Sakes Alive, It’s A Cattle Drive!

February 1, 2019

The American History freshmen class are studying the cattle drives that arose soon after the Civil War.  During the Civil War, Texas had been blocked by the Union to stop their access to trade in the North.  During that time, the Texas longhorns had grown in number, because there were so many cattle in Texas and so few people, the cattle were worth very little money. In the North, however, those same cattle were worth a lot more and Americans’ taste for beef had grown. The four-dollar steer in Texas was worth 30 to 40 dollars in the North. The problem was getting the worthless cattle to the place where they had value to make a profit.

The creation of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads solved that problem. Texans could drive their cattle north to meet the railhead where they could be shipped to Chicago to meet the demand of the American people. Cattle drives lasted for only about 20 years, becoming unnecessary with the invention of refrigerated cars and the expansion of the railroads to the South in the 1880s.

Four of the main cattle trails in the west, were the Western Trail, Chisholm Trail, Sedalia Trail, and Goodnight-Loving Trail. One of the lessons that they studied was a group of three students took a cattle drive and researched the location, interesting facts, hardships, and life on the trail.  They were to include a detailed map and present their research to the class.  The class found it very interesting how much the cattle drives played an important part in Nebraska History.