An Airplane Trip Over the Chisholm Trail - By T. U. Taylor, Austin, Texas.
[From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, August, 1939]
(Following is a travelogue given by Dean T. U. Taylor at the Bandera County Old Settlers Jubilee at Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, June 3, 1939, under the title of "A One-Day Trip Over the Old Chisholm Trail.")
My Friends and Pioneers of Texas:
I shall take you on a trip up the Chisholm Trail, starting from this historic Jesse Chisholm Hall of the Frontier Museum. We shall convert this hall into a huge airplane or dirigible and will travel the whole 800 miles of the trail in a few minutes.
We are now rising in the air over this old town of Bandera, and we shall first make a complete circle. We see this town in a valley as a beautiful picture, the frame of which is composed of the mountains covered with stately trees, and the Medina River travels through the center of the picture. We are now headed for San Antonio and notice to the north Bandera Pass, where many a bloody conflict was waged between the red man and the white man.
We are now over the mountains and see the turrets of San Antonio in the distance, and as we approach the town, we see the Alamo where Bowie, Crockett, Ben Milam, Travis, and other heroes gave their lives for Texas. We see the missions and other historic buildings. Now we are headed for San Marcos and Kyle.
In passing over San Marcos we see the home of the late W. T. Jackman, President of the Trail Drivers, and also the home of Sam Kone.
Now we are over Kyle, and we see the ranch of Jesse Day who drove cattle north to the Red River in 1857, and whose grandson, Pierce Day, is now writing for the Saturday Evening Post. Now in the distance we see a white ribbon which proves to be the Colorado River, with the great capitol building on its banks.
To the east 18 miles we see Webberville, where many herds crossed the Colorado headed for the north. Nearer us is Montoplis Ford where other herds crossed, and underneath us are the two bridges across the Colorado where many other droves forded. To the east four miles we see a granite monument erected to Josiah Wilbarger, who was scalped by the Indians and lived eleven years after he was scalped. His life was saved by the dream of Mrs. Reuben Hornsby. She dreamed that he was still alive and made her husband go out to the rescue.
And now we are headed north and approach Walnut Creek and we see a famous spring by which the herds on the Chisholm Trail tramped their way north. We learned that this spring is now on the farm owned by this old pioneer with us today, Dave Dillingham.
Now we see Round Rock in the distance and we glance to the left and see the ranch of George Cluck. It is 1871 and the herd of George Cluck is ready to start up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene. We hear George Cluck tell his wife, Hattie, that he will leave somebody to protect her while he goes to Abilene, and we hear Hattie Cluck inform him in words of one syllable that she will not stay behind, that she is going up the trail with him. We see Hattie Cluck and three children, aged seven, five, and three, in an old hack following the chuck wagon behind the herds of George Cluck and his friend Snyder. We will meet them again at Red River Station, but now we are leaving Round Rock and passing over Jarrell, headed toward Salado. To the west we see Florence and old Cornhill where Dave Dillingham was born and where he learned to pick the banjo. Just ahead of us we see Salado and the Salado River. To the left we see the ancient home of the Robertsons and in a primeval forest we see the city of the dead where sleep the members of this historic family. On our right are the rock ruins of Salado College, established in 1860 on the south side of Salado. On this knoll or hill of the college we see two boys in their teens in a fierce fist fight, hitting, scratching, and rolling all over the hill until they are about to roll into the water of the Salado. We hear some of the boys yell for "Sam" while the others yell for "Jim" and we learn that one of the boys developed into Sam Sparks, one time State Treasurer of Texas, and the other was Jim Ferguson, once governor of the same state. We glance at the old water mill that ran in the old days and the old Salado Spring still flowing and gushing. We then bid farewell to these historic homes and people and go on our way.
Now we are passing over Belton, the county seat of Bell county. Here we deflect our course to the west and head for Bosque county. Thirty miles to the east is the city of Waco on the Brazos. Here we witness the sad scene where in 1860 Jesse Day in trying to cross the Brazos in flood season was drowned. The body was brought back by his sons and was interred in Oakwood Cemetery at Austin, Texas, where he sleeps today.
We are now over Bosque county, and we are soon passing Valley Mills, Clifton, Meridian, and Walnut Springs and are headed for the Brazos at the mouth of Nolan River. Underneath us we see the grave of Phillip Nolan, who was murdered at the mouth of Nolan River on the east side of the Brazos in 1801. On we sail up the old trail, up the Nolan River, and now we see Buchanan, the old county seat of Johnson county. In the field underneath us we see the old post office still standing solitary with its double fireplace chimney as a relic of days gone by. To the east we see the city of Cleburne nestling at the edge of the cross timbers. We see old Buffalo Springs still flowing and learn that it was the ancient water supply of the city. To the east we see the remains of Easterwood 's Brick Yard and learn that the speaker on this occasion carried water from Buffalo Springs to the opening saloons at four in the morning and worked as brick trotter for thls brick yard. In the distance in a blue haze is Caddo Peak and to the west is a log school house by which the Chisholm Trail passed. We are told that the speaker went to school here in 1866.
