The Chishom Trail, a trail through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas through which cattle were driven, celebrates its 150th next year. In preparation for its sesquicentennial, Abilene, Kan., will play host to a kick-off event over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-3 of this year.
The two-day event, Trails, Rails and Tales, the Spirit of Chisholm, will honor the trail made famous through stories, movies and song.
Texas cattle ranchers used the famed trail to drive their herds north to the railroad in Abilene. From there, cattle were sold and shipped east. The first shipment of Texas longhorn cattle left Abilene by rail on Sept. 5, 1867.
Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas will mark the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail throughout 2017 with numerous special events.
The Trail, Rails and Tales celebration will be the first of a number of Abilene events focusing on the town’s role as the first railhead at the end of the Chisholm Trail.
”Just like family style dining, the Trail, Rails and Tales, Spirit of the Chisholm Trail event here in Abilene, Kansas, plans to offer a menu of events that will tantalize the whole family to come to Abilene for some Chisholm Trail history,” says Deb Sanders, kickoff event chairwoman. “Drive your family ‘herd’ to Abilene and experience the longhorn cattle being loaded onto a cattle car and carried out of town by a steam locomotive; heck, you can even ride the same train as the longhorns. Cowboy poets, historic re-enactors, can-can girls, a chuckwagon cook-off, anda buckaroo camp for the younger cowboys and cowgirls are just the tip of the tale!So herd your family into Abilene in September of 2016 for an Old West Experience.”
Sanders says a book, “All Along the Chisholm Trail, 1867-1889” by James W. Parker, gives an account of the Sept. 5, 1867 celebration in Abilene when the first shipment of longhorns headed east and was inspiration for the kick-off celebration planned for next year.
“The first herd using the new Chisholm Trail consisted of 2,400 longhorns that started out from San Antonio, Texas, and reached Abilene, Kansas, in 1867,” Parker writes in the book. “When the first shipment of Texas cattle left Abilene by railroad for Chicago, the event was celebrated in festive tents with feasting, wine, speeches and song. The new trail worked. And so the Chisholm Trail began.”
The committee planning the Trail, Rails and Tales, the Spirit of the Chisholm Trail event toured sites related to the trail on Sunday.
Michael Hook, Abilene historian, narrated the tour that included the town’s early history along Texas Street, where Marshals Wild Bill Hickok and Tom Smith kept order in saloons filled with rowdy cowboys fresh off the trail and the likes of outlaws Jesse James and John Wesley Hardin.
“To make the Texans feel at home in the north, they named the saloons and gambling halls after Texas and cattle names,” Hook says. “The Alamo, the Lone Star, Bull’s Head, Longhorn, the Trail, Old Fruit, Elkhorn and the Pearl were among the legendary saloons.”
Hook also pointed out the former site of T.C. McInerney’s Drovers Boot Store where he said the first pointed-toe, high-heeled cowboy boot was invented. Hook discovered a McInerney boot advertisement in The Abilene Chronicle newspaper dated 1871, four years before an Olathe company was given credit for the invention, he adds.
Other highlights of the tour included the site of the Drovers Cottage and Great Western Stockyards in Abilene, Smoky Hill River crossing, and Elm Springs near Carlton where a waterfall offered the trail-dusty cowboys the opportunity to bathe before entering Abilene.
Sharon and Don Meyer of Trail Boss Chuckwagon served dinner from their chuckwagon on a property near Durham, Kan., where ruts from cattle drives still can be seen.