In the early 1500s Spanish missionaries brought Andalusian cattle to what we know now as southern Texas. The breed was hardy to the flat pasturelands of Texas and could withstand the hot Texas summer sun and the droughts that Texas ranching sustained. At the end of the Texas Revolution, these cattle were left to roam free in areas where ranches were located far apart. There were lots of cattle and few people. With the moderate weather and thousands of acres to roam with adequate water sources the cattle herd grew into the millions.
Following the destruction of the United States and Texas economies during the Civil War, cowboys spent long days in cattle round ups and driving these cattle that helped to revive the markets of Texas. Cattle were rounded up from the trails of deep southern Texas, extending into New Mexico and Louisiana and moved up through the pasturelands of Texas to the cattle stockyards of Oklahoma and the trains which were being established to ship cattle west. It is these wagon trails and their riders which ultimately established the most famous and most utilized of those trails – the Chisholm Trail. The most famous breed of Texas, and one which is even used as the University of Texas, the longhorn was established as the top breed of Texas.
Round Rock, Texas commemorates the history of Texas by celebrating the effort of the cowboys which came into service in the cattle drives and revived the flagging economy of Texas following the Civil War. The Chisholm Trail Commemorative Park was founded by the citizens of Round Rock to celebrate the historical value of the many men who spent their lives in the saddle driving the Longhorns north to the cattle yards.
Sculptures of Bushy Creek
The artist Jim Thomas created three sculptures that mark the cattle crossing at Bushy Creek. The first is The Bell Steer. The bell steer is the most dominant steer in the herd. This steer always eats first and generally holds its head higher than the rest of the steers. The cowboys would attach a bronze or metal bell to this steer and thus manipulate the rest of the herd by steering this boss or bell steer in the right direction. It also allowed the cowboys to find the boss or bell steer in the dark or in inclement weather.
The second bronze statue is dedicated to “Travis” the Longhorn Steer. Travis is one of seven reclining longhorns. The third bronze statue created by Jim Thomas is a bronze which honors “Pioneer and Her Son”. Hattie Cluck was the first woman to travel the Chisholm Trail and ultimately served as a very early postmaster. The fourth bronze statue is in reference to the Quick Family who were from Sweden and helped settle the Round Rock area.
The trail drives of Texas came to an end for three unforeseen reasons. With farmers starting to infiltrate into Texas, they wanted their land fenced for their crops and did not want cattle trampling their crops with cowboys riding through their properties and fouling their water supplies.
Expansion Resulting from Railroads
The railroads created a different form of transporting cattle and began the demise of the cowboys riding the range. An outbreak of Texas fever caused Texas cattle to be quarantined and not allowed to be transported by cattle drives or by railroad into neighboring states. Ultimately Round Rock and Williamson County in general started to feel the early spiral downward in the 1880s. It became the era of wire fences and railroads. Streams were protected for drinking and for irrigating farm lands.
Large scale cattle operations moved west towards El Paso and small cattle farms fenced in their lands. As the song goes “they plowed and fenced my cattle lands” and thus the cattle drives came to an end in Round Rock.