This article is reprinted from front page story in Caprock Courier by Carol Campbell.
You can blaze a trail, hit the trail, or follow tracks rather than a visible object. But one thing is certain, as long as man has walked upright on the earth; they have left trails for us to follow.
From explorer’s trails, cattle trails, rails to trail to asphalt trails – like the old Route 66 – trails are vast, they tell a story and “trails are interconnected,” event planner and past president of the West Texas Historical Association Marisue Potts said.
The “trails” initiative, the brainchild of Marisue Potts and Dr. Tai Kreidler, celebrated the 2nd anniversary meeting of West Texas Trails group in the beautiful Hope Center in Quitaque on October 24, 2015. About 60 registrants attended the conference, the formal organizing year for the group. Twenty charter members paid membership dues and marked their calendars for 2016.
Keynote speaker Dr. Alex Hunt examined the “concept of place” in his speech entitled “Transatlantic Cattle Trails.” Dr. Hunt has lived in the Great West from Fairbanks, Alaska, to West Texas but defining a place has always been elusive, he said. “Place has to do with motion, it was born of migration,” he said, adding, “Places are intersections of trails.”
He discussed the influence of the foreign investors in Texas ranching, where by 1882, English and Scottish capitol had invested more than $34 million in Western ranching. After the Comanche were subdued in the vast area of Texas and New Mexico known as the Comancheria, John Adair partnered with Charles Goodnight and founded the JA Ranch. Adair introduced British Hereford cattle to the Plains area. Cornelia Adair kept a diary in 1874 of her travels in the West that was published in 1918. He read excerpts from her diary where she made the observation that Americans had a “peculiar mobility” and an “extraordinary desire to travel” to forge new trails.
The Adair’s invested in the Plains, he said, as did Murdo Mackenzie, who founded the Matador Ranch, then sold to a Scottish Syndicate. Mackenzie founded a ranch in Brazil and recruited Panhandle cowboys to work the cattle. Cattle ranching became a “global enterprise,” he said, “So it is valuable to think about the trails that have opened up our regional history” and connected us to a place.
National Ranching Heritage Center’s Curator of Art and editor of the Ranch Record, Scott White, spoke on the “Trials of the Goodnight Trail”. The Goodnight-Loving trail was made popular in a television series “Lonesome Dove.” Goodnight met Oliver Loving after the Civil War, and in June 1866, Goodnight and Loving trailed 2,000 head of longhorn cattle with 16 cowhands to market in Ft. Sumner, NM, following the former route of the Butterfield Overland Mail. Charles Goodnight invented a traveling supply wagon, commonly known as the “chuckwagon” for this long trail drive. “Trail drives were done by the 1890s,” White said.
We learned the “Perils of Mapping Trails” and the changes of the “Great Western Trail Project” where Sylvia Mahoney (who was unable to attend) turned her program over to the capable hands of Dr. Tai Kreidler, Director of TTU Southwest Collection, Lubbock, who explained the difficulty of “terra incognita” where Coronado lost his bearings on the Staked Plains and wound up in Blanco Canyon. “Place names can change,” Kreidler said. Now, The Great Western Trail (GWT), a 19th century cattle trail that originated in northern Mexico, ran west parallel to the Chisholm Trails, and traversed the US for 2,000 miles, terminating on the Canadian border, is now being renamed without the “Great” by the National Park Service. Mahoney has marked the trail across Texas every six miles and a grass roots effort to verify the route has spread across nine US states, and into Saskatchewan, Canada. Mahoney didn’t act alone – Jeff Bearden and Mary Ann McCuiston and Rotarians in each local county helped mark the trail with cement markers, homemade by the McCuistons in their back yard, Marisue Potts added.
Following the morning session, guests lunched at the Tri-County Building, followed by an organizational meeting of the West Texas Trails group where Bob Saul, Fort Worth, was elected president and plans were made for the 3rd annual meeting in Mobeetie, TX, on the third weekend of October, 2016. A tour of the Comanchero Canyons Museum was attended by the group before starting afternoon sessions.
Following the introduction of Brian Gendron, a student intern at the Comanchero Canyons Museum and graduate student at Texas Tech University who said he was “Back Tracking the Trails: From Cody, Wyoming, to Quitaque,” we then explored the foot trails of the Llano Estacado with Shelley Armitage.
