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Central Oklahoma stretch of Chisholm Trail roadbed now on National Register of Historic Places

The Chisholm Trail leaves nothing but memories as dusty as the trail itself, but a portion of a supporting road just east of the 19th-century cattle highway, preserved from development, is now officially recognized.
by Richard Mize Published: August 3, 2013
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Reports of the Chisholm Trail's demise are as dead-on accurate as a Boot Hill tombstone.

The famed cattle-driving trail from Texas to Kansas is long gone, thanks to settlement, development, weather and erosion.

But not forgotten. And that makes a recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places a sweet one for historians of the West, the cattle drives and Indian Territory.

The McGranahan Portion of the Chisholm Trail Roadbed, in a secure, undisclosed location in Canadian County, is new to the register. Thank you, descendants of James McGranahan, who bought the land including it in 1895, for preserving it, and thank you, consultant historian Mary Jane Warde, of Stillwater, who researched the roadbed and nominated it for listing.

The remnant is not from the cattle trail itself, but from a separate road 1½ miles or so east of where some 3 million head of wild Texas cattle — in droves of up to 10,000 head — were driven to Kansas railroad shipping points from 1867 to the mid 1880s.

Think of it as a kind of service road. It “accommodated cattle-drive support vehicles, freighters, travelers and other traffic that paralleled the cattle trail but kept some distance from the herds,” according to the National Register registration form.

It is a rare artifact. Warde noted that no portions of the Chisholm Trail in Oklahoma are on the National Register because they didn't survive. She quotes a couple of dusty histories.

Grassy carpet

Wayne Gard wrote in his 1954 book, “The Chisholm Trail,” (University of Oklahoma Press) that after barbed wire closed the trail “wind and rain began to beat out the prints of millions of Longhorn hoofs. Soon a carpet of new grass spread over the battered path.”

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by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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