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Area’s historic role along the Texas Trail showcased for tour PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 21:21

By Tina Kitt

The Wauneta Breeze

McCook’s Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival took a westward tilt this year, teaming up with the Chase County Historical Society for a walk back in time along a couple of stretches of the historic Texas Trail.

Between the tour participants who filled two McCook Community College buses and those joining the tour via private vehicles in Chase County, it’s estimated that approximately 100 people took part in Friday’s tour.

The first stop on the Wild West Bus Ride, as it was dubbed in promotions, was the Kenny and Diana Ham farm east of Wauneta in Hayes County. There, participants hiked a short distance through the pasture north of the Hams’ home to view faded ruts where wagons traveled along the Texas Trail, carrying supplies for the cattle drovers.

Kenny Ham points to a ridge on the other side of the Frenchman River to the south where a 14-year-old drover known as Cowboy Davis is buried. The young cowboy was killed in 1883 when he and another young drover followed a steer over an embankment, plunging over the drop-off. They were part of a cattle drive moving cattle north to market along the Texas Trail. Ham led approximately 100 tour participants to an area of pasture north of his home where wagon ruts can still be seen in the prairie grass. (Wauneta Breeze Photos | Tina Kitt)

 

Ham offered an overview of events that occurred close-by during the Texas Trail heyday in Nebraska in the 1870s and 1880s, including the death and burial of a 14-year-old drover on a hilltop south of the Frenchman River, across Highway 6 from the Ham home.

From there the Wild West Bus Ride continued west to the John and Julia Maddux ranch north of Imperial. The group visited the stone corral that has been in place there since the late 1870s.

The Maddux ranch, located on the Spring Creek branch of the Stinking Water, was originally established in 1876 by Thomas Webster and his father, Erastus Webster.

The Webster ranch became a primary stop for drovers moving their herds north along the Texas Trail, offering the last dependable opportunity to find water before their two-day, 40-mile push into Ogallala.

Wild West Bus Ride participants listen intently as Jack Maddux shares an overview of the history of the stone corral built in the 1870s on the ranch north of Imperial where John and Julia Maddux live today.

 

While at the Maddux ranch the Wild West Bus Ride and Chase County Historical Society Tour groups enjoyed a catered lunch during which they enjoyed the music of the Diamond W Wranglers, a western band from Wichita, Kan., who performed later that evening in McCook as part of of McCook’s Buffalo Commons festivities.

Cowboy poet R.P. Smith also delivered a recitation before tour participants boarded the buses and headed back to McCook.

 

Texas Trail in Nebraska

The Texas Trail was a web of routes used in the mid to late 1800s to move cattle north from Texas to markets in the central part of the country where cattle prices were considerably higher than the $5 per head cattle were bringing in Texas in the 1860s.

In Nebraska, there were seven main routes of the Texas Trail according to information made available through the Nebraska State Historical Society.

The route through southwest Nebraska was firmly established by 1876 when the Union Pacific Railroad moved its cattle-loading pens west to Ogallala. For the next 10 years, the route traversed several counties in southwest Nebraska before reaching the shipping point at Ogallalla.

Maddux Cattle Company crew members Hadley Hill, left, and Ronnie Sieperda help display historic photos of cowboys past working cattle inside the walls of the stone corral in the 1920s.

 

One stretch of trail ran between where Wauneta and Hamlet are located today. It was along that stretch of trail, south of the Ham home on the south side of the Frenchman where Cowboy Davis was killed as he and another young drover gave chase to a steer. All three went over a 30-foot embankment. Davis was killed and the other cowboy spent several months hospitalized.

Four trail riders carried Davis’ blanket-wrapped body to the overlook where they buried him, placing a stone on his grave. An engraved headstone was later placed to mark the spot where the 14-year-old was buried.