After a feed at the chuckwagon (aka Dennys), Jack and I jumped in the buckboard and reined in the horses (aka Dodge van hp). We are headed for Abilene, Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Well essentially the modern day version of it being the I-35 which runs all the way from Texas through Oklahoma and up into Kansas.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail – the first cattle drive that headed north to Abilene. 1867-2017
We made good time and stopped in at the Dwight Eisenhower Library and Museum. The museum currently has an exhibit 'Chisholm Trail and the Cowtown that raised a President' and the library has two exhibits 'The Chisholm Trail: Driving the American West' and 'Eisenhower and the Great War'.
First up we watched a documentary on the Eisenhower years and about the man himself. Dwight David Eisenhower, known as 'Ike', was a formidable man indeed, one of compassion and decency.
Next we went on a short guided tour through his Abilene boyhood home. The house is on its original site where the Eisenhowers lived from 1898 to 1946 when his mother passed away. There are still items within the home that belonged to the Eisenhower's.
He lived here from when he was 8 until he was 20 before leaving for West Point Academy. Six boys were raised in this home.
The blanket on the fainting couch was woven by the great grandfather who was a weaver. It is over 160 years old and still appears to be in really good nick!
The wooden box with the lid in the kitchen is a dough box. Ida made 9 loaves of bread every other day, to keep the boys fed.
Next we went into the Museum and spent a good amount of time in here. The first part of the exhibition was information that most of us cowboys and cowgirls know of the Chisholm Trail, its origins, the cattle drives, the cowboy's and how Joseph G. McCoy and Jesse Chisholm made it into the history books.
Chisholm, after marrying, had worked for his wife's father's trading post along the Canadian River in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). He also worked in a diplomatic capacity, brokering treaties with Indian tribes for the Republic of Texas and the United States Government.
Later after the Civil War, he went back to trading and essentially transformed the trails to be more usable by heavily laden wagons. He continued trading until he died in 1868.
McCoy after having been turned down from a few towns finally settled on Abilene, KS for his new 'cowtown'. There was a quarantine issue for Texas cattle at the time and after lobbying the Governor of Kansas got permission to create a corridor for cattle to be driven from Texas through to Kansas. Holding pens were built, paths were surveyed on the previously travelled trails that Jesse Chisholm had traded along.
It soon became the first of the cattle boomtowns. In a few years it had transformed from a small frontier town into a thriving boomtown.
The trail had been called many names and was finally officially recognised when the name was publicised in 1870. The Chisholm Trail was about 150 miles west of the old Shawnee trail. It was shorter and there were plenty of grazing grasslands and water for the cattle along this route and rivers were easier to cross.
Abilene, saw the usual well known figures flow through its streets such as Wild Bill Hicock, John Wesley Hardin, and more. Problems ensued with the cattle trade with cattle getting sick and the 'Texas tick' causing issues that essentially shut the cattle trails down in 1871.
It is said by historians that an estimated 3 million head of cattle made the trek from Texas to Abilene in a 5 year period. Safe to say Joseph McCoy's plans for a prosperous cattle business were indeed successful.
Whilst time and governance closed the cattle trails, the legacy of raising cattle and creating new agricultural ways has lived on for generations since.
One of Eisenhowers personal hero's, was a man named Thomas “Bear River” Smith who served as Sheriff in June 1870 until he met his demise in November of the same year. Smith had managed to tame the cattle town and was well liked. He policed mainly with just his spirit and a badge. He had outlawed gun carrying within city limits. His tenure was short lived when he was murdered during a homestead scuffle where his Deputy left him to fend for himself.
Into the next lot of exhibit rooms and there are lots of displays of Eisenhower growing up, Mamie his wife and beautifully displayed clothes of hers on rotating mannequins in climate control cases.
There are exhibits of his time during WWII and his exceptional leadership, D-Day, VE-Day, his presidential time etc. so much information, beautifully done and they are looking at changing the displays and renovating the museum. It will be an even more impressive museum when they do that. This is a Museum not to be missed.
The library across from the Museum had a, shall I say, more modern twist in a shortened version of the history of Chisholm Trail. There is also another exhibit currently being held there of Eisenhower and the Great War that we didn't see.
That my friends, is our quick history lesson and Museum visit for the day.
After a short stay with our Kansan friends Cooncan and Bertie Winchester we will head for Union Station in Kansas City before going on through to Morristown, MI.
See you on the trail!