Live Oak County Historical Commission
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Feature Articles

Feature articles represent both historical writing and current authors writing about historical subjects and events of Live Oak County interest. If you have an archival story or know one you wish to write, let us know. We are constantly on the lookout for fresh information about historical Live Oak County.

        Gaps In The Chisholm Trail:                   A Tree With Unrecognized Roots

Kurt House, Guest Speaker, Author, and Connoisseur of Western Memorabilia offers Ruben Cordova, Period Vaquero Reeinactor, a cup of coffee from Kurt's authentic chuck wagon. House is also the developer and owner of Mission Sin Caja, a 21st century replication of an 18th century Spanish presidio. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson.

Speech delivered at the dedication of the Chisholm Trail Marker on the City Square, Three Rivers, Texas, Sunday, May 1, 2016 and later in George West, Texas

Also delivered as PowerPoint at Storyfest, November 2016

 - by Kurt House

 

Thanks, Judge Jim Huff, Mayor Sam Garcia, LIve Oak County Historical Commission (LOCHC) Chairman Leslie Walker, and members of the LOCHC Committee, I applaud your efforts and that of Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) to mark this trail. My wife, Susie, after 32 years of visiting graveyards, archeological sites and old forts, reminds me that while growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

 

The Chisholm Trail: First, why are we doing this?  "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it".  In this short talk, I will address why, what, when, where, who and how? This will NOT be about general information that is available in books, on web, etc. Its purpose is to give information that is NOT otherwise available but based on my 30 year familiarity with the subject of western history.

 

My own interest started in First Grade; Mrs. Kreuger taught us to sing songs about the Chisholm Trail.  Then about 1960 when I interviewed the oldest man in the county, Darius Mahoney, who was 95. In 1984 when I filmed a documentary of Loma Sin Caja with Lyn McClagherty, who then more than 90 years old had actually ridden the Chisholm Trail trip himself in a commemorative ride a few years prior to our documentary.

 

Today's purpose - Celebrate 150 year heritage of the sacrifice and hardship required of those brave souls who were our ancestors that contributed to the cultural advancement and economic benefits that we enjoy today.

 

Good for Three Rivers, Live Oak County, and tourism in southern Texas which is the most historically neglected portion of the state.  Why? Does the brush of the Brasada prevent historians view? Although many popular books neglect the history of south Texas, the subject

of cattle drives remains popular in  song and fiction - e.g.  Lonesome Dove. Many aspects are still debated:  the origins, the routes, the destinations, even the name; I am using Chisholm Trail definition by Gard (Note * below). Visualize the trail as a tree, with roots in southern Texas, a main trunk, and branches.

 

The Chisholm Trail - What is it and why was it laid out?  Short answer - because after Civil War, our state's only assets seemed to be cattle for which no market was available.  Trail drives prior to Civil War caused the closing of the trails in Missouri and Kansas due to Texas fever.

 

Definition – “Chisholm Trail” was technically, term used accurately only for the portion in Indian Territory. At first [the trail from Texas]was simply referred to as the Texas Trail, or the Shawnee Trail, or The Trail. The length was various, from 1200 to 2500 miles, depending on origin and destination. The first destination was Abilene, Kansas, stockyards established by Jos. McCoy who persuaded the railroad to lay siding at edge of quarantine area. In 1874 the Kansas Pacific Railway identified the settlements of Oakville, San Patricio, Beeville, Helena, Refugio, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, and Matamoros as origins.

 

Location - Where?  Origins of the trail were in southern Texas; cattle ranching in North America originated as early as 1718 with the Spanish missions established along the San Antonio River. Mission San Jose (1749) recorded herds of 2000 cattle and 1000 sheep, Rancho de las Cabras, the Wilson County ranch of Mission Espada had thousands and Mission Espiritu Santo at Goliad had 40,000 head by 1770. But specifically, where in southern Texas? 

 

Clues are found in the book, Trail Drivers of Texas, wherein stockyard owner George Saunders invited old trail drivers to contribute memoirs. Where did these drovers say their herds originated? My analysis of memoirs from southern Texas counties yielded the following results:  Atascosa - 29 memoirs, Frio and Goliad both 27, Karnes 21, Live Oak 18,  Bee 15, LaSalle 14, Bexar 13, Refugio 12 and McMullen only 7. This last number possibly indicating the comparatively late settlement of that sparsely populated county. That is why in my 1981 article published in the West Texas Historical Association (WTHA) Yearbook (p.94), I extended Sandoz's map of all plains cattle trails (6) to these roots. A quilt with historic local cattle brands is hanging in the bank in Three Rivers at this writing (removed in 2017).

