Jesse Chisholm (circa 1805 - March 4, 1868) was a mixed blood Cherokee fur trader. His name is most famous because of the namesake cattle trail, which he originally scouted and developed to supply his various trading posts among the Plains Indians in what is now western Oklahoma. Although Chisholm died before the heyday of the Texas-to-Kansas cattle drives, he was nevertheless a participant in several important events in Texas and Oklahoma history.
Chisholm's father Ignatius was of Scottish descent, and his mother Martha (née Rogers) was a Cherokee from the region of Great Hiwassee. He moved with his mother to Oklahoma during a period when Cherokees were migrating voluntarily. In 1826 Chisholm became involved in a gold seeking party, who blazed a trail and explored the region to present day Wichita, Kansas. In 1830 he helped blaze a trail from Fort Gibson to Fort Towson. In 1834 he was a member of the Dodge-Leavenworth Expedition, who made the first contact with the southern plains Indians on behalf of the United States federal government.
Chisholm was an interpreter and general aid in several treaties between the Republic of Texas and local Indian tribes, as well as between the United States federal government and various tribes (after Texas was annexed). This diplomatic work spanned 20 years, between 1838 and 1858. During this period he also continued in the Indian trade, trading manufactured goods for peltry and for cattle.
During the Civil War he mostly remained neutral. Many residents of Indian Territory feared they might be massacred, either intentionally or as an accident of war, if either side attempted to contend for control of the territory. He led a band of refugees to the western part of the territory. For some time they suffered privation, as the trade had dried up during the war as well.
At the end of the war he settled permanently near present-day Wichita, and recommenced trade into Indian Territory. He built up what had been a military and Indian trail into a road capable of carrying heavy wagons for his goods. This road became known as Chisholm's Trail. Later when the Texas-to-Kansas cattle drives started, the users of the trail re-dubbed it the Chisholm Trail.