Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bosque County & The Chisholm Trail

When people think of cattle ranching and cowboys in Texas, I suspect they think of huge spreads like the King Ranch in South Texas or the XIT Ranch and the JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Once the largest range under fence in the world, the XIT was broken up and sold 100 years ago. The JA, founded by Charles Goodnight and John G. Adair, is still in operation, as is the King Ranch.
XIT cowboys
However, many smaller ranches dot the state, including Bosque County, where my adventurous Texas Druids put down roots in Darlin’ Druid and Dashing Druid.
Located in Central Texas, Bosque (pronounced Boss-kee) County lies about sixty miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth and forty miles northwest of Waco. Early Spanish explorers named the area “Bosque”, meaning “wooded.” As part of the Grand Prairie section of the state, the land is well watered and excellent for farming and animal grazing. That’s what attracted pioneers, even though they had to contend with raiding Comanche and Kiowa Indians, who claimed the territory as part of their ancestral hunting grounds.
Settlers began moving into the area in 1849. By 1854, enough permanent residents were making their home there for a county to be created. Many were Anglo-Americans pushing west with the frontier; others were Norwegian and German immigrants. Farms flourished, producing cotton, wheat and other crops.
Pioneers also introduced small herds of cattle into the Bosque region. Grass as tall as your head, so high only cowboys on horseback could be seen, provided nutritious pasturage. One woman reported hearing cattle herds being driven along a trail but not being able to see them.  However, as in the rest of the state, Bosque ranchers found it difficult to move their herds to eastern markets until after the Civil War, when cattle trails opened to the railheads in Kansas.
One major reason for the growth of the cattle industry in Bosque County was the Chisholm Trail. Actually a group of branching trails that came together from all over South Texas, the Chisholm Trail entered Bosque County east Kimball Bend markerof the Bosque River. It traversed grassy prairies east of Clifton (the county seat) and Meridian, crossed Steele Creek where the town of Morgan now stands, and then crossed the Brazos River at Kimball Bend. At the height of the cattle drive era, the town of Kimball was a lively frontier cowtown. Now it’s a crumbling ruin and part of a state park.

Open range cattle ranching flourished along the Bosque River and its tributaries until the early 1880s. Barbed wire, brought into the area at that time, put an end to free ranging cattle by 1885. However, cattle holdings in Bosque County continued to increase. In 1880, the number of cattle listed in the county was 26,113; a decade later that number had grown to 49,327. Every farmer-stockman of the region owned some cattle, according to Bosque historian William C. Poole.

Today, according to an online article titled Beef Cattle Education in Bosque County, “Beef Cattle Production is the primary agricultural enterprise in Bosque County.”

Sources:   A History of Bosque County, Texas by William C. Pool

Excert from Darlin' Druid: David is bringing Jessie home to the River T Ranch in Bosque County. He has just revealed a painful truth about himself, alarming her.


