(An unexpected error occurred: #688856) (An unexpected error occurred: #688857) The Chisholm Trail Museum :: About Us
About the Chisholm Trail Museum
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Upcoming Events
16th Annual Pioneer Days **Nov 15 and 16, 2019**
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Nov 15 and 16, 2019 **FREE** Come and share some Western/Texas history with us! Cowboys, Native Americans, gun fighters, Civil.... More
CTOM Fall Concert at Market Square in Downtown Cleburne
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Reserve the evening of October 26th for the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum Fall Concert at Market Square in downtown Cleburne!.... More
Welcome to the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum

Welcome to the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum. The tepees and life size cattle drive silhouettes that greet you as you enter the museum along with the “WELCOME TO CLEBURNE * ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL” eighty foot stone wall are fast becoming one of the most recognized and photographed landmarks in this part of Texas. We offer free docent-led tours with advance notice on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
This is a very historical site in Johnson County, Texas. It is the home of Wardville, the first county seat of Johnson County established in 1854. This was nine years after Texas became a state. Originally this was Navarro County, which ran from west of us at Glen Rose all the way to Corsicana over in east Texas. Since the only transportation was “horse or mule powered,” in those days, it was difficult to do county business and the state recognized the need to divide into more and smaller counties. William O’Neal donated eighty acres to the new county of Johnson and he and his brother built the first courthouse which is here on site and is now accepted as the oldest log courthouse in Texas. From 1854 to 1856 with Wardville as the county seat, there were twenty-nine families living between Town Branch Creek and where the courthouse is today. The Wardville Cemetery has been located and restored. At present we have a Stage Station/Saloon representing the stage line that ran out of Cleburne and the seventeen saloons in this area during the heyday of the Chisholm Trail cattle drives. We also have the Sheriff's Office and Jail that was added in 2010. There was a jail at Wardville in 1855 and we have the jail doors from the original jail. These historic doors were used in three different jails over the years and have made their way back to their original location. The metal cell bars were used in the county work farm in 1885. The Nolan River School was in this area and operated from 1855 to 1872 and we reopened it in 2012, where we take students and teachers back in time by having classes come out to learn how things were done in the mid 1800's. We have held about a dozen classes this spring and will have from 75 to 100 school days beginning in October when the weather is cooler.

Every community or large ranch had to have a blacksmith shop in those days and we added our blacksmith shop in 2009. The Native Americans would steal horses, but despised mules and would not capture them so there were mule stations set up along the stage coach route for the stages to swap for fresh teams. We were fortunate through the generous donation of Elizabeth and Bob McWhorter to have an original mule barn from the Freeland Ranch that actually serviced the Johnson Stage Line in the mid to late 1800’s. The McWhorters also gave us a three hundred pound “Mile Marker” from along the stage route. The B M 9 on the stone let the stage passengers know that it was 9 miles to Buchanan. The restored stagecoach you see as you drive to the top of the hill, was built for the movies and was used in several Westerns including two early John Wayne movies. By the way, the travel time from Cleburne to Ft. Forth by stage was seven hours.

The Last Roundup

During the latter years of the 19th century, the times and the land combined to produce a great Western epic. Soon after the Civil War major cattle companies seized vast tracts of land and discouraged interlopers by use of hired gunmen. Visionary Joseph G. McCoy drove his herd to the railhead in Kansas beginning an era of the Chisholm Trail. Millions of animals, men and women went up the trail that crossed Johnson County, Texas during the years from 1867-1889. This legendary trail came right through what is now the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum where you will be greeted by the largest silhouette cattle drive in the nation as you arrive in Cleburne, Texas from the west on Highway 67.

Longhorn Trail
The last roundup and cattle drive on record of driving Texas Longhorns to market on the Texas section of the Chisholm Trail occurred on November 14, 1914 in far southwestern Johnson County. Barbed wire continued to be installed all along the former open ranges of Johnson County and the railroads began to raise freight rates. The rate increases and the open ranges becoming closed by wire affected the main trail to Abilene. Many drovers routed extra miles to bypass these obstacles. Many of the old timers considered the railroads' actions to be blackmail, and rangewars pursued with the cutting of wire.