 

Destinations - First, Abilene, then as railroads extended tracks west, Ellsworth, Newton, Caldwell, Wichita and other towns. The Western Trail went via Ft. Griffin, Doan's Store on the Red River, ending at Dodge City. Herds from south Texas followed the Old Shawnee Trail by way of San Antonio, Austin and Waco where the trails split. The route that became Chisholm Trail continued to Ft. Worth, crossing the Red River at RailRoad Station, then on to Newton, Kansas, which is now U.S. Hwy. 81.

 

When - According to the New Handbook of Texas, the classic period of trail driving longhorns from Texas was from the end of Civil War until late 1880's. Period of use of Chisholm Trail was 1867-1884 when finally closed by barbed wire. According to the New Handbook of Texas (NHT),  the first herd to follow the trail later named after Chisholm was that of O. W. Wheeler who in 1867 bought 2400 steers in San Antonio planning to trail them to California. At Canadian River in Indian Territory, he saw wagon tracks and followed them north.  The tracks were made by Scot-Cherokee, Jesse Chisholm, who had hauled trade goods to Indian camps 220 miles south of his post near Wichita, Kansas.

 

Results – During the trails brief period of use, it was followed by more than five million cattle and a million mustangs representing the greatest migration of livestock in world history.

 

Who - Recently, research has shown that as much as one third were either Hispanic or black (Byron Price in Trail Drivers of Texas). The average man size using the Civil War average height was about 5' 6" to 5' 8"; boot size - 6-8; waist size - 24-28"; average weight of adult male about 143 lbs. (Bell Wiley, Google).

 

How - Through courage and determination!  The typical outfit included a chuck wagon, hooligan wagon, trail boss, 10-12 or about a dozen cowboys, a cook, and horse wrangler who could usually trail as many as 2500 cattle. Three months later arriving at destination at cost of about 75 cents per head. They averaged 10-15 miles per day as cattle grazed along. After the system perfected, large ranchers like Richard King, Mifflin Kenedy, and Shanghai Pierce took their own cattle, but the normal method for smaller ranchers was to use a trailing contractor, like John Lytle, George Slaughter, Snyder, Blocker and Pryor Brothers and even George West and brothers. In my 1996 biography of George West for the New Handbook of Texas,  I repeated the story that West may hold the record for the longest trail drive, about 2500 miles from Lavaca County to the Canadian border. New Handbook of Texas (1996:Vol. 6:888).

 

End of the trail - After Indians were subdued and buffalo decimated, small ranchers began fencing which blocked the route and the 1885 Kansas quarantine law.

 

Conclusions - We have seen that neither the roots nor the branches of the Trail called Chisholm are perfectly clear.  Scholars still debate the names of the trails as well as the origins and destinations. We must do our part to see that history is preserved and not lost. As we have heard, "When an old person dies, a library burns."  An example I owe to my father, H. D. House, was the 1960 interview with nonagenarian Darius Mahoney.

 

What can we do?  We can encourage the teaching of history in schools; support our historiographers, civic leaders and organizations who are doing their best to preserve our history. I am here today because of the great teachers I had and at last, we can mark the route of our courageous ancestors who blazed a trail now called Chisholm. They suffered hardship and privation in the greatest livestock migration in human history, providing us with the most popular hero ever developed, the American cowboy!

 

Today's ceremony echoes what Berta Hart Nance said in her poem "Cattle" about 1925:

 

"Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn."

 

Thank you, and be sure to accompany us to the next ceremony in George West where we will see a real longhorn and chuck wagon from the trail driving era.  Questions- chuck wagon or can see me later or over in George West.

 

Sources:

 

Dary, David.  1981.  Cowboy Culture, Alfred A. Knopf, NY.

Gard, Wayne.  1954.  The Chisholm Trail, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

House, Kurt D. 1960.  Unpublished interview with Darius Mahoney, Live Oak County nonagenarian.

            1981.  An Early History of Live Oak County, Texas.  West Texas Historical Association Yearbook.

            1996.  George West biography, New Handbook of Texas, Vol. 6, page 888.

Kansas Pacific Railway.  1874 & 1875. Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail, reprints.

