Old West History Archives


It seems that Kansas had a love-hate relationship with Texas cattle and the cowboys that brought them up.

The love part was the profits to be made providing supplies to the cattle drives and a good time to trail-weary cowboys.  Frontier struggling towns like Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

But, as Kansas started getting less “frontier” and farming became more important, residents, anxious to attract businesses other than saloons and places of ill repute, started getting less enamored with the Texas cattle industry.

Although the Texas cattlemen tried to stay away from cultivated farmland, according to one cowboy “there was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler.”

In addition to this, the Texas cattle carried a tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease for which they were immune, but the Kansas cattle weren’t.

So, on this date back in 1885 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that barred Texas cattle from the state between March and December 1.

This, along with the closing of open range with barbed wire fences, signaled an end to the cattle drives to Kansas.


I get intrigued with Old West cowboy terms.  And that intrigue shows itself in that we have an Old West Trivia Contest sponsored by Bronco Sue Custom Hats.  The prize is a custom cowboy hat.  If you would like to check it out go to: http://chronicleoftheoldwest.com/old-west-trivia-shootout2.shtml.

Here are some of my favorite descriptive terms:


BARKIN’ AT A KNOT – Doing something useless.

WEARING THE BUSTLE WRONG – A pregnant woman.

ROUND BROWNS – Cow chips.

TEAR SQUEEZER – A sad story.


Which of your favorite terms did I miss?



On this day back in 1868 Jesse Chisholm died of food poisoning.

Even though the Chisholm Trail is known for its use during the cattle drive era, Jesse wasn’t a cattleman, but a frontier trader.  He had a great knowledge of the southwest that was valuable in trailblazing.

Because he was a trader, Jesse Chisholm’s trail was a straight road with easy river crossings and few steep grades so lumbering heavy freight wagons would have no trouble traveling it.

A year before Chisholm died; his trail also began to be used for cattle drives.  For five years, more than a million head of cattle traveled up the road, creating a path that was 200 to 400 yards wide.  Traces of the trail can still be seen to this day.


Our friend, Michael F. Blake, does a lot of research about the Civil War.  He sent us a couple of links to some recently enhances, and quite frankly, stunning photos from 150 years ago when the United States was being torn apart by this war.

Here are the links: 




It was on this date back in 1872 that President Grant signed the bill creating Yellowstone National Park.

John Colter, the famous mountain man, was the first Anglo to travel through the area.  In 1807, he returned with fantastic stories of steaming geysers and bubbling cauldrons.  People accused the mountain man of telling tall tales and dubbed the area “Colter’s Hell.”

The key to Yellowstone becoming a national park was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden.  Hayden brought along photographer William Jackson and artist Thomas Moran to make a visual record of the expedition.  Their images provided the first proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of Congress.

Early in 1872, Congress moved to set aside 1,221,773 acres of public land straddling the future states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as America’s first national park.

For a nation bent on settling and exploiting the West, the creation of Yellowstone was surprising.  Many congressmen gave it their support simply because they believed the rugged and isolated region was of little economic value.

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