The hanging tree at Five Oaks near the Brazos River in southwestern Johnson County and geographically closer to Hill, Bosque and Somerville counties served as a meeting place for five disgruntled ranchers who decided to jointly roundup their herds and trail them off to market before all the routes were fenced off. With the sun high in the sky ranch owners John Landers, Lee Cameron, Will Kenser, John Nickell, Nort Jones and their drovers Clarence Hutcheson, Lonnie Peterson, Chester Jones, Jim Baker, and the Russel boys rushed their 2500 head of Texas Longhorns into the cold waters of the Brazos River. The huge herd strung out for a mile and as they trotted up the slope at Bluff Mills, the Klondike Mountains and Hamm's Creek served as a barrier for controlling the herd's direction to Cleburne and on to market.
The Origin of Johnson County

Johnson County, named for Texas Confederate Colonel Middleton T. Johnson, was created on February 13, 1854 by the Fifth Legislature. The first permanent settlements in the area were in the mid 1840's. The first federal census that included Johnson County was in 1860; the population totaled 4,305.
For nine years after Texas became a state, this area was part of another larger county. This was changed largely because the then existing county was over 100 miles across and people traveled in a horse and buggy. The law stated at the time that a person needed to be able to travel to town to conduct business and return by horseback or wagon in one day.

Jesse Chisholm
Jesse Chisholm was the trail's namesake. He was an Indian trader who blazed a route from Wichita, Kansas, across the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) to the Red River. Later, cattlemen used the route to transport their cattle to profitable northern markets.
Joseph G. McCoy
In 1867, an Illinois livestock dealer named Joseph McCoy, working with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad, established a cattle-shipping terminal in Abilene, Kansas. McCoy knew that his $2 Longhorns in Texas were worth nearly 10 times that amount in the booming North. He was the first to exploit the expanding railroads to move cattle to distant markets. Interesting to note that the first barbed wire was patented by an Illinois entrepreneur by the name of Joseph Glidden. Barbed wire eventually closed the open range that made large cattle drives possible.
Our Mission

The  mission of the Johnson County Heritage Foundation, Inc. is to preserve the rich heritage of this historic site and advance the "Way It Was" to future generations.

All Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum activities are made possible through the generous financial and in-kind support of individuals such as you.
Your gift will strengthen and support educational programs, exhibit updates, collection acquisitions, oral history programs and ongoing museum activities.
JCHF is an all volunteer foundation, with no paid staff with the exception of the Big Bear Native American Museum, and all funding goes directly for maintenance, restoring existing artifacts and reproducing period structures.

Mail Address:
                         JCHF, Inc.
                         P.O. Box 771
                        Cleburne, Texas 76033 -0771
                         Yearly dues are $20. Membership year begins January 1st each year.
                         To request a membership application, email your request to:  carriereynolds8@yahoo.com   or call Carrie at 254 998 0261.

The People Who Make It Work

Officers 2020

CEO/Chairman David Murdoch........President Randolph Garner

Secretary (vacant)...........................Treasurer (vacant)

Directors 2020

Robert McMinn...Matt Lee...Gail Hazlewood...Greg Harmon...

Bill Pfeiffer...Nancy Holland...Burton Barr...

Chuck Lummus...Jimmy Smith, II...Kathy Cannella...

Advisory Board 2020

Adam King...Ben Oefinger...John Percifield...

Curtis Rives....
Lowell Smith Jr...George Turner...

Big Bear Native American Museum Curator

Jimmy E. Smith, II

Docents 2020

Sam & Cheryl Keller * Bill Pfeiffer * John Jobe* Robert McMinn*

Carl Irish * Randolph & Charlene Garner * Carrie Reynolds*

* David Murdoch * Charlotte Whitney * Ken Richardson *

Maintenance Supervisor: Carrie Reynolds

Grounds: Community Service Workers * Johnson County Sheriff's Department

Helping Partners:

Johnson County Historical Commission * Cleburne Chamber of Commerce * City of Cleburne

A Project of: Johnson County Heritage Foundation, Inc.

Endorsed by: The Cleburne Chamber of Commerce & Johnson County Historical Commission"

Chisholm Trail Marker - Rock Creek
When the Trinity River to the north was running high causing a backlog of herds in Tarrant County, the trail boss used Rock Creek as a haven of enjoyment for his trail hands, keeping them on the trail another day..... Read More
Did you know?
By 1870 thousands of Texas Longhorn cattle were being driven over the Chisholm Trail to the Union Pacific (later the Kansas Pacific) Railroad shipping center at Abilene. By 1871 as many as 5,000 cowboys were often paid off during a single day. Abilene became known as a rough town in the Old West.

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