The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968 Page: 2
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
to join wild herds and to become the property of anyone who caught
them. And the Confederate currency that the soldiers and traders
brought home was worthless.
The more alert cowmen were quick to realize that, even without
railroads to distant markets, they had an opportunity to make a new
start. They could do this by capturing and branding some of the wild
and half-wild Longhorns and trailing them to Northern points where
they would bring good prices. Before the war some of the stockmen
had taken small herds overland to Midwestern railroad towns or to
New Orleans, and a few of the bolder ones had risked the dangerous
routes to California after the gold rush. During the war some Texans
had pointed herds east to feed the Southern troops, while others had
bartered beeves in Mexico for coffee and other scarce items.
Now, with five million mostly ownerless cattle in the Texas grasslands
and the brush country, there was incentive to tame them for the trail
and take them to markets where the demand for beef would assure
high prices. At that time cattle were so nearly worthless in Texas that
some were slaughtered for their hides and tallow alone. Even in the
better local markets, ordinary cattle brought only three to four dollars
a head, although a mature beef might bring five dollars. Yet in Kansas
and Missouri railroad towns a steer worth only four dollars in Texas
might bring twenty to thirty dollars. And it cost only a dollar or so
per head to trail a herd north, since the cattle lived on the grass they
found along the way.
Even in the later days of trail driving, when a drover might have
to buy Texas steers at eight dollars or more a head, the profit in
trailing remained high. Despite the risks of loss from stampedes, river
crossings, and the depredations of white and Indian rustlers, the money
brought home, usually in gold, enabled many Texas ranchmen to pay
their debts, buy range land, build fences and windmills, and bring in
bulls of British breeds to upgrade their herds.
Outside Texas the impact of trail driving from this state was less
obvious but nevertheless was impressive. At least a minor result was
noted by Joseph G. McCoy, the young Illinois stock dealer who
established the Chisholm 'Trail. The trailing, he observed in 1874,
helped to create "an era of better feeling between Northern and Texas
men by bringing them in contact with each other in commercial
transactions. The feeling [sic] today existing in the breasts of all men
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968, periodical, 1968; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/m1/20/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.