Richard Chisholm was one of the earliest residents of the Texas Colony, documented there in the Atascocita Census of 1826, the first census ever taken in Texas. Richard married Hardenia Taylor, whose brothers and nephews provided most of the manpower for one side of Texas’ famous Taylor-Sutton feud. In 1831, Richard and Hardenia became the parents of Glen Thornton Chisholm, who began herding Texas longhorns to market in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 1, 1866. The trail began at Cardwell Flats, in DeWitt County, Texas. Chisholm led thirty men, and they herded 1800 head of cattle in that first drive. They brought much needed beef to the northern states, and provided a hefty stimulus to the depressed post-Civil War economy of the DeWitt County area.
This was the original Chisholm Trail. Our research finds other trails called after the same name. One trail passed by a trading post run by a Jesse Chisholm, and became known as Chisholm’s Trail. But the only cattle route to a northern market, actually led by a man named Chisholm in that time period, originated in DeWitt County, near the town of Cuero. A museum recently opened in Cuero, Texas, to honor the town’s most famous historical figure, Thornton Chisholm. The Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum displays pictures of Thornton and his descendants, as well as artifacts from that colorful era of American history.
Tragedy struck on a subsequent drive, in March 1868. Thornton Chisholm rode up behind the supply wagon, as the herd made its way up an incline. The supply wagon broke loose and rolled back over him. He died from his injuries and rests in an unmarked grave somewhere along the Chisholm Trail, leaving a young wife and six children. His legacy lives on in the town of Cuero, and among his many scattered descendants.
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