Now we are bending our course toward the northeast and by the historic town of Fort Worth at the forks of the Trinity. Northeast of the courthouse we recall the little town of Birdville, once county seat of Tarrant county. Further back we remember that it was known first as Fort Bird, and here in 1843 Jesse Chisholm acted as an interpreter for an Indian conference. We also recall that the body of John B. Denton was carried through this town by a melancholy cortege in 1841.
Then on to the north bearing slightly west, we see in the northwest corner of Denton county a spot where the body of Denton was buried in 1841, and where in 1860, one of John Chisum's cowboys found a lonely grave by a small rivulet. Later we find John Chisum and a dozen others excavating and recovering the bones to be identified as the remains of John B. Denton. We witness another and second funeral procession from this spot to the ranch home of John Simpson Chisum, where the bones were to rest in peace in a candle box for over forty years, at the end of which time the people of Denton gave John B. Denton a third funeral, and finally buried all that was left on the courthouse lawn in the city and named both the city and county for the only man in Texas that had three funeral processions; one in 1841, one in 1860, and one forty years later.
While over Slidell, we look to the east and there is the old camping ground at Bolivar, and three miles to the northwest of Bolivar the ranch home of John Chisum. Here we recall the rule of an overlord of a territory that stretched for Caddo Peak to the Red River. Here we see the "bachelor manor” lord rule his domain during the Civil War, and here we see well mounted cowboys, heavily armed, skillful with the lariat, with the six shooter, carbine, and endured to hardship. Here we see his herds start to Little Rock to feed the hungry old Confederates.
From the corner of Wise county, we head for Red River Station. That town ahead is old Montague, the county seat of old Montague county, and the center of an old civilization. We look to the west and we see a famous peak named Queen Victoria Peak, and when we first see it in 1871, it is known far and wide as Victoria Peak, to be called in a later generation Queen Peak. A dark line running almost west through the county, and we see in 1858, a steaming team of four horses galloping west-ward, pulling an old style Concord stage heading for San Francisco, and we are assured that this is the Old Butterfield Route.
We circle over old Montague county, and on the eastern loop we pass over old St. Joe and see many cattle herds bearing to the northwest heading for that old crossing at Red River Station. We swing around to the west and see the old settlement of Ringgold, and to the very west we pass over old Victoria Peak again, where J. H. Baker of Palo Pinto camped in Sept. 1871. We extend our loop south passing over the spot where the town of Bowie is later located and as we sail over the western part of old Montague we view herds streaming from the west and from the south, all heading for the mouth of Salt Creek.
We finally steer our ship due north for the old crossing at Red River Station where over ten million cattle hoofs paddled the waters of the Red River. When we get in sight of the old Red River, we behold it on the rampage and cattle herds are stopped for ten miles to the south, all with the nose of the old lead steer pointing to the mouth of Salt Creek. In three days the river is lapping the banks and the word is passed to swim. Here we see George Cluck's herd of Williamson county take to the water heading at first square across the river, only 900 feet wide, but the swift current forces the old lead steer to battle it out with the flood and his course is soon changed, and his path instead of being 900 feet long is a full mile to the northeast.
And now we witness a real pioneer scene. George Cluck approaches his wife, Hattie, and tells her he will leave her here till the waters fall and she can cross at low stage. And right here, George Cluck for the second time met more than his match when the frail Hattie told her lord in terms emphatic that she "followed that herd" and that she would ride behind the said George Cluck in that mile swim across the Red River. She had three children with her, one seven, one five, and one three. She called three sturdy cowboys up and told them each to take a child and hit the flood. She got behind her husband and he spurred his pony into the muddy waters of the mad river. Here we see the five members of one family swimming the Red River at flood stage. They plunged their horses into the angry tide headed northwest and like the cattle, when they landed they were northeast of the starting point and nearly a mile from the mouth of Salt Creek. Pioneer cow ponies were bearing five members of the same pioneer family.
Above the horses ridden by George Cluck and his wife, Hattie, we see a white bird flying and keeping time with the strokes of the sturdy legs of the pony and the brave heart of Hattie Cluck. We realize that this is an historic burden and the only time in human history that the stork ever traveled the Chisholm Trail. In October of that year, Ewell Cluck was born in Abilene, Kansas, and is now living south of Waco.
