Landmark Cottonwood

Historical Period: Frontier Texas (1865-1900)
Historical Topic: Frontier Settlements
Species: Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
County: Hemphill
Public Access: Yes

This gigantic eastern cottonwood stands near the famous Military and Stageline Trail on the South Canadian River and served for centuries as an important landmark for Indians, pioneers, buffalo hunters, and military units who traveled this part of the Texas Panhandle prior to 1890.

For centuries the area surrounding this landmark was dominated by Indians. Later it was shared by hunters who sought the hides and meat of the buffalo. By 1874, the increased frequency of raids on the settlements by fierce plains Indians caused the U. S. Government to establish a fort about thirty-three miles south of this cottonwood. Fort Elliott, as it was called, was the first permanent settlement in the Texas Panhandle. The nearest railroad was at Fort Dodge, Kansas, 184 miles to the north, and the nearest source of supplies was Camp Supply in the Oklahoma Indian Territory, some 95 miles north.

Early stage drivers and buffalo hunters were guided by this giant cottonwood to a safe crossing on the Canadian, which at some points contained beds of treacherous quicksand. Mail carriers on the three-day trip to Camp Supply usually spent their first night at the Canadian crossing, probably in the vicinity of this tree.

In those early days, when physical comforts were few and far between, the tree was a welcome sight to the plainsmen when they reined their steeds at the top of a distant hill and saw the crown of green leaves of the Landmark Cottonwood shimmering under a blazing Texas sun.

The Landmark Cottonwood is in the Black Kettle National Grasslands on the east side of Lake Marvin, about 14 miles east of Canadian, TX. From Canadian, go 1.9 miles on Hwy 60E/83N, turn right onto FM 2266 and go 10 miles until pavement ends. Continue down the gravel road, staying to the right. Go 1.5 miles until you reach the trailhead and the state historical marker commemorating this tree.