In the cattle drive era—from after the Civil War to the turn of the century—somewhere between six million and 10 million cattle trudged from Texas to points north. Enterprising cattlemen would purchase, capture, and otherwise obtain herds ranging in size from several hundred to several thousand for the trip northward. John R. Blocker was one of those men.
Those daring enough to live on the Texas frontier, but not daring enough to accumulate large herds, would often send not only their sons as trail hands on the drive, but some of their cattle too. As such, one herd might be 90-percent owned by one cattleman or partnership, but also comprise several other minority interests from local farmers’ and small-time ranchers’ stock.
The concept of a road brand emerged. A road brand is a consistent mark given to the entire herd when it’s composed of cattle from various owners. With dozens of cattle herds on the trail at once, the need was real. During stampedes, herds would mix and crews would spend days sorting them. Without a road brand, the cattle from the minority interests might get lost in the shuffle.
John Blocker, born in 1851, was too young to fight in the Civil War, but grew up in Texas when Austin was “just a wide place in the road.” By the time he was 22, he had amassed a herd of 500 to take to Kansas. In 1886, according to his biographical sketch in The Trail Drivers of Texas, “He was interested in 82,000 head of cattle on the trail.” His last drive, in 1893, saw 9,000 head delivered to Deadwood, S.D. For exactly 20 years, he sent hundreds of thousands of cattle along the trail, all bearing his road brand, known as the “Blocker 7.”
Blocker went on to become one of the founding members of the Texas Cattle Raisers Association and the first president of the Old Time Trail Drivers of Texas.