Red River Station:
Last stop in Texas
Red River Station. By itself, the name doesn't mean much. The Red River is the boundary line, basically, between Texas and Oklahoma (not counting the two states' panhandle areas). But in the latter 1800s, the Red River was a very real barrier between the cattle-rich ranges of Texas and the railroads and shipping terminals in Kansas.
Red River Station was a small, short-lived community in north Texas, located north-northwest of present-day Nocona, Texas. It sprang into existence in 1870 or 1871 to capitalize on the trade the cattle drives brought, and it died in 1887 when it was bypassed by the railroad in favor of Nocona and all of the businesses moved to be near the railroad.
Today Red River Station is a bend in the road, with an old cemetery and, no doubt, occasional artifacts that turn up as the area wheat fields are plowed.
But for nearly 20 years, this area of Texas was the primary departure point for millions of longhorn cattle. It was an inverted funnel, collecting cattle from throughout most of southern and central Texas and squeezing them all across the Red River to follow what became known as the Chisholm Trail through Indian Territory and on into Kansas.
In December 1996, a companion and I backtracked the Chisholm Trail from my home in Duncan, Oklahoma, heading south on U.S. 81 (which has been designated the Chisholm Trail Historic Route through Oklahoma).
After crossing the Red River into Texas, we turned east on U.S. 82 at Ringgold, heading toward Nocona (home of the world-famous Nocona Boots). At Nocona, we took Farm-to-Market Road 103 (FM 103) north. The road signs said we were headed toward Prairie Valley and Spanish Fort. At the Prairie Valley School, we turned west on FM 2849. The road was paved for a distance, then suddenly turned to gravel at the same time it turned south.
After a short distance south, what appeared to be a farm path headed west again, right at the edge of a wheat field. A small road sign indicated that this was, indeed, the road to Red River Station.
It zigged, it zagged, it rumbled over cattle guards. (For those urbanites who see the words "cattle guards" and think of bovine bandoleros, with firearms firmly held in hooved hands and belts of ammunition crossing their chests, sorry -- these cattle guards are ground-level gratings in the roadway, substituting for gates in the barbed-wire fencing. I know of only two cattle -- because I've actually seen them do it -- that were willing to pick their way carefully across the metal grating to get out of their home pasture.)
The road twists and crosses Salt Creek, then goes up a hill past a farm house that I understand is in the vicinity of the former townsite of Red River Crossing.
It was just a short distance farther, along the edge of another winter wheat field and past a small herd of cattle allowed to graze on the winter wheat. The road forks at the end of the field: The left fork goes over another cattle guard, turns left and leaves the area; the right fork turns right and continues along the edge of the wheat field, bordered on the other side by a barbed-wire fence and thick stand of trees and brush.
Along that right fork, visible from the main road, can be seen a granite monument. We parked at the side of the road at the fork and walked along the lane to the monument.