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Sloan Rare Books

seventy head to 3,300. But, of the entire fifty-seven herds only five were composed of less than

1,000 head of stock.

Dr. Herbert E. Bolton found that cattle were driven from Texas missions and ranches to

New Orleans as early as the later 18th century but that the first western drives of any conse-

quence came with Texan independence. In 1837–38, cowboys rounded up wild cattle between the

Nueces and the Rio Grande to drive them in herds, ranging from three hundred head to a thou-

sand head, to various towns of Texas. By 1842, droves were being conducted overland to Shreve-

port, Louisiana, for transshipment by flatboats down the Red River and Mississippi River to the

growing cattle market of New Orleans.

With the annexation of Texas to the United States in 1845 and the emigration of Americans

into the new Lone Star State, the cattle industry there began to expand. By 1860 there were more

cattle in Texas than in any other state of the Union. The cattle industry began to boom in ante-

bellum Texas, and the profits of the business were given wide publicity. More and more drives

were made to New Orleans, and herds were also sent to the Crescent City by ship from now-for-

gotten ports like Indianola, on Lavaca Bay, or fromGalveston. One trail led from south and west

Texas to Liberty, on the Trinity River, then to the Neches at Beaumont, then across the Sabine

into Louisiana where, after swimming, fording, or ferrying the Calcasieu and Mississippi Rivers,

the cattle reached NewOrleans. Another trail, from eastern and central Texas crossed the Sabine

to Shreveport, to Natchitoches or Alexandria, and then downriver (by boat) to New Orleans.

Soon, however, the supply exceeded the Louisiana demand. It was with hopes of better prices

that Texans turned their attention to the far-distant market of Gold Rush California. The herds

of ’49 and ’50 were few. But by 1853 and 1854 quite a number were on the trail, and the returned

Texas Argonauts brought word home of high prices for cattle in San Francisco, Sacramento, and

Los Angeles. The meat supply there could not keep up with the supply of miners pouring in. Tex-

ans soon found that their cattle, bought for five to fifteen dollars a head at home brought sixty

to one hundred and fifty dollars each in the San Francisco of 1854.

More and more herds headed westward on the trail blazed in 1849 by W. H. C. Whiting and

W. F. Smith. It began at San Antonio, struck west to Franklin and El Paso and then headed for the

Gila River and the Colorado by the Apache-battered towns of Santa Cruz, Tubac, and Tucson.

Crossing the Colorado Desert into California, herds were trailed to Warner’s Ranch and then to

Los Angeles or San Diego. From these southern California cities, the cattle were trailed north to

the population centers–San Francisco and Sacramento. The Sacramento

State Journal

in 1854 re-

ported that 9,000 cattle were imported that year over this Gila Trail. But that figure seems much

too modest. According to Ralph Bieber, another cattle trade historian, the

Western Texan

of June

1, 1854, reported that at that very moment “between seven and eight thousand head of cattle and

stock of all kinds” were en route to what the San Antonio paper called, “the Modern Ophir”. By

the mid-1850s not only were herds being trailed from Texas to California but from Missouri, Il-

linois, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. Cattle were also being driven from the upper Brazos

toMissouri to supply trains of California-bound emigrants. The trail led through Dallas, crossed

the Red River at Preston in Grayson County, and then led northeast to Boggy Depot and Fort

Gibson, Indian Territory, thence to the west or south border of Missouri.

The long drive from Texas to California was but the first of the great cattle drives. It was fol-

lowed by drives from Texas to Westport, Independence, or Kansas City. In addition to stock cat-

tle, oxen, horses, and mules were all herded to Missouri. According to the

Galveston Civilian,

about 9,000 head of stock (Texan) was sold in Kansas City in 1857 and K. C., by the outbreak

of the Civil War, had supplanted New Orleans as the great stock market. By the end of the ’50s,

the drives were extended from Kansas City to Chicago. The

Western Journal of Commerce


ported 11,000 head in drives there during 1858 alone. After 1852, St. Louis became an important

market, too.

These Texas trail herds were not all perambulating T–bones. The cattle were grass fed, driven

hundreds of miles, shorted on water, and according to the

St. Louis lntelligencer

(October 30,

1854), “They never eat an ear of corn in their lives... Texas cattle are about the nearest to wild

animals of any now driven to market. We have seen some buffaloes that were more civilized.”