The Chisholm Trail: Crockett Cardwell and Thornton Chisholm's Legendary Cattle Drive of 1866
(Click on map for enlarged view.)
Crockett Cardwell, born January 20, 1812 in Mercer County, Kentucky, came to Texas in 1833 and joined the Green DeWitt's colonists who settled primarily in what would become Gonzales and DeWitt counties. About the same time that Cardwell arrived in Texas, his future bride, Ann Eliza White had also immigrated to Texas, joining Stephen F. Austin's colony with her four brothers and widowed mother.
Ann Eliza, born to Thomas and Dianna White on October 23, 1824 in Mississippi, was part of a family who simply bundled up the few belongings in their possession and became new residents of Washington-on-the-Brazos. A pioneer to the core, Mrs. White later married James J. Tumlinson, moving the family to Gonzales where they received their education. It was in Gonzales that the young Ann Eliza met Crockett Cardwell, marrying on April 16, 1846.
In July of 1846 Crockett Cardwell was elected to serve as one of the first DeWitt County commissioners. Additionally, Cardwell owned and operated several general merchandise stores and is known as one of the earliest merchants in Texas. The locations of these stores were old Indianola, Port Lavaca, Halletsville and the home store north of Cuero.
Purchasing the home store property on September 28, 1849 from Captain Daniel Boone Friar, the store also served as the Cardwell home, becoming a popular meeting place and serving as the area's first post office. Cardwell, known as a generous and gracious host, also operated the store as a stagecoach stop for service between Indianola and San Antonio.
The ownership and operation of the store chain covered a long and interesting period in the life of Crockett Cardwell. He made regular trips to New York, Cincinnati and other eastern markets to buy merchandise and goods for resale. Cardwell saw a definite need for meat in the north and was fully aware of the abundance of cattle in South Texas. This supply and demand idea sparked a keen interest for Cardwell, which began his pursuit for a northern market for Texas beeves and a man who could help fulfill his entrepreneurial spirit. This man was Thornton Chisholm. On April 1, 1866, Chisholm and thirty men drove Cardwell's 1800 head of cattle north from Cardwell's Flats to St. Joseph, Missouri. These hardy Texas cowboys were some of the first drovers who helped to bring DeWitt County out of its post-Civil War economic crisis.
Cardwell's store was closed in 1874 and on September 2, 1891, Crockett Cardwell died. He is buried near his homestead, between the old and new Yoakum highway (U.S. 77A).
Soon after the death of her husband, Mrs. Cardwell closed the old homestead to take up residence with her daughter, Evie Cardwell Burns who was living in Cuero. Nothing remains today of the famous 19th century landmark known as Cardwell's store, yet the affects of those epic journeys North can be seen in the historic homes of DeWitt and surrounding counties. Mrs. Cardwell died on March 16, 1914 at the age of 90 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery in Cuero.
Visit the Texas Historical Commission's "historic marker" several miles north of Cuero on U.S. 183 to read about Cardwell Flats, the Daniel Boone Friar store and the legendary cattle drive of 1866.