New Handbook of Texas, 1996, Texas State Historical Association, 6 vols. and on line

Saunders, George W.  The Trail Drivers of Texas, Cokesbury edition 1925, UT Press edition, 1985.

 

Notes:

*"...Some have held that the name Chisholm Trail should not be applied to the Texas part of the route.  Their reason, is that Jesse Chisholm blazed only the part in Indian Territory and Kansas, from the North Canadian to the mouth of the Little Arkansas.  The Old Trail Drivers Association of Texas took this narrow view in a resolution adopted in 1931.  Both history and folklore, though, have applied the Chisholm name to the entire route, including feeder branches in Texas and terminal branches in Kansas.  That definition is used here... (p. iv)

** First cattle in Texas - either Gregorio Villalobos 1521 or Coronado 20 years later.

George West biography in TDT, page 834;  Dillard Fant - 518, J. M. Custer - 257Gus Gildea - 976

First large cattle drive recorded was in 1846 - Ed Piper - 1000 head to Ohio.

 

 Props:  Costumes, Vaquero and Chuck Wagon, maps & books.

 

Kurt House addresses County Judge Jim Huff, Live Oak County Historical Commission, and citizens and friends of Three Rivers, Texas before the unveiling of the Chisholm Trail Marker. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson.

Three Rivers Mayor, Sammy Garcia, and TXDot Representative, Ricky Dailey, unveil the Three Rivers Chisholm Trail Marker. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson.

Kurt House shares his Chisholm Trail address with the George West Centennial Committee and about 300 citizens and friends of Live Oak County. The occassion was the unveiling of the George West Chisholm Trail Marker and the third newly refurbished and replicated Geronimo and his exhibition site on the Live Oak County Courthouse lawn. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson. 

 

Geronimo is the world-famous Longhorn steer of rancher and town builder, George West. The original preserved Geronimo was placed in George West's namesake town (1929) by his nephew and the brick and glass showcase by the town's business men and women. Edna Ferber also memorialized Geronimo in her book, Giant, (1952) and the movie version which followed (1956) starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. The steer's second replication was sent as an American ambassador to Moscow part of an American Bicentennial Cultural exchange in 1976.

 

Crowd of about three hundred begins gathering to see the unveiling of The Chisholm Trail Marker and the newly refurbished Geronimo and his exhibition site. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson.

Alexander Coker-Past Live Oak Sheriff

Alexander Coker-Sheriff of Live Oak County

Alexander Coker

 

Live Oak County Sheriff, 1864-1865, 1874-1888

- written by Kurt House, for Oakville, Live Oak County Historical Marker Unveiling, 10-31-15

 

 

     Alexander Coker, a prominent citizen of Oakville, Texas in Live Oak County served in various county capacities for many years, most notably Sheriff during the last years of the Civil War and later was re-elected 8 times due to his popularity and standing in the small community.  He was born on 3 April, 1827 in Darlington, S.C., the eldest of 4 children of Sampson & Priscilla Champion, died in Oakville on 19 September 1898, and is buried in the Oakville Cemetery beside his wife Sara Clarkson (1828-1909) whom he married in 1845 in Arkansas.  In 1847 they were living in Union Parish, LA and by 1849 they had moved to Franklin, Arkansas where they lived with his parents.  They had 9 children, and since both his parents died in San Antonio, the elder Cokers must have accompanied him to Texas.   

 

     Coker first came to Boerne, Texas in 1858, and his last child, son Theodore Rainey Coker was born there on 22 November, 1858, thereafter moving to Live Oak County in 1860.  In 1862 he enlisted in 2nd (Wilkes) Regiment, 2nd (Carter's Brigade) Regiment  of the 24th Texas Cavalry (2nd Mounted Rifles) for the duration of the war but became disabled, either wounded or sick at the Battle of Arkansas Post, until he was discharged in 1864 at Galveston with the reason being given as "elected sheriff of Live Oak County".  Reported sick in June of 1863, he was furloughed from the hospital in Petersburg, VA in August of 1863. From July 1866 until May, 1870 he served as District Clerk.  The U. S. Census of 1870 reveals that his mother-in-law, Sara Clarkson still lived with him (Father-in-law also in 1860 Census) and his son James (age 22) and wife who were the heads of the household. Oakville, in mid-Live Oak County was on the stage road from San Antonio to Corpus and was the county seat of Live Oak County from its organization in 1856 until 1913 when its citizens were outvoted and the county seat moved to George West.  As of 2015 there have only been 22 men who have served as sheriff during the history of the county which is less than most. (Tise 1989:342-343).

