By Gail Joiner BCC Publisher
To further interest in Bandera’s participation in the Great Western Cattle Trail, Bandera has been selected to host the 2017 Great Western Cattle Trail National Convention in August. The National Convention of the Great Western Cattle Trail National Association will include displays of historical documents, guest speakers from the US Department of the Interior, the Great Western Cattle Trail Association, True West Magazine and a representative from the Chisholm Trail, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
In memory of David Burrel, whose passionate support of Bandera’s involvement on the Western Cattle Trail first spurred the interest of local historians, a corporation has been formed known as the South Texas Great Western Cattle Trail Association LLC, which will host the event. The purpose of the corporation is to promote awareness, educate the public and preserve the history of the Great Western Cattle Trail.
Current officers of the newly formed corporation include Bandera County Historical Society members Ray Carter, Gayla Brown, Elenora Goodley and Roy Dugosh, Frontier Times Museum Director Rebecca Norton and Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Patricia Moore. The corporation has applied for a 501c3 non-profit status.
In the mid 1870s, the demand for beef in the North East provided an opportunity for local growth during a time of great hardship for South Texas ranchers. Ranchers, gathering cattle in the south, could profit by selling to northern buyers for two to five dollars per head. The buyers, in turn, would assume the risks and losses incurred while driving the cattle north on the Great Western Cattle Trail to sell for 18 to 20 per head in the north.
Local historical documents and bills of sale indicate herds coming from Laredo, Eagle Pass, Uvalde and Frio Counties through Bandera. Bills of sale include familiar names like Rodriguez, Stokes, Jones, Hayes, Elam, Anderwald and Hicks. One document granted power of attorney to Mr Jones to gather herds “from the Pecos River to the headwaters of the Nueces, Camp Verde down Verde Creek to the Guadalupe River to the mouth of the Guadalupe and South.
With the introduction of fences and legislation for mandatory quarantine of Texas cattle in the 1880s cattle drives up the trail began to decline. By the time the last large herd was driven up the Great Western Cattle Trail in 1893, the trail had seen an estimated seven million cattle and one million horses.
Although the trail-driving era was short lived, historically speaking, it is still romanticized today to embody the spirit and determination of early Texans.
Courtesy of Gail Joiner/Bandera County Courier