Paul Harvey may not have physically been at the Newton Public Library's Third Tuesday Genealogy presentation this week, but he was there in spirit as speakers Margaret and Gary Kraisinger shared the "rest of the story" behind the Chisholm Trail with those in attendance.
The Halstead couple are noted researchers and authors regarding the Texas cattle trails, having published three books on the topic and receiving two Nonfiction Book of the Year awards (from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Wild West History Association) in 2016 for "The Western Cattle Trail, 1874-1897, Its Rise, Collapse, and Revival."
Margaret likened the couple's research to that of genealogists. As the latter look into the history of one family, it is likely they will need to research another to get the full story — each time getting more on the "main trunk line." In a similar fashion, to understand the historical cattle trails, Margaret noted she and her husband had to study other trails and how they relate to each other to get the whole history.
Recently, and with the 150th anniversary approaching, the Kraisingers turned their attention to the Chisholm Trail and like their previous research started to uncover the evolution of the trail by researching contemporary routes of the time — finding out some interesting history.
"When they (cowboys) were going into Abilene in 1867, they'd never heard of the Chisholm Trail," Margaret said.
In fact, the Kraisingers noted the the Chisholm Trail recognized today was actually born out of another trail entirely, which is the focus of their most recent book, "The Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail, 1867-1870, The Predecessor of the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas."
Originally, the Kraisingers noted Texas cattlemen used a much more familiar route (the Shawnee Trail) when first leading drives following the end of the Civil War. That trail headed farther east towards St. Louis. As settlers made their way westward (and issues arose with Spanish Fever spreading among the cattle), that forced drovers to shift to more western routes.
Quarantines were established, as well, restricting routes even more. The presence of (Indian Territory) border outlaws also created issues for cattlemen, but the Kraisingers noted Joseph McCoy realized those problems and established a railhead in Abilene because it was away from the border, there were no quarantine problems and it was viewed as safe and secure.
Heading north to Abilene past Red River Station, the new trail passed through its namesake Fort Arbuckle, as the Kraisingers said cowboys generally moved from fort to fort for the sense of safety from Indians that came with a military presence.
"They went by way of Fort Arbuckle because it was the only fort out there in line to Abilene," Margaret said.
Both first-hand accounts from the cowboys themselves and newspapers were used to prove the Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail preceded the Chisholm Trail, though it's easy to see the lineage as the first trail did pass through Jesse Chisholm's ranch before heading north to the Little Arkansas River.
Uncovering these origins, the Kraisingers noted the trail's history extends beyond what most assume to be end points in Abilene (and later Ellsworth), though Gary was quick to point out drives kept going north to Nebraska — a subject the couple plan to tackle in their next book.
"There's more story to write. I'm not done yet," Gary said.
"Gary and I have had a passion for cattle trails for well over 40 years," Margaret said. "We will probably continue with this, like we do with genealogy, for the rest of our lives."
For more information on the Kraisingers and their work, visit www.westerncattletrail.net.