ADVERTISING ABILENE -- INDIAN SCARE -- HUNTING A LANDLORD MRS. LOU. GORE -- STRAIGHTENING THE CATTLE TRAIL -- CONTENDING FOR THE TRADE -- W. W. SUGG -- OPENING OF CATTLE TRADE IN SPRING OF 1868 -- F. TOMPKINS. -- E. H. GAYLARD -- J. M. DAY.
Notwithstanding the disastrous experiences of the fall of 1867, and the maudlin gibberings of many who took such a deep (?) interest in the result of the first experiments in creating a cattle market at Abilene, the founders of that enterprise determined to make a systematic effort to secure a large drive of Cattle from Texas in 1868. To this end a systematic scheme of advertising in Texas was prosecuted with energy and without regard to expense. To every Texas man whose address had been obtained previous and to all whose address was subsequently obtained by reference to commercial agencies, directories of cities and county officials, including every newspaper in the State, to all these were addressed a circular setting forth the contemplated purpose of the Abilene enterprise and inviting the drovers and stockmen of Texas to bring their herds of marketable cattle to that point. Assuring all who would do so, of a cordial reception, fair dealing, protection from mob violence, perfect equality upon the market and in the use of shipping facilities; a concerted joint effort to get buyers for their stock; in short to give to the stockman of Texas what he did not before have, to-wit: A market in which he could sell any and all the live stock which he might bring thereto, and if failing to find a purchaser on the prairie for his stock, he could ship them unmolested to any point or market he might choose. The papers throughout the state of Texas copied into their columns the circular letter, and many of them gave the subject favorable editorial notices.
Every office, business house and hamlet in the State was the recipient of one or more of the letters. So all Texas was reading and talking of the new star of hope that had arisen in the north to light and buoy up the hitherto dark and desponding heart of the ranch man. In addition to the circular letters above mentioned, two gentlemen of tact and address were sent into and traversed the State for no other purpose than to inform, so far as possible by word of mouth, the Texan drovers, of Abilene, and the inducements there held out to stockmen. Inasmuch as a drover or seller of stock is only one of the parties necessary to make a complete cattle market, the buyer being just as indispensable a personage as the seller, therefore it was necessary to do an equal amount of advertising throughout the Northern States and Territories proclaiming to the Northern cattle world the expected concentration of Texas cattle at Abilene. In order to accomplish this result access was had to the advertising columns of every newspaper widely read by Northern cattle men. Fully five thousand dollars were expended in this advertising scheme during the winter of 1867 and 1868. In the communications sent into Texas definite advisory instructions were urged upon the Texan drover to bring only good, choice, select cattle. But the habit of taking everything that was gathered by the ranchman was generally persisted in and the instructions to bring select cattle only, were disregarded by all drovers, save a few who heeded the advice given, and such received a satisfactory reward for the pains taken in getting up their herd, in the ready sale and fine prices obtained soon after their arrival at Abilene.
Thirty days before the cattle began to arrive at Abilene, in the spring of 1868, quite a delegation of buyers were at the Drovers' Cottage, a hotel erected for the special accommodation of cattle men, awaiting the advent of the cattle, when trade would open. To while away the tedious hours till the cattle came, resort was had to divers expedients, such as reading newspapers, talking over business projects and prospects, telling stories, perpetrating jokes, etc.
