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.