Much has been
written over the years about the Texas cowboy. And in 1923, The
Gonzales Inquirer put out a special edition celebrating the
paper's 70th anniversary. In that edition they included an Old Trail
Drivers section honoring those men who drove cattle up the trail
During a reunion of the Texas Trail Drivers Association,
held in Gonzales
in 1923, more light was shed on the life of the cowboy.
Mr. George B. Saunders, president of the TTDA, spoke at the meeting.
He said the average person did not conceive of the volume of business
done through the work of the old trail drivers. He claimed that
the trail drivers deserved the most credit for the development of
Texas after the Civil War.
Another speaker at the meeting, J.B. Wells, gave his account of
life on the trail. Wells said he had driven cattle in years when
practically every stream was dry. And other years when every stream
was flowing with so much water that the men had to swim across with
Wells described another exciting event on a drive through Indian
country: One day a band of Indians swooped down on us and rode around
the edge of the herd, shouting, in an effort to stampede our cattle.
Mr. Wells was quick to point out that they offered the Indians all
their supplies to take the savages' minds off their cattle. We very
generously turned over to them all the beans, bacon, coffee, sugar
and other eatables we had, he said.
They were left in uninhabited country without food for several days
until they reached a place where they could buy supplies. They had
no money and had to trade cattle for provisions.
On one of his drives, J.B. Wells spoke of seeing a man named Hardin
kill three men in a drunken brawl on the trail. He didn't give the
man's first name, so one can only speculate as to if it was John
Wesley who did the killing.
One old cowboy, L.D. Taylor, gave an account of his adventures on
the trail. He spoke of being in the saddle for 24 hours without
food or sleep. Taylor told of trying to hold the herd in check during
blinding thunder and hail storms. "You never knew when you would
be run over and killed," he said.
But despite the pain and hardships, the trail drivers continued
to send large numbers of cattle up the trail to the northern markets.
According to The Gonzales Inquirer, the following herds were
driven from Gonzales
County in 1878. G.W. Littlefield, 6,000 head; Littlefield and
J.D. Houston, 8,000; Lewis & Dilworth and R.A. Houston, 4,000; Lewis
& Dilworth and Parramore, 2,500; Lee Kokernot, 2,000; Jesse McCoy
and R.H. Floyd, 2,500.
At the time these herds went up the trail, prices for cattle varied
from six to fifteen dollars per head. That was big money back then
and it was those dollars that put Texas back on solid financial
The old trail drivers drove their last herds and secured a place
in history years ago. But the tradition of the cowboy way of life
in Texas will live forever.
Montgomery February, 2001 column
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