During the spring of 1868 the Indians made a hostile raid upon the frontier settlers of Northwestern Kansas. It was a determined effort on their part to prevent the settlement of the Solomon and Salina river country, their favorite hunting ground. They made a sudden descent upon the sparse settlements, and such whites as did not make a hasty retreat from the country, were brutally massacred and their women taken captive. The redskins extended their raid within fifty or sixty miles of Abilene. Of course there was considerable excitement and all sorts of rumors afloat among the sparse settlements near and west of Abilene. The Indians and their barbarous atrocities, and the probable point east to which they were likely to extend their raid, were the absorbing topics of the day, and pallid cheeks and nervous twitchings were observable on every hand among the timid, such as had no particular anxiety to form the acquaintance of Mr. "Lo" and his coadjutors, especially whilst their appetites for scalps seemed so insatiable. Several Eastern live stock men, who had come to Abilene to purchase cattle, were among the guests of the Cottage, and it was among that class that the greatest uneasiness was manifested. Especially was this the case with a certain young man from Green or Jersey county, Illinois, who had, against the advice of his young and newly married wife, come out to invest his first venture in Texan cattle. It was soon observed by the old, experienced frontiersmen and drovers present, that this young man "had the Injun scare bad." Whenever a story was told about Indian fighting, scalping and massacreing, this young cattle man's cheek would blanch, his frame tremble, and groaning sighs escaped his lips. The boys thought him a fit subject to perpetrate a joke upon. So they posted the landlord of the Cottage, also the telegraph operator, of the respective parts they were desired to play. Just before the appointed hour the guests gathered in a cluster and began telling the most horrible Indian stories they ever heard or could imagine, always winding up with the confident prediction that the Indians, then so near would never stop short of cleaning out every white man in that portion of Kansas, and that a bloody encounter was to be expected soon. All unanimously agreed that it was every man's duty to burnish and load up every weapon that could be found. Expectations of the Indians that afternoon or night, were expressed on all sides. This was all told and acted in the most serious manner, and had the effect of almost overwhelming the young cattle dealer with fear. Then the telegraph operator came rushing from the office toward the landlord, and in an agitated manner handed him a (bogus) dispatch. The landlord glanced at it, then made one of those excited exclamations' expressive of sudden alarm, and jumping upon a chair, proceeded to read a general warning to the citizens of Abilene and vicinity, of the near approach of the Indians in great numbers, with bloody war clubs and gory scalping knives; also bidding the citizens to arm for their own defense, and to prepare for "war to the knife, the knife to the hilt." Of course the excitement arose to fever heat during the reading of the message, which purported to be dated at a station forty miles west of Abilene. The young drover was horror personified, transfixed with fear, "each particular hair" standing erect, knees knocked together in true Belchazzar style, his hand yielded its grip upon his hat, the tears trickled down his pallid cheeks, his bosom heaved with convulsive emotion, and his scarcely articulate voice groaning out self-reproaches for not listening to his wife's faithful admonitions and advice against going after Texan cattle; moaning the determined promise to let Texan cattle go to a hotter country than Texas, if he was only permitted to get home alive, and then "Oh my poor wife!" would break from his twitching lips. He made a rush for his room, clutched his satchel and came down stairs with a bound, there meeting the landlord -- who was hallooing orders to arm in a guttural, commandatory voice, much like the sound of a fire marshal's bugle -- he timidly asked if he must stop to pay his bill. The landlord profanely upbraided him for proposing to cowardly leave the house, in which were several ladies, to the mercies of the fiendish savages, adding that if he had a drop of other than cowardly blood in him he would stay and fight, if need be die, to defend the images of his mother and his wife, there in the house. With a wailing groan and a "Oh, my dear wife!" he dropped his valise and wished to be shown where he could be of service, adding that a place in which he would stand the best chance to get away in case of attack would suit him best. It was immediately decided to send out a couple of skirmishers as spies, to ride to the brow of the hills just west of town and watch for the first appearance of the redskins. The young cattle dealer was selected to accompany another man, both on horseback. So mounting the young cattle man, bare-backed, upon a venerable steed of twenty summers and somewhere near fifty thousand miles traveled, while his companion was mounted on an agile, fleet young charger, they both started toward the west. After going near a mile they came to the foot of a hill, up which the fleet horse dashed at a fine speed, leaving the old bony steed to follow at a distance. But upon the first skirmisher reaching the hill top, he whirled his horse suddenly and exclaimed loudly: "They come; Injuns coming close, get out of this quick!" and the same instant put spurs to his racer and passed by his verdant, scared comrade, to whom he yelled to fly for dear life, as he passed by him like the wind, heading his horse for the town. He arrived full ten minutes before the young stock man came in sight, belaboring his old rack of bones in desperate earnest, making a moderate sized stick of cord wood bounce off of the poor old horses ribs every jump. If ever an old horse suffered grief in unbroken doses, that old charger was the one. This paper is blackness compared with the cattle dealer's face. But when he arrived at the hotel the joke had gone far enough, and all took a hearty laugh at the young man, and then for the first time dawned upon his mind the fact that he was the subject of a cruel hoax.
