into Texas. The Chisholm Trail
was the most famous of the routes. The other routes were the Goodnight-Loving
Trail, the Kansas Trail, and the Shawnee Trail.
7. Who was Jesse Chisholm?
He was a trader who had driven his wagon up and down a trail from
Wichita, Kansas, to the Washita River in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
Chisholm was born in 1805. His wagon was a general store on wheels
for pioneers, cattle ranchers, American Indians, and soldiers
who lived in and traveled through the area.
Joseph G. McCoy was a cattle broker in
Illinois. A cattle broker is a person who negotiates the sale
of livestock. McCoy recognized the potential of Chisholm's trail.
He also realized the cattle drives would be shorter and safer
if they ended in Abilene, Kansas, because Abilene was on the railroad.
This railroad could connect the longhorn from the Texas ranches
to the northern cities. In June, 1867, McCoy bought his first
parcel of land in Abilene. He then built a barn, a bank, a hotel,
offices, stables, and pens to hold 1,000 cattle. McCoy advertised
his new market.
This new cattle drive trail was called
the Chisholm Trail. It ran from San Antonio, Texas, to Abilene,
The Chisholm Trail had several advantages.
It was farther west which avoided farmers who tried to stop the
passage of cattle on their lands. Streams on the trail were smaller
and easier to cross. There were fewer skirmishes with American
Indians. McCoy's brochures described the advantages. "It is more
direct. It has more prairies, less timber, more small streams
and fewer large ones, altogether better grass and fewer flies
-- no civilized Indian tax or wild Indian disturbances -- than
any other route yet driven over. It is also much shorter because
[it is] more direct from the Red River to Kansas."
In 1867, most of the 40,000 thousand cattle
driven into Kansas, were brought up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene.
In 1868, 75,000 cattle trailed into Abilene. In the next few years,
more and more cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail.
Did you know
Wild Bill Hickok was the marshal in Abilene in 1871? A marshal
is an officer of the U.S. judicial district who performs duties
similar to those of a sheriff. After the cowboys delivered the
herd, they were paid, went to the barber, and headed for the saloon.
Sometimes, it turned rowdy and violent. The law abiding townspeople
of Abilene did not like the Chisholm Trail ending in their town.
The Chisholm Trail was becoming overcrowded.
Cattle drives began swinging west to other Kansas towns. The Atchison,
Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad continued southwest through Kansas.
The railroad brought growth to Kansas towns, including Salina,
Ellsworth, and Dodge City.
At the same time, the railroads were pushing
into Texas. By 1874, railroads connected Texas to St. Louis and
8. What year did the
Chisholm Trail close?
1885. In the mid-1880's, cattle ranchers asked Congress to establish
a national cattle trail stretching from Texas to Canada. The proposal
was not passed. By 1884, the Chisholm Trail was virtually closed.
What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the
Domesticate: To tame
Livestock: Horses, cattle, sheep,
and other animals kept or raised on a farm or ranch
Ordinance: Law or regulation
Prairie: Mostly level, treeless
area of land with fertile soil and covered with coarse grasses
Stampede: Sudden scattering of
cattle or horses in fright
Stockyard: An enclosure with pens
and sheds connected with a slaughterhouse or market for the temporary
keeping of cattle, sheep, pigs, or horses
Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the
Following Questions for Your FREE
a. Describe a typical
Cowboys were rugged, strong, and worked long hours. Some cowboys
were bowlegged from riding horseback for so long. They usually
had long hair and did not shave. They wore wide-brimmed hats to
protect their eyes from the sun and bandannas to keep dust away
from their noses and mouths. A bandanna is a large, colored handkerchief
with spots or figures, usually white on a red or blue background.
For riding, they wore boots with two-inch heels with nickel-plated
spurs and chaps made of calfskin or goatskin. Spurs are pointed
devices attached to the heel of a rider's boot, and chaps are
leather leggings worn over jeans to protect a horseback rider's
In 1843, Englishman William Bollaert visited
San Antonio and describe the cowboy. He wrote, "a rude, uncultivated
race of beings, who pass the greater part of their lives in the
saddle, herding cattle and horses...unused to comfort, and regardless
alike of ease and danger, they have a hardy, brigand, sunburnt
Every cowboy had a saddle and a pistol.
The saddle was an important piece of equipment because cowboys
spent so many hours riding. The revolving pistol was invented
by Samuel Colt and first used in 1839. It became standard equipment
The job of a cowboy was very difficult.
Their jobs began in the spring with the gathering of the herd.
Each cattle was given a special brand called the road brand. A
brand is an identification mark burned onto the animal with a
b. Define ONE of the
following people on a cattle drive:
Boss: The leader of the cattle drive. He was an experienced
and dependable cowboy. He was responsible for thousands of dollars
worth of cattle and for hiring cowboys to drive the herd north.
