CATTLE TRADE OF THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST, BY JOSEPH G. McCOY
THE SITUATION IN TEXAS BEFORE AND DURING THE WAR — THE ATTEMPT TO DRIVE CATTLE NORTH IN 1866 — RECEPTION OF THE DROVERS IN SOUTHEAST KANSAS AND SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — EXPERIENCE AND SKETCH OF J. M. DOUGHERTY — ALSO OF R. D. HUNTER — THE OUTLOOK AT THE CLOSE OF 1866 — THE RESULTS OF THE YEAR.
|For a quarter of a century or more the herds of Texas continued to increase much faster than the mature surplus was marketed. In fact no market accessible existed sufficient to consume this surplus, so the excess grew greater and greater each year and of course the stock less valuable in proportion as it became plentiful. Orleans and Mobile were the only cities of size outside of the State, that consumed any considerable proportion of Texas cattle, and those markets were controlled, in practically monopolized by the Morgan line of steamers, plying between the coast of Texas and those cities. To any one outside of the ship company enormous rate of freight was exacted, practically debarring the ordinary shipper.
But few attempts were ever made before the war to drive cattle north, although it was done, but not largely or very successfully. The outbreak of the civil war was a disaster great, and almost fatal, to the stock interests of Texas, for as soon as the Mississippi River was occupied and patrolled by the gun boats of the Union forces and Orleans captured, then Texas was, so far as a market for her live stock, was completely walled out. She could not drive North if she would; she would not if she could. A few droves were marketed by surreptitiously swimming the Mississippi River below Vicksburg, and thence were hurried east to the Confederate armies, but the vigilance of the Union gunboats rendered this an extra hazardous business, and but a small amount of it was done. Then dawned a time in Texas that a man’s poverty was estimated by the number of cattle he possessed.
Many ranchmen entirely neglected their stock, for they were regarded as not worth caring for. Stocks of cattle were, in certain sections, offered at prices ranging from one to two dollars per head, and that often without finding a purchaser. The effect of the war on the cattle interest and supply in the North was the very reverse of what it was in Texas, for at its close the bullock — a select, matured animal, worth five or six dollars in Texas — was worth in the Northern markets more than ten times that amount. This vast difference constituted a wide and tempting field to the cattle speculator — a field that he was not slow to attempt to occupy. During the winter and spring of 1865 and 1866 large herds of beeves were gathered in Texas preparatory to driving North the following summer. To give an idea of the value of cattle in Texas at this time, we will here state that an intimate friend, then in the trade, went to a herd of 3,500 head of beeves and purchased 600 head of his choice at $6 per head; then for the next 600 head, his choice, he paid $3 per head; making his purchase of 1,200 head cost on an average $4.50 per head, or something near forty cents per hundred pounds gross weight. At that price beef could hardly be called an expensive luxury, or its production a very profitable business.
We have heard the number of cattle that had crossed Red river during 1866 put down as high as 260,000 head. We believe these figures approximate the number, If not exactly correct. We call readily believe that the bright vision of great profits and sudden wealth that had shimmered before the imagination of the drover, leading him on as the subtle mirage of the desert does the famishing traveler — nerving him to greater hardships, and buoying him up In many a wild, stormy night, whilst he kept silent vigil over his herd — were shocked, if not blasted, by the unexpected reception given him in Southern Kansas and Missouri by a determined, organized, armed mob, more lawless, insolent and imperious than a band of wild savages.
Under the pretext of a fear of disease being disseminated among the so-called native cattle, all manner of outrage, robbery and murder were perpetrated. As is always the case, the men who were most likely to loose the least were the most forward in demonstrations of lawlessness; in short, the principal actors were outlaws and thieves, glad of an excuse to pillage, kill and steal.
The practice was to go in force and armed to the teeth, surround the drover, insult him by words such as a cowardly bully only knows how to use; spit in his face, snatch handfuls of beard out of the drover’s face, tie him to a tree and whip him with anything they could lay their hands on, tie a rope around his neck and choke him. In short, provoke him to a demonstration of resistance or self-defense, then kill him and straightway proceed to appropriate his herd. It was idle to talk about the protection of law, such a thing was utterly impossible. Any one who is familiar with the quick, hot, impetuous temper of the Southern drover will readily admit that he would brook but little of such treatment before he would shoot at his assailants. Many of them paid the forfeit of their lives, often, however, getting in effective work before they were killed. Others took the unencumbered leisure of their return to balance accounts and avenge the wrongs of themselves or their friends, and often right thoroughly and to their full satisfaction did they do it. Southern Kansas and Missouri were the fields to which every rascal in either State annually rallied to cheat and swindle, by bogus checks, worthless notes or any other villainous device, the Southern drover out of his herds. In short, the tactics were to stop the drover by mob violence, then rob or swindle him out of his stock. Could the prairies of Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri talk, they could tell many a thrilling, blood curdling story of carnage, wrong, outrage, robbery and revenge, not excelled in the history of any banditta, or the annals of the most bloody savages.
If the mob could not frighten the drover until he would abandon his stock, or if they failed to obtain a pretext for killing him outright, resort was had to stampeding the cattle. This was easily done by availing themselves of the cover of night, and creeping stealthily until close to the herd, then suddenly rising up and flourishing a buffalo robe or blanket. Of course such sudden and unexpected demonstrations would frighten the cattle and cause them to dash of at full speed, pell mell, in the darkness. Before running far the herd would be broken up into squads, and the farther they ran the greater the fright, often rushing over rocks, cliffs, or high banks. The entire herd would be greatly injured and many of the cattle utterly ruined; some with limbs broken, others with horns broken off, and often weeks were required to re-gather them. Of course, many could never be found, for, whilst the drover with all his available help was engaged in re-gathering the cattle, the members of the mob would be just as busy secreting all they could find, and knowing the country better than the drover, the mob usually got the lion’s share. When the drover was exhausted, his horses worn out with hard service, and his case began to be deplorable, some member of the mob would come into the camp and offer to hunt up the lost cattle for a snug price, perhaps five dollars per head. So soon as a bargain was struck the outlaw would mount his horse and in less than a day would return with many if not all the lost cattle. It would not require a Solomon to know that the cattle had been secreted in some out of the way nook, and carefully guarded until as such time as it would be profitable for the thieves to return them to their owner, or send them out to be sold for their own account. The drover had no alternative; he must submit to be blackmailed or lose his cattle entirely. There was little use in thinking about law or justice, much less enforcing the one or expecting the other. There are few occupations in life wherein a man will hold by so brittle a thread a large fortune as droving. In fact, the drover is nearly as helpless as a child, for but a single misstep or wrong move and he may lose his entire herd, representing and constituting all his earthly possessions. None understood this fact better than the mobs of outlaws that annually infested the cattle trail leading from Texas to Sedalia, Mo. If the drover had ready money, and could obtain an interview with the leader of the mob, it was not difficult to secure safe transit for his herd, but it was always expensive, and few drovers were disposed to buy a recognition of their legal rights; many of them had not the money, for they had invested all their available cash in cattle before leaving Texas. Be it said to the credit of the law abiding citizens of Southeastern Kansas and Southwestern Missouri that they neither aided nor abetted the mobs in their thieving and murdering schemes. The fear of Spanish fever was made the pretext for committing the grossest outrages, just as the late civil war was a convenient pretext for lawless plundering, outraging, and murdering of civil, quiet citizens. Of the quarter of a million cattle that came up from Texas in 1866 but few found their way to a profitable market, for they were held back until the weather had become very cold and the grass long since dead and unnutritious, the cattle poor in flesh and weak from poverty and hard usage, and were finally put upon the market unfit for any purpose. Of course they brought a small price per pound and weighed but little, netting the drover often less than first cost in Texas. In fact many cases could be cited where the drover did not realize more than enough to pay freight and other expenses; whereas, had they been permitted to drive the stock direct to Sedalia, Missouri, and there shipped over the Missouri Pacific to St Louis, thence to other markets, fortunes would have been made instead of lost. That the reader may have a correct idea of what the southern drover endured, we present a brief sketch of the treatment one or two of the drovers of 1866 received in Southwestern Missouri.
James M. Dougherty, a young enterprising drover, then of less than twenty years of age, crossed Red river near Rock Bluffs with a fine herd of cattle numbering over one thousand head, determined to place them upon the St Louis market. Soon after entering the Indian Nation he found in order to avoid paying an arbitrary tax to the Cherokee Indians, he was compelled to turn his course more eastward, and enter the State of Arkansas near Ft. Smith. Then driving in a northern direction a short distance, he was compelled to turn Northwest on account of the rough, rocky, barren character of the country. Soon after, entering the State of Missouri, he was aroused from the pleasant revery of beautiful prospects and snug fortune easily won, by the appearance of a yelling, armed, organized mob, which ordered him to halt. Never in his limited experience had he seen such bipeds as constituted that band of self-appointed guardian angels. Dressed in coarsest home-spun pantaloons and hunting shirts, with under shirts spun of coarsest tow, a pair of rude home made cow-hide shoes, upon whose construction the broad ax and jack-plane had figured largely. All surmounted with a coon-skin cap of great antiquity and unmistakably home manufacture. To this add a score of visages closely resembling the orang outang, bearing evidence of the lowest order of humanity, with but one overpowering passion — love for unrectified whisky of the deadliest brand. Young Dougherty was told that “them thar steers couldn’t go an inch fudder. No sare.” Dougherty quietly began to reason with them, but it was like preaching morality to an alligator. No sooner did they discover that the drover was a young man and probably little experienced in life, than they immediately surrounded him, and whilst a part of the mob attacked his comrade and shamefully maltreated him, a half dozen course brutes dragged the drover from his saddle, disarmed him, tied him fast to a tree with his own picket rope, then proceeded to whip him with hickory withes in the most brutal manner.
