Texas Bison History

Buffalo Jumps -Texas 


Wilmington Chronicle
Wilmington, North Carolina Oct. 23, 1850
Resources of Texas

Texas embraces so vast a scope of country possessing so great a variety of soil and climate, and so diversified by hill and dale, high woods and level plains, that every taste can be suited and every description of agricultural labor be successfully prosecuted. The capacity of Texas as a sugar and cotton growing region, has been briefly noticed in our former articles. We now beg leave to call attention to that particular section of the state lying north of the cotton district proper. This section is neither small nor unfruitful, but has as yet been little disturbed, except by marauding Indians, who gallop over the prairies in search of the buffalo, occasionally scalping a party of hunters or Santa Fe traders, who are too weak for defense, and sometimes making an excursion into the “settlements” for the purpose of stealing horses and scalps.

A few hardy pioneers, fond of adventure, and inpatient of the restraints of civilized society, have sought scenes and events congenial to their rough natures and rude tastes, by penetrating far into the frontiers, where the wolf’s howl and the panther’s scream are their favorite music, the elk’s haunch their delicacies, the buffalo skin their bed, and the savage red-skin their companion.

But little has been done toward testing the capabilities of the country for agricultural purposes above were caught has been successfully grown, but enough is known to settle its character as a fine grain-growing country. There is a portion of the cotton region where small grain has been experimented on with the most encouraging success. All of what are  denominated the Red River counties, all the country from that to the upper Trinity, extending 200 miles on that stream above and below the three forks, reaching beyond the Cross Timbers, is a scope of country of surprising fertility, and pronounced by that best judges superior to Missouri as a wheat country. Between the Red river and upper Trinity, there is a larger body of rich land, without any admixture of poor, then can probably be found elsewhere on the continent of America. This description of country extends to most of the Trinity, taking in the Navissoto, Brazos, Colorado, and sources of Guadalupe, with occasional interruptions, to our Western boundary. Some of the tributaries of the Colorado are represented as surprisingly beautiful and rich; in the Valley of the San Saba, grows luxuriantly, wheat, rye, barley, and oats, in natures form, planted by the same hand that planted the tree of life and the first garden, watched over by no eye but that which surveys the universe, and harvested only by the bison and the wild deer. The spontaneous productions of a soil is considered unmistakable proof of its adaptation to those productions — better limitations could not be given; it is the voice of nature untaught by the husbandman’s art, speaking through her own acts, making indigenous that which is peculiarly suited to particular localities. If we regard the syndication, then Texas, we must conclude, is preeminently adapted to the growth of small grain, since rye and other descriptions of grain grow in rich luxuriance over a territory as large as some of the European kingdoms, or states of the America Union. –Texas paper.


J. T. Hazelwood, San Angelo, Texas

Something like seventy years ago, in 1852 to be exact, my father, George W. Hazelwood, emigrated with his family from T.J. HazelwoodMississippi to the plains of Western Texas.

There being no railroads or other means of transportation at that time, he came by the mule team mode of conveyance. The country was sparsely settled after reaching the Texas line, and the trip was a long tedious one. The family would travel for days without meeting a human being, only coming in contact with vast herds of wild buffalo and numerous tribes of still wilder Indians. The journey occupied several months, and my father with his family eventually located in Panola county, Texas. The country being wholly an open range, and the pioneers who blazed the way into this new western civilization being extremely few and far between, the early settlers apparently did not remain very long in any one place, but moved about from location to location, seeking a better range, more ample water and greater safety from marauding Indians. Fort Worth, in Tarrant county, was the nearest trading point, and all provisions and supplies of every character and description was brought into the Western country by freighters, sometimes accompanied by United States troops, but more frequently they traveled in little bands for better protection against Indian raids.

It was in 1860 when my father moved with his family to Stephens county, near the line of Shackelford, settling on Sandy Creek, but the Indian depredations continuing, he again moved to a safer place, as he thought, over on Battle Creek. The ranges were covered with countless herds of buffalo, deer, antelope, bear and other wild game. We lived in picket houses, covered with sod and dirt, and the flooring with buffalo hides— nothing to compare with the comfortable homes which the people of this country enjoy at the present time, but, nevertheless, the conditions for that day and age were ideal, and we lived in comfort, except that we lived in continual fear of Indian raids.

I also remember that we did not regard clothes so much in those days as they are regarded now, and such a thing as ribbons and bows, and lace and silk hose, silk hats and canes for the young men, and a poodle dog with a string around his neck for the young women, would have been considered as much out of place in the early days as, perhaps, our “coon-skin” caps and “homemade” shoes, and our “deerskin britches,” our “buffalo coats” and “buffalo shirts” would appear at the present day.

Times change, customs change, fashions change, conditions change, but human nature changes but very little, and even when I compare the boys and girls of the present day, in the last analysis of their human make-up, with the girls and boys of seventy years ago, I find that they have the same warm hearts, the same happy, cheerful smile, the same creative youthful ambition, and the same desire to succeed, regardless that we are living in a day and age of automobiles, that we are free from Indian depredations and raids, that we no longer see the buffalo roam the plains, and that where the buffalo once roamed and where the Indians perpetrated their raids, beautiful homes and every modern convenience now can be found, and agricultural conditions are changed likewise with modern improvements, yet the heart and mind of the pioneers of the Western range’ still are found to permeate the posterity of these early pioneers to a very large extent.



By Joseph S. Cruze, Sr., San Antonio, Texas.

Mr Joseph S Cruze SrMrs MK CruzeMy parents, William and Isabella Cruze, came to the Republic of Texas in 1840 and located on the Brazos River in Washington County. There I was born July 27th, 1845, and when I was three months old father placed a buffalo hair pillow on the horn of his saddle, placed me thereon, mounted his horse and was ready to emigrate west with his family. He settled on Onion Creek, nine miles south of Austin, near the Colorado River, where he remained for several years, then in 1854 we moved to the central part of Hays County, where father died in 1856.

I enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862, received my discharge in 1865, and returned home to my widowed mother. On July 24th, 1865, I was married to Miss Mary Kate Cox of Hays County.

In the years 1870 and 1871 I drove cattle to Kansas over the old Chisholm Trail. I remember the killing of Pete Owens, who was with the same herd I was with. We had reached the Cross Timbers of Texas, and passed

a ranch where booze was sold. There was a row and Pete was shot and killed. He was a good friend to me, we had been soldier comrades for nearly three years, worked cattle together, and I loved him as a brother. Billie Owens, known to many of the old trail drivers, was his brother. The Owens boys were good soldiers, upright, honest and brave men.

In those days the cowmen underwent many hardships, survived many hair-breadth escapes and dangers while blazing our way through the wilderness. My comrades yet living have not forgotten what we had to endure. Everything was then tough, wild and woolly, and it was dangerous to be safe.

In September, 1866, I settled on Loneman Creek, in Hays County, near the Blanco River, and established the Cruze Ranch, which I sold to my son, S. J. Cruze, in 1917, and moved to San Antonio with my wife and two daughters, Margaret and Addie, and my grandson, Forest Harlan. I have a nice little home in Los “Angeles Heights, and would be glad to hear from any of my old friends at any time.

My address is Route 10, Box 101a, Los Angeles Heights, San “Antonio.