And now we are crossing at Red River Station, and travel northwest for some ten miles; then we point the nose of our plane toward Monument Hill, which we can see in the distance some twenty miles away. At the left we notice the town of Waurika, and in the distance some twenty-five miles away is the town of Duncan. Ten miles from this we see the town of Marlow, whose suburbs occupy part of the Trail. On we head for the Washita, at Rock Crossing, three miles east of Chickasha. Then twenty-five miles away we see the South Canadian. We bear slightly to the east, crossing the South Canadian at Silver City. Then the old trail forks—east branch going by Yukon on the North Canadian, and the west branch through El Reno and the Fort Reno Military Reservation
Now we are across the North Canadian, and we turn slightly to the east and head for Enid. We look far to the east and see the Chisholm Creek that flows through the town of Guthrie and Kingfisher. Then we cross the Cimarron and go north for ten miles, passing the grave of Pat Hennessey, then right through the town of Enid, where a magnificent memorial is being erected to Jesse Chisholm. On to the north we go to the Salt Fork of the Arkansas. We turn to the east and head for Caldwell, Kansas, and here we circle over the city and recall the fact that for four long years, from 1861 to 1865, Jesse Chisholm acted as a father, a guide, a counselor to starving Indians, protecting, shielding, and feeding them, and every day doing some good deed and proving himself to be the Good Samaritan of the Southwest. Here we notice today a very flourishing city of nearly 150,000 population. While looking down on the town of Wichita, we must recall that it was from this spot that Jesse Chisholm started on that immortal Trail in 1865, seventy-four years ago.
From Wichita, we head the plane for Abilene, ninety miles away, due north as the crow flies. While we are on this part of the Chisholm Trail, we must realize that we are beyond the starting point of Jesse Chisholm, who started from the town of Wichita.
We find that our trail from Wichita to Abilene was marked by a Civil Engineer, Tim Hersey, in the spring of 1867, with a surveyor's compass and blazing the trail on trees and heaping up earth mounds on the prairies. We are sailing across the prairies and across Smoky River and soon we see the hamlet of Abilene and the Drovers' Cottage, conducted by Mrs. Lou Gore. We notice that this is the end of the railroad; and on September 5th, 1871, we saw the first herd of cattle in the history of the world loaded on steam cars and pull out on the railroad with the old funnel stack locomotive.
This is the end of the Chisholm Trail, but not the end of Jesse Chisholm. We fly back to El Reno, a spot on the old Chisholm Trail, and head nearly west for some thirty-five miles and land at Left-Hand Spring, named for Chief Left-Hand. Here we saw on March 3rd, 1868, several tribes of Indians camped around this historic spring. Jesse Chisholm and his friend James R. Meade, his bookkeeper, P. A. Smith, and a negro boy Joe Van, and others arrived at the spring on their way from the Salt Springs in Blain County to his headquarters at Council Grove. That night we witnessed a feast. Someone had killed a bear, and they cooked its meat in a brass kettle. During the night Jesse Chisholm contracted ptomaine poison. On March 4th, 1868, his soul left his body. He left a record as the Good Samaritan of Oklahoma for forty years.
In 1930, with Joe Thoburn and Alvin Rucker, we located the spot where Jesse Chisholm was buried. The school children of Greenfield, Oklahoma, in December of that year erected a wooden marker, which in the course of time rotted to the ground and fell in the grass. Two months ago, I learned of this—that there was nothing above the remains of this remarkable man. Dave Dillingham and I went to the Texas quarries and selected a stone, which was donated. The firm of Driscoll and Moritz Monument Works contributed the lettering. Dave Dillingham contributed the car and his services; the speaker of this occasion furnished the gasoline for the Dodge. We left Austin at nine o'clock, Friday night, April 28th, and arrived at the Left-Hand Spring, 451 miles, Saturday afternoon at four o'clock. The gravel and sand was shipped from Austin, and the cement was bought in El Reno, on the old Chisholm Trail. Two school boys from Greenfield helped us mix the concrete, set the monument 150 feet away from Left-Hand Spring. The water to mix the concrete was carried from the Left-Hand Spring by Dave Dillingham, a sample of which is to be left in this museum. It is the same spring from which Jesse Chisholm drank water in 1868.
As a final scene, I will give you a complete biography of Jesse Chisholm as expressed by an Arapaho Chieftain, born the same year that Jesse Chisholm died, whom we met in the streets of Greenfield. Dave Dillingham had informed him that we had just erected a stone monument over Jesse Chisholm's grave. Standing some six feet, two inches in his shoes, with his long braids of hair over his shoulders, in eight words, unknowingly, he gave the greatest biography of Jesse Chisholm and the greatest tribute ever heard: