Western Trips

Western Trips

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Remembering the Shawnee Trail

shawnee trail frisco texas
Shawnee Trail bronze sculpture
The city of Frisco Texas, a bustling and growing suburb north of Dallas, has an interesting park that honors the famous Shawnee Trail. Western Trips had the opportunity to visit this unique memorial park which is filled with beautiful bronze sculptures and walking trails you'll enjoy visiting.

The Shawnee Trail

Quite a bit of information has been written about the great cattle trails of Texas. The Chisholm Trail which ran from south Texas up to the Kansas rail heads of Abilene and Wichita. The Great Western Trail (sometimes referred to as the Texas Trail) which started in south Texas and with various branches even extended to the Canadian border to the north. There was also the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail, much further west, that traveled from west Texas into New Mexico and then north into Colorado.

The Shawnee Trail stands out as being the earliest and the easternmost of the Texas Longhorn cattle trails. Cattle was said to have been taken up the Shawnee Trail as early as the 1840's which would have been just several years after the region won it's independence from Mexico in 1836. The great cattle trails mentioned above primarily came into being just after the Civil War when there was an over abundance of Texas cattle. The Shawnee Trail came into existence just before the Civil War and passed through the towns of Austin, Waco and Dallas. Earlier trails generally went through the Fort Worth area to the west.

shawnee trail sculptures
Shawnee Trail cowboy sculpture
The Shawnee Trail collected cattle brought in from the east and west of it's main route and herded this cattle northward across the Red River and through eastern Oklahoma which was then Indian Territory. Various branch trails then went toward rail heads and stock yards in Kansas City, Independence, MO, St. Louis and Sedalia.

The biggest trouble on the Shawnee Trail occurred in the early 1850's when the Longhorn tick disease affected local cattle on it's way north to market. As an example, farmers in Kansas actually formed armed groups to prevent the Texas Longhorns from entering their area. Some cattle did get through and many others were turned back. The armed vigilantes stampeded the herds and in some cases there were people killed. It was a violent encounter for a long time.

During the Civil War the trail was barely used. Texas cattle could not be driven to the north and this was the major reason there was such a surplus of cattle immediately when the Civil War ended. 

Frisco Texas and the Shawnee Trail

When you visit Frisco Texas today, the main north to south artery running through this very large suburb is Preston Road. This road is named after a military outpost on the Red River, Fort Preston, whose name was in honor of a Captain William C. Preston, a Texas Revolution veteran.

frisco texas shawnee trail park
Shawnee Trail memorial, Frisco, TX
The Shawnee Trail coming out of Dallas traveled northward generally along what today is Preston Road. This Shawnee Trail route was also responsible for bringing the earliest settlers to what is today Frisco.

The first town to pop up here was named Lebanon, a general gathering place for cowboys and ranchers bringing cattle north. Today, what was Lebanon is a part of Frisco and was just one of the several names adopted by this settlement before it finally was named Frisco.

Frisco and the Railroad

As mentioned above, new Texas trails to the west after the Civil War generally replaced the Shawnee Trail. What came next however would be a tremendous catalyst to the settlement's growth. This was the railroad, a major factor for the creation of many towns and cities all over the U.S.

Frisco Texas ended up adopting the name of the railroad that built tracks through it. This was the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway Company, commonly referred to as the Frisco System. The Frisco Railway had expanded to the south through Indian Territory to the Red River and then to the south beyond in an effort to tap into the Texas cattle market. Prior to this, the settlement was first named Emerson after a McKinney Texas banker. The story is that the banker promised to open a bank in the town if it was named after him. When the railroad came to town the name was changed.

cattle drive
Shawnee Cattle Drive wall
Visiting Frisco Texas

Today, Frisco Texas is a massive community and one of the fastest growing in the entire Dallas area. Two very interesting stops in Frisco that you may want to visit are the sites that celebrates the historic Shawnee Trail and the Frisco Heritage Museum.

The Shawnee Trail site is a seven acre park with walking and jogging trails. The centerpiece of this site is a three walled area with fascinating western sculptures all around it. The bronze sculptures depict an 1800's trail drive. A good deal of information about the old cattle drives is etched into the concrete walkways. It's a perfect stop for the entire family if you're traveling through the area. The site is located just on the west of  Parkwood Boulevard north of the Stonebriar Mall.

Another fun stop you'll want to make is the Frisco Heritage Museum just a few miles north of the Shawnee Trail site. Here you'll be able to walk through the entire history of Frisco and see plenty of great exhibits of the old Frisco Railroad as well as some rare artifacts and photos from other historic railroads. Restored historic structures from Frisco have been moved to the museum outdoor area. This indoor and outdoor museum offers a fun learning experience for the entire family. The museum which opened in 2008 is located at 6455 Page Street. 

Below are links to additional Western Trips photo articles regarding other sites of interest in the greater Dallas Texas area... 

Electric Railroad Museum 

Santa Fe Railroad Dining Car China/ Frisco Heritage Museum  

Perot Museum of Nature and Science 

A Walking Tour of Historic Gonzales Texas

frisco steam locomotive
Steam engine exhibit at Frisco Heritage Museum

A big thing that is happening in 2013 for the Frisco Heritage Museum involves The Museum of the American Railroad which was located near downtown Dallas. While the museum was running out of space, Frisco not only offered plenty of space but was also growing tremendously. The decision was made to move the Dallas museum's collection up to Frisco which of course would be a major undertaking. As of this writing some of the rolling stock from The Museum of the American Railroad has been relocated to Frisco. Work has been ongoing and when it's completed it will be one of the finest historic railroad displays in the country.

Both the Shawnee Trail site with it's bronze sculptures and the Frisco Heritage Museum with it's 18,000 foot display area are fun low cost ways to learn about how the town of Frisco Texas was established and named.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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  1. I've read in several Dallas history accounts that the original Greenville Ave predates Preston Road as the West Shawnee Trail?

  2. I've seen that mentioned as well however the Dallas Historical Society has designated Preston Road as the first trail used as the Shawnee Trail and has created a marker there. They point out that the Preston Road route was first used by settlers from the Arkansas area and that this route was also later used to herd cattle up to and across the Red River. The point where the Red River was crossed was the site of a Shawnee village thus the name. Another fact is that a cattle trail could also be quite wide a certain points, miles wide, and perhaps at that early year both Preston and Greenville were both utilized.


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