The Abbeville Banner
November 10 1847

Texas, -Derivation of the name.-

The Camanches claim to be the lineal descendents of the empire of Montezuma, and the only legitimate owners of the whole Mexican country. The Chiefs say that when Cortes landed in Mexico, he found the country torn to pieces by internal factions and was enabled, by employing the disaffected chiefs, to raise a force to seize upon their capital. Those chiefs believed if they could destroy the power of Montezuma, they could easily dispatch the Spaniard, and have the control of the country in their own hands. But too late they ascertained that they had introduced a harder master, and that unconditional servitude was all they had to expect. They were required to change their ancient religion, and thousands of them were sent off to work in the mines from which they rarely ever made their escape. A great proportion of them bowed their necks to the conqueror, and became serfs and slaves to the Spaniards; but a few, the noblest and best, preferred exile to servitude, and set out on a pilgrimage to the north, in hopes to find a land where they could enjoy their ancient institutions in peace.
They traveled for many weeks, and at last came to the great river north- the Rio Grande – where they encamped, and sent out twenty chosen men to examine the adjacent country. They crossed the great river, and ascended one of the highest peaks of the mountain, which overlooked the adjacent plain. The prairie was covered with buffalo, deer and antelopes, and they thought they had reached the happy hunting-ground, and the word “Tehas! Tehas! Tehas!” burst from every tongue. It was decided unanimously that it should go by the name apparently furnished them by the Great Spirit.
Tehas is the Camanchee name for the residence of the happy spirit in the other world, where they shall enjoy an eternal felicity, and have a plenty of deer and buffalo always at hand. By taking the sound as they pronounce it, and giving it the Spanish orthography, it gives us the word “Texas, “ which is the “happy hunting ground” or the “Elysium,“ of the Camanches. This is the true history of the name as derived from Isowacuny himself.


Who Was Isowacuny?            

Isawacony (Little Wolf) was a chief of the Penateka band of Comanches before the Comanches became centralized a nation. Before the Comanche Nation was centralized, Comanches lived in disparate bands. Though they were related and shared a culture and history, Comanche bands were autonomous and seldom worked together.
Isawacony was one of several chiefs of the Penateka band, which lived primarily throughout what is known today as Southern Texas and Northern Mexico. He was unique among his fellow chiefs in that while other chiefs considered peace and violence equally as options in dealing with the incursion of Americans into their territory, Isawacony seemed dedicated primarily to peace. This dedication to peacemaking and never compromising on what he thought was best for the Penateka Comanches are two traits that appear to define Isawacony’s life.
He was one of the principal negotiators in several treaties between the Republic of Texas and, later, the United States, and the Penateka band of Comanches. In 1836, Isawacony was party to an attempt to draft a treaty between the Penateka band and the Texans that would allot a swath of land and create a boundary between the two groups. While Sam Houston, who was an adopted Cherokee, was sympathetic to the Comanches’ cause, the majority of Texan settlers were unwilling to relinquish any land to tribal bands. David Gouveneur Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas, wrote to M.B. Menard in 1836: “It is a matter of great importance to secure the entire neutrality at least of the Indian tribes … But I must enjoin it upon you to avoid with great caution entering into any Specific treaty relating to boundaries, that may compromit the interests of actual settlers.”
The following year, the Texas Congress appointed a commission to work with peace-seeking Comanches and improve relations between the Republic and the Comanches. However, members stipulated that “no fee simple right of soil be acknowledged.”

The rest of his story


I found this to be a great article (below), even though a little long, it was well worth my time. It starts in the time of 1838 and continues through the late 1870’s

The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati, Ohio

Nov 23, 1878

Wiping out the Shaggy Monsters that Roam on the Plains – The Butchery in Northern Texas – An Englishman’s Experience – Killing the Bison For His Hide – The Life of a Professional Buffalo Hunter – Three Seasons on the Plains – How the Hides are Cured – Pickling the Tongues – Fearful Fate of a Horse Thief.

[New York Sun.]

Forty years ago the trappers of the Western plains sold the pelts of beavers, otters and _____ and killed the bison only for food. Myriads of these shaggy monsters roamed the prairies. Washington Irving, in his “Tour on the Prairies,” sought a herd boundless and undulating as an ocean, all surging northward. They were two days and nights in crossing the Smokey Hill River. There was then a limited market for buffalo hides, and the herds were hunted by the Indians only. They dried the meat for winter use, and use the skins for tepees and blankets. Uncounted millions of the animals wintered in the parks of the Rocky Mountains and on the fertile plains of northern Texas. The cows calved in April and by the 1st of May the shaggy _____ were headed for the Missouri. They advanced northward with the season, browsing upon the sprouting, juicy grasses. They crossed the Missouri River and ran away up into British America. With the approach of winter they swept back into the sunny parts of the Rocky Mountains and spread themselves over the plains of Texas.

The discovery of gold in California (1848) opened a pathway to the Pacific, and this pathway opened a permanent market for buffalo hides. The settlement and rapid development of Kansas and Nebraska forced the herds back toward the mountains. Then gold was found near Pikes Peak (1859), and a _______ of emigration poured into Colorado. Beaver, otter and furred animals began to disappear, and the brawny Kansas buffalo hunters took the place of the half bred Canadian trapper. Millions were killed for their hides alone. The vast herds began to scatter. 10 years later the laying of the Pacific Railroad’s force them from the line of the Platte and Arkansas into northern Texas on the south, and Wyoming and Dakota on the north. The professional hunters followed and for years reap a rich harvest. But the rush of gold seekers to the Black Hills in the settlements along the line of the Northwestern Pacific Road are driving the northern columns into British America, and the development of northern Texas is exterminating the southern columns. Experienced hunters predict that within eight years not a buffalo will be left in Texas.


Mr. James Graham, and English man who spent four years hunting them on the plains of Texas, graphically details his experience. He came to America when a boy, determined to work his way out to the plains and become, if possible, the chief of a tribe of Indians. His experience with the savages near Fort Still changed this intention, and he went down into Texas and began to teach school. “In October, 1873,” he says, “I hunted myself in Jacksboro, Jack County, northern Texas. It is near Fort Richardson. I was out of employment, and living from hand to mouth. One day a party of Cowboys road in from the other side of the Brazos , and said buffalo were coming in from the north so sick that they were eating up the range. The country was black with them, and the boys were compelled to drive in the cattle. This news was confirmed by a herder named Browning, who drove through town with 800 cattle, cursing and swearing, and roaring at his luck generally. There were no professional buffalo hunters in the country, although the buffalo were so thick that Browning allowed he could kill from fifty to seventy-five a day. He made a contract with one McKibben, a merchant, to deliver 1000 hides within three months at $2 a piece, the value to be taken out in trade. Browning swore that he would kill them all within fifty miles of Jacksboro. He turned his cattle hands out on horseback, and sent out his wagons. There was not an expert among them. They sailed into the herd head first, using no judgment, and in less than three days had scared the buffalo so that they left the range. The net result was twenty or thirty hides. Browning returned to Jacksboro and threw up his contract in disgust. He drove his cattle out on the abandoned range and resumed the life of a herder.

One Shaw owned two ox teams that had been employed in grading the railroad from Dallas to Fort Worth. Work had given out and the teams were idle. Two men, Hawes and Frantz,  also owned yolks of oxen that were eating off their heads. They clubbed in with Shaw, and arranged for a buffalo hunt. I had had considerable experience on the plains, and was employed by Shaw as a killer. Hawes in Frantz killed for themselves. Two men, named Putter and Davis also joined us. A band of Comanches were raiding the frontier, and we combined for natural protection. Three months provisions, a keg of whiskey and several hundred rounds of ammunition were thrown into the wagons. Armed with needle guns, we left Jacksboro on a bright sunny morning, and traveled due West. The country was well wooded until we reached Fort Belknap, a deserted military post. We kept a sharp lookout for the Comanches; for, just before we left Jacksboro, a man was killed and scalped across the creek from town, not 300 yards from Fort Richardson.

“After leaving the timber, we camped in an open country, fifteen miles from Fort Belknap and two miles from the Rio Brazos. That evening an old buffalo bull straggled into camp. The trouble was not in killing, but in eating him. He was so old that is hide was worthless. His flesh was as tough as shoe leather. The old fellow had been driven from the herd by the younger bulls, and was forging on his own hook. Wolves were on his track, and would soon have run him down.