The first train going East bore away the young cattle man, without Texan cattle, to the bosom of his "poor wife."
The buyers were in every instance brought to Abilene by the advertising and other efforts of the parties who founded the enterprise.
Although the Drovers' Cottage was completed and furnished in the fall of 1867, yet it was not formally opened as a hotel until the following spring, no competent landlord being found or wanted until that time. But when the hotel began to fill up and first class entertainment was demanded, the proprietor decided to go east and procure a good experienced landlord to take charge of the house.
Before reaching St. Louis an old acquaintance was met and the subject of the trip made known to him. The result of which was a call at the St. Nicholas Hotel in St. Louis. Entering the reception room and quietly taking a seat, a servant was sent into the dining room to request an interview with the steward, who was reported to be anxious to take charge of a hotel upon his own account. In a few minutes the steward, his wife and the rough-clad Illinoisan were chatting earnestly upon the proposed business transaction, which conversation resulted in the steward and his wife going to Abilene to be the first landlord and landlady, afterwards proprietors, of the Drovers' Cottage -- a name still perpetuated on more than one hotel in the West. In less than one hundred hours from the time the start was made the hotel domiciled its future proprietor -- Mrs. Lou. Gore.
In a brief time it was apparent that in the person of the new landlady of the cottage the drovers had a true sympathizing friend, and in their sickness a true guardian and nurse, one whose kind motherly heart was ever ready to provide for their every proper want -- be they hungry, tired, thirsty or sick, it mattered not; she was the Florence Nightingale to relieve them. From her earliest memory her home has been in a hotel, her father being to this day the proprietor of a large one at Niagara Falls, at which drovers en route to New York or Boston, going via the Falls, delight to stop. Many a sick and wearied drover has she nursed and tenderly cared for until health was restored; or in the event death soothed their dying moments with all the kind offices that a true sister only so well understands how to perform. Many western drovers, rough, uncouth men, such as nature and the wild frontier produces, will ever hear the name of Mrs. Lou. Gore mentioned only with emotions of kindest respect and tenderest memory, and feelings near akin to the holy passion that binds earth to Heaven.
The cattle trail broken and driven over in 1867 from the crossing of the Arkansas river, which was at the mouth of the Little Arkansas river and on the present site of the city of Wichita, to Abiline, was not direct but circuitous. In order to straighten up this trail and bring the cattle direct to Abilene, and, by shortening the distance, to counteract the exertions of western would-be competing points for the cattle trade, an engineer corps was sent out under the charge of Civil Engineer T. F. Hersey a noble, true man, whose heart was always found in the right place and full of warm blood for his friends, an early settler of the extreme frontier, at whose cabin Bayard Taylor got "his last square meal" as he went out on his famous overland trip to the Pacific coast many years before the projection of the Pacific railroad. Mr. Hersey with compass and flag-man and detail of laborers with spades and shovels for throwing up mounded dirt to mark the route located by the engineers, started out and run almost due south from Abilene until the crossing of the Arkansas river was reached, finding good water and abundant grass with suitable camping points the entire distance. Meeting at the Arkansas river the first drove of cattle of the season, the party returned piloting the herd over the new trail, and thus by use opening it to the many thousand herds of cattle that followed in months and years afterward.
