Update – June 7, 2021

Work is underway to complete marking of the Great Western Cattle Trail as it winds its way through North Dakota.  The trail, that begins in  Mexico and follows nine states northward, ends at Fort Buford near present day Williston, ND.  

Work on marking the historic trail began several years ago in Texas.  The state’s of Texas and Oklahoma have marked their segments of the  trail with markers every five miles.  North Dakota became the third of the nine states on the historic trail to begin a marking project last summer  when obelisks were placed every five miles along the route that parallels Highway 85 from the South Dakota border to Belfield.   

Plans are now underway to finish erecting the concrete posts and intermittent black marble history markers from Belfield to Fort Buford near  Williston where the trail ended it’s more than 2,000-mile route in the late 1800s.  

Project Chair Darrell Dorgan says the concrete seven-foot-long white obelisks were donated by Dickinson Ready Mix which is headed by Stark  County Historian/businessman Scott Olin. Spots for the markers have been provided by area landowners and ranchers who are keen to preserve  the history of the trail that brought nearly nine million Long Horns and horses from Texas to Canada from 1870 to the mid 1890s.    

Dorgan says, “This was the beginning of the ranching industry in this and other states and the preservation of the Great  Western Trail that was responsible for settlement is an important piece of preserving our heritage and history.  It  also provided people from across the world access to the route used to settle the west”.    

Many of the longhorns and horses were also moved up the trail to meet government treaty obligations to Native American tribes while  simultaneously creating a 2,000-mile ranching corridor that still exists today through small towns and rural areas.   Also involved in the project are Rotary groups from Texas to Canada, historic and tourism organizations and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.    

Former NDSU President Jim Ozbun who now lives in Dickinson is also one of the primary backers of the North Dakota segment of the project.  Ozbun,  also a former rancher, like many other western North Dakota ranchers, has deep roots on Great Western Trail.  Ozbun’s grandfather  came up the trail  as a drover with a herd from Texas in the 1890s and Ozbun promoted putting the first of more than 50 markers in North Dakota at the North Dakota  Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora nearly ten years ago.    

Work on the last segment of the project will begin near Belfield June 16th and end at Fort Buford June 27th when the final obelisk is unveiled.  A program  will be held on June 26th and 27th at Fort Buford with the unveiling of the final Obelisk and marble history marker the afternoon of the 27th.   A delegation from Texas as well as state officials have been invited.    

Dorgan says the six remaining states are beginning work to mark their sections of the trail and notes, “Once complete, it will provide a new tourism route  through the center of the country providing a new look at America’s unique western history that is fascinating to people world-wide”.    He also says the trail will provide a boom for the tourism industry in rural America, “This is a unique opportunity to preserve heritage and history at no cost  to the federal government while creating a billion dollar plus tourist potential through America’s economic heartland from Mexico to Canada”.   

U.S. Senator John Hoeven, who was instrumental in dedicating North Dakota’s first marker nearly a decade ago in Medora, is reviewing federal legislation  formally naming the trail system “The Great Western Trail”.    

Educator, author and historic preservationist Sylvia Mahoney Of Fort Worth, Texas has been involved in nationally recognizing  the Great Western Trail  the past several years.  Mahoney who has successfully worked with Rotary Clubs to promote and help fund the project says, “The trail is an American historic  icon.  Wherever you go in the world there’s a fascination with American Western History and the trail will bring visitors from across the world to see where the  cowboys, longhorns and buffalo roamed.  The time to save the Great Western Trail is now or a decade from now it will simply have slipped from memory.   It must be saved as a tribute to the Native Americans who lived on the land and the cowboys and settlers who settled and it and created an industry and an  American history.”  

Update – March 22, 2021

Spring is on the way and so is calving.  Cross your fingers, we need moisture badly.  

Because of your efforts, we completed the South Dakota-Belfield segment of the Great Western Trail last July.  Now, we’d like to finish the project with the distinctive concrete obelisks and historic markers all the way from Belfield to Fort Buford June 26th and 27th.  That’s about 150 miles or about 30 obelisks tamped-in and four or five black granite markers that have to be set.  

