The "white seven-foot cement posts with red letters
every six miles on the trail" in Menard
Photo Courtesy Barclay
Gibson, December, 2008
Some seven million
head of cattle & horses went up the Great Western Trail from 1874
to 1893 from Mexico through nine U.S. states into Canada with the
major years being 1874 to 1886. This trail lasted more years, carried
and was longer than any other cattle trail originating in Texas. The
trail brought economic recovery to the post-Civil War economy in Texas
and helped establish the ranching and livestock industry as it moved
gathered around Matamoros, Mexico, other parts of South Texas, and
other feeder routes along the trail in Texas crossed the low-water
crossing on the Red River near Doan's
and were herded north to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota,
North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and on into Canada. The
trail was called by various names as the cattle moved north with "Western
Trail" becoming its primary name.
AT the major railheads in Dodge City, Kansas, and Ogallala, Nebraska,
buyers bought cattle for reservations, for eastern markers, or to
establish ranches in the northern U.S. states, Saskatchewan, and Alberta,
Texan John T. Lytle blazed the trail in 1874 moving through areas
still inhabited by Indians and herds of buffalo to Fort Robinson,
Nebraska. Herds had been forced west by homesteaders, tick fever,
and Kansas laws closing the Chisholm Trail. After 1879, the Western
Trail was the principal frail for cattle bound for northern markets.
In Menard County,
the Western Trail entered from the south at the head of MacDougal
Creek and descended that stream to Pegleg Crossing on the San Saba,
twelve miles below the town of Menard.
From Pegleg Crossing, the trail ran eastward along the north bank
of the San Saba for five or six miles, turned northeastward and entered
approximately on Farm Road 1311.
On August 3, 2006, the first Western Trail marker in Menard
County was dedicated at the city park in Menard
with Menard Chamber of Commerce manager Tina Hodge organizing the
dedication, which included Longhorns
being herded down the streets of Menard
to the park dedication.
Although the Western Trail lasted a brief nineteen years, it lived
on as the legend and lore of the cowboy grew as tales of cow towns
and gunmen and drovers and stampedes filled books, movies, and the
imagination of the national and international community fascinated
by a time unique to history, the cattle trail days.
In the 21st century, Rotary Clubs on the Western Trail, started by
the Vernon, Texas, Rotary
Club accepting a challenge from three Oklahoma men, are setting white
seven-foot cement posts with red letters every six miles on the trail
to serve as tangible symbols of the friendship and cooperative spirit
of Rotarians, historical societies, chambers of commerce, and citizens
in the nine U.S. states, Mexico, and Canada to preserve trail history
and promote heritage tourism.