By BRIAN SMITH
WEATHERFORD – A new Doss Heritage and Culture Center exhibit highlights Parker County’s role in the cattle drives of Texas.
Trail Drivers opened Feb. 19 and is scheduled to run through February 2014. Museum Curator Amanda Rush said the exhibit explains the story of the Goodnight Loving Trail, one of the main cattle drive trails in the state. Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving met in 1866 and worked together to move 2,000 head of cattle north, starting from the area around Parker County according to Museum Curator Amanda Rush.
After the Civil War, cattle were running untamed through the state and were averaging about $1 a head, Rush said. In other parts of the country, cattle could get $40 a head so many enterprising men organized cattle drives to bring money into the state.
“It was one of the reasons Texas did so well in the years after the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction while other southern states did not,” Rush said.
Among the five major trails that ran through Texas from 1860-1890, it is estimated more than 10 million cattle and several million horses came through the state from Mexico and south Texas. Many of the trails began moving west because of a disease called Texas fever that horses and cattle here were somehow immune to.
“Texas cattle would bring the disease with them through Kansas and Missouri and it would affect and kill the cattle there but not bother our cattle,” Rush said. “In 1859, Kansas and Missouri both passed laws banning the animals from coming through the state, so the cattle drives moved west.”
It was one of those treks west through New Mexico and Colorado that would prove to be the death of Loving as he developed gangrene. He passed away in New Mexico but requested his body be buried in Weatherford, Rush said. Loving was moved to town once the weather got cooler and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Rush said. Bose Ikard, a slave from Mississippi, worked on the Goodnight-Loving Trail with the two men and is the namesake behind Ikard Elementary in town, Rush said.