Whilst these outrages were being perpetrated upon the drover and his comrade, a pre-appointed Missourian dashed into the herd of cattle at full speed, flourishing at arm’s end a striped blanket, all the while screeching and yelling as only a semicivilized being can. Of course this had the intended effect. The cattle took great fright at the, to them, unusual demonstrations, and with a whirl and a snort were off at full speed, rushing wildly over everything before them. Fortunately for the drover, one or two faithful cow boys were in the rear of the herd and quickly divining the trouble and real situation, dashed ahead of the stampeded herd and led it down a long hollow and around a rough high hill, which was thickly covered with timber, into a smooth open valley of prairie, and there adroitly circled the leaders around, and kept them curving until the entire herd was running on a small circle which was gradually contracted until they were rushing round and round in as small a space of ground as it was possible for that number of cattle to occupy. In a few minutes the cattle became quiet, and the cow boys turned their heads to the west and hurried them on for a distance of five miles, leaving Dougherty and his comrade to the tender mercies of the “gentle lamb-like mob.” In the mean time, after each one of the Missourians had sated his brutal instincts by whipping their bound victim, they demanded of Dougherty that he would mount his horse and leave the country instantly, not stopping to inquire or look after his herd; but hasten away. His comrade had torn himself loose from his persecutors and putting spurs to his mustang cow pony was soon out of sight in the adjoining woods, where thick undergrowth and foliage afforded early seclusion. Dougherty staggered to where his faithful pony stood, and drawing his lacerated, bleeding body into his saddle, said to his assailants that they outnumbered him and were armed, while he was alone and disarmed, and that under these circumstances he would be compelled to do as they directed. But there gleamed in the drovers dark liquid eye determination to balance accounts with as many of that mob as the future might afford opportunity. Turning his horse’s head at right angles from the direction in which his herd had retreated, the drover slowly rode away feeling much more dead than alive. After riding a mile or more, his comrade halloed to him from a cluster of underbrush, not far distant, and then rode out to meet him. Both were glad that they were not killed outright. After wandering slyly about for a few hours, they found the trail of the herd, and gladly discovered it was headed westward, and that it was traveling at a quiet gait instead of running. Putting spurs to their ponies they dashed ahead on the trail as fast as their steeds could carry them. A few hours after night-fall they beheld a small camp fire and approached cautiously until they were sure they were making no mistake. Once in camp the drover soon had his bruised and lacerated body washed and dressed, as well as could be under the circumstances. Before the earliest note of the vigil chanticleer the herd was again put upon the move, headed for the northeast corner of the Indian Territory near Baxter Springs, where it arrived without event of particular note. After Dougherty had halted on the prairies near Baxter Springs, for a few weeks, and had fully recovered from the severe trouncing he had received in Missouri, he started out with a few hundred head of cattle late one evening, and during the night run the blockade, and after lying in a secluded spot during the day, made good his way to Ft Scott, Kansas, where he disposed of his cattle without trouble, and secured a buyer who returned to Baxter with him and purchased the balance of his herd. Having made a satisfactory profit he returned to Texas, and made necessary business arrangements in order to embark in the business of driving as a permanent occupation, which business he has steadily followed ever since, driving from one thousand to four thousand head of cattle to Western Kansas market annually. Although now but a young man in years, yet he is old in business experiences and in a knowledge of the ways of the world. Always acting upon his own judgment in business matters, never having had a partner, but does his own thinking, lays his own plans and personally attends to the smallest details, we need not add is generally successful. Of that quiet, unobtrusive turn, yet social and pleasant; fond of having a good time, but never rude or boisterous; always upright and honorable. Besides having a valuable property in Texas, he has established a fine ranch in Colorado, on which now are over one thousand head of cattle, besides horses and other necessary auxiliaries to success. It is easy to see that before many more years are numbered among the past, J. M. Dougherty will take position among the best and most substantial citizens of the great new West. During the Summer of 1866, the whole country about Baxter Springs was alive with blockaded cattle, the owners of which were trying all manner of expedients to get through Southwest Missouri to some shipping point on the Missouri Pacific R. R. The drover who was fortunate enough to have at his own command cash to the amount of two or three dollars for each head of cattle he wished to pass through to Sedalia, Mo., had no trouble to arrange matters with the leader of the mob, to not only permit the herd to pass on, but give it safe conduct through the country to the railroad. But few of the drovers were so fortunately situated in financial matters as to be able to avail themselves of the opportunity of buying their way, or the permission to go to market. A strong prejudice existed in the minds of the mass of drovers to buying the privilege of exercising a plain, inalienable right, to-wit: to take their stock unmolested to any market to which they might choose to go. But in that day and country a man’s, especially Southern drover’s, legal rights, without physical force sufficient to enforce them or secure respect thereof, were as useless as a piece of refuse paper.
A large number or the drovers of 1866, after learning fully the hopeless situation in Southeastern Kansas and Southwestern Missouri, turned their heads due west from Baxter Springs, and drove them along or near the Kansas line near two hundred miles, then turned northwest through the State of Kansas, just west of all settlement, until a point about due west of St. Joe, Mo., was reached; then turning east or northeast, drove to St. Joe and shipped them to Chicago. Or, crossing the Missouri river near Nebraska City, or Brownsville, Neb., pushed into Central Iowa, and there sold to the cattle feeders of that State. Those that took the latter course did very well, for they obtained good prices from the cattle feeders of Iowa, whose corn crops were very good, and millions of bushels thereof could only be profitably disposed of by feeding it to live stock, of which the supply was limited. But some of those who shipped their cattle to Chicago fared badly, either selling at low prices or packing on their own account, which latter operation was more unprofitable than the former. The cattle had been driven so far, and subjected to so much hardship, that they had become poor in flesh and were unfit for any purpose except to be fed during the winter, and grazed until fat the following Summer.
We might write a volume of sketches and personal experiences of drovers of 1866, but one more will suffice. R. D. Hunter, now a resident of Kansas City, Mo., but of Ayrshire Scottish birth, came to this continent at the age of ten years, with his father who selected Central Illinois, then a comparatively unsettled country, as his home, and devoted himself to farming and stock-raising after the manner of that day and country; about which occupation the subject or this sketch was thoroughly instructed. Reared a farmer it was but natural as well as wise, for him to begin life for himself, following the footsteps of his father. But when Pike’s Peak Gold discoveries were heralded over the land, golden visions flitted before the imagination of the young farmer, too bright and persuasive for resistance. In the spring of 1859, R. D. Hunter, with his comrades, rigged for traveling overland, left the “States” for the gold fields of the Rocky Mountains. Arriving at the mountain’s base, but a brief stop was made, for each one was anxious to learn what fickle fortune had in store for him. In a short time they were numbered among the residents and miners of “Gregory’s Lode” and “Russell’s Gulch.” The first year Mr. Hunter did fairly and managed to wrest from mother earth’s rugged bosom a snug sum of the glittering dust, but not an amount equal to his aspirations. The following year he embarked in a quartz milling enterprise, which proved unfortunate. About this time arose a great excitement among the miners, caused by reports of fabulously rich mines in Arizona, and hither R. D. Hunter turned his face. But the Indians, not liking the proposed inundation of pale faces, waxed hostile; and Mr. Hunter turned his course to the San Juan country, a valley of Southwest Colorado. Whilst in that country he discovered what is now known as “Putnam’s Lode,” a gold-bearing quartz vein of undoubted great richness; but owing to its location and the distance, the difficulty of access of the country, no more was done in the way of working it, than enough to vest the title in the discoverer. This property he owns to this day, hoping for a railroad to go sufficiently near to make the working of it practicable. The San Juan country proving a failure, save for quartz mining, after spending two years in those regions, Mr. Hunter returned to Denver, and there meeting his family decided to make Denver his home, temporarily at least. But just then came the dark hour of life, the time that tries a man’s soul. No sooner had he began to feel that he might enjoy life and home, notwithstanding fortune’s frown, then affliction marked him as a victim, prostrating him helpless upon his bed for near a year, unable to so much as raise his hand, all superinduced by hard labor and exposure in the mines, and that, too, without a fitting reward. When health was restored, he decided that gold diggings, with shovel and pick, was not his forte, and returned, after five years’ absence, to Missouri, where he soon became engaged in a cattle trade; supplying oxen to freighters. At that date no railroads extended beyond the Missouri river. At that business success rewarded his efforts, and at the end of the civil war, he turned his face toward the Lone Star State in quest of cattle. Before reaching Red River he met, and purchased, a herd of four hundred head, coming north, in the Indian Territory. Having paid twenty-five dollars per head for the cattle, a price which to him appeared very small, he felt that the day had come in which fortune for him was in reach, like a hanging apple, just ready to be plucked. How delusive were these appearances and hopes, the sequel will show. The western line of Vernon county, Mo., was passed but a few miles, on the route to Sedalia, when a coon-skin-capped biped, calling himself the sheriff of Vernon county, summarily took formal possession of his herd and at the same time placed the drover under arrest. About ten thousand head of cattle, with their owners or foremen in charge, were seized and arrested at the same time. Here was a dilemma not expected, one not put down in their almanac of probabilities. How to get out, with the least loss, was the question that perplexed the drovers. During the first night, whilst under arrest, Mr. Hunter hit upon a plan to extricate himself and friends, which he disclosed to them privately, and exacted their promise to perform the part assigned them.
Early next morning he told the sheriff he did not want to go to jail, that he would prefer to make his own living and not burden the very good people of Vernon county with his support, and if the sheriff would accompany him to Lamar, the county seat, distant thirty-five miles, he thought some friends could be found who would go his bail. To this the sheriff assented, for it would then be convenient to put the drover in the lockup if bail was not obtained. No sooner were the sheriff and his prisoner well out of sight from the drover’s camp than, according to previous arrangements, the herds were put upon the trail directly west toward the Indian neutral lands, distant thirty-five miles, and a brisk speed maintained without halting to graze or rest.
