1878 Cattle Drives

In searching for an advertisement enticing settlers into the Dodge City area, I came across the following article discussing the round-up of cattle and the cattle drives during 1878.

The Kansas and Colorado Cattle Drives

[Dodge City Correspondence New York Times]

The Indiana State Sentinel, Wednesday July 10, 1878

Page 7 column 6

[available on Chronicling America]

                The cattle men of the plains are just getting through with their annual ‘round-ups’. For the Arkansas valley and the divide country West Los Animas was the rendezvous; and the scattered cattle for miles along the river and out on the buffalo ranges were gathered to that point. Camps were established, all the leading cattle men, were on hand and the “cow boys” were in their glory. It was the work of only a few hours to “cut out” and separate the cattle and start the herds back to their ranges again. Every animal is known by its brand, so that ownership is easily determined, and those that have drifted miles away during the winter storms and become a part of other herds are picked out in a few minutes, claimed by the owners and started back to the range. It has been a good winter for stock in this valley; no bad storms and plenty of grass. The cattle are in prime condition, and beeves for the early fall market will sell better than the average. By comparing notes among the herders it was found that the range between Fort Lyon and Bent’s Fort – Kit Carson’s old hunting grounds – an uninviting and barren looking section, contains more cattle than any similar area on the plains. Over 75,000 head are figured up.

               As all the heavy stock men and shippers just now seem to be bound for one place – Dodge City – the point at which the ‘drives’ of Texas cattle come up, your correspondent took a train on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad and a seven hours’ ride landed us at midnight in this noisy cattle mart. No one seemed to be asleep at that hour. The station was thronged with swaggering, swearing cow boys and oily confidence men. With some difficulty we rubbed our way through the crowd and followed the porter to the Great Western hotel. Any of our companions that might be bent on sport could need no special beckoning, for in all the billiard halls, concert saloons and keno dens the lamp still held out to burn.

Seen by daylight Dodge City has a better look, though somehow pretty much all the buildings, which are of frame, lurch to the west as if impatient to move on, the effect of high prairie winds. The population cation not be farm from 1,000, though there is a large floating element, increasing rapidly, and a month later, when the cattle are swarming and prices are at high tide, there will be in the town and outskirts as many as 5,000 people. The cattle shipping season gathers traders, speculators, gamblers and all sorts. Through June and July Dodge City will be the liveliest place in the west. The best trails from the pan-handle of Texas strike the railroad and river at this point, if it is outside the ‘dead line’ prescribed by Kansas laws, and offers every facility for large stock transactions. There are in this vicinity about 120,000 head of Texas ‘beeves’ already arrived and ready to be marketed. There are on the trail between Dodge and Cimarron 50,000 more. The last accounts from the south indicate that there are upward of 225,000 head of cattle moving northward from Red river, fully one half of which will take the trail to Dodge City.

             About the 1st of July the larger shared will have arrived here and the shipping will begin in earnest. There will probably be put on the cars at this station from 30,000 to 40,000 beeves for Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago. The greater share of the cattle that are driven to this point from Texas do not go into eastern markets yet. They will be allowed to feed their way westward and northward, and two months later will appear at stations on the Kansas Pacific and Union Pacific roads further east, some to be shipped to Kansas City and Omaha, but the great bulk remain feeding on the plains until next spring. The cattle “drives” from Texas each year represent a great deal of money, and are in the hands of comparatively few men. The herds of the thirty largest owners will aggregate about 200,000 head.

The several smaller ‘bunches’ will swell the table to between 225,500 and 250,000. Some claim that the number will reach 300,000. About 45,000 are detained for Dodge City, principally for eastern shipment. While a large share of the others enumerated will come by trail to Dodge City, they will be driven up the Arkansas and Purgotoire, or into the pars and over the divide into the Platte valley. A good many will go to the ranges on the Republican. In the past three or four years not all the cattle that have come up from Texas have been marketed, but have been multiplying and increasing in the valleys and along the high ranges. Taking into account the large number of cattle annually driven into the territories and new states of the west and the natural increase of the herds, the cattle trade is, of course, growing into greater magnitude every year. It is a noteworthy fact that the cattle interest of the Rocky mountain region and the plains on the East is receiving large accessions form the west also.

            It was considered somewhat wonderful a few years ago when Texas was credited with 4,000,000 head of cattle. That state was looked upon as our beef supply for years to come, and the great plains at that time counted as absolutely worthless for any purpose, were not even looked upon as even the smallest factor in the matter of supplying the east and Europe with marketable cattle. But a great revolution has taken place even in a short time. The “long horns” still come up every season to be put into market, but the numbers arriving at Kansas City and Chicago from that source are decreasing year by year. The cattle grounds are being transferred to the great buffalo plains and the central portion of the continent with the Pacific states, are becoming the leading producers of beef. An estimate derived from the assessment return gives Colorado 550,000; Wyoming 225,000; Utah, 350,000; Montana 300,000; Washington 2000,000; Oregon 175,000; and California 650,000 cattle. This make a total of nearly 2,750,000 market beeves which will be taken during the next three or four months into the markets east of the Missouri river.