The Eastern Branch of the Chisholm Trail

By on 03/09/2019

The Eastern Branch of the

Chisholm Trail

The trail was used mostly in the latter part of 1880’s. Cattle using this trail were pastured on the lush bluestem prairies of the Osage country before being railed out of southeast Kansas to northern and eastern beef processing markets.

The vast prairies of bluestem to the west were first viewed by cattlemen in the 1840’s as the Shawnee Trail was used to drive cattle from Texas to Sedelia, Mo. and later on Baxter Springs, Ks.

Also the cattlemen moving along the Thorton-Chisholm Trail (Cuero, Texas. to St. Joseph, Mo.) in 1866 realized the future importance of the northern Osage country for fattening up herds for market.

The word spread and by 1867 cattle herds moving north along the main Chisholm Trail were aware of what lay to the east. And as Kansas legislatures passed quarantine laws, many cattle drives turned west developing markets further north.

But by1890 many trail-drives had heard of railheads in southeastern Kansas that were able to accept southern cattle and legally avoid the quarantine laws. Cattle prices were high and the trip was shorter. So, the Eastern Branch of the Chisholm Trail became highly active until the rails pushed south.

Utilizing the Chisholm Trail from San Antonio, Texas. north to approximately forty-six miles south of

Caldwell, Ks. the trail veered northeast.

The eastern branch continued northeast moving north of Fort Oakland (now called Tonkawa) and crossing the Arkansas River between where now stands Ponca City and Newkirk. Continuing to move northeast into the northern edge of Osage country it moved along the ridge between Pond Creek and Buck Creek, entering what is now known as Tinker Hollow. The trail then turned north following the west side of Tinker Hill for approximately two miles. There it crossed the Caney River just south-west of the city of Elgin. The trail turned east making its way to Elgin’s stockyard and the already established railhead.

This branch of the trail has not been as famous as the main trail or its western branches. Maybe because so much writing and hoopla was given to the western area of Kansas, or maybe the southeastern part of Kansas wasn’t picturesque enough for books, movies and TV.

If you think not, just ask yourself – What wild west deed is best remembered about southeast Kansas?

I’ll bet you came up with only one, the Dalton’s raid on the two Coffeyville banks and the shootout killing most of the Dalton Gang and several townspeople.

Southeastern Kansas is loaded with history – but it’s also an area that time forgot. And the Eastern Branch of the Chisholm Trail is one of those most over looked and forgotten areas.

– Jim Chase

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