Smith Ranch

Settled in the valley below in 1887 and through the years has protected a 25 acre rare native prairie grass preserve. Imagine millions of bison and Longhorn cattle that grazed on this lush grass just as it is today on the Smith family ranch near Rio Vista.

Sandusky Place

Like many homesteads on the old Chisholm Trail, the Sandusky Place was a favorite stop for drovers for refreshing cool water drawn from their rock-lined well to trade for fresh vegetables, and hopefully, bacon and eggs. All of these were treats that could enhance the position of the chuckwagon cook and help keep the trail hands on the job once the cattle hit the road.

Bennett's Ranch

As a Chisholm Trail campsite from 1866 to 1890, the Bennett Ranch witnessed the passage of the greatest movement of animals under the control of man in history. In the early days, three large trees marked the trail which was a day's walk from the Kimball Bend crossing on the Brazos River.

Rocaille Ranch

During the cattle drive days, O'Neal's Trading Post, located a few yards east on a hill overlooking the "Deep Blue Hole" of the Nolan River, was the only trading post between Waco and Comanche Peak on the Brazos. William and Permilla O'Neal settled here in 1853 and built their store for trade with the Native American tribes of the area. The location of the trading post is now located on Rocaille Ranch, home of M & H Cattle Company. Rocaille Ranch is owned by David & Martha Murdoch where they raised Egyptian Arabian horses for over 20 years.

Wardville Courthouse

The Wardville Courthouse was the first county seat of Johnson County, chosen in August 1854, and located on an 80 acre donation from William O'Neal. Named for Thomas William Ward (1807-72), a Republic of Texas soldier and second commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas. The first courthouse, 16 feet square, was built by O'Neal of logs overlaid with clapboards, at a cost of $49. When Wardville was found to violate the Texas Constitution's requirement that a county seat be within 5 miles of the center of the county, it was abandoned (1856). Ironically, later county line changes made it nearer the center.

Nolan River Crossing

Crossing a small or large tributary was difficult for drovers with a herd of wild South Texas Longhorns that had been grazing undisturbed for some 300 years since being introduced by Columbus on his second voyage in 1494 and Cortez in 1539. Rounded up only a few weeks before, drovers would begin to bunch the herds in preparation for crossing the Nolan River. This was always a risk for young cowboys, many of whom could not swim.

Nolan River Fire Department

From this high point overlooking the Nolan River Valley, two feeder trails emerged from the west. Arriving here above the lowlands, the herds could graze through the night adding extra weight so they would be easier to handle during the river crossing the next morning. After the evening meal the night riders would pick out the most gentle horses and circle the herd to keep them settled during the night when stampedes were most likely to happen. The chuckwagon cook always placed the wagon tongue in line with the North Star to set the course for the next day's drive toward Abilene, Kansas.

Precinct 1 Commissioner

Feeder trails from Hillsboro and points east arrived here. Often the main trail north to the Kansas railhead would become overcrowded spreading several miles wide. At this point, the trail boss would send his most experienced rider ahead to pick out the next campsite with grazing areas, or around swollen rivers. There was always a concern for hostile Native Americans. If the drive started in San Antonio, at this point the trail boss had to allow the crew some entertainment. Three miles north was the town of Cleburne, a town with much to offer. The one exception to local 'hospitality' was a hotel and restaurant owned by Postmistress Josephine Wren who would not allow any form of spirits, unheard of on the frontier.


In 1867, Joe McCoy diverted his cattle drive around the swollen Trinity River and stranded herds to the north. From Buchanan, he pioneered an uncharted course through Godley, Cresson, Decatur and Red River Station then back to the main trail in Oklahoma. His vision of diverting his drive alerted other drovers to use feeder trails to lead to the main Chisholm Trail that ran through Old Buchanan.

Buchanan (1856)

Buchanan was the 2nd county seat of Johnson County. A tornado in 1858 destroyed most of the town and the water well. This caused an overflow into the cemetery which triggered an epidemic that claimed over 100 fatalities. An exodus to Camp Henderson (later renamed Cleburne in honor of the famous CSA General), with its hotel and 17 groggeries (saloons), made it the largest trail town within 100 miles.

Hadley Farm

This level grassland stretching several miles was a rendezvous area for the larger herds where they could regroup and round up the strays that fell behind the main herd. Once the herd was gathered, a few scrub cattle would be separated and placed together to barter with the Native Americans for safe passage through their lands. Caddo Peak, a short distance to the northeast, was the look-out point for the Caddo Indians who had been watching the drive for several days.

Caddo Peak

To the east of this spot, Caddo Peak rises like a monument to the hardy pioneers who settled in this valley and lived in harmony with the Caddo Indians who cherished the mountain. The town with its main street often overrun with cattle trailing north, survived the era of the great drives until 1881 when the Sante Fe Railroad built a freight depot above the valley and called it Joshua.

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. Frontier towns mostly turned their heads (for the sake of money) and allowed wild parities for young drovers. Over in Cleburne, a newspaper advertisement heralded: 40 Girls-"Dancers."

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