Heritage, Spring 2003 Page: 10
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Many South Texas pioneers took advantage of
this hardy breed. Hip6lito Garcfa, established the
Randado Ranch some 50 miles southeast of presentday
Laredo on land granted him by the Mexican
government in 1836. Vaqueros (cowboys) burned
his simple "ring and ring brand" onto many a hide
as his holdings and herds increased. Northeast of
him, the legendary 825,000-acre King Ranch had
its beginning in 1852, when Richard King and
Gideon K. Lewis set up a cattle camp on Santa
Gertrudis Creek near present-day Kingsville. The
"Running W" brand appeared in the 1860s and was
registered on February 9, 1869, as the official brand
for the King Ranch-a mark that is still used today.
King employed a number of Mexican hands, and it
is said that in 1854 he moved the inhabitants of an
entire drought-stricken Mexican village to his
ranch and employed them. These workers came to
be known as kinefios or "King's men."
Up north, Christopher Columbus Slaughter typified
the style of men who were entering the region
from the southern U.S. cotton states. At age 19 in
1856, he moved with his family from East Texas to
the good cattle range in Palo Pinto County southeast
of Fort Belknap. Here he became famous as a
trail driver and Indian fighter, and his "Long-S"
brand became a common sight on the northwest
Texas frontier where he would eventually earn the
nickname "Cattle King of Texas."
The animal that allowed these ranchers to amass
their fortunes was perfect for the conditions. Texas
remained a remote frontier for most of its early existence,
and persons interested in selling their animals
at a profit often had to trail, or drive, these
beeves hundreds of miles to market. This practice
had not started in Texas. Settlers in the early
American colonies had been trailing livestock to
market for generations, as had their descendents in
the American South. In those early days, most of
the cattle drives were conducted by men on foot
When Spanish colonists moved into the region
is now South Texas in the 1700s, retinto, or c
stock often preceded them.
including many so-called "cowboys," AfricanAmerican
slaves expert at working cattle. By their
sides were their trusty dogs, controlling the beeves
by their barks and bites.
Texans became especially good at driving cattle.
The first such drives hit the trail in the 1830s when
American settlers in Stephen F Austin's colony
pushed their surplus stock across the coastal prairies
of Texas to Louisiana where they were loaded onto
steamboats for the trip to the highly lucrative New
Orleans beef market. Later, Texans tried driving
their cattle to northern markets in Illinois, Indiana,
Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri. The first such cattle
drive occurred in 1846 with a 1,000-head herd
heading to Ohio. A few years later, one adventuresome
stock raiser took his animals all the way to
New York City. These expeditions traveled along a
route known as the Shawnee Trail that passed north
through Austin, Waco, Dallas, up the Preston Road
to the Red River, and through Indian Territory
(present-day Oklahoma) to Missouri and beyond.
Others risked their lives and animals to drive cattle
all the way to the gold camps in California.
These trail drives, never numerous, almost faded
away forever. In the 1850s, outbreaks of babesiosis
or "Texas fever"-a cattle blood disease transmitted
by ticks-caused most states to close their borders
to herds coming up the trail. Farmers opposed the
passage of these herds near their homes and crops,
and violent encounters between sodbusters and cattlemen
became more frequent. The Civil War
closed these northern markets, and most Texas cattle
left the state heading for Louisiana, the
Mississippi, and Confederate armies. Mostly the
longhorns roamed the brush country and multiplied
while the trail hands were away on distant battlefields.
Above, early cowboys trailing cattle.
Photo from Texas Longhorn Breeders Association.
At left, longhorns at sunset. Photo by TxDOT.
But the conflict had also created a
potential bonanza. By 1866, there were
an estimated six million head of unbranded
wild cattle on the open ranges of
Texas. There, among such a multitude,
HER I TA GE . SPRING 2003
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Spring 2003, periodical, Spring 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45378/m1/10/?q=contract%20drovers%20cattle: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.