Upon the road to Lamar the drover had a chance to study the face of his captor, and came to the conclusion that he was bacchanalian in his religious predilections, a “persuasion” of large membership, quite common among the denizens of Southwestern Missouri. Soon after arriving at the county seat. they went to a Temple of Bacchus, of which there were several in the village to offer their devotions. As the drover anticipated the officer proved to be an enthusiastic devotee, ready at all times to offer libations, providing the drover would pay the priest, which he was not loth to do. But there is a limit to ordinary human capacity, and so there was to the devotional capacity of that sheriff. When he had passed that stage wherein everything was beautiful and lovely, and the memory of his humble circumstances had fled from his brain, and great wealth and joy inexpressible had taken possession of him — to the peculiar condition when the ground will come right up and strike a fellow in the face; when all these manifestations were visible upon the county official, to the drover, he concluded that he had given all necessary “bonds,” and, whilst the official was blubbering and wallowing in the street, the drover mounted his steed and, bidding Lamar and the sheriff good afternoon, turned his steed westward. About daylight next morning Mr. Hunter overtook his comrades and friends with their herds in the Indian Nation. When he came up to them he found every cow boy, not needed to care for the cattle, marshalled in military style guarding the rear of the last herd. It would not have been altogether healthy for a sheriff’s posse to have attempted a re-arrest of those herds or the drovers; but when they were sure they were out of the State of Missouri all fear of disturbance ceased, and they soon halted, rested, and grazed their herds.
After a few days spent recuperating, the herds were put upon their travels, taking a westerly direction for the distance of about one hundred and fifty miles, then curving northward, the Kaw river was crossed at St. Mary’s. On reaching the vicinity of Atchison, a German settlement felt called upon to go upon the war path after the drovers, and would have caused them great trouble and, perhaps, loss but for the kindness of a Mr. Joel Hyatt, a large land owner and a good hearted sensible man of that section, who gave the persecuted drovers an asylum upon his lands, where they rested for two weeks. Then they crossed the river at St Joe and drove in a northerly direction to Bartlett Station, on the Chicago and Rock Island Road, and there shipped their herds. Mr. Hunter decided to take his cattle off at Joliet, Illinois, and put them on Blue-grass pasture, rather than to go direct on to the Chicago market, as his comrades did. It proved a wise decision, for in a few weeks he was able to find a buyer at remunerative prices. The first year, in the Southern cattle trade, closed, and Mr. Hunter stood six thousand dollars better off in cash, aside from experience, which was no small item, for a place and way had been found for future operations.
In 1867, R. D. Hunter went to Texas and bought twelve hundred head of cattle, which he drove to Omaha, Neb., and sold to Government contractors, at a snug profit. The summer of 1869, found him on the trail from Texas, with a fine herd of twenty-five hundred head of cattle, which were sold in Chicago at paying figures. But in 1870, a herd of fourteen hundred head of select beeves was put upon the Chicago market, and four and one-half to six and one-quarter cents, gross weight, was realized, netting a profit of twenty dollars per head.
In every business there is bitter mingled with the sweet; this is strictly true in the cattle business, and the year of 1871 was, from a multitude of causes, a bitter, bad year for the drover, and, although not a year of actual disaster to Mr. Hunter, yet it was without that desirable profit. Although he handled about five thousand, and did it to the best of his judgment, yet it was as a year’s transaction — “bad medicine.” This was the last year of Mr. Hunter’s driving. Since that time he has traded in cattle in the West, and aided the Kansas Pacific Railway in the management of its live stock business.
In 1873, he established in connection with Capt. Evens, and others, a livestock commission house, with headquarters at Kansas City. This house soon took rank among the leading ones in the West, and has handled many thousand head of cattle, almost invariably to the entire satisfaction of its numerous patrons, which includes many of the largest live stock operators in the West. Each member of the firm is a practical and successful stockman, and their combined capitals enables them to render ample aid to their patrons, besides rendering the firm entirely responsible and safe. As a man he is kind and courteous to all with whom he has business relations; but his manner is bluff and positive, bordering on the hauteur, and to one whom he dislikes he is unmercifully severe. Indeed it is little comfort his enemies receive at his hands. Language fails to express his intense contempt for a little, mean action; and as for a dishonest transaction, or its author, neither can receive other than his severest outspoken condemnation. But for his friends, or for one whom he regards as worthy, he has a big heart, throbbing the warmest pulsations of sympathy. He is strictly honorable in his business transactions, dignified in his manner, courteous in his address, inflexible in will — self reliant. Such is R. D. Hunter, and all right feeling men freely yield him the pains of honorable, manly success.
Other drovers of 1866 turned their herds eastward from Baxter Springs, and drove along or near the Arkansas line until they were able to flank the hostile regions and strike the railroad at a shipping point east of Sedalia. But this route was mountainous, rocky, and much of the distance heavily timbered and altogether unsuited for successful cattle driving. The cattle driven over it became foot sore and miserably poor in flesh, and, of course, when put on the St. Louis market, sold for mean prices and weighed very light; so that when the drover had sold out and paid up expenses, but little cash remained to swell his impoverished pocket-book. But by far the larger half of the drovers remained near Baxter Springs, preferring to hope on and keep trying, to risking any untried route with their herds. Soon the frost came and killed the grass, which, after drying a few days, was set fire and the whole country burned over. This was a great calamity to the drovers.
All along the border a host of sharpers and thieves — men with good address and plausible pretension — were anxious to buy cattle, but owing to the unsettled condition of affairs, were afraid to bring the cash with them, but had what purported to be New York exchange, with which they bought cattle of such as they could induce to accept their drafts. Of course their drafts were worthless, but before the drover could find it out and secure himself, the rascal would have turned the stock into some secret confederate’s hands and left for parts unknown to the drover. Others used worthless notes and such other devices as villainous ingenuity could invent, and each scheme or plan would surely catch some unwary, confiding drover. Other drovers, to save themselves from loss or financial ruin, placed their herds in winter quarters in Southern Kansas and Missouri. Others found their way into the corn regions of Central Illinois, and there fed their stock until a was found. But the year 1866 was, taking all things into consideration, one of great disaster to Southern drovers. All the bright prospects of marketing, profitably, the immense surplus live stock of Texas, faded away, or worse, proved to those who tried driving a serious financial loss. So the last great hope of the Southern cattle man, for an outlet and market for his live stock, proved but bitter disappointment. Never, perhaps, in the history of Texas, was the business of cattle ranching at so low estate as about the close of the year 1866 and during the following year. The cattle producing portions of the State were overrun with stock. The ranges were becoming depastured, and, as a consequence, the unprotected earth became parched by the hot sun, and permanent drouth threatened. The stocks of cattle would not yield sufficient revenue to pay the expenses of caring for them — that is, branding, marking, etc. Strange as it my seem, it is nevertheless true, that within the bounds of that great State, no one came forward to open up an outlet for the millions of her matured cattle. Over the business of cattle ranching a deep gloom settled, crushing to earth the hopes of many whose herds numbered multiplied thousands. Such was the condition of affairs in Texas at the close of the year 1866. But is said that the darkest hour is that one just before the break of day. And so it was in this case. Just how and from whence came that brighter hour, that dawn of day, will form the theme of a future chapter.
CATTLE TRADE OF THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST, BY JOSEPH G. McCOY
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER — A YOUNG ILLINOISAN — HIS PLAN TO ESTABLISH A CATTLE SHIPPING DEPOT — HE TAKES A TRIP WEST — VISITS RAILROAD OFFICES AT ST. LOUIS — MEETS AN “IMMENSE” RAILROAD MAN — RETURNS TO KANSAS — SELECTS ABILENE AS THE POINT — ABILENE IN 1867 — A GREAT MERCHANT — NUMBER OF CATTLE IN TEXAS IN 1860 — SHIPMENT OF FIRST TRAIN — CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DROVERS OF 1867 — J. L. DRISKILL AND H. M. CHILDERS.
|The close of the year 1866, left the business of driving Texan cattle prostrate, and the entire driving fraternity both North and South, in an utterly discouraged condition. And such was the effect of the experiences of 1866, but in 1867 events took a change for the better, and just how that change was brought about we propose to note.