 

     A rare ambrotype (shown above) in the possession of this author shows Coker in his Civil War uniform with a Colt Dragoon pistol, and a large Bowie type knife, ready for war, circa 1861.  Many Live Oak County men enlisted in the Confederate cause in Oakville, including Coker, Calvin Jones and Samuel Foster, the latter whom left his memoirs entitled Douglas's Texas Battery, CSA (1864).  Also in the collection of this author is an old faded photograph of Coker's grand 2-story home in Oakville, and another photograph of Coker and Live Oak County officials circa 1890, near the county courthouse which is no longer standing.  Alexander Coker and his family are stalwart examples of the character needed to settle the Texas frontier and make lasting contributions to American society.  He was a rancher and farmer, evidenced by the appearance of an article in the 1870 Galveston newspaper of how he prevented weevils in his corn by first boiling the corn then replacing it in the crib (Galveston Daily News, 1870).

 

    According to his Civil War records he went AWOL to become elected Sheriff of Live Oak County in 1864.  Also known in this collection is an affidavit signed in 1884 with Coker serving as County Tax Collector from April 1876 until January of 1889(see framed document).  He also served as County Treasurer from January 1891 until his death in September of 1898 (History of the People of Live Oak County (1982: and Ancestry.com).  On August 15, 1899, his wife Sara applied for a Confederate pension and this 4 page document reveals much about her dire conditions (Alabama, Texas and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958).

 

     Since Alexander first came to Boerne, he may be related to the Coker family of the small Coker community north of the original town site of San Antonio, and the Coker family cemetery and church can still be located off Hwy. 281 just north of Loop 410 off West Avenue.  The Coker family lived in Oakville many years, because resident Alec Coker made news in 1915 when he killed a record non-typical whitetail buck with his .45 pistol (Boone & Crockett Handbook, 1964:117, Big Rack (1980:125).  However, either the date of the kill is wrong or it was a descendant of Alexander Coker, Live Oak Sheriff that killed the deer because as we have seen, Alexander Coker died in 1898.  Glen Coker, is mentioned in the book, The History of the People of Live Oak County, Texas (1982:180,189), and apparently some of his heirs married into the Coquat family of Live Oak County, e.g. Homer Dove was a grandson of Alexander Coker.  The Dove family had come from Fairfield County, S. C. and the Coker family had come from Darlington County which is across Kershaw County, so it is possible that these families were acquainted prior to their arrival in Texas.

 

Note: No link in this article is intended to be a product advertisement. Links are chosen solely on the basis of their addition to historical and informational content.

Lillie Ellen Winters-"A Great Lady"

This lady, Lillie Ellen Winters, was of good American stock. Her Great-Grandfather was scout and Revolutionary soldier, Thomas Taylor, killed by the British on January 31, 1782.

 

 Lillie Ellen was one of thirteen children, and her father, James, was a fighter. His history proved that! He was with General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans and at Talladega, and didn't he come to Texas in 1834 to be with his old friend, Sam Houston and Ben Milam and others who fought for the cause of freedom?

 

 To be truthful--her mother and father were married in a Fort in Tennessee during a lull in an Indian attack on that fort. She was a true American just like her twelve brothers and sisters. Lillie Ellen—The great lady—was born December 12, 1822.

 

James and Rhoda lived in the south part of Tennessee and across the southern border in the north part of Alabama lived William A. Cude, Jr. and his wife, Eleanor Long Cude. This couple married August 12, 1821 and had seven children. The two families walked to Texas together.

 

Lillie Ellen Winters married Thomas Adams, and one son, Taylor Adams, was born to them. Thomas was a blacksmith, he and Lillie Ellen’s brother, James, were partners in the Big Thicket, in a place called Winters’ Bayou. Thomas went off to buy tools or to repair a wagon or both, it is believed he was killed by a band of Indians. He was never seen or heard of again.

 

It was about this time that Eleanor Cude died. Soon the Winters and Cudes became related. Lillie Ellen Winters Adams married widower, William Cude, and with her one child and his seven it was a good start. But eight pairs of pattering feet wasn’t the stop for this great lady. She, by William Cude, had four sons: Alfred Jack, Willis Franklin, Richard D., and Timothy J. These four were babies when William A. Cude Jr. died August 1, 1847. Alfred Jack was seven and Timothy was one year old. Lillie Ellen sold what she could, traded cattle, sheep, goats, and sold her clock, the one prized possession listed in the 1840 census. She loaded twelve children in a covered wagon and moved to Hallettsville, Texas, and then to Oakville, Texas in Live Oak County.