She returned from Santa Fe, NM, to a family farm in Vega after the death of her father and began “Walking the Llano,” a soon-to-be published book. She followed deer trails into the Little Alamosa Canyon. She showed beautiful slides of her trek into the canyon that empties into the Canadian River where she found remnants of stone pens and plazas. She said she “inherited the legacy of my father’s story” and followed the trail of a 16-year-old sheep herder, Ysabel Gurule from the Anton Chico sheep herding families. Gurule was one of the first settlers of the area, who her father had befriended.
“The Fort Worth and Denver Blasts Rail Trails Through the Caprock” was the title of Le’Ann Pigg’s presentation, an interpreter for Caprock Canyons State Park. Le’Ann skillfully took the audience with an image presentation down the Rails-to-Trails parkway to experience the challenges of laying rails to the top of the Caprock Escarpment, some 500- to 700 feet in elevation.
The railway served as a freight service from Estelline to South Plains, TX, about 64 miles, built by the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad. The railway was chartered in 1925 and by 1928 the FW&DRR had blasted two tunnels through the rugged canyons to meet the challenging feat of a 2-percent grade; laid an estimated 12 to 15 million pounds of sand and gravel for the bed; and placed 64 miles of rail. The rail line was closed in 1929. In the 1980s, the Rails-to-Trails parkway for hiking, biking, and equestrian travel was developed on the abandoned line.
When built, Clarity Tunnel was 700 feet long; it was shortened to 520 feet due to a derailment. The tunnel is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Now, one-half million Mexican Freetail bats call the tunnel home from April through August. The Caprock Canyons State Park service conducts trail rides down the rail path.
Claude Hudspeth of San Angelo filled the slot of a presentation on “The Ozark Highway Promotional Trail” and spoke to the group on mapping the Overland Butterfield Trail in the remote regions of the West. One area so remote, he said, “if you’re running from the law, it’s a good place to go.”
Robert Hall spoke on “The Bankhead Highway,” a military solution proposed by US Senator John Bankhead in 1916, who proposed a highway system that ran from Washington DC to California. This asphalt trail helped build towns, increased commerce, and answered the need for the “mobile public” to travel. Trails come in all forms.
Dr. Holle Humphries spoke on “The Little Known Trail Into Palo Duro Canyon,” where seven companies of the 4th cavalry descended the trail in one hour by leading their horses single file down a 751 foot drop.
She introduced Armstrong County Museum board member Francis Ferris who presented her extensive research on the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. Ferris lives in Wayside, TX, a small community on the south rim of Palo Duro Canyon.
Following the battle, where lodges were looted and burned and all winter food was destroyed, Col. Mackenzie captured 1,424 horses and drove them up the steep trail that troops had come down, Ferris said. The next day, after selecting horses to keep, 1,048 were caught and shot.
Following her presentation, Jim Brokenbek, a board member of the TPTR who spearheaded the placement of Quanah Parker arrows in Palmer and Randall counties, gave a short presentation on the placement of the granite marker at the Quanah Parker Arrow at the entrance of Palo Duro Canyon, where 100 descendants of Quanah Parker met in June, 2015, for a family reunion. A dedication ceremony was conducted by the descendants of Quanah Parker, including a Cedar Blessing Ceremony. He gave accounts of the appreciation of the Quanah Parker descendants on the work of the Quanah Parker Trail.
In the last presentation of the day, Dr. Barbara Brannon, Executive Director of the Texas Plains Trail, spoke on the creation of the 10 Heritage Trails in Texas, designed to “capture the geography, unique identity and symbiotic relationship between history and travel in the state.” Created in 2003, the trails program promoting heritage tourism in Texas, was not funded in the last legislative session, “putting the most effective tourism initiatives in Texas’ history in danger,” she said. She called for the West Texas Trails group to “tell your legislators to fund this program “that for every $1.00 Texas spends, heritage tourism returns $8.00 to state tax revenue.”
