This extremely rare Texas Cattle Trail “Stone Corral” is located north of Imperial in rural Chase County on property now owned by John Maddux. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Chase County’s Stone Corral plays big part in Texas Cattle Trail history
This story in the colorful historic past of Chase County takes us back to the mid 1870s.
The Stone Corral, built around 1874, is located 5.5 miles north of Imperial on Highway 61 on land now owned by John Maddux who operates a cow-calf cattle ranching business.
The Stone Corral was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places on December 9, 2002.
During the following decade in history, thousands of Longhorn cattle were herded through southwest Nebraska to a shipping site in Ogallala and points beyond along a group of routes known as the Texas Cattle Trail.
There are only two surviving walls of this rare relic of cattle drives along the Texas Cattle Trail.
The essence of the corral’s existence bespeaks of its connection to Chase County and its importance for almost two decades of the American West.
Historical events shape local history
After the Civil War ended in 1865, a demand grew for beef in the northern states. This led to a shortage of beef cattle.
Texas ranchers began moving their cattle north.
The major cattle drives took place between 1874-1886, said Ted Tietjen.
Thousands of men drove millions of Longhorn cattle to shipping points as far north as Chicago.
There were a number of cattle trails that were followed to different destinations.
One of those trails entered Nebraska in Hitchcock County, angling northwest through Hayes, Chase and Perkins Counties.
Beginning in 1875, the Union Pacific Railroad selected Ogallala as its main shipping point.
In Nebraska, there were, in fact, seven routes of the Texas Trail.
The route through southwest Nebraska was established in 1876 when the Union Pacific Railroad moved its cattle-loading pens west to Ogallala, which then shipped the cattle to packing plants in Chicago, Maddux said.
Webster’s Stone Corral
Thomas Webster and his father, Erastus, established the ranch north of Imperial on the Spring Creek Branch of the Stinking Water River.
Thomas constructed a sod house, a barn and a stone corral.
He used materials on hand and constructed the corral of limestone gathered from neighboring bluffs.
Ranches near springs and rivers offered valuable refuge to drovers making the long journey from Texas to Ogallala.
The Webster Ranch was famous for being an important watering site for the herds on the Texas Trail.
“Cattle drives could only advance about 20 miles per day before needing to stop for rest and water,” said Maddux.
Beginning in Texas the trail turned northward through Indian Territory in western Kansas.
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