The concrete obelisks (an incredible gift from Dickinson Ready Mix) are ready and would be placed every five to six miles.  We already have landowner permission for the Belfield to Watford sites and Jan Dodge of the Watford Chamber is helping us line-up volunteers who help find sites between Watford and Fort Buford.   

Jim Ozbun and I will begin meeting with landowners in early April to secure sites for the obelisks.  Black granite history markers are already at the South Dakota state line, at the courthouse in Amidon, and in Belfield.  Additional markers will be placed in Grassy Butte, Watford City, Alexander, and at Fort Buford.    

There will be a dedication program at Fort Buford on Sunday afternoon June 27th and Senator John Hoeven and Governor Doug Burgum have been invited to speak.  A group from Texas, where the trail begins, will also be at Fort Buford for the ceremony   and celebration at the end of the historic trail.    

Now for the tough part, we need you again.  Texas and Oklahoma are already marked, and North Dakota will be the third to accomplish this feat of historic preservation.  We did the first part in less than a day because we all jumped in, dug some holes, and had a great time with a barbecue at the Logging Camp Ranch.  We did it without a dime of government help; just a group wanting to preserve the history of our state’s first industry, ranching.  Will you join us again?    

The Cowboy Hall of Fame induction is the weekend before we plant the obelisks and historical markers on the way to Fort Buford.  Calving should be finished, and the State Historical Society is picking a site for our memorial at Fort Buford.  Now we need you to help on the 26th and 27th and finish the project.    

We’ll need some pick-ups, post-hole diggers, tamp bars, and a willingness to have a good time with friends, neighbors and others who want to preserve your heritage and history.  

Jim and I will try to arrange a barbecue for Saturday night the 26th in Watford or Williston  We would like you to be at the dedication on the 27th  at Fort Buford to be introduced.  

Sylvia Mahoney of Fort Worth has been one of the chief backers of this project for the past fifteen years. Sylvia has now written a great history of the Great Western Trail and it’s on our website.  She’s also planning to be with us at Fort Buford.   Please consider becoming part of preserving your history and join us on June 26 and 27. If you have friends and neighbors who’d like to get involved in this historic adventure, bring ‘em along. 

Update – March 11, 2021

Planning is underway to complete marking the Great Western Cattle Trail across North Dakota. 
The trail, that begins in Texas and runs North all the way to Fort Buford near present day Williston, North Dakota, has been marked every five to six miles with concrete obelisks in Texas and Oklahoma. North Dakota will be the third state to complete the project. Other states along the route are making plans to join efforts to the mark the trail.  

North Dakota Great Western Trail Chair Darrell Dorgan says volunteers placed obelisks and black marble markers from the South Dakota border to Belfield last summer and notes plans this summer call for the trail to be marked with concrete obelisks and marble markers from Belfield to Fort Buford the last weekend in June.  

Dorgan says, “Volunteers are being recruited, the obelisks have been made and donated by Dickinson Ready Mix. With luck and good weather we can do the 100-mile plus stretch in two days and will celebrate the end of the project with a program at Fort Buford the afternoon of June 27th”.

Former NDSU President Jim Ozbun, placed the first trail marker at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora eight years ago.  Ozbun says Senator John Hoeven and Governor Doug Burgum have been invited to participate in the event.

Ozbun’s grandfather rode the Great Western Cattle Trail in the late 1800s as a drover and Ozbun has been a key player in getting the trail marked through North Dakota.

Spots for the markers have been committed from Belfield to Watford City and work with ranchers and landowners from Watford City to Williston for the other needed sites will begin in April.

Rotarian Sylvia Mahoney of Fort Worth, Texas has been working on the project for nearly 15 years and recently completed the following history of the historic Trail.  Mahoney and others from Texas are expected to attend the Fort Buford dedication in June.

