CHISHOLM TRAIL, a cattle trail leading north from Texas, across Oklahoma, to Abilene, Kansas. The southern extension of the Chisholm Trail originated near San Antonio, Texas. From there it ran north and a little east to the Red River, which it crossed a few miles from present-day Ringgold, Texas. It continued north across Oklahoma to Caldwell, Kansas. From Caldwell it ran north and a little east past Wichita to Abilene, Kansas. At the close of the Civil War, the low price of cattle in Texas and the much higher prices in the North and East encouraged many Texas ranchmen to drive large herds north to market. In 1867 the establishment of a cattle depot and shipping point at Abilene, Kansas, brought many herds there for shipping to market over the southern branch of the Union Pacific Railway. Many of these cattle traveled over the Chisholm Trail, which quickly became the most popular route for driving cattle north from Texas.
After 1871, the Chisholm Trail decreased in significance as Abilene lost its preeminence as a shipping point for Texas cattle. Instead, Dodge City, Kansas, became the chief shipping point, and another trail farther west gained paramount importance. In 1880, however, the extension of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway to Caldwell, Kansas, again made the Chisholm Trail a vital route for driving Texas cattle to the North. It retained this position until the building of additional trunk lines of railway south into Texas caused rail shipments to replace trail driving in bringing Texas cattle north to market.
Worcester, Donald Emmet. The Chisholm Trail: High Road of the Cattle Kingdom. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980.
Edward EverettDale/a. e.
The Chisholm Trail originated in southern Texas and ran about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to its end at Abilene, Kansas. In 1866 the route was first traveled by American frontiersman Jesse Chisholm (1806?–1868?) as he drove a wagon from the Mexican border, through Texas, and across Indian Territory (presentday Oklahoma) to a trading post in Kansas. The following year, the Union Pacific Railroad reached Abilene. Cattle ranchers in Texas hired cowboys to round up their livestock on the open range and drive their herds to the depot. Cowboys followed Chisholm's path to Abilene. There the herds were loaded onto trains and transported to markets in the eastern United States, where the demand for beef increased growth in the cattle industry after the American Civil War (1861–1865). Between 1867 and 1870 cowboys drove about 1.5 million cattle along the Chisholm Trail. As the railways pushed westward, so did the route of the trail drive. At the ends of the trails, cities including Abilene and Dodge City, Kansas, became cow towns. As the railroad continued to expand into previously remote areas, the use of the trails declined.
See also: Cattle Drives, Cow Towns, Cowboys, Open Range
Chisholm Trail, route over which vast herds of cattle were driven from Texas to the railheads in Kansas after the Civil War. Its name is generally believed to come from Jesse Chisholm, a part-Cherokee trader who, in the spring of 1866, drove his wagon, heavily loaded with buffalo hides, through the Indian Territory that is now Oklahoma to his trading post near Wichita, Kans., the wheels cutting deep ruts in the prairie. These marked a route followed for almost two decades by traders and by drovers bringing cattle to shipping points and markets in Kansas. Hundreds of thousands of Texas longhorns were driven north annually, following the Eastern and Western trails in Texas to the Chisholm Trail, which became celebrated in frontier lore and cowboy ballads. With the development of railroads and the introduction of wire fencing, the trail fell into disuse, although traces of it can still be seen.
See studies by W. Gard (1954) and B. J. Fletcher (1968).