Historical Details

Texas-Montana Trail

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 07/11/1940

Important Era in Wyoming's History

By Hans Gautschi

The name Texas Trail naturally brings to us thoughts of a cattle trail from Texas to some place in the west, the fact that there were numerous Texas trails, hundreds if small trails converging to three or four major trails which again branched out into other trails to distant points at the Chisholm, California, Goodnight, Pecos, Shawnee, Sedalia, McCoy, Yellowstone, Dakota, Cheyenne, Montana and eastern trails. These that concern us particularly in this section are the Montana, Goodnight and Yellowstone because feeders from these trails stocked the range of Wyoming and Montana.

By The Spaniards

In going into the history of the cattle industry in the west it seems appropriate to start with the original stocking of cattle in Texas. According to the best available information the Texas herds originated from cattle turned out in Mexico and Texas which multiplied so fast that by 1830 there were approximately one hundred thousand head in the state with no market for then and hence practically of no value; by 1860 there were three and one-half million head turned in for taxation, which would imply that this was a very low figure. In 1840 small herds were trailed to New Orleans and in 1850 cattle were trailed as far as San Francisco over what was known as the California trail.

Early in December of 1864, 1 Government trader with a wagon train of supplies drawn by oxen was on its way to Camp Douglas, Utah but on being overtaken on the plains of Wyoming by an unusually severe snowstorm they were compelled to go into winter quarters and having no feed for their cattle they were turned out on the prairie where they were naturally expected to perish, however in the spring, instead of losing then they found them in better shape that when turned out to die. Similar experiences by other caravans following the California and Oregon trails made it apparent that this was the finest range country in the United States so that men with courage and vision started what developed into a great industry and as soon as the country was made safe for settlement capital was brought in from the east as well as from Europe and the ranges of the territory of Wyoming were stocked with cattle from the overflowing ranges of Texas.

Adventurous men entered into the business of trailing cattle from Texas to the northern ranges shortly after the Civil War, some of them making their homes at the end of the trail while others returned to continue their work on the trail because they liked the hazards and hardships which went with it. These men are responsible for the settlement of Wyoming and began the development and encouraged the growth of our great state.

At one time the cattle men went so far as to ask Congress to set aside a wide strip of land from Texas to the to the north to be perpetuated as a permanent trail because of the encroachment of settlers who obstructed the trail and took toll from the drives for crossing their lands.

Until about 1875 the section of Wyoming north of the Platte was still in the hands of the Indians and as soon as the Government moved then father north and to other reservations the trails were extended to northeastern Wyoming and Montana and the country was soon dotted with large ranches, some of which are still operating under the original brands if not under the same ownership.

During most of the period of cattle drives a steer was worth ten dollars in Texas and it cost practically nothing to raise them.  It took about three months to trail a herd from Texas to Montana at a cost of approximately one dollar per head. When the railroads came and trailing had to stop because of settlement and fencing, it cost from $7.50 to $10.00 per head to ship the same distance.

The method of gathering herds and starting the drives from Texas is told by the late Senator John B. Kendrick in his description of a drive made in 1887 from which the following is taken in part from “The Cattleman’s Frontier” by Pegler.

Two weeks in March were taken in reviewing steers from one to five years old from various ranches near Victoria, Texas, placed in large pens the steers were roped and thrown by the front feet by Mexicans and Negroes who were skilled at the work. All steers were road branded and the herd started north early in April. The average distance traveled per day was from 15 to 18 miles. The foreman J.D. Wolfjen divided his ten or twelve men into two reliefs during the day and four during the night, when each guard was to be on duty 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The last guard called the cook and turned the cattle from the night bed of two or three acres, to graze northward until seven or eight o’clock. After breakfast the foreman would go one ahead followed by the cook and horse wrangler with the wagon and locate water and campsite for noon camp. In the meantime the entire force of men would bunch the cattle and head them toward the trail.


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Record Type Name
Historical Texas Trail born with mass exodus to the north View Record