Update – November 24, 2020

At this time, with so much uncertainty, it brings comfort to hear a message of friendship across some 2,000 miles sent to us specifically.

A message that I quote from: “That’s the type of kindness you never forget, Juneberries and smiles.”

A Save-the-Date invitation is included: June 26 & 27, 2021.
A reminder to each of you: we have bonded on the GWT through our effort to mark the path of the trail and to recognize the Great Western Trail as a National Historic Trail. Why?

As was the first Thanksgiving: Working Together, Good Food, Good Friends, Good Cause, Good Will, Thanks, and Hope with Juneberries and Smiles. Thank you, North Dakota, Darrell and Jim. 

I wish each of you a celebration of the heart brought from your working together on your successful GWT obelisks project. It is memorable to see ND working together to preserve and promote its GWT history that unifies us in the same cause. I know many of you have Texas drovers on your family trees. Sharing unites. 

Sharing in Thanksgiving.Hope to see you in June. 
Warm regards,
Sylvia Mahoney

Update – September 8, 2021

Hello.  Harvest is about done and it was actually cold last night and today.  Time to start thinking about making our run with posts and history markers and obelisks from Belfield to Watford City.  We’ve tentatively picked Saturday, September 26th but that’s going to depend on what’s happening with the Covid virus. 

Jim Lowman has been helping and I’ve been on the phone the past couple of days.  So far North of Belfield we’ve tentatively lined up spots for obelisks from Kay Burian, Vonnie Tarnasky, Cody Reis, Rita Smith, Brad Chin, Gail Chinn,  Dale Baranko, Paul Kessel, and Rocky Baye.  Steve Stenehjum also has land North of the park and is willing to work with us for spots leading into Watford.  Looks like we’ll also get a spot near the Grassy Butte Courthouse thanks to Gail and friends.   

Jan Dodge from Watford has also been a big help.  There is a spot in Watford in a new park area that they’d like to have us use for an obelisk and one of the history black marble history markers.   

Gene Veeder from Watford is donating $1,000 and Attorney Dennis Johnson is also involved in the search to find help.   

John Hanson from the Logging camp is willing to help and so are several of the other guys who worked on the SD to Belfield stretch.  Also spoke with John Hovde and he’s going to round up some of the Williston gang and bring them down to help for the day.   

The plan is to have one crew start from Belfield, another from Watford and meet at the half-way point.  We’re going to need at least three or four pick-ups on each route.  The pick-ups should have tires laying in the back so we can lay the posts on them and also haul sacks of Quick Crete. 

John Hanson will be pulling his trailer with its bobcat to quickly dig the holes along the  marked fence line spots, then filled with the concrete posts donated by Dickinson ready mix and tamped with Quick Crete. We’ll  need a trailer Bobcat and pick-up that can make the run from Watford at the same time.   Kim Shade and some of the other crew are coming too…… 

The posts weigh 260 pounds and the base for the three or four black marble history plaques weight 400 pounds so we need some muscle. 

Should be able to finish in five or six hours and then dinner in Watford and do some quick planning for next summer when we will become the third of eight states to mark the great western trail when we make the run from Watford to Fort Buford.   

We’re trying to space are markers five to six miles apart.  If you know others who I haven’t talked to yet and will fit into our place, please call.   

Jim Ozbun and I plan to run out Saturday morning to talk with landowners and get agreements signed allowing us to put in the posts.Thanks for all your help and encouragement.  When we’re done we’ll have been part of something that will last for a hundred years and preserved our history from kids and grandkids.

Update – September 3, 2020

I’ve written and talked with most of you since we put in the obelisks and black granite history markers from the North Dakota/South Dakota Line to Belfield for the Great Western Cattle Trail.  We had an incredible crew, good times and we’re off to a great start.   

Also had a wonderful evening at the Logging Camp Ranch with steaks great scenery and talked about the amazing history of Western, North Dakota and the people like you who live here.   