At that time there lived in Central Illinois three brothers doing a large live stock shipping business as one company or firm. One thousand head of native cattle costing from $80 to $140 per head, was not an unusual week’s shipment. When it is remembered that three shipments were on the road at the same time during all the season, it will be seen that their resources, financially, were not limited. All three of the brothers were of that sanguine, impetuous, speculative temperament; just such dispositions as always look most upon the bright side of the picture and never feel inclined to look at the dangers or hazards of a venture, but take it for granted that all will end well that looks well in the beginning. If the above could have been said of the brothers collectively, it could be said with particular truthfulness of the younger one of them. Ambitious, energetic, quick to scent out and untiring to follow a speculation, fully possessed with an earnest desire to do something that would alike benefit humanity as well as himself; something that, when life’s rugged battles were over, could be pointed to as an evidence that he had lived to some good purpose and that the world, or a portion thereof, was benefitted by his having lived. This young man conceived the idea of opening up an outlet for Texan cattle. Being impressed with a knowledge of the number of cattle in Texas and the difficulties of getting them to market by the routes and means then in use, and realizing the great disparity of Texas values and Northern prices of cattle, he set himself to thinking and studying to hit upon some plan whereby these great extremes would be equalized. The plan was to establish at some accessible point a depot or market to which a Texan drover could bring his stock unmolested, and there, failing to find a buyer, he could go upon the public highways to any market in the country he wished. In short, it was to establish a market whereat the Southern drover and Northern buyer would meet upon an equal footing, and both be undisturbed by mobs or swindling thieves. The longer the idea of this enterprise was harbored by the young Illinois cattle shipper, the more determined he became and the more enthusiastic to carry it out. In fact it became an inspiration almost irresistible, rising superior to all other aspirations of his life, and to which he gave unremitting attention and labor for years; indeed he is not now unmindful of the purposes which first impelled him forward. It was not long after the project had taken crude shape in the mind of the projector, before he was casting his eye over the map of the Western States, studying the situation and trying to determine whether the Western prairies or the Southern rivers would be the better place to establish the proposed depot. Before he had fully decided in his own mind a trip to Kansas City was taken, and soon after arriving there he met with certain residents who were interested in a large herd of cattle coming up from Texas and expected to arrive somewhere in Kansas, but just where was not known, as no particular place had been designated. After repeated conversations with these parties a trip up the Kansas Pacific, then called the Union Pacific, East Division, was determined upon. The road was completed and operated, at that time, as far west as Salina, Kansas. Junction City was visited and a proposition made to one of the leading business men to purchase of him a tract of land sufficiently large to build a stock yard and such other facilities as were necessary for cattle shipping but an exorbitant price was asked, in fact a flat refusal to sell at any price was the final answer of the wide-awake Junctionite. So by that one act of donkey stupidity and avarice Junction City drove from her a trade which soon developed to many millions. Failing to obtain a location but fully decided to select the prairies of the West instead of the banks of the Southern rivers for a field to put his scheme on foot, the Illinoisan returned to St. Louis for the purpose of consulting the railroad magnates about rates of freight and other necessary facilities for the accommodation of live stock.
Visiting the general offices of the Kansas Pacific and introducing himself to the President and Executive Committee there, stating fully his project and the reasons for the confident belief in him, giving a moderate estimate of the probable number of cars of live stock freight that would be sent over the road, offering as a reason the great number of cattle in Texas, and the utter lack of an outlet, and the urgent necessity of such a shipping depot. He closed with an appeal for such consideration as the importance of the proposed enterprise deserved. After hearing patiently the statement of the cattle shipper, the President, a pert, lively, courteous little gentleman, but evidently not a practical railroad man, and one that knew absolutely nothing about freighting live stock, replied, smiling incredulously, “That they knew no reason why such a thing might not be done, that freight going East was just what they wanted, and if any one would risk their money in the enterprise the railroad company would stand by them, and afford such switches, cars, etc., as would be needed, and if it proved a success the projector should be liberally paid, but they having no faith in it were not willing to risk a dollar in the enterprise.” How well the Kansas Pacific company kept or did not keep this pledge, the sequel will show. They evidently regarded the project as a wild, chimerical, visionary scheme, and so declared. After the above interview with the officers of the K. P. was ended, the office of the Missouri Pacific was visited to ascertain what rates of freight would be granted from the State Line to St. Louis. Here was the first really great man engaged in the contemptible occupation of managing a railroad, that the Illinoisan ever beheld. Entering the elegant office of the President and finding that dignitary arrayed in much “storeclothes,” quietly smoking a cigar while looking over some business papers, the Illinoisan “Bovine Puncher,” dressed in a style that greatly contrasted with the official’s garb–rough, stogy, unblacked boots, a slouch hat, seedy coat, soiled shirt, and unmentionables that had seen better days twelve months previous, when they had adorned the counter of the Jewish dealer. He timidly stated his business in modest terms, and asked what rates of freight would be charged on the stock coming to St. Louis. When he had made his statement and propounded his question, the railroad official tipping his cigar up at right angles with his nose, and striking the attitude of indescribable greatness, when stooping to notice an infinitesimal object, and with an air bordering on immensity, said:
“It occurs to me that you haven’t any cattle to ship, and never did have any, and I, sir, have no evidence that you ever will have any, and I think you are talking about rates of freight for speculative purposes, therefore, you get out of this office, and let me not be troubled with any more of your style.”
If the heavens had fallen, the Illinoisan would not have been more surprised and nonplussed than he was by the answer and conduct of this very pompous railroad official. An attempt was made to explain, but not so much as a hearing would be accorded him, so the Illinoisan left the office, wondering what could have been the inscrutable purposes of Jehovah in creating and suffering such a great being to remain on earth, instead of appointing him to manage the universe. But in less than twelve hours the General Freight Agent of the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad had closed a contract, giving very satisfactory rates of freight from the Missouri River to Quincy, thence to Chicago. St. Louis never has, and, perhaps, never will gain the prestige she might have had as live stock market, had she not blocked up the channels access to her with egotistical pomposities. But in the events of this life it often occurs that inordinate pride and silly vanity meet their downfall, and such was the early fate of this great railroad man. His conduct became known in the city, and finally was commented on by the press in very severe terms, and when the directors next met for the annual election, another man was found to fill his position. But just how an opportunity occurred to retaliate for insolent treatment, may be noted elsewhere.
But little time sufficed to arrange business matters, temporarily, in Illinois, and as soon as accomplished, Central Kansas was revisited for the purpose of selecting a point at which the facilities for holding, handling and shipping cattle could be made. From Junction City, the track of the Kansas Pacific Railway was closely followed, and various points inspected with regard to their adaptability to a cattle business, until Solomon City was reached, near which a fine site for stock yards was found; but after one or two conferences with some of the leading citizens, it became evident that they regarded such a thing as a cattle trade with stupid horror, and from all that could be learned upon thorough inquiry, the citizens of Salina were much in the same mood. The person making such propositions was apparently regarded as a monster threatening calamity and pestilence. After spending a few days investigating, Abilene, then as now, the county seat of Dickinson county, was selected as the point of location for the coming enterprise. Abilene in 1867 was a very small, dead place, consisting of about one dozen log huts, low, small, rude affairs, four-fifths of which were covered with dirt for roofing; indeed, but one shingle roof could be seen in the whole city. The business of the burg was conducted in two small rooms, mere log huts, and of course the inevitable saloon also in a log hut, was to be found.
The proprietor of the saloon was a corpulent, jolly, goodsouled, congenial old man of the backwoods pattern, who, in his younger days, loved to fish and hunt, and enjoyed the life of the frontiersman. For his amusement a colony of pet prairie dogs were located on his lots, and often the old gentleman might be seen feeding his pets. Tourists and others often purchased one or more of these dogs, and took them East as curiosities.
The principal owner of the town site was living on a farm, and, alas for his virtue, had been a member of the Legislature the previous winter.
One of the merchants doing business at Abilene, in an old abandoned cabin, was selling goods on commission, keeping a stock of about two wheel-barrow loads of second class goods culled from a Manhatten country store, and as often as twice a year replenishing his stock with a small box of sundries; but he was a stunning fellow, with at least two-thirds of his small supply of brains located in that bump phrenologically called self-esteem. You should have heard this great merchant talk, for, mind you, his subject was one (to him) of vast and overshadowing importance; it was himself. It was impossible for him to talk upon any subject without using the pronoun “I,” often when it was not even proper, or in any wise called for, much less in any kind of good taste. In short, he was an intolerable egotist, always extolling himself and pointing out how inferior some one was, as compared with his very superior self. To hear him tell it, there was little intelligence, shrewdness, or even respectability in the universe outside of himself, and you would think that it was a sad mistake that he was not created before the “earth and the fullness thereof,” so that Deity might have had the benefit of his wonderful wisdom in doing up that six days job. As to wealth, as well as wisdom, Solomon was a fool and a pauper, compared to himself; but, when “by ways that are dark and tricks that are vain” he managed to remove his petit lousiness to a deserted saloon building, you should have seen him put on wealthy airs, and talk about his assets, and tell how contemptible laboring people appeared to him as compared with himself, even going so far in his silly vanity as to say that “poor folks smelt like wet dogs,” an odor that was peculiarly offensive to his aristocratic proboscis.
This miserable being was not more afflicted with conscience than with good sense or decency. If, in after years, he ever contributed anything towards maintaining Abilene’s superiority in the cattle trade, it was usually charged up, in a covert manner, in some man’s supply bill and collected. Never, but once, was he prevailed upon to put his name to a subscription list for public purposes, and that he repudiated, utterly refusing to pay a dollar. In short, he was by instinct much like a leech, always ready to suck substance from any arm of commerce that another had the sagacity and enterprise to bring before him or within his reach. To be sure, any other sordid, selfish man, by practicing only selfish arts, and by borrowing his neighbor’s goods or chattels and never returning them, and if sued for their value plead the statute of limitations, could acquire a few hundred dollars worth of property, however little sense he might have.
But none other than an ingrate cowardly wretch without honor or sense of shame could, or would seek to obtain money or property in this way. But it was the favorite method of the great merchant. Speaking about cowardice, you should have heard him tell of his great bravery, his wonderful deeds of valor and heroism. Why, the courage that met and slew Goliah, or defended the pass of Thermopylae, or of Napoleon’s 1st body guard, was contemptible undiluted cowardice compared with his own bravery. Those he had met and vanquished, in mortal combat, were as the sands of the sea in number. In fact, where he had just come from, (wherever that was), the country itself was too limited in which to bury his dead, and several hospitals were needed in which to care for his wounded. At last the surviving citizens came en mass on bended knees, begging him as they would a great Achilles, to depart from their country before their race became exterminated. In fact you would suppose, to hear him talk, that every morning he breakfasted upon a man fricassed, or broiled on toast. But, upon a certain day, in later years, when there was an exciting local contest and election in Abilene, the great merchant took occasion to publicly speak in grossly slanderous terms of about two score of very respectable ladies. The good people of that, now very quiet, village could not stand this infamous outrage, much less let it go by unrebuked, so going in mass to the great merchant’s office in the deserted saloon building, made him understand in unmistakable terms their opinions and purposes. No sooner did he see that condign punishment was imminent, then he fell upon his knees and with a palid countenance, and frame quaking with guilty fear, begged and implored mercy. There was no end of his self abnegation and self reproach. To say that he “eat dirt” or got down low would be putting it mild. The sight of the trembling. jibbering coward disarmed the enraged citizens and they turned from him in loathing disgust. A desire that the world might know there was such a being as that great merchant of Abilene is, the only apology we offer for devoting so much space to such a contemptible subject.
