The dedication of the Texas Historical Marker for the Shawnee Cattle Trail was held on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at the Pecan Springs Ranch. The ranch is located on L.R. Campbell Road outside of Italy and is owned by Ted and Nancy Paup, sixth generation Texans.
Italy FFA assisted in the dedication. Colton Allen, Elijah Garcia, Austin and Aaron Pittmon presented the colors and led in the pledges to the American flag and Texas flag. Clay Riddle, Ryan Dabney, Brooke Deborde, Carmen Lawson and Alex Jones assisted with parking cars.
On behalf of the Ellis County Historical Commission, President Sylvia Smith welcomed dignitaries and guests to the dedication. To help everyone experience what life was like in 1850, local rancher, Gary Farmer, dressed in cowboy attire, rode down the big hill on horseback. David Vantreese set up a typical 1870s style chuck wagon campsite for dutch oven cooking.
“Over 175 years ago, cowboys were herding longhorn cattle along Chambers Creek,” Nancy Paup said. “They had a pioneer spirit of vision. We are so grateful to them for that spirit and being a part of our history.”
Cowboy Poet, David Smith read Thaddius and Nathan, a poem he composed, to commemorate the Shanee Cattle Trail historical marker. The poem is dedicated to the drovers and cattle that passed through Ellis County.
John Crane, Vice-Chair of the Texas Historical Commission, explained the marker for the Shawnee Cattle Trail is the 141st one in Ellis County. He also said that historical preservation begins right here at home.
“There are currently approximately 16,000 state historical markers,” said Crane. “Markers are important and our attempt to share a story with the public.”
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush and Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength read proclamations. Proclamations were also received from Senator Brian Birdwell, Representative John Wray and Italy Mayor Steven Farmer.
Sharan Farmer researched and wrote the narrative in 2015 for the Paups to prove that the Shawnee Trail traveled through Ellis County. The state only approves a certain number of markers.
The Marker states:
In use from approximately 1850 to 1873. The Shawnee Cattle Trail was the first North-South cattle trail, and reached the farthest east of the four great cattle-driving trails from Texas to the northern markets. These included the Shawnee, Chisholm, Great Western and Goodnight-Loving trails.
The Shawnee Trail passed through Western Ellis County, crossed the Brazos River at Waco, the Trinity River at Dallas and the Red River at Preston, enroute to Missouri. The trail was well-suited for cattle drives as Ellis County is situated within the Blackland Prairie. The prairie transitioned from gently rolling terrain to level ground in the central corridor, which provided an easy pathway for cattle transport in the 19th century. The prairie provided an abundance of forage and water, which ensured safe passage for their journey north.
Waxahachie, the Ellis County seat, was created in 1850 and was a supply stop on the trail. However, by 1855, an epidemic of Texas fever, also called tick fever, began to pass from unaffected Texas cattle to northern cattle. The fever ravaged cattle and enraged local stockmen, but the drives continued. Between 1861 and 1865, the cattle drives were all but discontinued due to the outbreak of the civil war and laws that regulated infected Texas cattle.
Famed cattle baron, Joseph Geiting McCoy first used the Chisholm Trail in 1867, which followed the Shawnee Trail through Waco but then traveled west through Fort Worth. Although the Chisholm Trail eventually became the major route for Texas Cattle, drives up the Shawnee Trail continued through 1873.