On March 30, 2016, I saddled up my 2002 Toyota Tacoma pickup, a trustworthy mount that had already carried me some 160,000 miles around the country, and lit out for the Red River Crossing in Texas. I planned on intercepting the Chisholm Trail at Ringgold, Texas, some thirty miles east of Wichita Falls. It was a two-day drive.
Ringgold isn’t much by Texas standards, but it marks the intersection of Highways 82 and 81. The intersection is four miles south of what used to be the Red River Crossing Station. From here, the Chisholm Trail heads north, paralleling what is now Highway 81. In 1867, the river crossing marked the exit from The Republic of Texas into “Indian Country.” The Red River is now the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma as far west as the Texas Panhandle.
The town of Ringgold is situated in Montague County. A historical marker— located a few yards east of the highway intersection— provides some fascinating facts about the County’s place in Texas history.
According to the marker, the area was crossed by many early prairie trails. One of the earliest was the Chihuahua Traders’ Trail blazed in 1840 by merchants who wanted to open trade between St. Louis, Missouri, and Mexico. Another was the Santa Fe Expedition route. That trail later helped to reinforce the Republic of Texas’ claims to territories farther west. In 1858 the Butterfield Stage Mail route crossed Montague County.
By 1870, many of the Chisholm Trail’s feeder trails converged here as smaller cattle herds were consolidated for the drive North. During high water delays, thousands of Longhorn cattle would be grazing the grassy meadows above the Red River Crossing.