The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 67, July 1963 - April, 1964

Aotes atd Docuittelts
A Cattle Drive from cexas to California:
The Diary of Al. J. 8rskie, 1854
Edited by WALTER S. SANDERLIN
MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN OF THE LONG DRIVES NORTH FROM
Texas to the trail towns of Missouri, Kansas, and
Wyoming. Less familiar were the considerably longer
drives to California undertaken during the heyday of the gold
mining frontier in the 1850's.' Some of the more intrepid Texas
cattlemen, weighing the greater risks from Indians and natural
terrain against the premium prices for beef being paid in the
gold camps, chose to try the dry and dangerous trail to the west.2
'Louis Pelzer, for example, mentions the California drives in only two sentences.
"In 1850 the drives to California began and six years later the first Texas herd
entered Chicago. .. Frederick Law Olmsted in 1856 counted in Texas a drove of
four hundred oxen bound for California." The Cattlemen's Frontier (Glendale,
1936), 37. Writing more recently, Mari Sandoz does little better. In connection
with the Gold Rush, she writes: "... Then the 49ers came to eat up everything
in sight. Prices climbed like an eagle on the wind. There were rumors of $200
steers and 75-cent mine candles containing a nickel's worth of tallow. Texans
headed their herds westward." In a subsequent discussion of the Goodnight-Loving
trail, she adds: "Some smallish herds had plodded to California over the old
Butterfield Trail long ago, usually starting early, when the holes and wallows still
might be wet and the heat was less burning." The Cattleman (New York, 1958),
43, 95. But see also James G. Bell (J. Evetts Haley, ed.), "A Log of the Texas-
California Cattle Trail, 1854," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXXV, 20o8-237,
290-316, XXXVI, 47-66.
2The popular view of the difficulties facing those who drove cattle to California
in the 1850's can be indicated in the following two passages. Carl Coke Rister
writes: "The California roads crossing the southern plains area or the numerous
immigrant trails of the country were crowded with the great lumbering wagons
of the 'movers.' Because of deprivations, hardships, and weary travel, each of these
early roads was 'a trail of tears.' The marked and unmarked graves of men, women
and children, and occasionally the bleaching bones of those who had met with
violent deaths, were grim reminders of the dangers which lurked beside the way.
But even for the 'movers' all was not toil and sorrow. Occasionally they found
a camping site near a clear-running stream and by the flickering light of their
campfire, they would eat their simple fare of cornbread, fat bacon, and potatoes,
and forget their toilsome experiences of the day. When time came to retire for the

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 67, July 1963 - April, 1964. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101197/. Accessed July 26, 2014.