       “Merciful God!” she blurted, stomach churning. “What have ye led me into, David Taylor?”
        He sighed heavily and stared ahead once more. “You’ll know soon enough. The homestead’s over the next rise.”
        Within moments, they crested the hill and David halted the wagon again. Jessie gasped at the view that opened up before them. A long valley spread out along a gently curving, tree-lined stream. Colored in dry shades of gold and green, accented by the darker green trees, the valley drifted into the blue-gray haze of distant hills. Here and there clusters of rangy, many-colored long-horned cattle grazed peacefully.
          In the foreground, on a gentle rise maybe thirty yards from the creek, sprawled the ranch house. The front portion was built of logs with a covered porch running across the length of it, but behind that a much larger stonework portion stretched out and back. Located a good distance from the house were a barn and a corral with a few horses dozing in the sun. At the moment, two men appeared to be repairing the rail fence that formed the enclosure. On the other side of the barn stood another log building – quarters for the hired help perhaps?
         “’Tis beautiful,” Jessie breathed in awe.
         “Yeah,” David said quietly. Then he started down the hill, holding the horses and whatever emotions he was feeling in careful check.
         The two men who’d been working on the corral fence now paused to watch the wagon approach. A third stepped out of the barn and stared hard for a few seconds. Then he let out a joyous whoop. David laughed and waved, and the other man broke into a stiff-legged trot toward the house, meeting them there as David pulled to a stop.
         “Sul, you old reprobate!” David exclaimed, jumping down from the wagon to greet the grinning, leathery-faced man, who was half a head shorter than him and at least twice his age.
        “Davey boy, if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes! I about gave up on you,” the older man declared.
        Jessie watched them embrace and laugh and slap each other on the back. The older man sent her a shy glance, and David finally remembered her presence. Turning to meet her peeved look, he grinned in amusement.
        “Jessie, I’d like you to meet Sul Smith, one of the best cowhands in Texas. Sul, this is my wife, Jessie.”
        “You don’t say!” A delighted smile crinkled the cowboy’s sun-baked features. “It’s a pure pleasure, ma’am,” he said, yanking off his broad-brimmed hat to reveal thinning gray hair and warm brown eyes.
        “I’m happy to meet ye, Mister Smith,” she replied, returning his smile.
        He stared at her in fascination for a moment, until he caught David’s grin. Shaking his head, he chuckled at himself. “I’ve got a hunch your pa’s gonna take a shine to this pretty little lady,” he said, giving her a wink.
        Jessie laughed and blushed at his compliment.

For a larger sample, please visit my Amazon product page: Darlin’ Druid  


  1. Good morning, Lyn! Very interesting post, from a personal point of view. My grandfather--my daddy's father--was born in Meridian but moved to Palo Pinto county where he married my grandmother.
    I've written posts about Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving--more than one! I find them a fascinating pair.
    As yet, I haven't figured out what a druid is...but I will! The excerpt was very good, nicely descriptive of the ranch. I do love this sort of thing.
    Oh, and about the history of Bosque County--written by William C. Pool. Dr. Pool taught at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) when my husband was there. And I taught at San Marcos Academy where Dr. Pool's wife, Jeanette Pool taught math.
    Lot of connections, there. So, that provided more interest for me.

    One thing you might do with your next post--put you name at the top of the post--not in the subject line--but at the first of the post, so readers will know who wrote it right away. I use a banner--now that I learned to make simple ones--or you can just put By Lyn Horner.
    Nice post!

  2. Nice post, Lyn. One of my lateral family lines was from Bosque then Hill County. Remind me to tell you the story of them sometime. Loved the excerpt, too.

  3. Celia, a friend of mine also has roots in Bosque County. Coincidence upon coincidence!

    I found a pdf of Dr. Pool's remarkable history. Would love to own a print copy.

    I forgot to add my banner. Sorry. I'll be sure to do that next month. Oh, you can find out about Druids past and present on my website and/or blog. I wrote a series of articles about them last year, which are in the archives.

  4. Thank, Geri! Thanks for stopping by.

    Caroline, yet another Bosque connection. Cool! Glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

  5. Lyn, fun information about yet another part of Texas I know little about.

  6. Great post, Lyn. And I learned I've been saying Bosk all' thee years LOL. Loved the information. xoxox

  7. Paty, Texas is sooo big! Ive lived here for 27 years and there are still many parts of the state I've never visited. I'm hoping to see more of it once hubby retires.

  8. Thank you, Tanya. Don't feel bad. I pronounced it that way too, until I visited the Bosque Museum in Clifton and found out different. That place is a font of information about the early days, especially the Norwegian settlers. They also have a beautiful painting for their home page that I really wanted to grab. But I'm not looking for a lawsuit. Check it out:

  9. Great article, Lyn. I love your blog posts.

    Mel x

  10. Hey Mel, glad to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by and for your sweet words.

  11. Lyn, Sorry I'm so late in my comment. I meant to say something sooner.
    I enjoyed this post. The history of the Chisolm Trail is wonderful.
    I loved your book, Darlin' Druid, as well as your next in line, Dashing Druid. Thanks for all the great history, too!

  12. Hey Carra, sorry I haven't replied much sooner. I get busy writing and forget to check back. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed my first two Texas Druids books.


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