150 Years of the Chisholm Trail
By Paul Hogan
Have you heard the one about 5,000 men who walked into a bar?
Well, neither have I. I know I just read that when the Chisholm Trail ended in Abilene, Kansas, as many as 5,000 cowboys were paid in one day. That fact alone illustrates to me that the trail was not just two wagon tracks from Texas to Kansas. As a matter of fact, one of the first cattlemen to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas later said so many cattle had been driven on the trail that it looked like a national highway and not even a fool could miss it.
Can you imagine the havoc and chaos occurring in a town when 5,000 young men were paid after spending months in the saddle herding cattle at 10 miles a day for hundreds of miles? Can’t you just see in your mind’s eye how wild each and every trailhead town became, one after another; Abilene, Ellsworth, Newton, and Wichita (known for “anything goes”), as the railroad advanced?
Think of it – when you ‘drive’ (or rather ride) into to my parking lot at 928 S. Broadway, that it’s 1872 and over 3 million cattle had passed nearby over the last few years. Would you be able to tell where the trail was?
The Chisholm Trail is named after Jesse Chisholm who had a trading post northwest of the confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas River. That is where the current statue of the Keeper of the Plains now sits above the two rivers. His trading post was where the current Twin Lake shopping center is located at 21st and Amidon. There is a commemorative stone there on the bottom level of the south side of the shopping center. There’s another Chisholm Trail stone hidden behind the construction fence at the northeast corner of Douglas and MacLean.
While writing this I think, “man, I love Wichita.” I love its history. I love its progress – cow town to Air Capitol of the World. I loved growing up, going to school, raising a family, serving my community and practicing law here (and I plan on being buried here in one form or another – maybe leaned up next to the jukebox as the song goes).
I love living in a city which offers the attractions of city life but, especially here in Wichita, not the problems. I tell people from other places a traffic jam in Wichita is having to sit through a red light twice.
At one time between 1872 to 1876, the Chisholm Trail ended here, so I end thinking of the Roy Rogers song, “Happy trails to you until we meet again…”