“About the middle of the second day we encamped on the Millers Creek, a branch of the Rio Brazos. The grazing was good. There were no ranches within thirty miles. We saw small bunches of buffalo among the low hills. It was a good sign. Herds of deer, flocks of turkeys, and schools of fish promised and ample variety of food. Potter, Davis and myself rode out six miles toward the Brozos, and found immense herds of buffalo. We stopped at Eagle Spring, the other side of the River. This spring gushes from the riverbank, making a small gully. It is nearly level with the River. At this time the river was very low. Half the sand bars were above water. The spring got its name from a great nest built in the top of a cottonwood tree by a colony of Eagles. These birds began to tear up the carcasses of deer and buffalo before we could skin them. I finally loaded a carcass with strychnine and poisoned the whole colony.

“The water of the Brazos at this point,” said Graham, “was brackish and unpalatable. It was made so by the junction of the Salt Fork of the river, a few miles above. No matter how dry the season, the spring never failed. The banks of the river near it were trodden down, and we could see that herds of buffalo were drinking there every night. We rode out on the divide between the Wichita and the Brazos and found a thick net of buffalo paths leading toward the spring. We made a permanent camp, pitching our tent on the river sands to the left of the gully, so close that we could hear the buffalo come in at night, but not so close as to disturb them. Then we cleaned out the spring. The water bubbled up with redoubled force, and dotted the sand of the River with fresh pools. Before we found the spring we had killed from fifteen to twenty buffalo. Word was sent back to Hawes, and his Skinners were quickly at work. We tried to induce him to come over to our camp, but he allowed that rolling stones gathered no moss, and he thought the buffalo were thick enough on Millers Creek to pay him.

“We spent the first day in making pegs for stretching hides, putting up the tent, and gathering buffalo chips and driftwood for fire. The banks of the river were fringed with bushes, but aside from the lone cottonwood, there was no standing timber. We dug a fireplace in the bank, and prepared for business. Are oxen were bellied and hobbled, and turned loose on the nutritious grasses of the river bottoms. We ate broiled venison for supper. After pipes and coffee we turned in. An hour afterward I heard a dashing and a splashing in the spring. A band of buffalo was pouring over the bank. I could hear their low murmur of satisfaction as they sucked up the freshwater. The bank was crumbling beneath their feet and falling to the sand. As we were camped to the leeward, the herd did not wind us. It was a cloudy night. I got up in my shirt tail, took my gun, and ran along the edge of the bank toward the spring. Dark masses of the animals were clustered on the white sands below me, drinking from the little pools of fresh water. They saw me, and scattered. Most of them scrambled up the path leading to the top of the bank, and others darted over the sands. As it was too dark to shoot with any degree of certainty. I returned to camp.

“The next morning, bright and early, we were at work. We found a herd feeding on the prairie within two miles of camp. I crawled on my hands and knees to leave word and began to pick them off. I shot several under the fore-shoulder, giving the ball a slight range forward. This is really the only infallibly vital spot. Greenhorns may riddle an old bull with bullets, and he will stand and shake his head as though bumblebees were buzzing around his ears, and never drop; but one bullet planted by a professional is worth more than a score sent from the gun of an amateur. Well, before noon we had killed twenty-seven . In the afternoon we skinned these and hauled the green hides to camp.


“Eagle Spring was our headquarters nearly two months. The country was ridged with sand hills covered with coarse grass affording a fair cover while crawling on the herds. Large bunches of the animals were ambushed. We hid ourselves under the banks of the river, and shot them down as they came for water. This was done so often that they became suspicious. They approached the bank, headed by an old bull, with the herd strung out behind him in Indian file. On reaching the edge of the bank, the bull looked carefully up and down the river to see if the coast was clear. If satisfied, he turned back to the file leaders, indicating that it was all right, and dashed over the bank. The file followed without hesitation. If, however, the bull’s suspicions were aroused, he gazed at the suspicious objects as though shouting his eyesight. Then he turned his head toward the herd, as though disliking the outlook. Satisfied, after another reconnaissance, that there were good grounds for alarm, he viciously whisked his tail. The herd understood the signal. There was an instant stampede. They scattered fan-like, stopping at a distance of two to three hundred yards. There they turned about, apparently to see if there was any cause for running at all, but invariably continued their retreat until miles away from the supposed danger.

“One day, “ continued Graham,” I was lying under the bank of the river when a herd of buffalo approached. Contrary to all precedent, they were led by frisky young calves, who broke over the bank without stopping to reconnoiter. Had I retained my original position; the whole bunch would have trampled over me. I lay in the long grass and saw what was coming. As I got to my feet this stream divided and swept to the right and left. Through the dust I saw an old cows head within 3 feet, and let her have it under the fore shoulder. The impetus with which she was moving was so great that she pitched dead upon the sands at the brink of the river, three rods away. A calf was the next victim. It screwed it’s tail as the bullet struck it and followed the cow to grass. I next blazed away at the ”spike” a three-year-old bull. The first shot was ineffectual. He ran up the River about 100 yards. I kept at his heels and brought him down with the second bullet. By this time the bunch was much scattered. Many animals crossed the river, and others ran down the stream and regained the bluffs below. It was after dark when the slain buffalo were skinned and the green pelts were staked to the ground.


“At Eagle Springs, “ Graham said, “we took 475 hides. The killings, skinning, stretching and packing took up all our time. After the hides were sunned they were sometimes wet by rains. This gave us much trouble as to preserve them we were forced to overhaul and re-dry them. After December 20th Shaw, Welsh, Frantz and Potter loaded the wagons with dried hides and started for old Fort Belknap. The Fort was abandoned, but they meant to pile the skins in a ruined guardhouse, where was thought they would be safe and undercover. Davis and myself were left in camp with a horse and two mules.

“On the evening of the 23rd I killed a deer, taking the hide and hindquarters. The next day I saw the tracks of a wildcat around the carcass. I could see that he had enjoyed his meal. Than seen that he might return on the following evening I took cover and lay for him. Toward dusk I saw the cat snaking along the bank of the river, but, unfortunately, he discovered me at the same time and did not come within gunshot. On my return to camp I was spotted by four Indians, who were hidden by the low sand hills. At all events that night the horse and mules were unhobbled and stolen. The sands were covered with moccasin tracks. We trace them up and found where the Indians had lain behind the sand hills and watched my wildcat venture. Our tent open toward the river, and a wagon covered the entrance. This was fortunate, for had the situation been different the savages might have shot us while we lay in our blankets. We followed their trail to the Wichita, many miles away, but never recovered the stock.


“A funny incident occurred a few days before the mules were stolen. I had been out among the sand hills, and had planted seven bullets in an old bull. He was a tough old fellow, but was finally brought to his knees. I thought he would surely die, and wasted no more ammunition. On returning to camp I told Davis where he lay, and he and Welsh said that they would take his hide early in the morning. That night the wolves scented the old fellow’s blood, and made an assault on him. He fought like a tiger, and would have gone under had not two other bulls come to the rescue. All night long they kept the wolves at bay. In the morning Welsh and Davis went out to look for the wounded bull. I was going up the River, but pointed near where he lay, and told them they would find him in a little hollow near the sand hills. Welsh took his needle gun and went on foot, and Davis followed, mounted on a mule, taking a swingle, or whiffletree, to drag the green hide back to camp. On nearing the hollow Welsh saw the three buffalo lying down, and said to Davis: “why, he’s wounded three instead of one, and left us to finish them.” Davis stood up in his saddle, looked at them. “I don’t think he’s hurt any of them.” he said. “Johnny, just try ‘em.’ Welsh crept toward the trio. Two of the Bulls got to their feet, and stretched themselves. They gazed at him in astonishment, and began to paw the ground and shake their heads. Welsh dropped on one knee and blazed away. He probably miss them, for infuriated by the assaults of the wolves, they raised their tails, lowered their heads, and with bloodshot eyes charged upon him. He saw them coming in after a sharp raise went into a buffalo wallow like a prairie dog. The bull then went for Davis. He had scented danger, and headed the mule towards camp. The beast however, was fat and lazy, and did not seem to take in this situation. Davis pounded him with the whiffletree until the blows resounded over the prairie, but could get no head of steam. “Shoot at ‘em, Johnny !’ he shouted. “Shoot at ‘em, but Johnny lay in the wallow, shaking with merciment, and could not shoot. Seen that there was a slim chance for reaching camp, Davis headed his mule for a mesquite tree, fancy and he could find a shelter among its thorns. The slow lope of the mule brought the maddened bulls nearer. Davis finally jumped from the saddle and ran for the tree. He went up the trunk like a squirrel, and had barely perched himself on a top limb before the bulls dashed underneath in pursuit of the mule. Like Davis, the mule took good care of himself, and reached camp and safety.”


