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Reminiscences of the Trail


Cattle trail legends and history abound, but most of the theme do not include Hispanics. I found the account of A. F. Carvajal, a Hispanic cowboy from South Texas, of the Kansas trail in the 1800s. He and other Hispanic men, judging from their names, descendants of the South Texas Hispanic settlers drove cattle from Texas to Kansas and Nebraska.  

"In the early part of March 1882, Mr. Collin Campbell employed my brother to get hands and carry a heard of cattle to Kansas and Nebraska. The following men were employed: A. F. Carvajal, Miguel Cantu, Brijido, Don Hilario, Francisco Longoria, Melchor Jimenez, Juan Bueno, Anastacio Sanches, and a man by the name of Luna, and old cook. The cattle were gathered by Jake and Jim Sutton, and we started from the Ecleto Creek, Campbell's ranch. We penned the cattle the first night in Fred House's pens, and the next day we drove them in the direction of Gonzales. We crossed the Guadalupe at or near Gonzales and traveled through a very thick brushy region to Lockhart, from where we went to the Colorado, crossing it below Austin. At this placed we fired the cook for getting drunk. We went from there to Georgetown, through Rockdale, Salado, and Belton, making about fifteen miles a day. Our route carried us on to Lampasas, where there was a roaring spring and four or five houses. We proceeded due north and crossed the Brazos and passed through Valley Mills. Thence on the west side of Nolan River, west of the Chisholm Trail. Here we learned that the Comanche Indians had killed two persons just above where we were, then we traveled eastward and went by a small place called Cleburne, and on to Fort Worth, where we purchased supplies enough to enables us to cross the Indian Territory. From Fort Worth we drove to Montague, thence to Red River Station, where we crossed Red River and went due north about thirty miles east of Fort Sill. When we had crossed Red River all of us bucked on our six-shooters, for we expected to have to use them. We were on the Chisholm Trail in the Indian Nation, and on the Wichita River some Indians came to us and wanted us to give them some cattle for allowing us to pass through their country. We gave them a few lame cows, and they never botherd us any more. When we reached the Canadian River it was on the rise and swimming, but we made our cattle go across and about twenty of them were drowned. We followed the old trail and crossed the Cimarron River at a place where there was a grove of wild plums. Some men lived in a little house at this point who made it their business to trade with the Indians for furs and buffalo robes. We crossed the Arkansas River about forty or fifty miles west of Wichita and went on towards Ellsworth, Kansas. When we got to Ellsworth the owner of the herd, Collin Campbell, was there waiting for us. We had been in the road four months. While traveling through the wilderness some of the boys roped and killed a few young buffaloes, and we found it very exciting sport.

At Ellsworth, Kansas, Mr. Campbell gave my brother a compass and a map of Nebraska and told him to take the herd to the North Platte, so we started on our way. Just before we left Ellsworth a man by the name of Crump, who was searching all of the herds for road cattle belonging to Captain King, found a few steers in our herd, and through the advice of our friend, Kilgore, who was there with a herd, we turned back. After leaving Ellsworth we had difficulty in getting enough water for the cattle until we reached the Solomon River. Here we were met by a crowd of about twenty armed men who told us we had crossed the deadline, and could not water the cattle there, and that we would have to go up the river some twenty miles where we would cross on the public lands. They permitted us to water our horses, and gave us orders to move on. Our cattle had not had any water for three days and some were almost perishing. The twenty men left us before dark, and a little while after they were gone there appeared a lonely "short horn," riding a big horse, barefooted and with a small cap on his head. We hailed him and asked if we owned the land near there. He said he owned a section about half a mile away, where he lived, but said his neighbors did not want anybody to take cattle across the river for fear of the Texas fever. We told him if he would allows us to water our cattle on his property we would give him two cows and calves or $100 in money, and remove our cattle as soon as they had watered. When they had slaked their thirst we gave him two cows and calves and got him to accompany us twenty miles up the river, where we crossed to the other side. This was near a pace called Republican City. We traveled due north for several days and saw many buffaloes. One day about noon they began going by and at six o'clock that evening they were still passing. Our horses stampeded at the sight of them and my brother had to follow them about eight miles before they could be overtaken and brought back. We proceeded on in the direction of the Plate River, and when we reached that stream we turned westward, following the Northern Pacific Railroad which ran in the direction of Salt Lake City. From Fort McPherson we went to North Platte and at ranch near there we delivered the cattle to the purchasers, and started back home. We were on the trail six and a half months from the time we left Karnes county. Of the crowd of boys, who went with us on this trip only three are now living, myself, my brother, V.P. Carvajal, and Francisco Longoria."

A. F. Carvajal, 231 Simpson Street,

San Antonio, Texas

Source: J. Marvin Hunter and George W. Saunders, The Trail Drivers of Texas (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925) 839-842.

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