Cowboys: People who drove cattle. They rode all day, slept
on the ground, weathered storms, and sometimes had to defend their
lives in skirmishes with American Indians or farmers. For this
long and hard work, they were paid between twenty-five dollars
and forty dollars a month. The two most experienced cowboys were
assigned to ride point, at the head of the herd. Next came the
swing riders, and the flank riders. The drag riders rode at the
rear of the herd and had to ride through a lot of dust.
Cook: He drove the chuck wagon and fed the cowboys. He
was sometimes paid more than the cowboys. He was usually the first
one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night. Did
you know the chuck wagon held the supplies and the
provisions for cooking?
Wrangler: He took care of the horse herd. Each cowboy took
several horses on the drive. The wrangler's job was to make sure
these horses received proper care.
c. Describe a typical
day on the cattle drive.
The day started at dawn. The cook prepared breakfast consisting
of salt pork or bacon, hard sourdough biscuits, and some dried
fruit. After breakfast, the cook and wrangler packed up the provisions,
and the cowboys got ready to move out the herd.
The group broke at midday for dinner. The
cowboys ate, and the longhorns grazed. When the cattle began to
lie down, the trail boss knew they were finished eating, and it
was time to get back on the trail.
The trail boss rode ahead and found a spot
near water to camp for the night. As the herd approached the spot,
the cowboys would "ride them down," or gather them into smaller,
more manageable groups. After the cattle drank, the cowboys rode
in smaller circles until the animals were laid down for the night.
The cowboys ate beef for supper and took turns guarding the herd.
The trail boss had the herd travel 25 to
30 miles per day for the first few days. This was called road
breaking. The first few days were the most important because the
longer the cattle moved, the easier they were to handle. When
the herd was well away from home, the pace was slowed to 10 miles
Stampedes were a hazard for cowboys. A
stampede occurred when the longhorn were frightened and tried
to run away. Longhorns were known to stampede at the slightest
disturbance, including a flash of lightning, the clatter of the
cook's pots and pans, or a sneeze from a cowboy. A short stampede
lasted about a mile. A long stampede could take a week to retrieve
all of the cattle.
d. Describe ONE of the
factors leading to the end of the cattle drives on the Chisholm
The law-abiding towns people in Abilene were tired of the
rowdiness and violence. After the cowboys delivered the herd,
they were paid, went to the barber, and headed for the saloon.
Sometimes, it turned violent. The townspeople of Abilene did not
like the Chisholm Trail ending in their town.
The Chisholm Trail was becoming overcrowded. Cattle drives
began swinging west to other Kansas towns. The Atchison, Topeka,
and Santa Fe Railroad continued southwest through Kansas. The
railroad brought growth to Kansas towns, including Salina, Ellsworth,
and Dodge City.
Railroads were pushing into Texas. By 1874, railroads connected
Texas to St. Louis and Kansas City. These railroads competed for
the cattle herds.
Barbed wire was introduced to Texas in the 1870's. Farmers
and ranchers used the barbed wire to enclose their pastures and
block the passage of cattle.
The establishment of more cattle ranchers on the northern
plains resulted in an overabundance of cattle. Cattle was now
available in the northern regions, and consumers no longer needed
beef from Texas.
The population in Kansas increased, and the people (like
the Abilene residents) resisted the cattle drives coming to their
cities. Cowboys were forced to drive their cattle further and
e. Describe ONE of the
ways cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail impacted the United States.
In 1874, Joseph G. McCoy wrote the cattle trade helped
create "an era of better feeling between northern and Texas men
by bringing them in contact with each other in commercial transactions."
Cattle drives helped spur the settlement of the northern
plains, and helped increase the growth of cities like Kansas City,
Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois.
Cattle drives made beef readily available to the nation's
Cattle drives gave incentive to the railroads that eventually
crisscrossed the United States.
Cattle drives helped rebuild Texas after the Civil War.
f. What are the words
to "Home on the Range?"
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.
A home, a home, where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.
Did you know
a range is an area of open land used for a particular purpose?
g. Use five of the words
in Section 2 in a sentence.
Some horses are domesticated
and some are wild.
I visited a ranch last summer, and it had a lot of livestock
in its pens.
Our city has an ordinance
requiring all children to wear a helmet when they ride a bike.
The prairie is a beautiful
area in the Midwest.
I liked the stampede scene
during City Slickers.
The stockyard is located next
to the slaughterhouse.
h. Have a parent or friend give you
a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.
More Valuable Information about The
Trail (Red River Authority of Texas)
Trail Heritage Center Statue and Museum
the Chisholm Trail
of Cattle Drive (Chisholm Trail Heritage Center)
Cowhounds Kid's Pages (Chisholm Trail Heritage Center)