Great Western Trail to be dedicated by RotaryA piece of Old West history is going to be recalled and formally marked this coming Thursday as part of the events planned for the District 5580 Rotary Conference in Dickinson.
By: Alan Reed, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - A piece of Old West history is going to be recalled and formally marked this coming Thursday as part of the events planned for the District 5580 Rotary Conference in Dickinson.
The Great Western Trail saw 7 million head of cattle and horses travel its length from Texas north through what are now nine American states into Canada from 1876 to 1893. The Great Western Trail carried more livestock, endured the longest and was literally the longest cattle trail in the United States, but is often overlooked in deference to the more recognized Chisholm Trail.
Dickinson’s Jim Ozbun is the Rotary District 5580 governor and is taking the lead in North Dakota to mark the trail in the state like clubs are doing in Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska and hopefully along its entire route. The Great Western is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Wyoming, Montana and into Canada.
A trail marker is to be dedicated in Medora at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, with a social to follow at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.
“Following the Civil War, the country wasn’t doing that well,” Ozbun said. “The bison were gone at that time. The cattle moved in to replace them, regenerate those energies for the Great Plains.”
There also were a number of Indian reservations along the trail where there wasn’t enough to eat, so the cattle provided meat for those people, he added.
The first trail marker in Texas was placed at Doans Crossing on May 1, 2004, where the trail crossed the Red River. Rotary member Sylvia Mahoney spurred the club’s involvement in Texas and is coming for the Medora trail marking. Ozbun said Mahoney also is bringing a quart of Red River water to pour around the Medora marker.
“To establish that trail and mark it all the way from Texas to Canada is a fairly historical event,” Ozbun said.
After heading out of Texas, the trail branched at Ogallala, Neb., in that state’s panhandle region. Northwest of Bridgeport, Neb., one branch of the trial headed due north to travel just east of Hot Springs, S.D., then through Belle Fourche, S.D., and onto Medora before ending at Ft. Buford in Montana.
A second northbound link entered southeast Colorado before going through Moorcroft, Wyo., and Miles City, Mont., before hitting the Milk River in northern Montana. At the Milk River several fingers of the trail splintered north into Canada.
Along with Rotary’s effort to mark the Great Western, there also is an effort to make it part of the National Trail System’s Act to make it a national entity.
“There will be people that will follow it,” Ozbun said.
Ozbun’s grandfather traveled the trail, as did the father of Dickinson’s Jay Grantier, who has been invited to attend the Medora marking, Ozbun said.
After placing the trail market in Medora, Ozbun hopes to have others placed throughout North Dakota.
“I would like to get one down in Bowman. I think the Bowman club would work on that,” he said. “There will probably be some others. In Texas and Oklahoma, they put them every six miles.”