A tract of land adjoining the town was purchased for the location of the stock yards, hotel, offices, etc. Abilene was selected because the country was entirely unsettled, well watered, excellent grass, and nearly the entire area of country was adapted to holding cattle. And it was the farthest point east at which a good depot for cattle business could have been made. Although its selection was made by an entire stranger to the country adjoining, and upon his practical judgment only, time has proved that no other so good point can be found in the State for the cattle trade. The advantages and requirements were all in its favor. After the point had been decided upon, the labor of getting material upon the ground began.
From Hannibal, Missouri, came the pine lumber, and from Lenape, Kansas, came the hard wood, and work began in earnest and with energy. In sixty days from July 1st a shipping yard, that would accommodate three thousand cattle, a large pair of Fairbank’s scales, a barn and an office were completed, and a good three story hotel well on the way toward completion.
When it is remembered that this was accomplished in so short a time, notwithstanding the fact that every particle of material had to be brought from the East, and that, too, over a slow moving railroad, it will be seen that energy and a determined will were at work.
We should have mentioned sooner that when the point at which to locate the shipping yards was determined upon, a man well versed in the geography of the country and accustomed to life on the prairie, was sent into Southern Kansas and the Indian Territory with instructions to hunt up every straggling drove possible, (and every drove was straggling, for they had not where to go,) and tell them of Abilene, and what was being done there toward making a market and outlet for Texan cattle. Mounting his pony at Junction City, a lonely ride of almost two hundred miles was taken in a southwesterly direction, crossing the Arkansas River at the site of the present city of Wichita thence far down into the Indian country; then turning east until trails of herds were found, which were followed until the drove was overtaken, and the owner fully posted in that, to him, all absorbing topic, to-wit: a good, safe place to drive to, where he could sell or ship his cattle unmolested to other markets.
This was joyous news to the drover, for the fear of trouble and violence hung like an incubus over his waking thoughts alike with his sleeping moments. It was almost too good to be believed; could it be possible that some one was about to afford a Texan drover any other reception than outrage and robbery? They were very suspicious that some trap was set, to be sprung on them; they were not ready to credit the proposition that the day of fair dealing had dawned for Texan drovers, and the era of mobs, brutal murder, and arbitrary proscription ended forever.
Yet they turned their herds toward the point designated, and slowly and cautiously moved on northward, their minds constantly agitated with hope and fear alternately.
The first herd that arrived at Abilene was driven from Texas by a Mr. Thompson, but sold to Smith, McCord & Chandler, Northern men, in the Indian Nation, and by them driven to Abilene. However, a herd owned by Colonel 0. W. Wheeler, Wilson and Hicks, all Californians, en route for the Pacific States, were stopped about thirty miles from Abilene for rest, and finally disposed of at Abilene, was really the first herd that came up from Texas, and broke the trail, followed by the other herds. About thirty-five thousand head were driven in 1867.
It should be borne in mind that it was fully the first of July before it was decided to attempt a cattle depot at Abilene or elsewhere, which, of course, was too late to increase the drive from Texas that year, but, time enough only to gather together at that point such herds as were already on the road northward. Not until the cattle were nearly all at Abilene would the incredulous K P. Railway Company build the requisite switch, and then not until a written demand was made for it, after which, an order was issued to put in a twenty-car switch, and particular direction was given to use “cull” ties, adding that they expected to take it up next year. It was with great difficulty that a hundred car switch was obtained instead of the twenty-car one. Nor were the necessary transfer and feed yards at Leavenworth put in until plans were made and a man to superintend their construction furnished by the same parties that were laboring so hard to get their enterprise on foot at Abilene. But in a comparatively brief time all things were ready for the shipment of the first train.
As we have before stated, about 35,000 head of cattle arrived at Abilene in 1867. In 1860 we believe that the United States Census gave Texas 3,500,000 head of cattle. We are not sure that this is correct, but believe it is.
The drive of 1867 was about one per cent. of the supply. Great hardships attended driving that year on account of Osage Indian troubles, excessive rain-storms, and flooded rivers. The cholera made sad havoc with many drovers, some of whom died with the malady and many suffered greatly. The heavy rains caused an immense growth of grass, too coarse and washy to be good food for cattle or horses, and but little of the first years’ arrivals at Abilene were fit to go to market. However, on the 5th of September, 1867, the first shipment of twenty cars was made to Chicago. Several Illinois stock men and others, joined in an excursion from Springfield, Ill., to Abilene, to celebrate by feast, wine and song, the auspicious event.
Arriving at Abilene in the evening, several large tents, including one for dining purposes, were found ready for the reception of guests. A substantial repast was spread before the excursionists, and devoured with a relish peculiar to camp life, after which wine, toasts, and speechifying were the order until a late hour at night.
Before the sun had mounted high in the heavens on the following day, the iron horse was darting down the Kaw Valley with the first train load of cattle that ever passed over the Kansas Pacific Railroad, the precursor to many thousands destined to follow. This train of cattle sold in Chicago to a speculator at a small profit to the shipper. The second shipment was made in a short time afterward and was forwarded on to Albany, not finding a purchaser at Chicago. This shipment, consisting of nearly 900 head, costing about $17,500, was sold at Albany for $300 less than the freight bill, losing more than first cost. Indeed, Texan cattle beef then was not considered eatable, and was as unsalable in the Eastern markets as would have been a shipment of prairie wolves.
Everything injurious that prejudice, ignorance and envy could imagine, was said against Texas cattle, and a concerted effort was made to prevent by any and every device that ingenuity could invent, to prevent them from going to market. Nevertheless, consumers soon learned that well fatted Texan beef was as good as any other kind and much cheaper.
The year 1867 was one of short corn crops and of lower prices for thin fleshed cattle, and the market continued to decline until midwinter. Notwithstanding all the impediments enumerated, the shipments of ’67 reached almost 1,000 cars, all of which, except seventeen, went over the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad to Chicago, and were there packed, largely on the owners’ account. The seventeen cars spoken of went to St. Louis, over the Missouri Pacific.
Now, when the time arrived and shipments began to go forward at a lively rate, and any man, although a fool, could see the success of the enterprise, an agent of the Missouri Pacific road put in an appearance at Abilene, and was very solicitous for business for his road. But the memory of the insulting conduct of his official superior was still fresh in the mind of that Illinoisan, and he told the agent that “it just occurred to him that he had no cattle for his road, never had, and there was no evidence then that he ever would have, and to please say so to his President.” The agent seemed to relish the force of such language, and departed forthwith to deliver the message.
It was amusing to observe with what mingled joy and suspicion the drover of ’67 contemplated the arrangements completed and under way at Abilene for his accommodation. He could hardly believe that there was not some swindle in it somewhere. He there beheld more done and doing for him than he had ever seen before in his life. In his own State, great as the wealth of some of its citizens were, no one had manifested public spirit and enterprise sufficient to establish an outlet for her millions of cattle; and to this day we know of no other State which has so few public spirited citizens, so few that are willing to do an act or develop an enterprise which has for its object the benefit of the whole people. They are all mindful of individual, selfish undertakings, but are stolidly indifferent to public ones. For instance, why should the business men of any Northern point, at great expense, advertise the Texan cattle as being for sale upon the prairie, adjacent to their villages, and how seldom a Texan will pay a dollar willingly to advertise up a given point as being a good market for his cattle. They do not hesitate to squander tens, fifties and hundreds for the gratification of their appetites or passions, yet to pay a few dollars to help on some legitimate enterprise for the benefit of the whole, is generally esteemed a great hardship, and often they refuse entirely. This is not because they are penurious, for they are not, but because they lack that public spirit so necessary for the accomplishment of any great public good.
Talk to them about advertising the point, as a cattle market, at which they are stopping their herds, and they will regard it as money thrown away. More advertising has been done for them gratuitously than for the people of any other State. An appreciation of the benefits of advertising is something of which the majority of Texans are destitute. They are, as a class, not liberally educated, and but few of them are extensive readers, but they are possessed of strong natural sense, well skilled in judging human nature, close observers of all events passing before them, thoroughly drilled in the customs of frontier life, more clannish than the Scotch, more suspicious than need be yet often easily gulfed by promises of large prices for their stock; very prone to put an erroneous construction upon the acts and words of a Northern man, inclined to sympathize with one from their own State as against another from the North, no matter what the Southern man may have been guilty of. To beat a Northern man in a business transaction was perfectly legitimate, and regarded all such as their natural enemies of whom nothing good was to be expected. Nothing could arouse their suspicions to a greater extent than a disinterested act of kindness. Fond of a practical joke, always pleased with a good story, and not offended if it was of an immoral character; universal tiplers, but seldom drunkards; cosmopolitan in their loves; in practice, if not in theory, apostles of Victoria Woodbull. but always chivalrously courteous to a modest lady; possessing a strong, innate sense of right and wrong, a quick, impulsive temper, great lovers of a horse and always good riders and good horsemen; always free to spend their money lavishly for such objects or purposes as best please them; very quick to detect an injury or insult, and not slow to avenge it nor quick to forget it; always ready to help a comrade out of a scrape, full of life and fun; would illy brook rules of restraint, free and easy.