The trail runs through eight states from Mexico to Canada and millions of cattle and horses were brought North from the 1870s to 90’s and those that made it this far became part of the state’s first industry; your heritage.   

We’re now getting ready to mark the trail from Belfield to Watford City beginning on Saturday, September 26th.  Whether or not we move to the sixty-mile route on the 26th will depend on Covid 19 but with luck,  I think we can easily do it in a day.  We’ll have one crew start from Watford, another from Belfield.  Steak and comradely in Watford that Saturday night.  

 We’ll put a five-foot concrete obelisk in every five or six miles along Highway #85.  We’ll also have a special black marble marker like the one at the South Dakota line, in Amidon and in Belfield, at Grassy Butte and Watford City, Williston and Fort Buford to tell the history of the route. 

Jan Dodge from Watford is helping line-up people and others who may allow us to put a marker inside their fence along the highway. Jim Lowman of Fairfield will also help get easements and find people to help.   

The great Dickinson Ready Mix will drop off the posts and history markers and John Hanson will again pull his rig and bobcat from Belfield.  Bill Lowman and Kim Shade will be involved.  Larry Schnell is still taking stitches out of his finger and Steve Brooks broke his ankle. John Heinen, from the Dickinson Rotary is likely to show again but I need to get a crew ready to head south from Watford….. Rotarians, cowboys, ranchers, history buffs? 

We’ll do the Williston segment next spring after calving.  Texas and Oklahoma have finished their routes and we will be the third. 

We have a web site at ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com where you can see the story of the Great Wester Cattle Trail and how you can become involved.  No one is getting paid.  Dickinson Ready Mix has produced the posts and marker holders.  We’ve got to buy three more marble markers but can get it done for $3,000.  Rotary clubs along the route have been helping, so has the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.   

Open the web site and sign-up or call Jim Ozbun (290-4153) or me (226-4431).  We’re going to need a trailer, bobcat to drill with, some easements and help but it’s with your help we’ll preserve the history of North Dakota’s first industry. 

Several newspapers did stories about out project and the REC magazine, out any day, will also have a feature piece.   

I’ve also sent this email to Einar and Sonja Prestangen, Brian Zingleman, Cecil and Patty Wilson, Kevin Dahl, Larry Marmon, Jim and Colleen Pojorlie, keith and jill Hellman, Curt and Jennifer Sorenson, Vonnie Tarnavsky, Merle Jost, Cecil Murry, Paul Kessel, William and Carla Fleck, Shawn and Janell Lee, Terry Watson, Brad and Gail Chinn, Kaye Nelson.  Letters have gone out to Brian Zingleman, Jim and Colleen Pojorlie, Larry Marmon,  Cecil and patty Wilson, Bill and Carla Fleck, Jim and Dona Lowman. 

Your chance to preserve history, everyone’s chance to have a great day.  Give us a call and get signed up. 

Update – July 15, 2020

Work began on the first segment of the Great Western Trail in North Dakota Sunday, July 12 with two crews.  A work-crew with Bowman area volunteers began at the North Dakota/South Dakota State line heading North.  Another crew, with volunteers from the Dickinson/Medora area began by heading south from Belfield.  

Trail project manager Darrell Dorgan says 13 concrete obelisks marking the trail route along Highway #85 were set in concrete marking the North Dakota segment of the Texas to Canada Trail.

Three black marble plaques detailing the trail’s rich western history were also implanted.  The markers explaining the trail history are at the North Dakota/South Dakota border, the courthouse in Amidon and at the Trappers Kettle in Belfield.  Another plaque will be paced at Bowman’s visitor center.

The work crews were made up of nearly 30 ranchers, historians, Rotarians and members of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. 

The trail which runs for more than 2,000 miles through eight states from Mexico to Canada has already been marked all the way through Texas and Oklahoma and other states are organizing to mark the route that was used to move millions of cattle and horses North from the 1870s into the 1890s.