A few days afterward the party returned from Fort Belknap. They were chagrined at the loss of the mules. Only two horses were left. Shaw in Davis went back to Millers Creek and camped with Hawes. Potter, Welsh, Frantz and Graham went across to the big Wichita poisoning wolves, and met with moderate success. The country was seamed with canons and dotted with cedars. Winter was at hand and the weather was becoming cold. The most interesting incident was a poisoning match between Frantz and Graham. One day each killed the buffalo. A dispute arose concerning their merits as poisoners. Frantz held that if the strychnine was placed in a certain part of the carcass it would be more effectual. Graham disagreed with him. Each agreed to Dr. a carcass in his own way, and a pile of Wolf skins was staked on the result. Graham spread a small bottle of the poison upon those parts of the carcass first eaten by wolves, and Frantz carried out his peculiar theory. Both traps were well faded. In the morning the bodies of nine gray wolves laid near Gramps trap, and thirteen were found by Frantz, and he took the pile of pelts.

On their return to the Brazos they found an immense herd of, buffalo on the divide between that river and the Wichita.  To use the words of one of the party, “it seemed as though all the buffalo on the plains had emigrated to Texas.” The paths were innumerable. Every green thing had been devoured, and that there was no grazing for their oxen. They were forced to return to Millers Creek, where they joined Shaw and Davis. Hawes had taken over 300 hides, and gone into camp 5 miles further up the creek. The country was black with bison. The men hunted three weeks longer and then flour ran short and the weather became bad. They returned to Jacksboro, after nearly 4 months absence. Over 1200 buffalo, thirty-eight deer, fifty-two wolves and twenty-seven coyotes had been killed and skinned, and one wild horse captured.


Graham says that he sold 100 buffalo hides at Sherman for $140. This was his first hunt. On the following where he went up into the Cedar Mountains, about sixty miles southwest of Fort Griffin, and “killed for meat.”  The meat was cured and afterwards sold in Dallas. Only the hams are taken. The rest of the carcasses is left to the wolves and ravens. The hams, when cut up and thoroughly cured, will not average more than eighty pounds apiece. In two months Graham killed and salted down hundred 113 buffalo. He hunted the beast up to the winter of 1877. Long before that the brawny Missouri and Kansas professionals had swept down into the country with their “prairie shooters.” Graham says the slaughter was terrific. Long, of Fort Griffin, killed 3000 in one winter, and big Jim White, of Kansas, 800 in a month. Jim is said to have killed thirty-one buffalo in thirty-two consecutive shots. All these beast were killed for their hides. The flesh, horns and hoofs were wasted. Thousands of tons of meat as good as beef rotted on the prairies while hundreds of persons were starving in Eastern cities. “Enough was wasted,” said Graham, “to have made the siege of Paris as long as the siege of Troy.”


Some of the buffalo hunters own many teams and pay their hunters by the month, or allow them a percentage of the profits. The killer commands the highest price, the Skinners and the camp followers ranging next in pay. The killer rides ahead on the pony, with rifle across the pommel of his saddle. His belt is filled with cartridges, which he allows no one to load but himself. The Skinners follow in a wagon. When the herd is sighted, the killer rides as near as possible, taking advantage of the wind in any inequalities of ground. After tying his pony to a mesquite bush, he drops upon his knees and begins to crawl upon the herd. Once within rifle shot, he lies facedown word, and places two rest-sticks , something like and X on the ground. Over the sticks he sights his game. After the first shot the herd generally run at least a hundred yards. Then they turned about and watch the struggles of the dying buffalo. If the killer keeps cover, the herd may come back and paw around the dead body, as cattle do when they smell blood. The killer always tries to shoot the animals likely to lead the herd away. This is what is termed “holding the herd.” It requires great experience. When the leaders fall, the herd, seeing their bodies on the ground, frequently lie down among them, and stay there until stampeded.

The killers work completed, he signals for the wagons to come up, and the Skinners draw their knives. Two ropes attached to the axles, trail behind the wagon. Each terminates in a loop. The loops are placed over a fore and hind leg, the team is started, and the dead animal turned on its back. It is held in this position by scotching the wagon. The Skinners roll up their sleeves and go to work. The hide is peeled from the belly by a man on each side. Each Skinner carries two knives, one for skinning and the other for ripping. The knives are frequently sharpened. A grindstone is usually carried in the wagon. After the hide is removed it is thrown into the wagon, and the Skinners move on from carcass to carcass, until the “whole stand,” as it is called, is skinned.


When taken to camp the pelts are laid in rows in a place known as “the hide yard.” They are spread out flesh side up, and holes are cut near the edges within acts or Tomahawk. If not pressed for time a knife may be used. One of the party that goes around with an arm full of pegs, and distributes them on the hides. He averages about 16 pegs to the hide. The skins are next stretched in the pegs driven into the ground. The hides remained there until they become as hard as flint. They are then taken up and sunned. After a day or two they are cramped or folded, flesh side in, like the leaves of a book. Next they are piled readily for market. Hides are taken in summer are sprinkled with poison to keep the bugs out of them. Thousands of hides are spoiled by the rains. Frequently the wolves get at them and tear them to pieces. Some hunters kill the animals all the year round and even slaughtering the cows with calf. Others condemned this practice, and will not associate with those who follow it. There are many professional terms. A ‘cripple” is a buffalo that has been wounded and is after word discovered and killed .A ‘spike” is a young bull. The best hides are tanned and reserved for robes. Others are made into leather. The coarser ones are turned into harness, being too porous for shoes.


Those who hunt the bison for his meat are a class by themselves. A hole like a grave is dug in the ground and a hide placed there in with the fur toward the earth. The rim of the hide is staked to the edge of the grave, and makes a leather vat. The hams, are cut into three chunks and thrown into the vat. They are sprinkled with salt and seasoned with saltpeter. The vat is then covered within a stiff hide and the meat thus protected from the sun. Tongues are pickled in a similar way. After the meat is thoroughly soaked it is taken out of the vat and cut into smooth pieces. These pieces are strung on bear grass and hung in a rude smokehouse covered with hides. The meat can not be smoked too much. It cures according to the weather. Sometimes it is in the smokehouse two months before it is marketable. It finds a ready sale in the frontier towns, and is frequently sold as far South as New Orleans. It is very palatable.

“Half the fun in killing buffalo,” said Graham, “is in observing their curious actions. I have stuck up a hat and seen a whole herd gather around it, and stare at it for hours. If one animal gets bogged, a half-dozen others are pretty sure to fall into the trap. Anything will stampede them. The stupidity is most remarkable . As stupid as a buffalo” is a common expression among herders. The little calves are more suspicious than their parents. Bulls have shorter tales than cows. There’d tales are bad fly brushes, for they could not hit a fly in a week.”

When the fleshy side of the green hide is exposed to the sun, the skin becomes as hard as iron. Four years ago a party of Texas cow-boys caught a horse thief on the border of the Indian territory. As there was no tree handy on which to hang him, they sewed him up in a green buffalo hide and left it on the plains, under the burning sun. A year after word the hide was found. The skeleton rattled within it as to dried peas in a pod. It was cut open within acts, and the remains of the unfortunate for speed were identified by the clothes.


