Weatherford Democrat

March 12, 2013

Hitting the dusty trail


Weatherford Democrat

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By BRIAN SMITH

A new Doss Heritage and Culture Center exhibit highlights Parker County’s role in the cattle drives of Texas.

Trail Drivers opened Feb. 19 and is scheduled to run through February 2014. Museum Curator Amanda Rush said the exhibit explains the story of the Goodnight Loving Trail, one of the main cattle drive trails in the state. Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving met in 1866 and worked together to move 2,000 head of cattle north, starting from the area around Parker County according to Museum Curator Amanda Rush.

After the Civil War, cattle were running untamed through the state and were averaging about $1 a head, Rush said. In other parts of the country, cattle could get $40 a head so many enterprising men organized cattle drives to bring money into the state.

“It was one of the reasons Texas did so well in the years after the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction while other southern states did not,” Rush said. 

Among the five major trails that ran through Texas from 1860-1890, it is estimated more than 10 million cattle and several million horses came through the state from Mexico and south Texas. Many of the trails began moving west because of a disease called Texas fever that local horses and cattle were somehow immune to.

“Texas cattle would bring the disease with them through Kansas and Missouri and it would affect and kill the cattle there but not bother our cattle,” Rush said. “In 1859, Kansas and Missouri both passed laws banning the animals from coming through the state, so the cattle drives moved west.”

It was one of those treks west through New Mexico and Colorado that would prove to be the death of Loving as he developed gangrene. He passed away in New Mexico but requested his body be buried in Weatherford, Rush said. Loving was moved to town once the weather got cooler and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Rush said. Bose Ikard, a slave from Mississippi, worked on the Goodnight-Loving Trail with the two men and is the namesake behind Ikard Elementary in town, Rush said.

Much of the exhibit deals with how cattle drives worked at that time. An average of between 12 and 20 men would accompany between 2,000 and 3,000 head of cattle about 12 to 15 miles a day for anywhere between 25 to 100 days, Rush said. 

Cattle branding from the different ranches became important as more than one ranch could be represented on a drive, Rush said. As part of the new exhibits, children have a chance to develop their own brands via chalk.

Rush said the museum’s new goal is to provide for more historical exhibits with many of the artifacts the facility has in storage, Rush said. As part of the Trail Drivers exhibit, Rush is developing programs and camps to encourage schools to get involved.

Many original artifacts are part of the exhibit, much of it coming from the Loving Ranch and his descendants. Rush said she is planning on doing several programs with the family as part of the year-long exhibit.

Goodnight himself is responsible for the development of the chuck wagon in 1866. The original chuck wagon carried bedrolls and food and was actually a redesigned government surplus wagon. Because of the length of travel and terrain, the original wooden axles were replaced with iron. Goodnight installed a chuck box that had a hinged lid for storage and also installed a hammock to the undercarriage to hold wood and kindling for the fires.

The Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on the exhibit, call 817-599-6168 or visit dosscenter.org.