Dorgan says, “We hope to organize and mark the trail from Belfield to Watford City the end of September and then from Watford to Fort Buford next spring”.  Anyone interested in having a marker on their land along #85 or helping with the effort, should go to the group’s website at ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com and sign-up.

He notes, “Many of the cattle from the Great Western Trail reached  North Dakota in the early 1880s and 90s and became the foundation for the state’s vibrant ranching industry that exists today”.

Others who’ve joined the North Dakota effort include Bowman, ND tourism promotion groups and local Rotary Clubs. Rotary organizations from Texas and Oklahoma began the project and Rotary clubs along the trail are continuing to  participate. 

Dorgan, who was the first director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and spearheaded the effort to build the western heritage center in Medora, insisted Jim Ozbun be part of the on-going effort. The former NDSU President, who’s maternal grandfather came up the trail in the 1890s as a young drover says, “Rotary clubs across the country are backing the project.  The trail in North Dakota paralleled Highway #85 and it’s an irreplaceable part of our history that could have been lost if it hadn’t been formally marked”.

Ozbun also notes, “Major help has been provided by the Dickinson Ready Mix Company and owner Scott Olin.  They have built and donated more than 50 of the concrete obelisks to mark the trail.   Doug Braun, products division manager for Dickinson Ready Mix, was  instrumental in the project”. 

Dorgan, noting Olin is a major backer of tourism projects and an incredible historian, says the gift by Dickinson Ready Mix is valued in the thousands of dollars.

Area ranchers Steve Brooks and John Hanson of Amidon also stepped forward and signed-up other ranchers who  allowed trail makers on their land along Highway 85 and headed the two work crews.

A barbecue was held at Hanson’s famous Logging Camp Ranch west of Medora following completion of the first 80-mile segment. 

Anyone interested in participating in the project with financial contributions or setting posts can go to the group’s website at ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com and view the project’s history and plans. 

Update – July 6, 2020

Work is set to begin on the first segment of the Great Western Trail in North Dakota in Mid-July.  Trail project manager Darrell Dorgan of Bismarck says the segment of the famous trail for cattle and horses will be marked from the South Dakota line to I-94 this summer and the section from Belfield to Fort Buford near Williston next year. 

The Famous trail for cattle and horses began in the 1870s along the border with Texas and Mexico and for more than 20 years, it’s estimated more million dog cattle snd horses were moved northward, through eight states and on into Canada. 

Dorgan says,  “Many of the cattle from the Great Western Trail reached  North Dakota in the early 1880s and 90s and became the foundation for the state’s vibrant ranching industry that exists today”. 

The trail has already been marked with six-foot-tall obilesks all the way through Texas and Oklahoma and work is now underway in the remaining states including North Dakota. 

Dorgan notes, “The white obelisks will be placed every six to ten miles along Highway 85 which parallels the long-time cattle and horse trail.  Black marble plaques explaining the trails vibrant history will be placed in association with the obelisks at the North Dakota/South Dakota border, at the County Courthouse in Amidon, in Belfield, Near Watford City,West of Williston and at Fort Buford”. 

There have been two markers in North Dakota the past six years, one at Bowman, the other at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora.  Former NDSU President Jim Ozbun, whose maternal grandfather trailed cattle from Texas to North Dakota in the 1890’s, joined with other Rotary Club members in getting the first marker placed.  Nationally, Rotary Clubs have heavily backed the project to make sure the trail remains part of the nation’s history and are active in the marking in North Dakota too. 

Others who’ve joined the North Dakota effort include Bowman, ND tourism promotion groups and local Rotary Clubs. Rotary organizations from Texas to North Dakota are participating.  

Dorgan, who was the first director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and spearheaded the effort to build the western heritage center in Medora,  insisted Ozbun be part of the on-going effort. “This is Jim’s kind of project.  It involves history and needs a great organizer”, he said. 

