Chisholm Trail 150th Anniversary

1867 - 2017

Schedule of Kansas Events

Tri-State Information

CT-150 Souvenirs

Click on the cattle towns below to
see the events in each location

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The first herd of Texas cattle arrived at the Great Western Stock Yards in Abilene, Kansas in August of 1867. Over the next several years millions of head of cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail to be loaded onto railroad cars and shipped off to eastern markets.

The cattle trade helped feed a starving nation and boosted the economy in the aftermath of the Civil War. It also gave birth to cattle towns, the Old West and the legend of the American Cowboy. To commemorate the trail and it's important place in American history, an entire year of activities are planned - from San Antonio, Texas all the way up through Oklahoma to Abilene, Kansas.

The Chisholm Trail and Kansas

Kansas cattle towns owe their existence to the Chisholm Trail. The cattle trade along the trail (and the people & money it brought with it) allowed the cattle towns to spring up and encouraged settlement into the new state. There was sometimes fierce competition between towns to get the rail head built in one place or another.

Of course, along with the money came the cowboys (more properly called drovers, as "boy" was often taken as a derogatory term following the war) and their rowdy and lawless ways.

It wasn't uncommon for a town to segregate the cattlemen into an area away from the town proper to try and control some of the vices that came with the cattle trade. These districts featured saloons, brothels and hotels offering "rest and recreation" for the trail weary drover.

One example of this is the settlement of Delano which sprang up across the river from the new town of Wichita. Wichita required the cattle men to check their guns with the town marshal when they entered the town, effectively keeping them west of the river. Fines that were levied on the sins in Delano provided much-needed funds to help the city fathers build the new town.

After a few years, as settlers moved in and populations grew, town residents would often become weary of the lawlessness. After only one year, Newton supported Wichita in a bond effort to get a rail head in exchange for becoming the county seat of a new county created from the north part of Sedgwick County.

Eventually, increasing conflicts with settlers and homesteaders caused the cattle trade to move further west to Dodge City located on the Great Western Cattle Trail.


Click on the cattle towns on the map to see the events in each county

For more about the history of the Chisholm Trail check out Kansas Historical Society

For more about the history of Kansas Cattle Towns check out Kansas Cattle Towns Coalition

The Historic Chisholm Trail
by Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat - 785-539-7899 -

In the annals of our nation
Stands this immortal tale:
The remarkable migration
Known as the Chisholm Trail.

One hundred fifty years ago,
War stopped, to our relief.
But for our nation yet to grow,
The people needed beef.

Then came a man named Joe McCoy
Whose visionary plan
Would bring alive the great cowboy
And change our hist'ry's span.

He saw where railroads sent their trains.
His vision was foreseen:
Move Texas cattle through the plains,
Clear up to Abilene.

The railroads built the stockyards here
To take the herds of beasts,
And ship them on from the frontier
To markets in the east.

In Texas, longhorns ranging free
Were worth four bucks a head,
But in the cities they could be
Ten times that, people said.

So Texas drovers heard those words,
And chose to venture forth.
They gathered up vast cattle herds,
And bravely brought them north.

Then Jesse Chisholm traded goods
In times of rain and drouth.
His wagons rolled through mud and woods
To Indian tribes down south.

The drovers learned to follow trails
Where Chisholm's wagons passed.
They led them through frontier travails,
To journey's end at last.

With that, the Chisholm Trail was blazed
Into our nation's story,
And generations now have raised
The legend into glory.

These cowboys tamed the wild, wild west,
With bravery unsparing.
They earned their place in hist'ry's quest,
Through courage brave and daring.

Today, in our mind's eye we see
The spectacle they brought:
Of cowboys ranging wild and free
In spite of dangers fraught.

The bawl of steer, the neigh of horse,
The sizzle of a brand,
Would set the stage for this route's course
On up to Kansas land.

The story of the Chisholm Trail
Shows brave determination
That helped these heroes to prevail
And build a growing nation.

So now we pause to celebrate
And honor without fail,
The vision which they did create:
The historic Chisholm Trail.

Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat
Lazy T Ranch
2103 Zeandale Road
Manhattan KS 66502
785-539-7899 home
785-532-8092 cell

Copyright 2017 - CT-150 Kansas Coalition

Historical information on cattletowns used with permission from Kansas Cattle Towns Coalition