Bob Klemme may have passed, but his legacy will live on.
A simple mention of the Chisholm Trail is proof of that.
Klemme, an Enid native and historian, spent years — from 1990 to 1997 — placing 400 200-pound markers along the famous cattle trail, marking each spot where the trail crossed a section line. He died Tuesday at age 93.
Enid native Bob Klemme, the man who marked the Chisholm Trail and pushed to have that part of Plains history designated nationally, saw his quest come close to being finalized just before his death.
The Chisholm Trail started in the 1860s and was used through the 1880s, providing a path for thousands of cattle that were driven from Texas to railheads in Kansas.
The city of Enid was established along a portion of the trail.
Klemme helped the city of Enid Public Works Department and Visit Enid in painting hoof prints along the portion of the trail that aligned with Enid’s streets for the Chisholm Trail’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
Another of Klemme’s efforts, one he worked on for almost 20 years, was to get the Chisholm and Great Western trails designated as National Historic Trails.
When Congress’ $300,000 feasibility study began in March 2009, Klemme took two National Park Service employees along the trail.
Bob Klemme was known for marking Oklahoma’s portion of the Chisholm Trail with hundreds of signposts, an endeavor that took seven years to complete and required sifting through government records more than a century old.
When the study was completed in 2015, Klemme took it upon himself to get as many people as possible to write letters to NPS during a 60-day period for public comment on the trails’ designation.
Last week, NPS finally determined the trails met that criteria.
Now that the trails have been designated by NPS, Congress can enact legislation that would officially designate the trails while ensuring the protection of private property rights.
“He would be absolutely delighted. I think he was pretty aware that was going to happen before he passed away,” said Gary Brown, an Enid attorney and historian who worked with Klemme on several local history projects.
For this work on the trail and his advocacy in attempting to get Chisholm named a National Historic Trail, in 2011 Klemme was named Cultural Traveler Trailblazer of the Year by U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council.
He also was honored in 2016 for his historical contributions with the dedication of “The Trail” metal mural depicting life on the Chisholm Trail, which debuted on his 91st birthday and features his likeness as a rider on the trail.
The mural, by artist Paul Stone, is on the side of the Garfield Furniture Mattresses Too store downtown.
“He was truly a leader in developing the regional history of Northwest Oklahoma,” Brown said.
He certainly was, and his legacy will live on.