Trail Historian Corrects Errors
[From J. Marvin Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine, January, 1932]
THE FAMED Chisholm cattle trail, about which more has been written than any other southwestern trail cannot be traced in Texas for the reason that it never existed in this state according to George W. Saunders, who has spent more than fifty-five years on trail history.
Furthermore while Chisholm blazed the trail which bore his name, Mr. Saunders says, it should have been called the McCoy trail in honor of the man who had it blazed.
"Texas," said Mr. Saunders, "had four well-defined trails with many intersecting them. The four main trails were the Goodnight and Loving, the Wilson to Wilbarger, the Cameron to Montague, and the Live Oak to Kimble."
"In 1868, '69 and '70, lots of boys went to Abilene, Kansas from Goliad, Bee, Live Oaks, San Patricio, Refugio, Victoria, Gonzales and Karnes counties, Texas. On their return the boys all said they had struck the Chisholm trail north of Red River station. This was a trail from Abilene, Kansas, to Red River crossing, which Joe McCoy of Abilene had Jesse Chisholm blaze. Charles Goodnight always said the Chisholm trail should have been called the Joe McCoy trail and I think he was right. McCoy was a promoter who built the stockyards at Abilene, Kansas. He had the trail blazed by Chisholm in the spring of 1867 in time to catch the 1867 drive. Before that many herds crossed the Red River at Colverts' Ferry below Denison. The market at Abilene closed in 1873 and Doan's Crossing was first used in 1876.
"I went from Goliad to Abilene, Kan., in 1871 with cattle and came back over the same trail with 100 cowboys, 200 saddle horses, and 10 chuckwagons. There was no demand for horses in Kansas in 1871, but a good demand for them on the western ranges a few years later.
"Our boys and some of the boys who had been on the trail before said we would strike the Chisholm trail when we crossed Red River at Red River station. This was the general understanding until the last few years.
"Some are now claiming that all cattle trails were designated as the Chisholm trail but cannot tell who designated them. I always heard all the Texas cattle trail called the Kansas trail, the Northern Trails and the Texas Longhorn cattle trails.
"I assert that any cattle which crossed the Red River at Doan's Crossing never touched the Chisholm Trail as Red River station was over 100 miles east of Doan's Crossing and Abilene, Kan., was over 100 miles east of Dodge City.
"The Goodnight and Loving trail was blazed by Goodnight and Loving in 1867. They bought a herd from John Chism (not Chisholm) or `Jingle-bob Chism,' but Chism had nothing to do with blazing the Goodnight and Loving trail. He drove lots of cattle over the trail later when he established his New Mexico ranch.
"I have just received from Fayette Tankersley of Mertzon, Texas, a list of the counties through which the Goodnight and Loving trail passed through from the Concho River to the New Mexico line. These counties were not organized when the trail was blazed, but they are now Tom Green, Irion, Reagan, Upton, Crane, Ward, Winkler and Loving.
"The counties on the Cameron-Montague county trail, are Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Jim Wells, San Patricio, Live Oak, Bee, Goliad, Karnes, Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson, Bell, Coryell, McLennan, Bosque, Hill, Johnson, Tarrant, Denton, Wise, Cooke and Montague.
"The trail from Wilson to Wilbarger passed through the counties that now are Wilson, Bexar, Kendall, Kerr, Gillespie, Kimble, Menard, Concho, McCullough, Coleman, Calahan, Shackleford, Throckmorton, Baylor and Wilbarger.
"The trail from Live Oak to Kimble went through what are now the counties of Live Oak, McCullen, LaSalle, Dimmit, Zavala, Uvalde, Real, Edwards and Kimble. I have traveled all the four main Texas trails except the Goodnight and Loving and think I am correct in all my claims. If proven otherwise I will submit to corrections. I invite any old-timers who drove herds up the trails from 1867 to 1877 to make corrections but will not listen to anyone using borrowed thunder. If my 55 years' research work is wrong I want to know it. I have been doing research work since 1874, collecting for preservation the true Texas history of the cattle industry including the trail-driving period. My object is to keep Texas history straight.
"I am only one out of 4,000 trail drivers who have taken up this work as a side issue from my own business. I have investigated many reports and found them false. I gathered over 300 sketches for my book, "The Trail Drivers of Texas," interviewed all these trailers and many others. I found some calling all the trails Chisholm trails but, in each case, they did not know why. The fact that the Chisholm trail connected with the Texas trails probably accounts for the error.
"Some of the writers of sketches in my book say they went from different points in Texas over the Chisholm trail. That was a fact, but they neglected to state where they intersected the Chisholm trail."