By William J. Bennett of Pearsall, Texas

My father moved to Texas in 1848 from Randolph County, Missouri, and settled on the Trinity River about five miles from Fort Worth, which was at that time an Indian Reservation with Lieutenant Worth in command of the post. There was only one store there then. The Indians often came to my father’s house and were friendly to the few white settlers there. Game was plentiful, deer, turkey, buffalo and prairie chickens, as well as the fiercer animals. We lived near Fort Worth four or five years, until father sold out to a man named Parker, and we moved above Fort Worth some twenty miles to Newark. After remaining there a few years we then moved down to Frio County in the fall of 1858 and located on the Leona River, where we found a fine country, with wild game and fish galore. We brought with us about four hundred head of cattle, which were allowed to roam at will over the excellent range, there being no fences to keep them confined to the immediate vicinity of our ranch. But they did not get far away from us for some time, or until other ranchers began to locate around us, when the cattle began to mix with other cattle and then began to stray off, some drifting as far as the Rio Grande or the coast. Soon the settlers began to organize cow hunts and work the cattle. I have been on cow hunts when there were as many as one hundred men working together from different counties. Stockmen of today do not know anything about the hard work and the strenuous times we encountered in those days. Sometimes we would be out for weeks at a time, starting every morning at daylight, and probably not getting in before dark, tired and hungry, and having to do without dinner all day. Our fare consisted of cornbread, black coffee and plenty of good beef.


Wilmington Chronicle
Wilmington, North Carolina Oct. 23, 1850

Resources of Texas

Texas embraces so vast a scope of country possessing so great a variety of soil and climate, and so diversified by hill and dale, high woods and level plains, that every taste can be suited and every description of agricultural labor be successfully prosecuted. The capacity of Texas as a sugar and cotton growing region, has been briefly noticed in our former articles. We now beg leave to call attention to that particular section of the state lying north of the cotton district proper. This section is neither small nor unfruitful, but has as yet been little disturbed, except by marauding Indians, who gallop over the prairies in search of the buffalo, occasionally scalping a party of hunters or Santa Fe traders, who are too weak for defense, and sometimes making an excursion into the “settlements” for the purpose of stealing horses and scalps.

A few hardy pioneers, fond of adventure, and inpatient of the restraints of civilized society, have sought scenes and events congenial to their rough natures and rude tastes, by penetrating far into the frontiers, where the wolf’s howl and the panther’s scream are their favorite music, the elk’s haunch their delicacies, the buffalo skin their bed, and the savage red-skin their companion.

But little has been done toward testing the capabilities of the country for agricultural purposes above were caught has been successfully grown, but enough is known to settle its character as a fine grain-growing country. There is a portion of the cotton region where small grain has been experimented on with the most encouraging success. All of what are  denominated the Red River counties, all the country from that to the upper Trinity, extending 200 miles on that stream above and below the three forks, reaching beyond the Cross Timbers, is a scope of country of surprising fertility, and pronounced by that best judges superior to Missouri as a wheat country. Between the Red river and upper Trinity, there is a larger body of rich land, without any admixture of poor, then can probably be found elsewhere on the continent of America. This description of country extends to most of the Trinity, taking in the Navissoto, Brazos, Colorado, and sources of Guadalupe, with occasional interruptions, to our Western boundary. Some of the tributaries of the Colorado are represented as surprisingly beautiful and rich; in the Valley of the San Saba, grows luxuriantly, wheat, rye, barley, and oats, in natures form, planted by the same hand that planted the tree of life and the first garden, watched over by no eye but that which surveys the universe, and harvested only by the bison and the wild deer. The spontaneous productions of a soil is considered unmistakable proof of its adaptation to those productions — better limitations could not be given; it is the voice of nature untaught by the husbandman’s art, speaking through her own acts, making indigenous that which is peculiarly suited to particular localities. If we regard the syndication, then Texas, we must conclude, is preeminently adapted to the growth of small grain, since rye and other descriptions of grain grow in rich luxuriance over a territory as large as some of the European kingdoms, or states of the America Union. –Texas paper.


The Evening Post
New York, New York Sep. 27, 1850


We, and St. Louis, are glad to have the Texas question settled, even at that extravagant cost of ten millions. It is, in fact, a gratuity, not so much to quit title as to quiet agitation. Though nominally to go to Texas and to buy off her claims of sovereignty, it is really, in its ultimate purpose, to buy the treasonable platform upon which southern, buffalo hunting, Cuba-pirating fanatics, were endeavoring to rally their forces, and exchange their multifarious uniforms for a coat of white color. A clash of arms between Texas and the United States would have been music in the ears of this company; and opinion here will not rebel, though dissatisfied to a very considerable extent with the boundaries of New Mexico. We are wary of this congressional debate; and not a few of us would be glad to see New Mexico, at once into the Union of the States, with a free Constitution, and so have done with this eternal struggle between the propagandist of slavery and the natural and inevitable bent of our national spirit. Let alone is our doctrine: neither extension, nor restriction; except the last, at the will of the states having the power.


The Panhandle Collegian
Goodwell, Oklahoma 08 Apr 1936

Used by Buffalo Hunters

In the late 60’s and through the 70’s this trail was an outlet to and from the last buffalo range Thousands of buffalo hides were freighted over this passageway Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill undoubtedly knew every foot of it Some of the earliest settlers who established ranches in the Southwest left the railroad at Dodge City in the 70’s I to follow this trail into the edge of civilization Two young men from England the Cator brothers and a young man from Boston S. C. Tyler all of whom were known to many readers probably followed this trail to their new homes in southwest Hansford County. Lee Howard the earliest permanent settler in Texas County probably followed this trail in from his earlier home in New Mexico to establish himself as a buffalo hunter and rancher at the old C-C-C headquarters on the Beaver northwest of the present site of Texhoma.


1860s-80s: Railroad divides bison into northern and southern herds.


1866 July 6th, Brooklyn, New York
A St Paul paper publishes some facts which indicate that the cattle disease is raging among the buffalo on the Northwestern prairies, numbers of these animals having been found dead, with no marks to account for the cause of death. Many cattle also have been attacked, and died at Pembina, with what is supposed to be disease identical with that now spreading through Europe.



By J. N. Byler of Dallas, Texas

In 1867 Butler, Baylor & Rose drove a herd to Abilene, Kansas, as did also Pucket & Rogers.

In 1868 the drives were pretty heavy, but further west, crossing Red River at Gainesville. In 1869 and 1870 they were heavier still, most of the herds crossing at Red River Station, passing east of old Fort Sill and west of the Indian and negro settlements, over which route water and grass were plentiful. This was known as the old Chisholm Trail. When we reached Kansas we usually found plenty of buffalo. When these animals were disturbed they would begin to travel northward. That is where the expression “wild and woolly” originated. When the boys reached “Abilene or some other Kansas town, they were usually long-haired and needing a barber’s attention, as there were no barbers on the trail. Upon being asked how they got there, they would sing out : “Come the Chisholm trail with the buffalo wild and woolly.”


Lawrence Daily Journal
Lawrence, Kansas Sep 25, 1869


Our railroad friends in Texas, we are glad to see, are quite as anxious for railway connection with Kansas, and thence with the Northern and Eastern system of roads, as our people and their anxiety to speedily push the Galveston road southward to the gulf. The Galveston News says:

“In a few months, the Texas Central Railroad and the railroads coming from Kansas will be three hundred and seventy-five miles apart. There are now about four hundred miles between them. But a few months ago the distance between them was upward of five hundred miles. And now we have promise that the work of construction is to go forward with more rapidity. Doubtless there will be delays, but if that reduction of the distance to the extent of sixty miles a year at each and should be accomplished, a little over three years would effect the meeting. That it will go forward with greater average rapidity than this, we have very little doubt. As the distance grows less the work will be quickened.”