He also notes, “Major help has been provided by the Dickinson Ready Mix Company and owner Scott Olin.  They have built and donated more than 50 of the concrete obelisks to mark the trail.   Dorgan, noting Olin is a major backer of tourism projects and an incredible historian, says the gift by Dickinson Ready Mix is valued in the thousands of dollars”. 

Area ranchers Steve Brooks and John Hanson of Amidon have also stepped forward and signed-up other ranchers who will allow the trail makers on their land along Highway 85.  

Work will begin on July 12 on Highway 85 and continue for three days getting the first of the obelisks and history markers up.  Ranchers and historians will join the effort in the effort and they expect to have the first 100 miles marked by the end of July.

Update – June 24, 2020

Good news on the ND Great Western Trail project again!  Dickinson Ready Mix has completed the obelisks, their producing the six sign holders we need and I’m driving to Minneapolis this week to pick-up the black marble history markers.

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame has agreed to take responsibility for the maintenance and insurance for the first of the obelisk and history sign that will located at the North Dakota/South Dakota pull out on the border coming into ND.   The Obelisk that will be about five feet tall will need to be painted about every three years and the insurance will likely cost nothing because it will just be added to their existing policy.  Thank You Rick Thompson.

I will drive to Minneapolis on Wednesday to pick up the black marble history markers which we’ll install at the SD line, Amidon and Belfield.  We have six of them and the other three will be used next summer from North of Belfield to Fort Buford which is where the trail/distribution ended in ND.

Rick still has to submit the paperwork to the Highway Department for final approval but they’ve been great to work with and I suspect it will get stamped yes in a could of weeks.

Trappers Kettle in Belfield has agreed to host an obelisk and history markert at the restaurant and motel in Belfield and we’re only doing the South Dakota line to Belfield this year so we’re in great shape.  Steve Brooks and John Hanson have ranchers and or sites approved every six miles or so and they have equipment to do the holes. But if you’ve got a pick-up plan on throwing a couple of tires for the obelisks to lay on and help deliver to their locations.   

Dickinson Ready Mix and it’s historian/President Scott Olin has agreed to drop the obelisks and Steve says we can have them dropped at his ranch which is South of Amidon.  Steve’s crew will work from South Dakota to Amidon, John Hanson’s crew will work from Amidon (the sight of another obelisk and history marker at the courthouse) to Belfield. Now we need you!

The dates we’ve picked for installation are July 12, 13 and if need a couple of hours on the 14th.  That’s Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.    Brooks, Hanson, and Jim Ozbun are all free those days and so am I.  Better yet, Hanson, whose family runs one of the country’s most scenic lodges at the Logging Camp Ranch west of Amidon, has invited us to a free Barbecue the night of the 12th at the ranch. 

If you can give us a day or two it would be greatly appreciated and we could finish the first part of the project.  We’re inviting people from along 85 North towards Williston to join us so they can lead the effort on the last of the run next summer.  

We also still need help from the Watford City Rotary and despite a couple of calls have never been invited to talk to the Williston Rotary to provide information and their help.  
Some of your names are on our website, some are not.  After checking (as per Ozbun’s suggestion) I discovered I didn’t have permission to use all the names.  If you’d like your name on the list or know of others who can help us, let me know.  The website address is ndgreatwesterncattletrail.com.

Amazingly, we’re just a bunch of people interested in preserving the heritage and history of the first industry we had in ND.  Nobody’s made a buck, no one is going to.  This is a project your grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to look at and say, …”hey, grandpa helped do that”.  

Sylvia Mahoney and a few others from Texas have expressed and interest in heading North to join us when we make this happen.  Hope they can make it.  When we’re done, North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma will have completed their part of the project.  

One final note.  Steve has a rancher friend who has one of the original store markers put up on the North Dakota South Dakota Border in the late 1800s.  It’s one of ver few left and the rancher has save it from destruction and would like us to ask the Highway Department to put it up at the site of our first obelisk at the border.  I don’t know if they’ll go for it but I’ll ask and if they won’t the State Historical Society will be asked to step in to preserved the marker.