Notwithstanding the jeers of rival towns both east and west of Abilene at her, to them, ridiculous presumption in assuming to be a cattle market, seeing the immense commerce that was about centering at Abilene, when they heard the news of the many herds that were on the trail bound northward, became greatly exercised upon the subject, and determined to erect shipping yards at one town east and at three towns west of Abilene. In order to make amend for their failure to systematically advertise their respective point during the past winter, as had been done for Abilene, each town sent to the crossing of the Arkansas river from two to ten drummers, or runners, for their respective points, to induce the drovers to turn to the right or left and go to other towns instead of Abilene. To counteract this choir of solicitors Abilene sent one young man to represent and to protect her interests, not to say rights, for by her enterprise in working and advertising she did have a semblance at least of right to claim the cattle trade as hers. But the young man sent out by Abilene was the same one who was sent alone in July '67, to proclaim the good tidings of Abilene to the wandering and mob-fearing drovers. A man upon whose countenance truth and honesty sat enthroned supreme, which colic be readily discerned by the most casual observer, and readily detected by the close scrutinizing drover.
He deserves more than a passing mention. Few young men connected with the Western cattle trade is wider and better known than W. W. Sugg, and none will out rank him in quiet, persistent, unvarying friendship to the Southern cattle trade. He is an Illinoisan by birth and education; but early in life was thrown upon his own resources and upon the frontier, to seek the glittering wealth every adventurer believes dame fortune has in store for him. Although but a young man, there are few townships of land which he has not roamed over in Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, having soldiered during the war in the frontier service. He too is a drover of 1866, and to this day bears the scars, results of gashes made by well laid on hickory wyths in the hands of Southern mobs. After enduring untold outrages, he finally succeeded in getting his herd through to Christian county, Illinois, and there went into winter quarters. Early in the following spring he sold out to the Illinoisan with whom he afterwards became so intimately acquainted at Abilene. Indeed it was from his lips that the story of Texas' great supply of cattle and the insurmountable barrier in Southwestern Missouri and Southeastern Kansas, was attentively listened to by the Illinoisan, but a few weeks before he sought out and undertook the development of Abilene's famous enterprise. We need scarcely add that Mr. Sugg and the Illinoisan became fast and true friends, and that in him the Illinoisan found a genuine, unflinching, warm friend, one who was as unwavering in the hour of adversity and need as in the hours of prosperity; one whose heart was as true and whose friendship as sincere -- where every other one had passed but a cold recognition, if not words full of bitter calumny for the Illinoisan -- as is the heart of him who cares for us when our kindred forsake us. Such is the real character of this humble, unpretentious man. Every western drover knows him and believes in him, and his name would be put near the head, if not at the very head of the list of those whom they believe in Western parlance "it will do to tie to."
But a few words, a single sentence from him in his own quiet, modest way, was sufficient to outweigh in the mind of the drover, all the multiplicity of words and loud declarations of the score of verbose solicitors who opposed him and attempted to obtain trade for their respective towns. Aside from his manner, the magic, winning words that caught the listening ear of the drover, was, "that at Abilene buyers for their cattle are awaiting their arrival." Now, by the by, a cash purchaser for his herd is just the man a Texan drover is very anxious to see, and he is more interested in knowing just where he (the buyer) can be seen, than in all the railroad towns in the State of Kansas.
We drop this hint, a key which will unlock the pandora box of success, to every town that is desirous of making itself a successful cattle market.
One, at least, of Abilene's competitors for the cattle trade in 1868, became so desperate, when it found all its efforts to induce drovers to go its way, that, as a final resort, actually hired a drover, paying him six hundred dollars, to leave the Abilene trail and bear off east toward another city. But such inducements could not be extended to many drovers and soon the attempt to divert the trade in that direction was abandoned. The western competing points were even more unsuccessful and soon withdrew their unavailing solicitors.
