Marker at the Witte to Honor the Great Western Cattle Trail

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

A marker at the Witte Museum has been officially rededicated to honor the Great Western Cattle Trail, which moved hundreds of thousands of head of cattle from south Texas to railheads as far away as cattle during the 1870sand 1880s, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Great Western Cattle Trail historian David Mason told a dedication ceremony at the Witte the first major drive up the new trail was led by Cpt. John T. Lytle, whose ranch was on the current site of Lytle Texas, in 1874.

He says the Chisholm Trail is far better known, but the Great Western Cattle Trail transported more cattle for a longer time.

He says The Great Western succeeded the Chisholm Trail because the route avoided places where ticks caused what was called 'Texas Fever,' decimating herds.

"The first herd out up the Western Trail came out of San Antonio," Mason said.

He says the cowboys on the Great Western Trail were a far more diverse group than you would think from watching western movies.

"Thirty percent of the Great Western Trail cowboys were Hispanic and Black," he said.  "In the photographs you see cowboy hats, some wearing sombreros, I even have a picture of a chuck wagon cook in a fez."

He says the Great Western Cattle Trail also popularized the use of many items now commonly identified with the cowboy, including horned saddles and round spurs.

The Great Western Trail began to fade when railroads were extended all the way to the south Texas longhorn ranches in the early 1890s.

The effort is underway to use markers and other historic designations to honor the cowboys who made the dangerous trip up the Great Western Trail, and the make sure the trail has the position it deserves in western lore and history.

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