In a “minor note” we recently stated that the Galveston road ought and we believed would be completed in three years. The above statement of facts from our Galveston exchange corroborates our confidence and belief. We can assure the News that this and of the road will be constructed at a more rapid rate than sixty miles per year. In from six weeks to two months an additional section of twenty-eight miles, to Garnett county seat of Anderson ‘those gardens of the desert, those unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful, for which the speech of English has no name,” and girl of spirit that she was, she chose the latter. The result shows itself in the elasticity of her every movement, in the bright flash of her dark eyes, and in the bronze of her cheeks.”  (This story continues in 1869 history , it is referring to Salli Tallmadge, who went on a buffalo hunt with Gen Custer and party, at age 17 and killed two. )


By Richard (Dick) Withers of Boyes, Montana – 1869

I was raised on my father’s ranch eight miles north of Lockhart, Caldwell County, Texas, and made my first trip up the trail in 1869.

Before we reached the Arkansas River I killed a buffalo cow and roped her calf. Intending to take the calf with me, I necked it to a yearling, but it was so wild and stubborn it fought until it died.

I am living at Boyes, Montana, now about one hundred miles from where I delivered those cattle on the Belle Fourche River below the old ranch. I went from Lodge Pole down the canyon to the Belle Fourche River, and within a week had the cattle branded and delivered. That was in September, and as some of the boys wanted to wash up before starting back to Ogallala, several of our outfit went buffalo hunting and we killed all the buffalo we wanted. Those were the last buffalo I have seen.



1870 An estimated two million bison were killed this year on the southern plains. Germany had developed a process to tan bison hides into fine leather.

1870’s It became obvious that owning bison was profitable. More and more people were capturing free ranging bison to establish private herds.


By B. A. Borroum of Del Rio, Texas

My first experience on theB.A. Borroum trail was in the year 1870. About the first of “April of that year I started from Monroe Choate’s Ranch in Karnes County with a herd of cattle belonging to Choate & Bennett. E. B. Rutledge was the boss and part owner. Among the hands were Jesse McCarty, Drew Lamb, George Blackburn, John Strait, and one or two others whose names I have forgotten. Going north all the time, we crossed the Guadalupe at Gonzales, the Colorado at Austin, the Brazos at Old Fort Graham, the Trinity at Fort Worth, Red River at Red
River Station, the Washita at Dr. Stearn’s, the Red Fork near Turkey Creek Stage Stand in Kaw Reservation, the Salt Fork at Cow Creek Station, the Arkansas at Wichita, the Smoky at Abilene, Kansas, which was our destination, and where we arrived about July first.
Like many others, when I had work for the time being I did not think I would ever make another trip up the trail, but also like many others, when the next drive came I was ” ‘rarin” to go. In the spring of 1871 I again went up with a herd belonging to Choate & Bennett, with Jack Scroggin as boss and part owner. The hands on this trip were W. M. Choate, John Paschal, Monroe Stewart, Joe Copeland, John Ferrier, myself and John Sumner, the cook. We started from Rock Creek, Atascosa County, about the first of “April and traveled the same trail after coming into it at Gonzales through to Abilene. We went into the Chisholm Trail about three miles below Red River Station, and just as soon as we crossed Red River all our stock seemed to go wild, especially our horses, although we did not come into contact with any buffalo until we reached a point between the Red Fork and the Salt Fork of the “Arkansas River. Several herds lost heavily at that time by cattle and horses getting into the buffalo drifts, which were at that season drifting northward. These animals were in countless numbers; in fact, the whole face of the earth seemed to be literally covered with them, all going in the same direction. The drovers were compelled to send men on ahead to keep them from stampeding their herds. On a plain about halfway between the Red Fork and the Salt Fork we had to stop our herds until the buffalo passed. Buffalo, horses, elk, deer, antelope, wolves, and some cattle were all mixed together, and it took several hours for them to pass, with our assistance, so that we could proceed on our journey. I think there were more buffalo in that herd than I ever saw of any living thing, unless it was an army of grasshoppers in Kansas in July, 1874. Just after we crossed the Red Fork I went on ahead of the herd to the Trinity Creek Stage Stand, a distance of about six miles, and at this place I found the present president of the Old Trail Drivers’ “Association, George W. Saunders, surrounded by a big bunch of Kaw Indians. George was mounted on a little gray bob-tailed pony, his saddle had no horn, and one stirrup leather was made of rawhide and the other was a grass hopple. He was trying his best to trade those Indians out of a buffalo gun, as he was in the buffalo range. And he made the deal. I never saw him again until after we reached Kansas, when the drovers made up an outfit to bring their horses back to Texas. George and I were in this outfit and we came back the trail we had gone up, except we crossed Red River at Gainesville instead of at Red River Station.



By W. F. Cude of San Antonio, Texas

In the year 1861 war broke out between the States and it lasted four years, and during all this time there was no market, so the country was beginning to be overrun with cattle so much that thousands died. Some people went out with a wagon and an ax and killed and skinned them for their hides, which sold for one dollar apiece, though there was not much killing of animals for the hides except where the animal was down on the lift or in a bog hole. This was in 1869 and 1870.

Up until 1872 there was not over 150 miles of railroad in the state; that was from Galveston to Houston, and a short line from Houston to Brazoria, twenty-five miles in length, and one road from Harrisburg to Alleyton, three miles east of Columbus.

There were but few settlements on the way after we passed Dallas, and when we reached the settlements in Kansas we were all joyful again. We passed through many prairie dog towns and over rattlesnake dens, and lost only one horse from rattlesnake bite. Many kinds of wild animals were to be seen along the way, such as antelope, elk and buffalo, and we killed one buffalo calf and brought it into camp, though I did not like the meat as well as that of our cattle.

The country was one vast stretch of rich land, no timber except on creeks or rivers, and when we came in sight of timber we knew there would be water. In some instances we had to haul our wood to cook with, but generally we would have to gather buffalo chips (dry dung) for that purpose.



By C. H. Rust of San Angelo, Texas

As one of the old cowpunchers that enjoyed the life on the Chisholm cow trail that led from Texas to Kansas between 1867 and 1885, the object, as you will readily see, is to keep alive the memories of those early pioneer days. My own interest in these matters is no more than that of any other old-time cowboy who enjoyed the life of those days, but I would like to see in my own day and time some record left to perpetuate the memories of the life of the old cowboy on the trails and the men that followed them.

What happened on these old trails betweeen 1867 and 1885 is history, but at this present time there is no milepost or stone to mark their location.

I wish to call your attention to the information I can give of those days, the conditions that led up to them, the effect they had on the men who experienced them and on the development of the great Southwest.

I was born in the old red hills of Georgia in 1850. My father and mother emigrated to Texas in 1854. In 1863 my father pushed far out, almost to the danger line, to where the Caddo Peaks and Santa Anna Mountains stand as silent sentinels overlooking the valley of the Colorado River and the great Concho country to the west, far out where countless thousands of buffalo roamed at will, where deer, antelope and wild turkey seemed to have taken possession of the whole country. This wonderful panorama loomed up to me, as a boy, as the idle and happy hunting ground that I had long dreamed of, with the silvery watered streams, like narrow ribbons, winding their way toward the Gulf of Mexico.

I am so tempted that I cannot refrain from quoting from Chapter 1, The Quirt and the Spur, by Edgar Rye, it fits so well in the time and condition : “Far out beyond the confines of civilization ; far out where daring men took possession of the hunting ground of the Indians and killed herds of buffalo to make a small profit in pelts, leaving the carcass to putrefy and the bones to bleach on the prairies. Far out where cattlemen disputed over the possession of mavericks and the branding iron was the only evidence of ownership. Far out where a cool head backed the deadly six-shooter and the man behind the gun, with a steady aim and a quick trigger, won out in the game where life was staked upon the issue. Far out where the distant landscape melted into the blue horizon and a beautiful mirage was painted on the skyline.