Such were some of the traits of character often met with in the early days of Abilene’s glory, but there were good reasons for all these phases and eccentricities of character. Their home and early life was in a wild frontier country, where schools were few and far between, their facilities for attaining news by the daily press exceedingly limited. They had just passed through a bitter civil war, which graduated their former education of hatred and suspicion of Northern men, and above all, the long and bitter experiences they had endured in Southern Kansas and Missouri, swindling, outrage, robbery, rapine, and murder were full sufficient to embitter beings more than human. But we are not disposed to do the character of Texan drovers injustice, for the most of them are honorable men, and regard their pledged word of honor or their verbal contract as inviolable, sacred, and not to be broken under any circumstances whatever. Often transactions involving many thousands of dollars are made verbally only, and complied with to the letter. Indeed, if this were not so they would often experience great hardships in transacting their business as well as getting through the country with their stock. We remember but few instances where a Texan, after selling his herd, went off home without paying all his business obligations. But one occurs to us now which we relate: A certain young drover, more youthful than honest, after selling off his herd slipped off to Texas leaving his supply bills and banker unpaid. A number of leading drovers met together and after counselling about the effect of such conduct upon the credit of drovers as a class, decided to send one of their own number to Texas after the young rascal, which was done, and in a few weeks he was brought back and compelled to settle his outstanding indebtedness, also the expense in full of his own arrest and return.
It is true that the Western Cattle Trade has been no feeble means of bringing about an era of better feeling between Northern and Texas men by bringing them in contact with each other in commercial transactions. The feeling today existing in the breasts of all men from both sections are far different and better than they were six years ago.
Strange as it may appear, there were a few Texan drovers who were from the beginning opposed to making a market, a general centre, a drovers’ headquarters for cattle sale and shipment at Abilene, and were always for driving on North or somewhere else, and never let an opportunity slip to speak and work against the enterprise, but it was made a success in spite of their opposition. Most of those who opposed it were not of the open, bold, outspoken class of men, but of that class who would make loud professions of friendship to your face but slander you to your back, and manufacture out of what you may have said in friendly conversation, perverted and false stories and privately retail them to such as would listen, whilst they would distort every word and act into some hideous offense. Such men as had no good, clean motives themselves and could not impute such to any one else; men who were as lank and scrofulous in soul as they were in physical appearance. Be it said to the credit of Texan drovers as a class, that but few, very few of those scrubby ones ever put in an appearance among the many hundreds who visited Western Kansas, and their influence was as limited as their dispositions were devilish.
Among certain Kansans there developed an opposition as malignant as it was detestable. Certain old broken down political bummers and played-out adventurers got up and secured the passage through the Kansas Legislature, of a certain “Texas Cattle Prohibitory Law,” so drawn as to make Ellsworth the only point at which such cattle could be legally driven. When Abilene began to develop as a shipping depot their hostility knew no bounds. Utterly unscrupulous as to means employed. destitute of honorable manhood and incapable of doing a legitimate business in an honest manner; full of low cunning and despicable motives, these ghouls resorted to every device their fertile brain could conceive to defeat the efforts of the parties who were at work at Abilene. After visiting threats of law and bodily harm upon all concerned, they finally travelled over land, a distance of one hundred miles, in a buggy and spent a week trying to get the settlers of Dickinson county to mob such drovers as were stopping their cattle within the county limits. But all their efforts were unavailing and they were compelled to leave, infinitely more chagrined than language can express. It never was their intention to make a shipping point at Ellsworth but to force the cattle to go there and then swindle their owners out of them by such means as those same tricksters, in connection with other thieves had often done in other years on the Southern border of Kansas.
Of the adventurous drover of 1867, but few are still found in the cattle trade. Some have retired from business, others changed their occupations, and not a few have became bankrupt by some adverse turn of fortune’s wheel. Perhaps no one has more persistently and quietly kept on the even tenor of his way, than J. L. Driskell, of Texas. A Tenneseean by birth and education, he tried Missouri for four years, but hearing such glowing accounts of the land baptized to freedom at Alamo, he decided to go and see the State for himself. The year 1848 found him trying his skill at agriculture in Texas, but not liking the results turned his attention to merchandising until the outbreak of the civil war. For three years Mr. Driskell furnished beef to the Confederate army, and many “Texan Rangers” fared sumptuously upon fat roasts from Driskell’s droves. Notwithstanding fine profits were realized in the army trade, and large amounts of money was made, yet, owing to the Confederate currency becoming valueless, he found himself bankrupt with a cord of “money.” When the “cruel war” was over and peace established, after taking a calm view of the actual situation, he determined to turn his entire attention to the cattle trade, and after one year spent in driving to New Orleans, he turned his droves toward Western Kansas. From that day to this each year has witnessed his herds of from 1,000 to 6,000 head, cross Red river, bound northward. There are few ways of disposing of cattle, after having driven them north, that he has not tried, and usually with at least moderate success. One year he will pack on his own account; another he will sell on the prairie; another finds him shipping; and still another, as in 1873, finds him sending four thousand head to Cheyenne, to the Territorial market; whilst as an experiment he “tanks” out a couple of thousand cows, and sends one thousand fine beeves to be slaughtered and packed on his own account, whilst the train goes forward to Chicago freighted with his cattle. All of which business is so quietly dispatched, no one would scarce know that he was in the country, much less doing anything. During his six years’ driving, fortune has dealt kindly with him and gave unto his charge a comfortable amount of this world’s goods. And few more worthy custodians could be found in the western cattle trade, than the subject of this sketch — a kind, quiet, unassuming gentleman, with whom it is only necessary to become acquainted in order to appreciate his courteous dignified manhood. Those who know him best are his warmest friends. Those who once have business transactions with him, are always glad to meet him again, and to know that it is his purpose to continue driving to Western Kansas.
There are few more widely known and persistent drovers than H. M. Childress, a native born Texan. For the last seven years he has been on one trail or another, leading northward, with a herd varying in size from one to ten thousand head of cattle. Born and reared to the stock business, he took to it on his own account just as natural as a duck to water, beginning at fifteen years or age, and has never changed his occupation-that of live stock-and claims justly, we think, to be to the “manor born.”
In 1866 he pushed his herd into Central Iowa and sold it at thirty-five dollars per head, which was quite satisfactory. He was among the drovers of 1867 who arrived at Abilene, but failing to meet a purchaser he sent his herd to Junction City, and there disposed of it to an amateur packing company. This packing operation was not a financial success, and the final wind up was as unsatisfactory to the drover as to the packing company. However, Childress got his money, but not without great delay and vexatious wrangling. Each year, for four years, Childress drove fully twenty-five hundred head, mostly beeves, to the Abilene market, but the last year, that of 1871, was one fraught with misfortune to him. He not only lost heavily in business but recklessly squandered many thousands of dollars, so that his finances were not in such shape as to enable him to drive again during the year 1872. But, being a man of indomitable energy, he would not long be idle. Meeting with a Texan, who had secured necessary authority from the Governor of Texas, and many Ranchmen, who had suffered great loss by theft, committed by banditti and cattle thieves from New Mexico, they set out on a raid into that Territory, to recapture the stolen cattle. This was an undertaking fraught with hardship and danger, for those, in whose possession the stolen cattle were found, would not give them up without a struggle, and some times quite a pitch battle occurred, in which more than one Mexican bit the dirt before Childress and his party could accomplish their aim. Although they went in a lawful manner after that they had a lawful right to take, yet they were compelled to have a detachment of U.S. cavalry as an escort, and to aid them in retaking the stolen property wherever found.
The adventure resulted in recapturing eleven thousand cattle and three hundred horses, which were driven to Colorado and there disposed of to good advantage, Childress wound up his year’s work with a snug fortune as a reward for his daring and labor. Although on the trip he was in seven fights, yet he lost no men nor received an injury himself. After closing up his business in Colorado he returned to Western Kansas and from there to Texas, after an absence of two years, to renew his old business occupation of droving. The year of 1873 found his familiar face among the cattle men at Kansas City. There are few drovers, or for that matter few men, of the peculiar type of Childress. A convivial, jolly fellow, always full of fun and frolic, with a heart as large as that of an ox. He will walk boldly into death’s jaws to relieve or avenge a friend; has a nerve of iron, cool and collected under fire. Is a deadly pistol shot, and does not hesitate to use one effectively when occasion requires; yet would always rather avoid a quarrel than seek one, but will not shrink from facing the most desperate characters. Nevertheless there are few more kind-hearted men more true to friends than Childress. But to his enemies he presents, in anger, that peculiar characteristic of smiling demoniacally whilst he is plainly and openly maneuvering to shoot them through the heart. However, the reader will be in error if he concludes that Childress is a desperado, for he is not. Upon the other hand many of the finest traits of the true gentleman are his. Generous, scrupulously honorable and honest, chivalric and impulsive; in his heart he wishes every one well, and is never so happy himself as when he can make his friends happy, by performing generous acts of kindness.
OPPOSITION OF SETTLERS — HOW IT WAS OVERCOME — CONTRACTORS FOR SUPPLYING INDIANS WITH BEEF — FEEDING POOR LO AND FAMILY — HOW IT IS DONE — CAPT. E. B. MILLETT — COL. J. J. MYERS.
|We have stated previously that there were but few settlers near Abilene, but in the eastern portion of the county there were quite a thick settlement of farmers, all comparatively poor, struggling hard to make a home and a competence, but with the usual privations, hardships and misfortunes that attend the pioneer settlers of every new country. A full and comprehensive statement of all an average new settler endures before himself and family are comfortable, is a theme that few have done justice, and a theme for a better article than many that find prominent places in the public press of the day.
