Tascosa-Dodge City Trail

By: C. Robert Haywood

Type: General Entry

Published: August 1, 1995

Tascosa, on the sandy flats above the Canadian River in Texas, and Dodge City, on the hills above the Arkansas River in Kansas, were the liveliest cowtowns in the West during the 1880s. The economic link that made them sister cities was the cattle trade; the physical link was the Dodge City-Tascosa Trail. Tascosa was almost totally supplied by freighters from Dodge hauling huge quantities of supplies for surrounding Panhandle ranches. Each of the larger stores in Tascosa freighted in 25,000 to 50,000 pounds of merchandise each month. As late as 1888 the Tascosa Pioneer noted that 119,000 pounds of freight had been delivered during the previous week. The general configuration of this freight trail was determined by the location of Bob and James H. Cator's ranch. Indians, Comancheros, buffalo hunters, and soldiers had moved southward across the plains, following old paths or their own instincts. There was no permanent route, however, until the Cators began making trips to Dodge City from their Palo Duro station. Their repeated use of the same tracks and crossings produced a fixed trail. The trail was divided into two distinct sections: the northern half through Kansas, which was, in fact, the Jones and Plummer Trail; and the southern leg from Beaver, Oklahoma, to Tascosa. The trail started at Dodge City and ran south to Brown's Soddy, in Meade County, Kansas, just south of the city of Meade. It then crossed the Kansas-Oklahoma border near Hines Crossing on the Cimarron River. From there it turned southwest toward Beaver, Oklahoma. It crossed the Oklahoma-Texas border near Chiquita Creek in the northwest corner of Ochiltree County, Texas, and ran southwest to Cator's Zulu Stockade in the southwest corner of Hansford County. The trail continued southwest to the Little Blue stage stand, which was located just south of the site of modern Dumas, Texas. At this point the trail branched. The northern branch led to Tascosa by way of Hartley County; the southern branch hit Tascosa after turning south and then west through Potter County. The isolation of Tascosa made the trail important to the town. Although the physical difficulties of the trail were not as formidable as those of other Panhandle trails, the great distances between way stations and the absence of settlements made it a long, lonesome haul. The trip from Dodge covered approximately 240 miles. A stagecoach took thirty-four hours one way, and an ox team required from a month to six weeks for a round trip. The trail remained in use as an interstate road well past the time when other freighting trails had been abandoned. The stage line from Meade, Kansas, continued in operation until the turn of the century. Although Tascosa continued to exist until World War I, its importance as a freighting center declined as the railroads bypassed the town. First the Fort Worth and Denver City built its station on the south side of the Canadian River, opposite Tascosa, in 1887; then the Chicago, Rock Island and Mexico built elsewhere in 1901. Area ranchers began to receive their freight from Amarillo and Channing on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway, and the Tascosa-Dodge City Trail was gradually abandoned.

Cator Family Papers, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas. J. Evetts Haley, The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado (Chicago: Lakeside, 1929; rpts., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953, 1967). John L. McCarty, Maverick Town: The Story of Old Tascosa (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; enlarged ed. 1968). José Ynocencio Romero and Ernest R. Archambeau, "Spanish Sheepmen on the Canadian at Old Tascosa," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 19 (1946).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

C. Robert Haywood, “Tascosa-Dodge City Trail,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tascosa-dodge-city-trail.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995