All Trails Lead to Montague County

Well, perhaps not all trails lead to Montague County, but throughout history several have laid tracks through this area.  Each marking and shaping what Montague County would eventually become.  In 1882, the railroad laid the first tracks in Montague County.  Between 1867 and 1884 several hundred thousand longhorns passed through Montague County as the Chisholm Trail funneled across the Red River.  The Butterfield Overland Mail Route crossed the corner of the county on its short-lived existence between 1848-1869.  Even before that Marcy’s California Trail of 1849 (which Highway 82 follows today in several instances)  and the Texas Santa Fe Exposition in 1841 trekked across Montague County.  The earliest organized trail that traversed our county was the one laid out by the Chihuahua Trade Expedition

In 1839 and 1840, the Chihuahua Trading Expedition wound its way back to Mexico through Montague County.  The expeditions purpose was to open trade between Mexico and the United States via a less circular trail than the established trial through St Louis, Santa Fe and El Paso.  It was organized by Henry Connelly.  Connelly was a physician hailing from Missouri and a prominent merchant in Chihuahua.  The group consisted of Connelly and a party of 150 men.  With a bankroll of between 200,000 and 300,000 specie, the party left Chihuahua on 2 April 1839.  They traveled northeast to the Rio Grande, on to the headwaters of the Colorado and Brazos rivers.  They accidentally followed the Canadian River, thinking it was the Red River, for some distance, but eventually found their bearings and followed the Mighty Red downriver.  They crossed into Indian Territory at the mouth of the Wichita.  With the guidance of a Delaware Indian band, the party arrived at Fort Towson.

Fort Towson was a frontier military outpost for the Frontier Amy Quartermaster.  It was located approximately two miles northeast of the present day community of Fort Towson, OK and about seventy miles east of Fort Washita.  From Fort Towson, the expedition traveled on to Arkansas where Connelly boarded a steamship to Louisiana in order to trade his gold and silver from merchandise.

On the return trip, the caravan  included between sixty and eighty new wagons loaded with goods.  Also joining the group was a troupe of American equestrian circus performers transporting tents and various equipment in order to entertain in Mexico.  The return route passed from Fort Towson into North Texas, through present day Red River, Lamar, Fannin, Grayson, Cooke Montague, Clay and Archer Counties.  The party passed Paris and Bonham, dipped south of Sherman through Whitesboro, north of Gainesville and Muenster and into what is now the town of Saint Jo. The group then headed northward between Montague and Nocona where they encountered muddy prairies that impeded their progress for about five weeks.  Unfavorable weather caused problems throughout the trip.

Eventually they hit their original trail and traveled south to the Rio Grande, where once again they were met by difficulty.  They spent forty-five days negotiating tariffs in order to cross back into Mexico.  Governor Jose Irigoyen who had promised a cut-rate on the tax had died before Connelly and his crew returned.  The new regime requested full payment.

They reached Chihuahua 27 August 1840, some sixteen months after they set out on the voyage.  The route was not repeated due to unfavorable reports of the trail and the excessive tariffs.

Although this particular trail was only blazed once, other adventurous souls were not to far behind in making their way to Montague County.

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2 responses to “All Trails Lead to Montague County

  1. This is another great article, Shannon. I hope you can be at the Forestburg Historical Society meeting tonight (Tuesday) at 7 pm.

    Nancy Richard

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