The theme of the 2011 calendar is “Up the Trail in ‘76,” a reference to a very special journal collected by the Museum of the Western Prairie in 1987.
The 134-year old journal in the museum collection is a small pocket ledger kept by Lewis Warren Neatherlin, who oversaw three herds of cattle as they traveled from San Antonio, Texas, to Ogallala, Nebraska, between March 12 and July 10, 1876. The unique account is the only known day-to-day record kept by a participant on a cattle drive up the Western Trail.
Along the route, Neatherlin and his outfit of more than two dozen men and approximately 6,000 longhorn passed just east of Altus, in May 1876.
The herds crossed the Red River on May 18, near what would later become Doan’s Crossing, and forded the North Fork on May 21, near present-day Warren. Neatherlin commented on the “fine valley of rich productive land” he observed between the rivers. He also reported a friendly encounter with the Wichita Indians; and mentioned one of the cowboys “shot at a bear.”
In recent years the public has become increasingly aware of the historic importance of the Western Trail (1874-1886), the successor to the well-known Chisholm Trail which lay some 100 miles to the east. A special committee of the Western Trail Historical Society formed in 2002 to mark the route through Oklahoma, and was joined later by an interstate and international effort to mark the “Great Western” from Mexico, through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South and North Dakota, to Canada. In 2009, the National Park Service began a three-year study to consider adding both the Western and Chisholm to the “National Historic Trail” system.
The 2011 “book in calendar form” features extensive background material, past and present, about the Western Trail, and includes historical photographs from the museum collection. Copies will be available at the Dec. 6 event for $10 each. The free program, open to the public, promises to be fun and informative, and will transport the audience “Up the Trail in ‘76!” (Cowboy hat and boots not included.) All proceeds benefit the Museum of the Western Prairie.
Sponsors of the 2011 calendar are First National Bank, Altus; Johnny Roberts Motors; Fox & Drechsler Engineering; the Western Trail Historical Society; the National Bank of Commerce, Altus; First State Bank of Altus; Maahs Bros., Inc.; Putnam Toyota; Red River Federal Credit Union; the Old Greer Country Western Heritage Association; Western Equipment and Shamrock Bank; Altus Printing and MidFirst Bank. Other contributors include cover art by Loweta Chesser, courtesy of Joe and Jo Carolyn Abernethy; interior art by Mary Ann McCuiston, Red River Valley Museum, Vernon, Texas; and original poetry by Eddie Wilcoxen.