When they found themselves living alongside a cattle trail in the 1960s, Gary and Margaret Kraisinger wanted to learn more about its origins.
"Very little was known about it and we got curious about it," Margaret Kraisinger said.
That research project spurred on a lifetime of looking into the history of cattle trails. The Kraisingers mapped five routes herds took across Kansas and published three books on the subject.
The Kraisingers will present "The Rest of the Story: The Old Chisholm Trail" at 6 p.m. March 12 at the McPherson Public Library, 214 W. Marlin St.
Millions of cattle were driven north from Texas from 1846 to 1897.
"We're talking about 50 years of cattle driving," Margaret Kraisinger said. "In those 50 years, the Texas cattle movement was the largest controlled animal migration in history."
With Gary Kraisinger's training as a cartographer and the couple's passion for historical research, they mapped five trails used in Kansas: Shawnee Trail, Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail, Chisholm Trail, Western Trail and Goodnight Trail.
Audiences may be surprised to learn that trail drivers used another route through Oklahoma to push their longhorns to Abilene from 1867 through 1870, before the current-day recognized Chisholm Trail in Indian Territory was used.
"We'll concentrate on the Shawnee-Arbuckle trail, which was the predecessor of the Chisholm Trail," Margaret Kraisinger said.
Being historically accurate and dispelling myths about the trails became a mission for the Kraisingers.
"We've become more concerned, with the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail, that there are a lot of misnomers and myths out there," Margaret Kraisinger said.
One example she gives is that the Chisholm Trail was not called by that name until after Jesse Chisholm's death.
"We want to explain all of that, how through the years, when it comes to being historically correct, a lot of false information has been put out there," Margaret Kraisinger said.
Contrary to what some people may think, the cattle trails were not several miles wide, but rather were formed into a well-worn path a few hundred feet across.
"That pathway was beaten down into the earth," Margaret Kraisinger said.
As more people came to Kansas, cattle drives were pushed west. Settlers did not want the animals trampling their land or spreading Texas cattle fever to their own livestock.
"By that time, Abilene was waning and the whole movement of the cattle trail was going west,"
The trail drives started going to Newton, Wichita and Ellsworth. Understanding the first trails gives historians such as the Kraisingers a deeper knowledge of how subsequent trails were formed.
"People cannot understand the Chisholm Trail unless they understand the Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail," Margaret Kraisinger said.
The Kraisingers used sources such as cowboy diaries that were written on the trail, newspapers, archival maps and government survey maps to locate and define the routes used for cattle drive.
"We use primary sources," Margaret Kraisinger said. "We don't just pull this out of our head."
"The Rest of the Story: The Old Chisholm Trail" will focus on the cattle trails, rather than the historically famous people and establishments seen along the way.
"We tell our story by way of maps," Margaret Kraisinger said. "We will explain and show the movement of the trails from east to west."
“History programs are always popular at the library, and given that the Kraisingers are especially knowledgeable in their field, this should be a very informative evening,” noted Shannon Brake, Marketing and Communications Manager for the library.
Together, the Kraisingers wrote "The Western, the Greatest Texas Cattle Trail, 1874-1886," "The Western Cattle Trail, 1874-1897, its Rise, Collapse, and Revival" and "The Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail, 1867-1870, The Predecessor of the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas."
"We're hardcore historians. We don't waver. We base everything on the primary sources we have read," Margaret Kraisinger said. "We want to educate the public with the truth as much as we possibly can."
For more information about the Kraisingers and their research, visit http://www.westerncattletrail.net.
For additional information about programs, call the library at 620-245-2570 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.