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High Plains History Episode
Wed October 31, 2012
Cattle Drive Quarantine Creates Wild Cowtown
Driving cattle from Texas to the north became complicated when homesteaders refused to allow herds to cross their land. Quarantine laws were passed to protect herds from tick fever carried by Texas cattle.
While discussion raged in the 1800's about a national cattle trail, businessman, Martin Culver, a Kansas cattleman, gambled on the need for a town along the trail. He chose a spot on the state line between Kansas and Colorado, north of the Arkansas River. Culver promoted the "town" as a cowboy capital. A traffic jam occurred because the cattle had to be counted as they crossed the railroad tracks due to an agreement Culver had with the railroad. Cattleman, Charles Goodnight, complained it took a week to ten days before herds could continue north. This delay, along with the fact this was the first point cowboys received pay assured the town's success.
Trail City was intended to be rough and wide open, and it was. Killings were numerous because outlaws knew they only had to cross the street to find safety in the next state. It came to be known as, "The Hellhole on the Arkansas." It wasn't the wickedest, but it was one of the last of the wild trail towns. No gunplay disturbs the air of Trail City today, only the sound of traffic on Highway 50.