Joseph G. McCoy,
to engage in the cattle trade, and he developed the Abilene Trail which
connected with the already established north end of the
near Wichita, Kansas.
The path then ran northward to
which was situated along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad, where the
cattle could be shipped back east in a more expeditious manner.
The road from the mouth of the Little Arkansas River
was not direct but circuitous. In order to straighten up this trail, bring the
cattle more directly to
and shorten the distance, as well as counteracting would-be competing points for
the cattle trade, an engineer corps was sent out under the charge of Civil
Engineer T. F. Hersey.
He, with compass, flag men and numerous laborers
began to survey the route. The laborers utilized spades and shovels for throwing
up mounds of dirt to mark the road located by the engineers.
Watching over the herd.
This image available for photographic prints
The trail ran almost due south from
Abilene to the
crossing of the Arkansas River and connected with the old
Chisholm Trail. All along the way the new
route provided for good water, abundant grass and suitable camping points.
The exact combined route of the
Chisholm and Abilene Trails had a number
of offshoots from
Texas to Kansas,
so providing an exact location is nearly impossible. However, it crossed the Red
River a little east of Henrietta,
continuing north across
Caldwell, Kansas, past
Wichita and Newton, Kansas before
it arrived in
The first herd to
follow the route belonged to O. W. Wheeler and his partners, who in 1867 bought
2,400 steers in San Antonio. At first the route was merely referred to as the
Trail, the Kansas Trail, the Abilene Trail, or McCoy's Trail. In the end;
however, the entire route from the Rio Grande River to
would be referred to by most cowboys as the
about 35,000 head of cattle were driven from
this trail; in 1868 about 75,000; in 1870 about 300,000; and in 1871 about
700,000, being the largest number ever received from
Texas in any
one year. However, by 1872 the area around
quickly being settled, grazing lands were getting scarcer, and the area
residents began to object to the pasturing of great herds of cattle in the
vicinity. Due to these reasons as well as the fear of "tick fever" and the
unruly conduct of the cowboys, the city of
officially told the
cattleman they were no longer welcome in their town. The shipping points then
moved to Wichita and
From 1867 to 1871 about 10,000 cars of live stock were shipped out of
in 1872 about 80,000 head of cattle were shipped from Wichita. The settlement of the Arkansas and the Ninnescah
River Valleys rendered it impractical to reach Wichita shipping yards after
1873, and the loading of cattle was transferred to points on the railroad
farther west, halting finally at
where 1887 saw the end of the use of the famous Abilene Cattle Trail.
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated April, 2010.