Bill Kroger 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The Old West in Hamilton County A casual observer might conclude that not much has ever happened in Hamilton County, which is located in the central part of the state and has a population of only about 8,500 people. And so, if nothing of historical significance has happened in Hamilton County (or other Texas counties with small populations), why would it be important to preserve its old court records? Such thinking would be wrong. One can find important historical events in every county in Texas. And Hamilton County is a good example. In 1870, an important branch of the Chisholm Trail ran through this part of Texas. The Chisholm Trail is the most famous cattle trail in Texas. It was the major route for livestock out of Texas.1 The trail began in the 1860s and originally referred to the part of the trail north of the Red River that ran to Abilene, Kan., where there was a hub of the Kansas Pacific Railroad that would take cattle to market. By the 1870s, the Chisholm Trail applied to a network of trails running from the Rio Grande. Thus, the history of Hamilton County during this time period was shaped by the lives of cowboys and the adventures of the great cattle drives. As famous as the Texas cowboys and longhorn cattle were to become in literature and the movies, the days of the Texas cattle drives were relatively short. By 1884, the Chisholm Trail was closed due to the running of barbed wire in Texas, followed by a quarantine in Kansas in 1885. The Hamilton County Minute Book B, covering the 1870s, is the oldest surviving court record of the county, and documents this era. The entries in Minute Book B reflect the lives of ordinary Texans during the Wild West era: • State v. Collum : “unlawful playing at a game of cards” • State v. Snow : “willfully driving stock from their accustomed range” • State v. Kemp : “theft of a steer” • State v. Haley : “shooting across a public street” • State v. Mitcham : “rudely displaying a pistol” • State v. Caradine : “taking and using an estray horse” and “theft of 14 head of cattle” • State v. Faggan : “driving fifty head of cattle out of the county without recording the bill of sale, number, marks, and brands, and kind of animal driven.” This minute book is a critical historical record for citizens of that county. It reflects the struggles and conflicts of the earliest farmers, ranchers, and settlers of the area, in the actual language used by these settlers from more than 140 years ago. By Bill Kroger Notes 1. “Chisholm Trail,” The Handbook of Texas.
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