Of Scottish and Cherokee descent, plainsman Jesse Chisholm is best remembered today by the Chisholm Trail, the famous route of cattle drives across Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) from Texas to Kansas. He was, however, far more historically significant as a frontier trader who first worked among the Plains Indians and served as a mediator in their dealings with the Cherokee Nation, the Republic of Texas, and the United States.
Chisholm first emerged into historical notice as a member of a gold-searching party that explored up the Arkansas River to the site of present Wichita, Kansas, in 1826. Four years later he helped blaze a trail from Fort Gibson to Fort Towson, and in 1834 he was a member of the Dodge-Leavenworth Expedition, which made the first official contact with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita near the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma.
In 1836 Chisholm married fifteen-year-old Eliza Edwards, daughter of Creek trader James Edwards, who operated a trading post situated on the right bank of the Little River about three miles above its confluence with the North Canadian River. From there, Chisholm made trading ventures onto the prairie, becoming close friends with tribe leaders. Eventually, he moved west along the Canadian River and established a trading post near present Asher and later at Council Grove along the North Canadian River near present western Oklahoma City.
During the 1840s Chisholm assisted the Republic of Texas and the United States in bringing American Indian leaders to treaty councils in which he served as an intermediary and interpreter. Following the 1846 Treaty of Comanche Peak, Chisholm accompanied an Indian delegation to Washington, D.C., where he interpreted for Pres. James K. Polk. During the Civil War Chisholm established a ranch near present Wichita, Kansas. Following the war he was again instrumental in bringing Indian leaders to treaty councils in Kansas. He died on March 4, 1868, while trading with Americans Indians on Salt Creek. His grave is located northeast of Geary, Oklahoma.