Tascosa - Dodge
Source: The Handbook of Texas Online
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
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).
C. Robert Haywood
was last updated January 9, 2014.