Following the Civil War, construction of the transcontinental Railroad opened the west, ensuring elimination of the buffalo herds, forcing Native American Indians onto reservations where the military provided food. The rails transported range fattened cattle to eastern markets. The range cattle industry spread over the central and northern plains, and became one of the most significant economic developments in late 19th century U.S. history.
Within a decade, cattle was king, providing: jobs for veterans, exotic investment opportunities for foreign investors, markets for excess grain produced by improved farming methods, food for eastern industrial centers and romantic visions of life in the west.
Leggy Texas longhorns moved as far north as Canada to take advantage of open range grazing and lucrative government contracts. These routes became known collectively as the "Texas Trail". One entered Wyoming near Cheyenne, headed north past Fort Laramie, Newcastle, Upton, into Moorcroft, and then west to northeast Wyoming. "We had been told that from the Cheyenne River to Powder River there was likely no water, which we surely found out.... The weathered was hot and at the end of the second day the cattle commenced to grind their teeth in their suffering...their groans were enough to raise the hair on a wooden Indian."
pioneers settled the open range and poor business practices combined with harsh weather forced the cattle barons to change their ways. By 1888 the volume of cattle driven from Texas north to the open plains dwindled, and by 1900 the drives had ceased altogether.