The Mackenzie Trail was a significant route in Texas history. French explorer Pierre Vial and Spanish explorer Jose Mares used parts of the trail in separate expeditions (1786-88); Captain Randolph B. Marcy (1849), and Robert E. Lee (1856) came through the area as well. In 1871, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie sent Tonkawa scouts and cavalrymen from Fort Griffin to find a trail to the High Plains which they could employ in a campaign against the Northern Comanches and their allies, the Kiowas, in response to an attack. The trail crossed the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River (.5 mi SE) and followed it west to Double Mountain by way of Cottonwood Spring (2 mi W), which was used historically by indigenous peoples and later became part of the Comanche war trail system. The trail then went northwest to the Caprock. Mackenzie led 600 troops along this trail in pursuit of the Native Americans in 1871 and in later expeditions. The route was also used during the Red River War (1874-75).
In 1876, Charles C. Rath established Rath City on the trail (15 mi W), using the route to capitalize on the buffalo hid business. As the era of the open range ended in the 1880s, farmers bought property and settled in the area, establishing a number of rural communities. Meanwhile, large ranches were established, including W.F. Rayner's Call Bar Ranch. Rayner also established the Rayner community, located on the Mackenzie Trail; it became Stonewall County's first county seat in 1889. By 1909, the trail was replaced by the Stamford & Northwestern Railroad. In less than 40 years of formal use, the Mackenzie Trail significantly influenced the development of Stonewall County and the Southern and Rolling Plains.