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Jesse Chisholm | 1941

Great Plains trader and the namesake of the famous "Chisholm Trail" that was used by cattlemen from Texas and Oklahoma to the railyards of Kansas.

ca.1805-1868 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)

Impact & Accomplishments

Jesse Chisholm was a nineteenth-century trader, guide, and interpreter on the Great Plains. The Chisholm Trail—used by ranchers to drive cattle from Texas and Oklahoma to the Kansas railroads, which served the eastern markets—was named for him.

Born in Tennessee, Chisholm moved with his Cherokee mother to Arkansas in 1810. As a young adult, he joined the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and became a trader. Fluent in fourteen Indian languages, Chisholm became a valued interpreter, assisting with councils and treaty negotiations.

In 1846, he accompanied a Comanche delegation to Washington to meet with U. S. President James Polk. During this period, he was also employed as an Indian negotiator by Sam Houston, president of the Republic of Texas. After the Civil War, Chisholm established a new trading post in present-day Oklahoma City.

Soon after, an enterprising man named Joseph McCoy established a stockyards and new railheads in Abilene, Kansas, and encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds there, to meet the post-war beef shortages in the East. The longhorns followed the wagon trails of Jesse Chisholm’s trading empire.

Did You Know?

Jesse Chisholm’s mother was Cherokee, and his father was of Scottish descent.

By legend, the first trail drive started just north of Cuero, Texas, where Thornton Chisholm (it’s unclear if he and Jesse were related) bossed a herd of 1,800 steers owned by Crockett Cardwell north to Kansas.

The Jesse Chisholm Grave Site is a commemorative site in rural Blaine County, Oklahoma and is on the US National Register of Historic Places.

History & Mystery of the West Chisholm Trail courtesy of Voice Publishing

Chisholm Trail Heritage Center courtesy of DiscoverOklahoma

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