 

In Oakville, Lillie Ellen met Charles O. Edwards, a soldier of San Jacinto and son of John Edwards, a former Sheriff who was shot and killed by outlaws. Charles O. Edwards born July 28, 1810, had one brother, Bill, and two sons, Henry and John. Charles was a widower and was now the Sheriff of Live Oak County. Lillie Ellen Winters Adams Cude married this widower with two sons. That made fourteen children. The patter of little feet now reached the stomping stage. But that Great Lady, Lillie Ellen, and that San Jacinto veteran were great ones to enjoy noise and clamor. To this union was born seven children, a total of twenty-one children. I am sure those pattering feet had now reached the point of stampede.

 

I am sure if that Great Lady, who mothered twenty-one children, if she could come back today, would be proud of the record of her descendants. I know she was a very tickled lady when her step daughter, Sylvania, endearingly called Vaney, married Lillie Ellen’s brother, Benjamin Franklin Winters, and her brother became her step son-in-law. Or when Dorcas, another daughter of William, married another one of her brothers, Willis Winters, and upon his death, determined to make the family ties closer, married Billington Taylor Winters.

 

I would be remiss today if I did not mention that Lillie Ellen had three brothers, James Washington, William Carvin, and John Frelan Winters who fought with General Sam Houston at San Jacinto….Among those at the defense of San Antonio (Against Vasuquez and Woll) directly kin were Benjamin and G. F. Winters, James, John, and Willis Winters and James Cude.

 

Lillie Ellen’s great number of relatives in this great State of Texas, while it was still part of Mexico included her twelve brothers and sisters and their spouses, Lavina Bridges, Susan Elroy, Grant Fannin, Peggy Williams, James Jones, Pearcy Tullos, Elizabeth Wier, Jackson Crouch, Sylvania Cude, Dorcas Cude, and Green Berry Crane. Then there was Timothy Cude, who came to Texas with his wife, Serena, and their thirteen children. There was her son, Taylor Adams, and there were her step children of William A. Cude Jr. All of this while, Texas was part of Mexico. Then the four sons of Lillie Ellen and William Cude, Jack, Dick, Will, and Tim, born while Texas was a Republic—By now Lillie Ellen was saying, “ Will, your kids and my kids are fighting our kids!”

 

Then there were two more step children, Henry Edwards, and John Edwards. Then her seven children by Charles O. Edwards born after Texas became the 28th state. Twenty-one children by Lillie Ellen,--Hence the title, "A Great Lady".

 

To the great lady I repeat the words of Henry Amiel. “We should be able to detach ourselves from all that is perishable and cling to the eternal and the absolute and enjoy the all else as a loan, as the fruits of an estate without impairing the substance. To worship, to feel, to comprehend, to receive, to give, and to act: This our law, our duty, our happiness, our heaven. The triumph of the Soul over fear of poverty, of suffering, of loneliness and of death. Heroism is the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage. To Lillie Ellen, to the Winters and their kin we pledge all this. I am sure they could, nor would, ask of us any more than this."

 

    

 

Edited excerpts from speech delivered by Elton Cude, great grandson of Lillie Ellen, daughter of Rhoda Creel Beall Winters and James Winters at the Winters Family Reunion in Three Rivers, Texas on Sunday, May 23rd, 1971. The entire speech may be found in the McMullen County History, 20-22.

 

 

Live Oak County Courthouse

The Honorable Jim Huff, County Judge for Live Oak County, welcomes you to the Live Oak County Historical Commission (LOCHC) Website. The Live Oak County Historical Commission is an arm of the Live Oak County Commissioners' Court; appointees are selected at the beginning of odd numbered years and serve two year terms. Judge Huff and the Live Oak County Commissioners support and approve actions of the LOCHC in coordination with the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

 

Live Oak County Commissioners:

Precinct 1: Richard Lee

Precinct 2: Donna Kopplin Mills

Precinct 3: Willie James

Precinct 4: Emilio Garza

The Commissioner's Court is committed to the preservation of our county's history. Judge Huff and your local commissioner welcome suggestions.

The Honorable Jim Huff, Live Oak County Judge.

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