Wrapping up the conference, newly elected president of the West Texas Trails Association, Bob Saul, handed out Charter Membership cards to 20 members; a drawing was held for a miniature chuckwagon, courtesy of Robert Hall. The work of art was awarded to Ray Hopkins of Borger. In appreciation of her work on trails, Marisue Potts was given a miniature carata, courtesy of Robert Hall.
The group will meet next year in Mobeetie in Wheeler County, the 3rd weekend in October. For more information, contact Mr. Saul at firstname.lastname@example.org; or check out the new web site at westtexastrails.com.
A prominent new sign pointing the way to Comanchero Canyons Museum in now in place on Highway 86 in Quitaque.
Portions of this article are reprinted from front page story in Caprock Courier, Nov 5, 2014, by Carol Campbell, and other parts are from the official program of the West Texas Trails Meeting and from notes of various attendees.
The inaugural meeting of the West Texas Trails met on October 25, 2014, in the Hope Center at Quitaque, hosted by the Comanchero Canyons Museum and the West Texas Historical Association (WTHA). Conference moderator was former WTHA president Marisue Potts, Matador, and WTHA Executive Director Tai Kreidler of the Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
About 70 guests from Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas attended the all-day meeting with a packed program including presenters from Silverton, Quitaque, Lubbock, Amarillo, Seymour, Granbury, Crowell, Floyd County, Happy, and Fort Worth, Texas.
The keynote speaker was Dr. John Miller Morris, a Panhandle native from Clarendon, Texas, who currently is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Dr. Morris is a geographer and historian specializing in historical geography of the American southwest. He has authored several books, including El Llano Estacado: Exploration and Imagination on the High Plains of Texas and New Mexico, 1536-1860; Coronado to Escalante: The Explorers of the Spanish Southwest; and A Private in the Texas Rangers.
The title of his keynote presentation was “Trails to Destiny.” He began by comparing West Texas trails to city trails: “wide open spaces to city grid lock; and pump jacks to car jacks;” then he took the audience on trails from our past into our future.
He outlined the first trails of man as “corridors of human travel” and then asked the question: “Why did we leave? Well, apparently human beings have a risk-taking gene, DRD4-7R, also known as ‘The Curiosity Gene’.”
“Peoples of Africa followed the migratory birds to North America; and the first human trail was 14,000 years ago by the Clovis people who followed animal trails to hunt for Alibates flint on the Canadian River. Buffalo figured out how to wander the vast Great Plains,” he said. “Vast herds used corridors of travel.”
Then the “Trouble with Trails” began when the first Europeans set out to the north in 1538, hence the Coronado Trails. The Spaniards left their horses, and the horse cultures of the Indians in the Comanchero followed the Equine Trails. Horses provided mobility across the grasslands and they found watering holes, “The Path of Living Waters.”
New trails emerged – wagon and stagecoach trails, military trails, Alkali trails, Western Cattle Trails (Chisholm and Mobeetie). Then in 1882, the Iron Rail Trails emerged, looking for smooth, flat land – the shortest and easiest routes – cutting off smaller towns like Old Tascosa. 1909 ushered in the Age of the Automobile and the Asphalt Trails emerged.
Road networks by the early 1920s followed the Ozark Trail (first east-west auto trail), which actually comes right through Quitaque. Dirt trails were paved with caliche and asphalt. Route 66 in the Depression Era moved migrants to California. Morris concluded his comments with announcing “The End of the Trail” and “may all your trails be happy trails.”
Following the keynote presentation, “The Quitaque Connections” featured presentations on
• “Texan Santa Fe Expedition,” Jerry Leatherman, Silverton.
• “Old Wagon Road,” Bob Saul, Fort Worth and Jim Saul, Quitaque.
• “Comanche Plunder Trail,” Duane Johnson, Crowell.
• “Mackenzie Trails,” Sam Watts, Floyd County and Granbury
• “Comanchero Trails — Internet Blogging and Web Technology,” Neal Odom, Happy
• Jerry Leatherman, Silverton, who spoke on the 1841 Texan Santa Fe Expedition where 327 men (270 were soldiers and the rest were merchants, politicians, and teamsters) with 20 huge laden wagons with a wide range of supplies, horses, and oxen, left Austin, Texas, to find a western trade route to Santa Fe, NM. They attempted to follow old Indian trails up the Caprock Escarpment. When they met the cap rock barrier, they couldn’t get their wagons to the top. Running out of food, the party was harassed by the Kiowa who killed five of their men.