But the few settlers that were near Abilene became greatly excited about the proposed introduction of Texas cattle in the county, and after talking the matter over privately among themselves they determined to organize a company to stampede every drove of cattle that came into the county, and to this end elected one of the most intelligent of their number to be their captain, and bound themselves in a solemn pledge to stand by each other and to keep up their organization until the proposed introduction of Texas cattle was abandoned. We think certain old seedy politicians whom we have before mentioned, were at the bottom of this organization. However, to conciliate this resistance and dissolve this hostile organization was the work of a day. Word was sent to the captain, a determined follower, but withal a man of good practical sense, with a sharp eye for the main chance, to call as many of his company as possible to a meeting at his cabin on a designated evening whereat the matter of Texan cattle would be discussed pro and con in a friendly manner by parties representing both sides in interest. When the appointed afternoon came, several Texan drovers who had lately arrived in advance of their herds, to inspect the prospects of Abilene as a cattle market, accompanied the party who was building the shipping facilities at Abilene, to the captain’s cabin where a few settlers had gathered, feeling that a fight was quite as likely to be the result of the meeting as anything else. By a previous arrangement made, on the way to the captain’s domicile by the cattlemen, the Illinoisan took the “stump” and proceeded to talk to the settlers in a calm, friendly spirit, and in a manner that impressed every hearer with his sincerity. He told the settlers that he came among them to do them good, not harm, to build them up and not tear them down, to enrich and not impoverish them, to give unto them a home cash market for their farm products and to make their county burg a head center of a great commerce, that would justly excite the envy of every rival town in the valley. Then the speaker pointed out how the immense influx of men camping on the adjacent prairies would need every aliment of life, and told them that if they taxed their little farms to their utmost in raising grain and vegetables, yet they could not furnish a tithe of the amount that would be needed, and of course if the supply was small and the demand great, the prices must and would be exhorbitantly high, and that the only trouble would be that they could or would not furnish one-half the amount needed, no matter what the price might be. In addition to the above named advantages there was that of an opportunity to invest their savings in cheap, young cattle, which would pay one hundred per cent. in ten months and consume only the hay, straw and cornstalks and such unmarketable farm products. Whilst this little talk was being made, nearly every drover present, by previous arrangement, went to bartering with the Kansans for butter, eggs, potatoes, onions, oats, corn, and such other produce as they might be able to use at camp, and always paying from one-fourth to double the price asked by the settlers. At the conclusion of the meeting the Captain said he had got a “sight” of the cattle trade that was new and convincing to him. “And, gentlemen,” said he, “if l can make any money out of this cattle trade, I am not afraid of ‘Spanish fever ;’ but if I can’t make any money out of this cattle trade, then I am d–d fraid of ‘Spanish fever.'” The entire hostile organization dissolved without any farther trouble, and before a single steer was “stampeded.” The captain of the company was accused by his comrades of turning traitor and selling out, but the fact is that his good sense dictated the course he finally took, and but few years elapsed before a substantial frame house and miles of good fencing, with other comforts and substantial improvements, aside from a fine herd of wintered fat Texan cattle, were among the fruits that he enjoyed by following the course marked out and suggested to him at that meeting. Many others who, at the time the cattle trade was first established at Abilene, were living in “dug-outs” or mere hovels constructed of poles and dirt, and whose poverty was extreme, were soon enabled to build themselves beautiful houses, and provide other comforts that they could not have afforded for years later, had it not been for the money expended annually by the stock men in their midst. All these things soon dawned on the minds of many of the settlers, and there was soon a strong cattle trade party among them men friendly to the trade and powerful enough to neutralize the efforts and influence of the few who remained hostile.
An incident occurred during the fall of 1867 that illustrates the enormous profits, not to say swindles, of contractors for the supply of beef for the Indians, under the old system of feeding poor “Lo” and family. As it illustrates more than one phase of the Western way of doing things, we venture to to relate it: A Texan drover, whose herd consisted largely of young stock cattle, arrived at Abilene, and shortly obtained an offer of $11 per head for his stock, which offer he refused, but borrowed $1,000 and went to Leavenworth, and got on a spree, which lasted until the cattle season was over and the grass was killed by the frost and his cattle began to die of poverty and cold. Then he returned, bringing a government contractor with him, who hought his herd at six dollars per head and straightway, after getting from some settlers a half dozen of large rough oxen which he turned in with the herd, proceeded to drive them 140 miles southwest to Fort Larned, where upon arrival he turned the entire herd over to an Indian agent at an estimated average net weight of six hundred pounds gross. The price was six and one-fourth cents per pound net weight, or thirty-seven dollars and one-half per head or a profit of fully thirty dollars per head. When it is remembered that the entire herd would not have averaged four hundred pounds gross, the financial brilliancy, not to say villiany, of the transaction is apparent. But in those days an Indian contract was only another name for a big steal and swindle. Not one contract in each hundred made was ever filled in letter and spirit. Often the cattle would be delivered at an agreed average of net weighs greater than the actual gross weight, and when delivered on one day would be stole from the government agent at night and re-delivered the next day. Of course the government agent was entirely innocent and was not conniving with the contractor. Oh no! It is some one else that is on the make, not Indian agents.
They are pure self-sacrificing patriots, and are notorious for their abhorrence or money, for don’t they always get poor in a year, when taking care of some little starving remnant of a tribe; and are compelled to remove their families from a sumptuous log cabin to an abhorred brick mansion abounding with lawns, drives, arbors, statuary, and other afflictions peculiar to that class of poverty. It would take volumes to chronicle the unalloyed benevolence and disinterested virtues of that army of noble men who rush to the front of civilization and offer themselves for immolation upon the altar of some Indian agency. The immortal Washington’s deeds of love, performed for his enslaved countrymen, pale into the mellow glow of phosphorus, or the “Jack O’Lantern” of the marsh when compared with the brilliant, heroic, self-abnegation of an Indian agent.
We doubt not but that the battallions set to guard the Commissary stores of the pearly eternal city, seen by none of earth save the wandering Peri, will be chosen from the ranks of the Indian Agents of the West.
We are glad to note that under the present system of managing the Indians of the plains, much of the wholesale plundering of the Government has been prevented. But we yet see a greater desire among those who strive to obtain Government contracts for furnishing the Indians with beef, to obtain the supplying of such agencies as are farthest out from civilization, and where superior officials will trouble the contractor with their presence least, and where the facilities for obtaining correct weights are the most limited. Of course this arises from a desire existing in the breasts of the contractors to feed full-blood “Los” instead of half-breeds and mongrels — such as are on the border of civilization and at semi-savage agencies — and in nowise arises from any desire to have an opportunity to perpetrate, in collusion with the Indian Agent, a stupendous swindle on the Government. Oh no! Perish the thought, and blistered be the tongue that says so. By far the larger portion of the cattle consumed by the Northern Indians are bought on the western plains of Kansas, after their arrival from Texas. A lively struggle is witnessed every spring among the drovers who try to get their cattle into the Indian contracts. It now takes between thirty and forty thousand head of cattle annually to feed the Indians of the Upper Missouri country. After purchasing them in Western Kansas, they are put upon the road or trail and driven northward, from four to eight hundred miles, and delivered in installments to the various agencies, and as soon as delivered are slain and devoured by the hungry redskins.
The Regulations require full grown beeves for the Indian supply, but often cows and stock cattle are put in, and are in fact preferred by the Indians to older cattle. A cow forward with calf is a delicious morsel to their palate, especially the unborn calf, which, “From its mother’s womb is untimely ripped,” is devoured with a relish peculiar to the fastidious epicurian tastes of the “Noble red man.” In the winter, that portion of the herd which is held for the last installments during February and March, get very poor, in fact often reel as they walk with poverty and starvation.
For they have been held without sufficient food for months, in a most rigorous climate. Indeed it is not uncommon for the poor brutes to freeze stiff and dead during the bitter cold nights incident to those regions. If they could have a sufficiency of good, nourishing food, they would be able to withstand far greater degrees of cold than that under which they perish miserably. It is not difficult to imagine about what grade of beef — about how fat and juicy –Mr. “Lo” is permitted to gorge himself with, semi-occasionally, during the winter and early spring months. If there are no facilities for weighing provided by Government, it is usual for the contractor and Indian agent to estimate the weight, or “guess off” the herd or lot of cattle about being turned over. Just here is where great frauds upon the miserable Indians as well as the Government are perpetrated. It once was not uncommon to get an estimated average weight fully fifty per cent. greater than the real weight. This sometimes arose from the lack of corrupt judgment in the agent, but much oftener it was the result of his corrupt villainy. What “arguments” a contractor would be most likely to use in dealing with an agent, both out on the wilds of the Great West, can be easier imagined than described. It is not unfrequent that one-half of the number of cattle only that are contracted to be furnished, are taken to the vicinity of the agency. How a fellow can fill a contract for ten thousand head of cattle, with only five thousand head, is a proposition that most any Indian contractor can solve and explain, if he will. But whatever numbers and whatever weights agreed upon by the agent and contractor, are set forth in a voucher, wherein Uncle Samuel is made the debtor. Upon presentation of these vouchers, properly certified, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department, pays the sum therein called for, or draws a check against the appropriation previously made by Congress for feeding the Indians. Could our readers see those untutored redskins go for the bullock, once it is turned over to them and shot down, it would perhaps go far towards dispelling that halo of sentimentality with which certain dreamy poets and maudlin writers have clothed the degraded, miserable beings. The very parts of the animal that a civilized being rejects as unfit to be eaten in any shape whatever, are the very richest, and first to be devoured dainties, according to Mr. “Lo’s” notion of “good things.”
Northern men usually obtain the contracts to furnish the Indians with beef, and they contract with Southern drovers to furnish the cattle delivered at, or near the various agencies, at which the Government turns over other supplies, such as flour, meal, bacon, blankets, &c. It requires no small amount of determined will, and stamina, as well as practical knowledge of handling cattle on the plains, to be a successful Northern drover. Their hardships and privations are four fold greater than are endured by the average driver from Texas to Kansas. The trail is through an unsettled country. The weather stormy and soon bitter cold winter sets in, and there are few comfortable days before the opening of the following spring, which occurs much later than in more Southern latitudes. For several years in succession Capt. E. B. Millet, of Texas, has furnished cattle to Indian contractors, for the Upper Missouri River agencies.
