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Vol. 4 - No.09 September, 2022 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
The Sedalia Trail
The cattle drives to Sedalia, Missouri were some of the earliest in the Old West. They began in the 1840s. It’s been called the Sedalia, Shawnee, Texas Trail and sometimes just the “Trail.” By 1853 some 3,000 head were being trailed through western Missouri but the local farmers tried to block their passage because of the tick fever carried by the longhorns. The Texas cattle were immune to the disease however it was fatal to the local cows.

In December 1855 a law was passed in Missouri banning Texas cattle forcing the drovers to trail them through eastern Kansas where they also met resistance from locals. There was also the problem of the range cattle trampling their crops. Following the Civil War the drives began again in earnest.

The drovers trailed north through Austin, Waco, Dallas, crossing the Red River and heading through eastern Oklahoma along a trail that was later the route of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Then it picked up an old Indian trail also used by settlers heading for Texas. North of Fort Gibson it split into terminal branches including Sedalia which remained a major crossroads and the closest railroad available to ship on to St. Louis and Chicago.

The rails kept building west, settlers moved in and the trail towns had to keep moving west also. By 1871 the railroads had pushed further west across Kansas and the arrival of farmers caused the drovers to have keep moving west to towns like Dodge City so by 1874 Dodge emerged as the major cattle shipping town.

Dodge City would continue in that role until the rails arrived in September 1872.

By the 1890s, herds were occasionally driven from the Texas Panhandle to Montana. By this time railroads had expanded to cover most of the Far West, including Texas, and meatpacking plants were built closer to ranching areas, making the long cattle drives to the railheads unnecessary.

That and the disastrous winters of the late 1880’s marked the end of America’s most romantic era, the Open Range Cowboy.
About the Author
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales.
By Marshall Trimble of True West Magazine
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