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Western Trail Marker - home at last

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Donning their western best, city and county dignitaries, along with area cowboys and cowgals, moseyed down to the Western Trail Park on Main Street on Friday, May 18, to participate in the dedication of the Western Trail commemorative plaque.

Spearheaded by members of the Bandera County Historical Commission, the bronze plaque, mounted on a limestone pedestal, explains the significance of the cattle trail immortalized in the iconic mini-series "Lonesome Dove."

Roy Dugosh and Elenora Dugosh Goodley, chairmen of the Bandera County Historical Commission unveiled the plaque. Cecil LeStourgeon and his son, Tony, donated the labor and rock for the impressive limestone pedestal. Cecil LeStourgeon is also a member of the Bandera County Historical Commission.

The plaque reads: "The first herd blazed the trail in 1874 and the last herd made the trip in 1894. Some historians state otherwise, but the Great Western Trail started at Bandera, Texas. It was also known simply as the Western Trail, the Dodge City Trail and the Old Texas Trail.

"Though not as well known as the Chisholm Trail, more cattle and horses were driven up the Western Trail, and it was much longer. It was the main cattle trail to Dodge City, Kansas, but eventually went to Ogallala, Nebraska, with branches that went to Canada and all of the northwestern states.

"The Western Trail gave birth to the ranching industry in the entire West, as it was seed stock driven up this trail from Texas that was used to start the ranches. It is estimated that approximately 7,000,000 head of longhorn cattle and thousands of horses were driven up the Great Western Trail."

A companion pedestal and marker dedicated to the Cowboy Capital of the World will be placed in the park at a later date.

In 2004, a trail ride, sponsored by the Bandera Regional Foundation and Ken Finley of Bandera Bank, began in Bandera and culminated in Dodge City.

Lisa Sorrell, one of the original trail riders, attended the marker dedication.

One of the prime movers behind the Western Trail Park, its accompanying marker and now historical plaque, Dave Burell said, "Longhorns were staged south and southwest of Bandera, allowing this area to become a major passing point for cattle being driven to railheads in the north. Everyone cattle that were 'road branded' for the trip.

After being separated in the yards in Dodge City, the longhorns were sold."

He went on to say the trail that started in Mexico eventually ended in Canada.

"We're proud of this park and the plaque," Burell continued. "This was a particular project of Rudy Robbins who wrote an article about it before he went to that big cattle drive in the sky."

Burell also credited historian Peggy Tobin for assisting with the project.

In turn, County Judge Richard Evans thanked Burell for his tireless efforts. "His constant presence kept this project going. He never gave up."

Calling the Western Trail "an integral part of Bandera's history, Evans told the crowd at the age of 17 or 18 years, his great-grandfather participated in a cattle drive on the Western Trail. "This is very good for the city and county. It's part of our heritage. We need to know where we came from in order to know who we are."

Pictured: As attested to by this crowd of cowboy re-enactors, elected officials, members of the historical commission and myriad horsewomen, a cross-section of city and county citizens helped celebrate the long-awaited dedication of the Western Trail marker on Friday, May 18.

Bottom- The Plaque.