As has been stated, the Cottage at Abilene was full of cattle-buyers awaiting the arrival of the cattle from Texas, long before the first herd had passed the southern line of Kansas. No sooner did the cattle begin to arrive than trade opened lively and at good prices. Many thousand were taken by Illinois grazers and Indian contractors, also ranch-men from Colorado, Montana, Utah and other Northern territories. Speculators from Nebraska, Iowa, and other northern States, all put in an appearance on the Abilene market and made purchases.
Thus Abilene as a cattle market was at last established beyond cavil or doubt. The demand for cars for eastern shipment reached over one thousand during the month of June, and the hitherto incredulous Kansas Pacific Railroad Co. was taxed to its utmost capacity to furnish needed cars. It was compelled to transform many of its flat cars into cattle cars, by putting a frame work on them. The bridge over the Missouri river was not completed at that time and the chance to hire foreign cars was very limited.
Every effort was made in good faith to so arrange and conduct the cattle trade as not to work a hardship upon the few settlers then in the county, and to this end a man was employed to locate on eligible herding grounds, the herds as fast as they arrived. This man, W. F. Tomkins, detailed to this duty, was a venerable gentleman whose head was whitened by the cold blasts of many frigid Wisconsin winters, where he had seen better days, and a fine heritage of his own selection and improvement. But political ambition and surety debts made him a wiser but a poorer man, a wanderer seeking a retrieved fortune. This old gentleman had fine energy and unswerving honesty of purpose, and until the day of his death a firm hope that fortune would favor him. He received the sobriquet of "Almighty Dollar" from an impromptu and witty, yet withal sensible speech, made on the occasion of the shipment of the first train of cattle in 1867. He was respected and loved by all who knew him for his sterling honesty, his energy and good practical sense, and his memory is, and always will be, sweet and green to more than one heart that knew him. And many true, sad friends who followed his bier to its last resting place, just north of the village of Abilene, upon a prairie mound overlooking the scene of his last labors, felt that they were paying a merited tribute of respect -- the last office of love to one of earth's few really good men-- one who deserved better fortune than was given him.
But there was one character that Texan drovers, and for that matter everybody else, that ever visited Abilene during its palmy days, will remember, and will laugh while they recall to mind the phiz, the actions, the gestures and above all the talk -- that irresistible unanswerable avalanche on words that was always heard, when near the immense "Twin Barn;" flowing from the lips of the irrepressible Ed. Gaylard; the natural born livery man. For a succession of years, the opening of each cattle season would find Gaylard making all necessary arrangements to conduct a first class cattle man's livery stable. A half dozen ponies, a couple of second-hand buggies, two or three second-hand saddles and riding bridles, with about one ten-dollar note borrowed of some confiding friend, was all the capital and stock he required to begin business with. It would be but a few short weeks after the opening of the cattle trade before every stall -- fully one hundred or more -- would be full of cow ponies. Some he had traded for, others boarding only. It was a rare instance that an applicant for livery accommodation was turned away unaccommodated; no matter what he thought he wanted, Gaylard always could give him just what he called for, or convince him that some other available outfit was what the customer really ought to want. Should the applicant happen to be an over fastidious, or a ''fine-haired" specimen of the genus homo, Gaylard would certainly manage to get him upon some inveterate, desperate Spanish pony, whose first and last impulse would be to "buck" as long as it had strength. ()f course Gaylard would, at first, extol the pony to the skies as the best of saddle ponies; gentle, kind, amiable, affectionate, and in every way delightful to ride. Of course, as soon as the man was mounted, the vicious brute would set off "bucking" at a furious rate -- as nearly all western ponies do when first mounted -- and never let up until the amateur horseman was sent sprawling through the air, only to land roughly on the ground in an utterly demoralized condition. Then Gaylard would swear that he bought the pony of a Preacher who recommended the animal as being a lady's horse, and declare he believed the pony perfectly gentle, and that its conduct was only play and nothing vicious intended. But all this was poor comfort to the dirt-begrimmed customer, who invariably concluded to wait for an opportunity to walk, or decide he did not really care to go out into the country at all.
