The Western Trail In Old Greer County

Researched and written by Stephen Dock

Beth and I got to travel down to “The Museum of the Western Prairie” in Altus, OK and hear “Tales of the Cattle Trails: History and Hollywood” presented by Texas historians Jack Edmondson and Jeff Bearden. Jack does a great characterization of John Wayne! We had a great time, were well entertained and are all happy to be back to having history events again.

Left to right: Historians Beth White, Jeff Bearden, Stephen Dock and Jack Edmondson

In 2015 we were visited by author, Gary Kraisinger. Since 1967, Gary and Margaret Kraisinger have had one mission in their research: to determine and document exactly where the Western Cattle Trail was located and its role in the history of the American West. In their book “The Western Cattle Trail 1874 – 1897, Its Rise, Collapse, and Revival” the entire trunk line is presented from Texas to Canada, plus a discussion of the system’s feeder routes, detours, and splinter routes. 

Author Gary Kraisinger and Beth White

In 1933 the Oklahoma Legislature passed House bill No. 149 authorizing a study of two cattle trails through the state. The results, circulated by the Oklahoma State Historical Society in 1936, presented a detailed map and essay which described the difference between the Western Trail and the Chisholm Trail. What was not presented, however, was the network of trails between the two major trail systems although information on those trails was buried in the historical data collected by the Society. 

One part of the Western Trail was called the Quanah Detour or Ghost Trail. G.W. Briggs, Jr. of Granite wrote of this Ghost Trail. In a letter to H.S. Tennant in 1933, he wrote that the Western Trail was not known as the “Western” in those days “for the reason that there was a trail west of this trail that was used extensively in the early eighties.”

George W. Briggs was a Cattle inspector at the Comanche Springs northeast of Granite. In 1886 Comanche Springs was also a main headquarters for soldiers who’s duty was to escort the herds to the Washita River. Thus Comanche Springs was a major location, not only because drovers were now accompanied by soldiers on their trek north, but also because this was one of the few locations where the Quanah Detour Route (Ghost Trail) intersected the Western. 

The Mobeetie Trail also crossed at Doan’s Crossing and there a tail boss faced a choice. He could lead his herd straight north on the Western Cattle Trail to the North Fork of the Red River and beyond into Indian Territory, or southeast of present-day Hess to Nine Mile Spring on the Mobeetie Trail and continue from there northwesterly across Greer County, Texas to Draw Springs at present day Mangum.

The Quanah Detour or Ghost Trail crossed the Red River above Quanah, Texas. Once into Greer County its pathway passed west of present-day Duke on Deep Red Run Creek and on into Mangum on the Salt Fork of the Red River. At Mangum, the outfits had two options. They could continue to drive northeast toward the North Fork of the Red River to the inspection station at Comanche Springs and at that point merge with the Western Trail trunk line. Or, the herds and their drovers might continue north following the established Mobeetie Trail for a short distance, perhaps to avoid the inspection station at Comanche Springs, and ford the North Fork of the Red River on the northern border of Old Greer Couny. Trail drivers who opted not to rejoin the Western Trail at Comanche Springs either continued on the Mobeetie Trail into the panhandle of Texas or used the Ghost Trail to rejoin the Western Trail farther up the line near Fort Supply. 

When asked about this trail, Harry Drago, author of Red River Valley, answered that there were many diversions for the main Western Trail and “that [the] trail which crossed today’s Beckham County, south of Sayre and north of Erick, (in Old Greer County, Texas) was an integral part of the Western Trail cannot be doubted.” In other words, it was a branch of the Western Trail. Drago described this route: “An alternate route avoided passing through the Kiowa Comanche reservation by keeping in Greer County, which was then in Texas jurisdiction, and passed the present towns of Altus and Mangum, crossing the North Fork into the Cheyenne – Arapaho reservation west of present Sayre and the Washita at Red Moon.”

In 1899 Walter Ford homesteading between Sayre and Erick (Hext) described using an established cattle trail from their homestead to Mangum. 

Map of the Western Cattle Trail in Oklahoma from “The Western Cattle Trail 1874-1897;
It’s Rise, Collapse and Revival

Our hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 9:00 – 3:00. On weekdays and weekends that we are not open you may call for a private tour, please contact Stephen at 580 471-9917. (Admission is by donation)

It’s always membership drive time as well, the month you join is the month you are due after a year, we use your membership money to keep the day-to-day operation of the museum going.  Without the community support the museum would not be able to continue to do what we do, Education, Preservation, and Tours. So please plan on renewing or becoming a member of the museum.

If you would like to help benefit the museum, you can send a check for a donation, membership (memberships are $25 per person or $40 per Household per year, or lifetime for $1000) or both to:  Old Greer County Museum, PO Box 2, Mangum, OK  73554.  And thank you in advance!

Have A Safe Week!