J. Garner, Loveland, Colorado

In 1870 I made my first trip up the trail for Peck & Evans. We left Gonzales about the first of March and got along fine until we reached Fort Worth. There we had four inches of snow and very cold weather. Went to Gainesville, crossed Red River and went out by Fort Arbuckle, on to Wichita and Abilene, Kansas. We saw a great many buffalo and lots of Indians, but had no trouble with them. We delivered our herd and went home.

In the fall of 1870 I joined the Texas Rangers at Gonzales, and was mustered in at San Antonio. Went to Montague county and fought Indians that winter and also the following spring and summer. Had some close calls but came out without a scratch.




The Holt County Sentinel
Oregon, Missouri May 27, 1870

By the Author of “Adventures in Texas.”

Whoever would now hunt the bison, or buffalo, as he is always named upon the plains, must seek him far west of the Mississippi. Formally, the buffalo is said to have wandered over nearly all North America, though it is probable that the Atlantic States were too heavily timbered to be a favorite range with these prairie-loving animals. During the short northern summer they have occasionally been seen as far north as the Great Slave Lake; but as soon as the first chill of the terrible northern winter approaches they take the hint, and migrate for more genial latitudes, sometimes going as far south as Cohahuilla; but their favorite winter range has always been the ever-sunny prairies of North-western Texas.

Before the introduction of the horse, the Indians were obliged to stalk the buffalo, and shoot it with their arrows, or else “stampede” the herd, and drive it over the bluff bank of some precipice, where they tumbled down pell-mell to the bottom of the canon, when the red men came up, and, vulcher-like, gorged themselves upon the flesh as long as it remained good. Since the introduction of the horse, however, the prairie tribes are all mounted, and the “drive” has given place to the “run;” nor could a fairer field be found for this sport than are those seas of grass upon which the buffalo is found.

Sometimes the prairie-hunter finds himself upon a flat prairie, where he can command a view for ten or fifteen miles in any direction from the center of the circle he occupies; at another time, when upon a “rolling” prairie, he cannot see further than a mile or two, and it is necessary to spend some time upon it ore he can conceive its extent.

When first seen, the buffalo presents a very strange appearance, the smooth hind-quarters reminding you of the familiar farm yard cattle, whilst the great shoulder-hump, the shaggy fore-quarters, and the savage beards and manes upon the bulls give them a ferocious as well as comical look.

Their motions are not less singular than their appearance. With their tail stuck up right on end, and shaking their shaggy manes, they rush off with the roll in their gallop which is apt to deceive the spectator as to the real pace they are going at, whilst the earth shakes as they thunder over it.

In running buffalo the white man uses generally a smooth-bore, as the bullets, which may be carried in the mouth, can be dropped down upon the powder without its being necessary to use a ramrod, the moisture on the bullet causing the powder to adhere to it, which is quite sufficient to hold the bullet in its place for the moment or two it is required, as during the run the gun is carried muzzle and air, and is only thrown down against the animal the moment it is discharged. Of late years, Colts heavy six-shooters have been much used, as the cylinder, when emptied of its charges, can be instantly replaced by a loaded one.

Among the Indians the bow is almost universally used; for, although some possess fire-arms, they are not so expert in their use as they are with their ancient weapons. The Indian bow is a short weapon, rarely been more than 30 inches in length; so that they can readily use it on horseback. The bow is generally made of cedar or bois d’ arc, and these are stiffened and strengthened by having sinews glued to the back the entire length; the strings are twisted sinews, generally deer’s; and the arrows are as various as the owners, some been made of dog-wood, others of cane, etc., whilst all are tipped with flint or iron. Thus armed, and Indian warrior will drive his arrow close through the largest bison bull where a bullet from a rifle would have flattened ere it had gone half the distance.

The rifle, the deadly weapon of the backwoodsman when pursuing deer, bear, or turkeys in the woods, is comparatively worthless in a buffalo run; it consumes too much time in loading; the tightly-patched bulls requires too much force to send it home; and, during that time so occupied, one Indian would discharge half a dozen arrows, and a hunter armed with a Colt would fire as many shots. Unwieldy as the buffalo appears, he is, nevertheless, very quick in his motions, and very shy and wary; if the sees or scents a human being, he takes to sudden and rapid flight.

In the Indian warrior and his steed, when stripped for a buffalo run, would form a subject for a list. A single feather floats from the chivalrous scalp-lock, his quiver of arrows is slung across his back, and his powerful, clastic bow is in hand; all else is naked to the waist-belt; below, his legs are encased in their fringed leggings, the fringes being the scalp-lock of his slain foes. His fiery wild horse, with gleaming eyes peeping through a mane that hangs in heavy masses over his broad forehead and floats and long waves from ears to shoulder, paws the ground impatiently, and arches his neck as he scents the game he is about to pursue. Then let the warrior spring to the back of his steed and dash off – wild horses and wild rider-and you see a representation of the living centaur, a mass of moving health and life that no painter could hope to transfer to his canvas.

Imagine, then, instead of one warrior, a hundred, all stripped ready for the run, all well mounted on their trained buffalo horses, all dashing and eager rivalry upon the brown masses of the buffalo, who, wild with tear at the yells of their pursuers, are flying over the prairie, whilst, with inflated nostrils, distended eyes, and swelling muscles, the tawny warriors thunder in the rear, each stride of their mustangs bringing them upon better terms with their victims, as each selects his game, and, placing his arrow on the string, bends the stout bow till its extremities almost meet. Then, losing the arrow, he sends it through hide and muscle, flesh and fat, till the huge animal, stumbling on a few paces, curls up his tail in the air, and falling on his knees, dies. A long quavering shout tells of success and the “brave” urges on his fleet little horse after another. If proper skill has been exhibited, each arrow has brought a huge carcass down, while some peculiarity in the make or staining of the shaft, points out whose hand twanged the bow. After the run is over, the arrows are handed to their owners by the squaws, who follow to do the work of butchery; and, if more than one arrow has been used, or if any has been carried off by wounded animals, the unskillful hunter is taunted and laugh at by the squaws, and he is glad to hide himself until, upon some happier occasion, he shall have retrieved his character as a hunter.

The squaws, I am said, follow the hunter; theirs is to the task to skin, to select the choice pieces for immediate consumption, and to dry and preserve that which is not at once devoured. At the feast which follows the savage gluts himself with the choicest parts of the game, and his time is spent in wasteful indulgence and tell all his provisions are expended, when the scene is repeated; for animal life is abundant on the prairies, and a brisk gallop supplies his necessities.

It was in Northern Texas, where the whole year round is one continued spring, so delightful is the climate, but I had my first run at buffalo. Without our guide, an old frontiersman, we numbered six in our party, and we rode gayly forward over the prairie in search of our mighty game. We had not far to go and had not left our camp where we had passed the night two miles behind us, when we discovered a herd of buffalo feeding in the distance.

The blood, which with anticipation had coursed quickly through our veins, now at the sight seemed to boil, and our first impulse was to charge headlong at the herd. Our guide, who had killed buffalo ever since he could recollect, prevented this fall he by pointing out to us that to charge at the distance we were, and with the wind, would only blow our horses for nothing; and we soon felt the force of what he said. Circling round the herd, then, so as to avoid giving them are wind, we approach them on one side until we were about half a mile distant, when the word was given to charge, and off we went at the top speed of our horses, and we got within four hundred yards ere we were detected.

