Chairman’s Update: Fall 2016
Recognizing anniversaries are integral events in our lives. I’m often reminded how a child’s birthday, a death date of a loved one, or a wedding anniversary can play a significant role in marking the pace in our lives or the lives of others. The dates allow us to remember loved ones and to acknowledge that time does not lay dormant whether you like it or not. Which brings us to the year 2017, when historians will recognize and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Chisholm Trail.
Much has been written about this great era in American history and the now anonymous cowboys that experienced the adventure of their lives. In the broader scope of things, the cattle drives up the Chisholm and Great Western cattle trails have become much more than a few thousand head of ‘beeves’ driven from so many trail heads in Texas to markets in Kansas.
The trail drives became a significant economic development component in the development of the United States by feeding a population in the East, while becoming a building block of the westward expansion of pioneers (and their emerging ranches) just after the conclusion of the ‘war between the states.’ What adventure those cowboys must have experienced … just being on horseback for months at a time; looking out upon the horizon and seeing nothing more than raw, untouched nature. No power lines, no water towers, no unsightly McDonald’s signs; only mountain fed streams and rivers, mountains, untouched forests, tall native grasses and a few American Indians.
J. Frank Dobie, noted American folklorist, writer, newspaper columnist, and professor at the University of Texas at Austin wrote about the richness and traditions of life in rural Texas. In his novel, The Longhorns, he wrote, “The Chisholm Trail was a lane opening out of a vast breeding ground swarming with cattle life to a vacant, virgin range of seemingly illimitable expanse. It initiated the greatest, the most extraordinary, the most stupendous, the most fantastic and fabulous migration of animals controlled by man that the world has even known or can ever know.” He continued, “During the seventies the Plains Indians were all but annihilated. An empire of vacated grass awaited occupation — an empire fringed with population far to the east — being traversed, but not halted in, by streams of human beings migrating to the Pacific slope.”
Difficult to imagine …………
The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum has tried to capture how ranching in South Central Texas played a modest, yet important role, in this great era of American history. Restricted by space and funding, the Museum is nonetheless an important local attempt to capture and preserve local history. The CTHM board of directors joins me in thanking you for you continued support in these efforts, and with your assistance we will continue our efforts to acknowledge the many un-sung achievements and undertakings of those early trailblazers.