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The Marks Family Films, no. 3 - Starting the Salt Grass Trail Ride (1958)

Milo Marks

Silent | 1958

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  •  Morning in Brenham 
  •  Riders congregate for the annual Salt Grass Trail Ride 
  •  Actor Hugh O’Brian, star of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, shakes hands with Emil Henry Marks 
  •  O’Brian mounts his horse 
  •  The first group of wagons and riders depart for Houston 
  •  Bystanders watch the wagon trains go by 
  •  The next wave of cattlemen prepare for departure 
  •  Check out those red chaps! 
  •  Trail riders stop along the road 
  •  Another group of ranchers from all over the state line up to join the trail ride 
  •  And they’re off to Houston 
  •  A lone rider remains 
  •  Riders make their way to Houston 
  •  Onlookers watch as the cattlemen make their journey 
  •  A young boy accompanies the ranchers on horseback 
  •  The cattlemen stop and line up along the trail 
  •  Their journey resumes 
  •  Participants perform for the camera 
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This home movie features silent footage of participants lining up and leaving Brenham for the 1958 Salt Grass Trail Ride. The kick-off event for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (previously known as the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exhibition), the trail ride began in 1952 after four cowmen decided to reenact the journey of pioneer cattlemen taking their herds from the Gulf Coast to Houston. The tradition continues to this day, with travelers riding from Brenham to Houston, roughly 80 miles, in wagons or on horseback each February. Emil Henry Marks, owner of the LH7 Ranch in Barker and one of the first cattlemen on the Gulf Coast to cross breed Brahman bulls with longhorn cattle, was one of the original four to make the trip. Marks can be seen in the beginning of this footage, as well as actor Hugh O’Brian, who is pictured shaking hands with Marks and leading the trail riders. At the time, O’Brian was starring in the television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. He appears to be in costume as Earp in this footage.
Emil Henry Marks, also known as E. H. Marks, was born in Addicks, Texas on October 26, 1881. He began working as a cowboy at age ten, registering the LH7 brand in Harris County in 1898. The ranch opened near Addicks in 1907, and moved to Barker in 1917. Marks was one of the first cattlemen on the Gulf Coast to cross breed Brahman bulls with common longhorn cattle. The LH7 also protected the foundation stock of Texas longhorns in an attempt to save the breed from extinction. Marks maintained a herd of 500 purebred longhorns, one of the nation’s largest. In reviving the breed, the Texas Longhorn Breeding Association of America declared the Marks line one of the “seven families” of Texas longhorn cattle. The LH7 hosted an annual ranch rodeo from 1918 to 1945. Marks was also one of the four original riders to participate in the inaugural Salt Grass Trail Ride from Brenham to Houston in 1952. The annual event now kicks off the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Marks died in Houston on September 15, 1969. After his death, two of Marks’ children, Maudeen and Travis, split their father’s herd and ranching operation to open their own ranches, with Maudeen settling near Bandera and Travis near Fannin. Both kept the LH7 brand. In 1985, the Texas Historical Commission designated the LH7 Ranch in Barker a state archeological landmark.