For one instant they seemed undecided as to our character; the next, after giving a loud snort, they dashed off at their best pace; and our horses, which were all buffalo-runners, if some of their writers were not, increase their speed, and seemed to fully as anxious as their masters to overhaul the flying game. With their absurd little tails, absurd when compared with the animals size, cock straight up in the air, and running close together, the buffalo held their course, whilst we, thundering after, endeavored to single out a beast, range along side, and then empty our gun into its side, behind or through the shoulder.

Repeated cracks of our fire-arms were heard in various directions, and, except in the line of our guide, who had bro’t down two animals, nothing was to be seen effected by our burning powder. Having got a bullet about half driven home, which at full gallop I was unable to force farther, whilst pulling up would only have thrown me out of the run altogether, I contented myself by watching the prowess of the guide, who at each discharge of his rifle sent down a buffalo in a cloud of dust upon the plain.

At last even he had had enough, and pulled up his now almost blown horse, when we did the same, and then I managed to finish loading my rifle. The guide gave me a satisfied chuckle as he looked back at the dark masses which marked his line in the run, and which had so lately been full of life, and health and power, whilst I felt very small at my want of success.

Gazing after the retreating herd, I noticed a large bull stop. It had been either wounded by my comrades, or perhaps I had given it the fatal ball. At any rate, I determined to give it the coup de grace, and, writing up, took a steady aim at the centre of its forehead. The ball flattened upon the matted mass of hair on the stout skull bone. Only a novice would have done us aimed at the head. In an instant the fierce beast was down upon me full charge, and, had not my good little horse nimbly swerved aside, the rush would have cost us both dearly. Loading again, and taught by experience, I tried a more vulnerable part, and this time with success. Upon receiving this shot the bull fell heavily forward, a quiver or two shook the huge frame, then all was still, in the wild Lord of the prairie was dead.

It was not a satisfactory hunt as far as I was individually concerned; but I took comfort from the thought that all things must have a beginning, even buffalo hunting.

I may add, for the sake of those readers who justly disapproved of the wanton destruction even of wild animals, but in my case the experience was not the pleasure of the sportsman, but it was for part of the early training for the life of a professional hunter, which I followed for some years in Texas.


Buffalo Road
Photo by Red River Historian Marker made by Jack Loftin



Old Buffalo Road
15 mi. NE on SH 79Archer CityTXUSA

Named for traffic in buffalo hides and bones, road from plains hunting grounds crossed this site. Hunters hauled thousands of hides to market in 1870s. The first settlers in late 1870s-80s sold bones for fertilizer and bought supplies to sustain life during hard times.





By Mrs. A. Burks, Cotulla, Texas – 1871Mrs. Amanda Burks

My husband, Mr. W. F. Burks, and I lived on a ranch at Banquette, Nueces County, during the days that Texas cattle could be marketed only by driving them over the old Kansas Trail.

When cold weather came the market was still low and Mr. Burks decided to winter his cattle, with others he had bought, on Smoky River.

Mr. Burks wanted me to stay in town at Ellsmore, but after being there a few days, and witnessing another fire in which a hotel and several residences were burned, I preferred camp.

A man who lived some distance from camp was paid to feed the horses through the winter, but soon after we heard that he was starving them. A boy was sent to get them and as he was returning, the first severe snowstorm of the season overtook him at nightfall and he had to take refuge for himself and horses in a wayside stable. Next morning he was awakened by a commotion among the horses, and found the owner of the stable trying to punch out the horses’ eyes with a pitchfork. Such was the hatred felt for strangers in this region.

Nine horses were lost in this snowstorm. Many of the young cattle lost their horns from the cold. Blocks of ice had to be chopped out of the streams in order that the cattle could drink.

The first taste of early winter in Kansas decided Mr. Burks to sell his cattle and leave for Sunny Texas as soon as possible, and he met with no discouragement of his plans from me, for never had I endured such cold.

So in December, we left Kansas, dressed as if we were Esquimaux, and carrying a bucket of frozen buffalo tongues as a souvenir for my friends in Texas. Our homeward journey was made by rail to New Orleans via St. Louis, and by water from New Orleans to Corpus Christi via Galveston and Indianola.

I arrived home in much better health than when I left it nine months before.




By M. L. Bolding, of Bartlett, Texas

I was born in Mississippi and there I spent my childhood and early manhood, coming to Texas in 1867 and settling in Williamson county.

My first experience on the trail was in the year 1871, which was followed by another trip in 1872, and concerning the latter I shall relate I was a member of the crew of W. T. Avery of Hutto, Texas, and after rounding up two thousand steers and with all the necessary paraphernalia consisting of chuck wagon, extra saddle horses and other things, we left Brushy Creek for Kansas on April 15, 1872. We crossed Little River west of Temple, Texas, which at that time was a prairie; the Brazos at Waco, which was then a small town; the Trinity at Forth Worth, which consisted of a blacksmith shop, and Red River west of Sherman, which was at that time a large country town. Upon entering the Indian Nation, now the state of Oklahoma, we encountered Indians, buffaloes and wild horses. We followed a trail known as the main western trail and, due to heavy rains and the cattle stampeding, together with trouble with the Indians, we experienced many hardships.


By F. M. Polk of Luling, Texas

My first experience on the cow trail was in 1872. I went with Joe Tennison and Warnell Polk, my father. We traveled the trail known as “the Old Chisholm Trail.” We left for Lockhart, Texas, on the first of April and went by way of Fort Worth. Fort Worth was a new town then and, of course, we had to stop over and see the sights. After leaving Fort Worth we made good time until we reached Red River, which we crossed at Red River Station. The river was swollen by the heavy spring rains and we were forced to swim our cattle through very deep and swift water. We lost a few, but felt lucky in getting off light.

We were a care-free bunch, had lots of fun and also lots of hard work. It was the spring of the year and the woods were very beautiful. We would pitch our tents at night, get our work all done, and after supper would light our pipes and sit or lounge around the campfire and listen to the other men spin their hair-raising yarns, of their earlier trips. We would then make our beds, using our saddles for pillows, stretch our tired limbs and soon be sound asleep and know nothing else until morning, unless something happened to disturb the cattle, when we would bound up and be ready for action.

I recall one stampede, especially on this trip. We had camped on the south side of the North Canadian River one stormy night and after retiring we heard a big noise and we were up and out to the cattle in a very few minutes. We soon realized that we had our hands full, for the cattle had scattered everywhere and it required two days to get them back together again. As we went through the country, it kept us busy looking out for Indians and buffalo. One man was always sent ahead to keep the buffaloes out of the herd and scout for Indians, for they were very savage at this time and we never knew when they would attack us. We landed in Wichita, Kansas, some time near the middle of July without serious mishaps or the loss of very many cattle.

Now in Taylor Texas April 18th, just received 300 steers.

: “Cattle driving is just about the easiest job I know of,” but, alas, peace never lasted long on the cattle trail. I don’t remember just where we struck the Western Chisholm Trail, but as we neared Little River we had a terrible storm and rain. The cattle became frightened and pulled off a big show. It took us three days to get them all together again, and when we reached the river we had to swim the cattle. They were restless and unruly and it took us two days to get them all across. We had a fellow by the name of Rufe Fuller taking care of the horses, and in crossing the river he drowned the horse he was riding and one of the bunch he was driving. We made pontoons and fastened them to our wagons to float them across. We made good time after that until we reached Pease River, but here we had a big stampede and had to lay over two days to gather up our cattle. The country was lined with antelope and prairie dogs and we found great sport killing them.

We crossed the Red River into the Indian Territory at Doan’s Store, and here we struck the Indians by the thousands. We kept our eyes open and managed to keep peace by giving them a beef every day. They would come to us fifty and one hundred at a time. Some would ride with us all day and they always asked for a cow, which they called “Wahaw,” Wahaw,” and, of course, we acted like we were glad to give it to them, but we were not very badly frightened. We all had our guns and knew how to use them if we got in a tight. As we went through this part of the country we had great sport roping buffalo and elk. You could look across the prairie and .see hundreds of them in droves.