“They left a bloody trail,” Leatherman said. These trails and camps have been “discovered” by researchers, historians, and “arm-chair” archeologists. The most famous camp discovered was “Camp Resolution” where Commander Hugh McLeod drew up a resolution detailing the decision to split the command, and the site became known as Camp Resolution. He sent 100 men with the best horses to the top to find food and guides to rescue them.
“There were at least four sites where the military and wagon train camped,” Leatherman said. “They started in Motley County. Researchers have found Camp 1 and Camp 4, and we think we know where Camp 2 and Camp 3 are located, but it has not been verified.”
A. J. Taylor, who as a young archeologist assisted Eddie Guffee in the research and excavation of the Merrell-Taylor Village site, commonly known as a Comanchero trading post, recognized special guest Patti Guffee, who assisted with the investigation by her capable lab work and research. The late Eddie Guffee was recognized by the chairperson for his untiring work to locate the sites of the camps of Camp Resolution of the Texan-Santa Fe Expedition.
• A presentation by brothers Bob Saul, Fort Worth, and Jim Saul, Quitaque, told the story of the “Old Wagon Road” on their property on the caprock near Quitaque, Texas. Known on surveyors’ field notes and abstracts as “The Old Indian Trail,” this trail extends onto the plains and parts of it are still visible today. Local legend says this was the only trail in the region where a two-wheeled cart or a four-wheeled wagon could traverse from the breaks (canyons) to the plains, and even then they had to be “double-teamed” because of the steep terrain.
• Duane Johnson, Crowell, spoke on the “Comanche Plunder Trail,” and Neal Odom of Happy, whose great grandfather worked for Col. Goodnight, spoke on the “Comanchero Trails,” internet blogging and web technology.
• Delores Mosser of Lubbock spoke to the group on “The Pastores’ Trail of Living Water.”
Following a barbecue lunch at the Tri-County Center, the group toured the new Comanchero Canyons Museum in Quitaque. The centerpiece of the museum is a “carreta,” symbolizing the type of Mexican cart the Comancheros might have used in their trade with the Comanches in the Quitaque area. Exhibits on Texan Santa Fe Expedition, the Red River War, pre-historic and historic Indian artifacts, the Otho Stubbs collection and other personal collections and art are displayed, representing a five-county region.
The afternoon program kicked off with “Carson’s Military Trail to Adobe Walls,” by Alvin Lynn, Amarillo. The Motley County native hiked 200 miles and spent 14 years writing a book on the trail that he explored with boots on the ground. He recently led a tour to The First Battle of Adobe Walls.
• “The Mackenzie Trails” by Sam Watts of Floyd County and Granbury followed with a discussion on archival maps. He found that some maps were not very accurate, but some “good maps” are currently being discovered in the state and national archives where they had been misfiled or misplaced, he said.
• A third presentation, “Chihuahua Trade Trail” by Victoria Scism offered clues on how this crew chief documents their finds along an often faint trace. More information was forth-coming by Claude Hudspeth of San Angelo on using GPS, photographs, and software programs to document a trail. Hudspeth’s pet project is the California Emigrant Trail, including the Butterfield Trail, marked by wagon parts, a few ox shoes, and many graves. To conclude the emphasis on research and documentation, Tai Kreidler handed out a list of current digital maps available online at the Southwest Collection archives at TTU and offered their resources for research.
“The first inaugural meeting of West Texas Trails was such a huge success that hosts for the second annual meeting is now open for consideration,” Marisue Potts said. “The Comanchero Canyons Museum and the West Texas Historical Association are exceedingly pleased with the turnout of this consortium on historic trails. The interest displayed in the history of this rich and colorful region is writing a new chapter.”
The Caprock Courier newspaper is pleased to announce a donation to the Comanchero Canyons Museum in Quitaque, Texas, for the purchase of a display plaque to accompany the Equus Scotti exhibit recently acquired by the museum.
Publisher Sally Threet is thrilled with the progress the Museum Board is making toward this cultural project, which will preserve many area artifacts and historical items, enabling visitors to learn and enjoy these fascinating finds for generations to come.