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MudHog

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The little while I've been here, I've noticed there are alot of older cattlemen here that potentially have a wealth of history. Lately I've been doing some research on old pioneer trails and have run across many of cattle trails. Anybody care to share any history that they know of? I'll post quotes as I find them, as well as, the source of where I'm pulling them from. To start, I came across this one that I find pretty amazing to say the least.

"OPELOUSAS TRAIL" was a cattle trail used between southeast TX and New Orleans, LA to drive cattle to market in New Orleans. Some places I read call the Opelousas Trail as a portion of the "Beef Trail" and also "La Bahia Road". Time line is believed to have started around 1836 and the trail was in its prime between 1850-1880. The railroad came along and is what ended the use of the trail.

The swimming of cattle was a dangerous occupation for the 'cattle crossers,' one of whom was a pioneer settler named Sterling Spell of Beaumont. A biography of Spell in the Beaumont Journal of April 11, 1908, described the brute strength he expended in that effort, as follows:

"Sterling Spell was an extraordinary man in some respects. He was six feet and six inches in his bare feet, and his usual weight was 256 pounds. . . .The stock raisers here would employ him when driving beeves to the New Orleans market to assist them, and it was related to this writer by an eye witness that when the drove arrived at the Neches River, Spell would take off his outer clothing and go in among the cattle and seize a big 1,000 pound, four-year-old steer by the horns, back him into the river, turn him around, hold to the horns by his left hand, and swim across the river with him. The other steers of the drove would follow. No other man was ever known to have attempted that feat of strength."
 

Nesikep

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That's pretty good!

We're right smack on the gold rush trail of 1880's, Our place was bought by a chinaman in 1886, it is Lot 29 in the district. Our henhouse must have been a farrier's shop judging by the number of horseshoe nails we find there (New ones, all rusted up), it went back to the government at some point, I'm assuming he died, and was bought in about 1930 by some Scotchmen, who, with the depression, were very poor... had 4 or 5 kids, built most everything out of rock, wood, and haywire, and every building a health hazard for anyone over 5'6". Our house was built in about 1933, with used materials back then.
 

melking

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Where I live, there was not somuch of a trail as an end point. The early cracker cowboys would drive the cattle down to Punta Rassa, which is 20 miles or so south of me. From Punta Rassa, most of the cattle would be shipped to Cuba.
 
OP
MudHog

MudHog

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The Coushatta Trace is interesting. Old San Antonio Road and El Camanio Real were likely in the mix with CT somewhere along the way.
 

Rafter S

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A while ago I bought a batch of The Cattleman magazines (the magazine produced by the Texas & Southwestern Cattleman's Association) from the late 1930's and early 1940's on eBay. They had a series of articles on some of the old pioneer families, some of who were still alive at the time. It was fascinating stuff.
 

backhoeboogie

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MudHog":1pn89ukl said:
The little while I've been here, I've noticed there are alot of older cattlemen here that potentially have a wealth of history. Lately I've been doing some research on old pioneer trails and have run across many of cattle trails. Anybody care to share any history that they know of? I'll post quotes as I find them, as well as, the source of where I'm pulling them from. To start, I came across this one that I find pretty amazing to say the least.

"OPELOUSAS TRAIL" was a cattle trail used between southeast TX and New Orleans, LA to drive cattle to market in New Orleans. Some places I read call the Opelousas Trail as a portion of the "Beef Trail" and also "La Bahia Road". Time line is believed to have started around 1836 and the trail was in its prime between 1850-1880. The railroad came along and is what ended the use of the trail.

The swimming of cattle was a dangerous occupation for the 'cattle crossers,' one of whom was a pioneer settler named Sterling Spell of Beaumont. A biography of Spell in the Beaumont Journal of April 11, 1908, described the brute strength he expended in that effort, as follows:

"Sterling Spell was an extraordinary man in some respects. He was six feet and six inches in his bare feet, and his usual weight was 256 pounds. . . .The stock raisers here would employ him when driving beeves to the New Orleans market to assist them, and it was related to this writer by an eye witness that when the drove arrived at the Neches River, Spell would take off his outer clothing and go in among the cattle and seize a big 1,000 pound, four-year-old steer by the horns, back him into the river, turn him around, hold to the horns by his left hand, and swim across the river with him. The other steers of the drove would follow. No other man was ever known to have attempted that feat of strength."

What I find more amazing is how long that trail was used and how long cattle were driven to New Orleans.

Dime store novels romanticized the Goodnight Loving and Chisholm Trails. Everyone had heard of them but they were only used for a very short duration. No one knew about trails to New Orleans and the decades they were used.

The Opelousas Trail lasted 100 years. The Chisholm Trail lasted 10 years.
 

backhoeboogie

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I am a descendant of Peyton Bland. He died coming home from a cattle drive north out of Texas. He drove many herds to New Orleans. People would throw in cattle along the way. Start out with a few hundred and end up there with a few thousand.
 

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