In a few weeks the incurred bills on the boarding ponies would be sufficient to buy every pony in the barn, aside from the odd, nice cash sums, that the enterprising livery man had accumulated by letting his boarding ponies. And such bills as he could manage to make out and present with the sang froid of a pettifogger, was astonishing to his patrons. It was no use to complain or dispute his bills, or grumble, or swear at what you might call extortion, or declare you would not pay it. The instant a murmuring breath would escape your lips, he would open such a battery of slang and abuse, highly seasoned with impious expressions, to which would be added all sorts of hints about the penurious man who did not want to pay for first class accommodations, that you would gladly pay your bill and run. It was idle to attempt a stag of his speech or answer his torrent of good natured abuse. You could not think, much less speak one half so fast as the livery man could talk; and such expressions, such tongue lashings as a complaining patron would receive, would induce him to pay his bill, no matter how exhorbitant, and rush away, glad to escape. Often a patron would be indignant and want to fight, but Gaylard never got mad, but talked so incessantly that anger could neither do or say anything but submit and retreat. Nevertheless, Gaylard had innumerable friends, in fact no one was his enemy. He was a shrewd horse trader, a very jockey by nature, and loved a horse better than all other things combined. Each cattle season he would acquire from four to five thousand dollars worth of ponies, buggies, and other accouterments; but during the winter, when but little business was doing, he would become reckless, and by the opening of spring would have recklessly spent his previous summer's profits and be ready to take his place and make another raise off of the cattle trade. He was a man of good impulses, undaunted energy, of excellent judgment on all matters pertaining to a horse, and had a big, true heart full of sympathy for the unfortunate.
J. M. Day of Austin, Texas, is a Missourian by birth, but at the early age of ten years emigrated to Texas with his father, who went at once into stock ranching, and adhered closely thereto during the remainder of his life; thus thoroughly and practically educating his son in the business of live stock raising. As soon as Mr. Day had attained the years of manhood he engaged in live stock driving on his own account, having a few years previously went as assistant driver with a herd to Kansas City, also one or more trips to Tipton, Missouri, where the herds were shipped to St. Louis. This was among the first shipments of Texan cattle brought to the St. Louis market, and was as early as 1857. But before the trade was fairly opened the civil war began, and further efforts to drive northward was abandoned. At the close of the war Mr. Day turned his attention to his old occupation and was a drover of 1866, but one of the fortunate few who had sagacity sufficient to enable them to see that a route west of all settlement m Western Kansas was practicable, and so it proved in his case. In Iowa he found cash purchasers for his cattle, at figures that afforded a fine profit.
The opening of a cattle market at Abilene induced him to put several herds upon the trail for Western Kansas. From the year 1868 to 1871, inclusive, Mr. Day annually drove from three to seven thousand head of cattle, and his herds were generally of good quality, well selected beeves. He was recognized as one of the most substantial, straight-forward, honorable drovers that engaged in the Western cattle trade. Seeing so many engaged in driving, Mr. Day decided to abandon it, and devote his time and capital to buying and selling in Kansas -- a kind of local trader or speculator, -- and for two years has handled fully ten thousand head each year, never failing to make a reasonable profit on each transaction. Whilst he has been looking after the cattle in Western Kansas for a few months annually, he has devoted the balance of his time in establishing and opening up a large wheat farm and a thoroughbred stock ranch in Denton county, Northern Texas, which enterprise he expects to make his permanent business, and there expects to make his home.
Mr. Day is one of those quiet, affable gentlemen, that makes good impressions and warm friends wherever he goes. Texas has few better, truer men than he; kind hearted and honorable, straightforward in all his business transactions, he has much good will and hearty cheer for every one.