He began driving north in 1866, and was one of the drovers who turned their herds east from Baxter Springs along the Arkansas line around or past the blockaded districts of Missouri. On reaching the Mississippi rive his cattle were too poor in flesh to put upon the market, and not, meeting a Northern feeder to whom he could dispose of his herd, he wended his way into eastern central Illinois, and there went into winter quarters. Buying feed for his cattle until after the lapse of a few months, he was able to sell them, but not at such figures as sufficiently paid him for his labor, risk, and hardship endured. When he returned to Texas in the later part of the winter of 1866, and 1867, it was with the fixed opinion that driving Texan cattle north was unprofitable, and in fact next thing to impracticable. So the following summer of 1867, he was not among the few drovers who ventured to start herds northward, for of that he felt he had had enough. But when the drovers of 1867 returned to Texas and told of Abilene, the Captain was among the first to gather a very choice herd of eight hundred beeves and put them upon the trail to Western Kansas. After carefully driving his herd for about sixty days, after crossing Red river, he found himself and herd in the immediate vicinity of Abilene. Selecting excellent herding grounds convenient to the village, the Captain took up his quarters at the Drovers’ Cottage and awaited farther developments, hoping for the appearance of a buyer. He did not wait long, for he had one of the most carefully selected and driven herds that could be found on the market, and it was of this herd that a certain Illinoisan selected two hundred and twenty-four choice beeves, mentioned elsewhere, upon which he essayed to get back some of his losses of the previous year, but with what results suffice it to say that, the Illinoisan’s returns from that drove of catle, good and fat though they were, were fully six thousand dollars less than his investment. The balance of the Captain’s herd was sold at remunerative figures to a packer, later in the fall. So the first year’s operation was highly satisfactory, and the determination was formed to continue the business. He could fully appreciate the benefits of a shipping depot to which he could bring his herds unmolested by mobs and thieves; where he would stand a good chance of meeting a buyer; or, if he choose, could go unmolested direct to any desired market in the north. The Captain obtained his military title in the confederate army, where he won honorable distinction, and made innumerable friends. Indeed it would be difficult to find a superior example of a high-minded, dignified Southern gentleman than he. Quiet in turn of mind and manner, is never heard talking loud and coarsely, not even to his inferiors or subordinates. Perhaps the entire droving fraternity could not furnish a better student, or one who loves to pass so many of his leisure hours in reading, and there is not in the western cattle trade a better informed or better read man than Capt. Millet. In his various business undertakings he has been at least moderately successful. He has driven from one thousand to eight thousand cattle annually, but seldom, if ever, ships or packs on his own account; always preferring to sell on the plains, and if need be, drive to any desired point in the Territories, to accomplish the desired object. He has spent several winters in the upper Missouri river country, and furnished thousands of cattle to Government contractors for Indian supplies. To Nevada and Idaho he has sent one or more herds and, after wintering and fattening, sold them to the mining villages of those regions. He is a man of great energy and integrity of character, with clear solid business ideas.
The demand for cheap cattle in the Territories, at the close of the war, was very great, and the supplying thereof aided materially in making Abilene a success. For each year there were large numbers of stock cattle brought there from Texas, many more than could have possibly found purchasers, if there had been no territorial demand. Almost every territory in the Union is well adapted to raising cattle, and in each there is and has been more or less demand for beef, from those engaged in mining and other vocations. The markets thus created, always afforded good prices, and that in gold. Besides, just at that time the Union, and Central Pacific Railroads were in process of construction, employing many thousands of men who, of course, had to be fed. All of these circumstances conspired to make an active demand for all grades of cattle, and when it is remembered that a succession of drouthy seasons had destroyed nearly all the cattle in California, it will be seen that the supply must needs come principally from east of the Rocky Mountains.
As we have remarked, the demand for cattle to supply the Territories was great, and the turning of attention of territorial operators to Abilene as a place to buy, greatly aided that point in becoming a complete market — one in which any kind, sort, or sized cattle could either be bought or sold; and the driving of herds purchased at Abilene, to the Territories, became quite as common as driving from Texas to Abilene. There were certain Texan drovers who looked almost exclusively to the territorial operators for buyers for their stock. In case they succeeded in meeting a purchaser, the drovers would often deliver their herds at some agreed point, in whichever Territory the buyer might desire. In such cases, the same outfit and the same cow-boys that came from Texas with the stock, would go on to its territorial destination. Perhaps the most prominent drover engaged in supplying the territorial demand, is Col. J. J. Myers, of Lockhart, Texas. In June, 1867, during the first visit of the Illinoisan to the West, and whilst his project of a cattle shipping depot was not yet fully determined upon, and whilst stopping temporarily at the Hale House in Junction City, he was introduced to a small sized, quiet gentlemen, who was evidently entering that class upon whose head Time had began to sprinkle her silver frosts. The gentleman was introduced as being late from Texas; and here, thought the Illinoisan, was just the man before whom to lay the plan of the contemplated project, and thus secure the Texan’s judgment upon it-whether or not it was plausible or advisable, and if such a shipping depot was created, would the Texan drovers bring their herds to it. So, inviting the venerable gentleman to take a walk, they strolled off to a lumber pile, on a vacant lot, and there sat down, deeply engaged in conversation, for two or more hours; in which time the Illinoisan explained his contemplated project fully, and noted closely the comment and opinions of the Texan drover, for such he proved to be. He there told that young Illinoisan that such a depot, for cattle sale and shipment, was the greatest need of Texan stock men, and that whoever would establish and conduct such an enterprise, upon legitimate business principles, would be a benefactor to the entire Texan live stock interest, and would undoubtedly receive all the patronage that could reasonably be desired. From the hour of that informal interview between the Texan drover and the Illinoisan, the project, such as was soon developed at Abilene, became a fixed fact or purpose in the mind of its projector. There are moments in ones existence when a decision, or a purpose arrived at, shapes future actions and events — even changes the whole tenor of ones life and labor. Such was the effect of the two brief hours spent in conversation by the Texan drover and the llinoisan. When they shook hands and parted, there existed in the breast of the Illinoisan an impression that he had been talking to a sincere, honest man, who spoke his convictions without deceit or without any desire whatever to mislead any one, but with a firmly fixed determination to give only correct information. The decisions and determinations formed at that interview, fixed the life and labor of the Illinoisan. That Texan drover was Col. J. J. Myers, a man of that peculiar build and statue that can endure untold physical hardships without fatigue. There are few men in the West or Northwest who have so thorough a knowledge — gathered from actual travel and observation of all the Territories of the Union, as Col. Myers. One of his early tours over the West was made across the continent with John C. Fremont, on his famous exploring expedition. This occurred almost forty years ago, when the Colonel was but a youth, just entering into vigorous manhood. Such a strong desire to roam became implanted in his bosom, that he did not give himself rest until he had traversed almost every foot of territory between the Mississippi river and the Pacific ocean. And when he had seen all that dame Nature had to show, he turned his attention to stock ranching in Texas, making his home at Lockhart. He too was a drover in 1866, and endured all kinds of outrages before he was able to sell his herd. But in 1867 he decided to drive into Western Kansas, and so flank all settlements, and take his chances to find a purchaser some where on the frontier, but just where he could sell, he did not know. The Colonel was among Abilene’s first patrons and warmest friends, and so long as it was a market, he annually made his appearance with from four thousand to sixteen thousand head of cattle; which, of course, were driven in several herds, never more than three thousand head in one herd.
The class of cattle the Colonel usually drove was just suited for the territorial demand; therefore, he never shipped but few car loads. For four years he sold his herds to parties living in Salt Lake, genuine Mormons of the true polygamist faith, and delivered his stock to them in Utah. The Mormons, as all well know, are very clannish people and, especially the lay members, are little disposed to trade with, or buy anything of a Gentile. Therefore, to avoid this religious prejudice, and in order to get into and through the Territory without trouble, or having to pay exorbitant damage bills to the Latter Day Saints; it was his practice to instruct his men to tell every resident of Utah they met, that the cattle belonged to Heber Kimball, one of the elders or high priests in Mormondom. No matter whose farm the cattle run over nor how much damage they done to crops it was all settled amicably by telling the residents that the cattle were Elder Kimball’s. No charge or complaint was ever made, after that statement was heard, and it did appear that if Heber Kimball’s cattle should run over the saints bodily and tread them into the earth, it would have been all right, and not a murmur would have been heard to escape their lips. When the cattle reached their destination, the Colonel never went near them, but allowed Elder Kimball to dispose of them always as if they were his own, which he could do at a rapid rate. The Mormons appeared to consider it a great privilege to buy of the Sainted Elder, although they were paying from one to three dollars in gold more per head for the cattle than they would have had to pay to the Gentile drover. Indeed, they would not have bought the same stock of the Gentile at any price. When it is known that this people are such complete dupes of cunning smart men, is it any wonder that they submit to be plucked like a goose, for the benefit of their quondlam keepers? Or is it anything strange that their leaders manage to get immensely rich? But Utah, notwithstanding her great city and her immense mining population, has now more than a supply of cattle for her own consumption, and is beginning to export cattle to Chicago and the east.
Several thousand head of fat beeves were driven from Utah over the mountains to Cheyenne and there shipped to Chicago during the year 1873. So there is no longer a demand for stock cattle in that Territory. There are few Texan drovers who handle or drive more cattle from Texas than Col. Myers — few are more widely or favorably known than he. He is a man of great experience and solid judgment, and one that has few enemies, but wherever he is known his name is spoken with respect, akin to love and admiration. He is a man true to his pledges, and one who would not reap advantage from, or oppress a fellow man, simply because he had the power, or the legal right to so do. When he is given the title of “A father in Israel” among the drovers, there will found few, if any, who will dispute his right of his worthiness of the appellation.