THE EFFECT OF THE SPANISH FEVER EXCITEMENT ON THE ABILENE CATTLE MARKET -- AUCTION SALES -- LASSOING BUFFALO -- PROHIBITORY LEGISLATION IN ILLINOIS -- RESISTING AND AMENDING THE BILL -- CERTIFICATES UNDER SEAL -- THE NOTARY PUBLIC -- CONTRACT WITH RAILWAY COMPANY -- OPENING OF CATTLE TRADE, 1869 -- THE CONDUCT AND CHARACTER OF JUNTA, WHICH BUILT, AND FIRST OPERATED THE K. P. RAILWAY -- CHARLEY STRAUSENBACH -- T. J. ALLEN -- J. B. HUNTER.
Fully seventy-five thousand cattle arrived at Abilene during 1868; one-fourth of which were taken by Illinois grazers and shipped to pastures during the month of June. Several thousand were taken by territorial operators. But when the Spanish fever excitement broke out, all trade and demand ceased, and a dullness, amounting to distress ensued. Finally, great uneasiness began to be manifested by the drovers who had not sold, lest there would be no more demand, and many began to talk of driving off to other points. Especially was this the case with those who had driven mixed or stock herds, for which there was little or no demand. As it had proved futile to try to prevent Texans from bringing stock cattle to market, the next thing was to find buyers for such as were there. The parties interested in Abilene were anxious to make it a complete market for everything in the line of live stock that was brought to it. Finally the plan of advertising a large semi-monthly public sale of stock cattle to take place at the shipping yards was hit upon and a large number of handbills, dodgers, &c., announcing the auction sale, were provided, and young men were sent by train all over western Missouri and Iowa, eastern Nebraska and Kansas, to distribute them. The first sale was largely attended, and one thousand head of stock was sold at satisfactory prices. Before the day arrived for the second sale, every herd of stock cattle on the range was sold. Such was the result of the advertising done. But no buyers for the grown cattle, or beeves, arrived, and it was thought best to do something to call public attention to the fact that there were twenty-five thousand or more grown cattle for sale at Abilene. The plan adopted was to send east a car load of wild Buffalo, covering the side of the car with advertisements of the cattle. But how to get the Buffalo -- that was the question.
The frame or slats of an ordinary stock car were greatly strengthened by bolting strong, thick plank parallel with the floor, and about three feet above it, to the sides of the car. Putting in a camp outfit, and supplies abundant in one car, and a half dozen horses, well trained to the lasso, in another car, a party of half a dozen, departed for the buffalo regions, out into which the Kansas Pacific Railway was then being operated. Arriving at Fossil Creek siding, the cars were put upon the side track, and camp pitched. The horses were unloaded by means of an inclined plane or platform, temporarily improvised for that purpose. In the party were three or four Texan cow boys, also three California Spaniards, all experts with the lasso. After partaking of a hearty dinner, the party saddled up the ponies, and started out in quest of the buffalo, Although they were not plenty upon that portion of the plains at that date, yet the time was brief before a huge old bull was spied, and immediately preparations to chase and lasso him, were made. Circling around, he was started in the direction of the railroad, and when within a few hundred yards thereof, a sudden dash was made upon him by two Spaniards, and in the twinkling of an eye their lariats were around his neck. So soon as the old monarch found himself entangled, and his speed checked, he became furiously enraged, and alternately charged first at one and then the other of his pursuers. It was noticeable how intensely angry he became; he would drop his head and stiffen his neck, set his tail erect over his back, and with eyes green with pent-up wrath, await the near approach of his tormentors. So soon as one came near, he would plunge at him, and pursue at his utmost speed, so long as there was the least hope of overtaking him. Then stop and whirl about, and attack his nearest pursuer. After getting him quite close to the railroad back by stratagem, the third lasso was adroitly thrown around his hind legs, and in a jiffy the great behemoth was lying stretched, helpless upon the ground. It was vain for him to struggle, the well trained horses watched his every motion and kept the lariats as tight as fiddle-strings, shifting their positions dexterously, to check or counterbalance his every motion. When he ceased to struggle, his legs were securely tied together with short splashes of rope or thongs previously prepared for the purpose, then the lassos were taken off, and after adjusting the inclined plane, a block and tackle were brought into requisition, one end of which was attached to his head, the other to the top of the opposite car door, and before the hot panting bison was aware of what was being done, he was aboard the car; his bead securely bound to a post of the car frame, and his feet relieved. He would not bound up and show fight, but lay and sulk for hours. In two days ten full grown bull buffaloes were lassoed, but the weather being very hot, four of them died from the heat and the anger excited by capture. Three became sullen, and laid down before they could be got near the cars, so but three were got aboard in good condition.
It was very exciting to witness the feat of lassoing one of those powerful monsters; to see how skillful those Spaniards could throw the lariat, and above all, how well trained were the horses. From the moment the lasso was thrown they seemed to know just what motion or maneuver was necessary to counteract whatever motions the captured animal might make. It is astonishing what strength they develop; how much they can draw forward, or hold back by the horn of the saddle, fully twice their own weight. It is impossible to divert their attention from the captured animal or entangle them in the lasso. They know by experience the consequences.
After hanging upon each side of the car, a large canvass, upon which a flaming advertisement was painted, in striking colors, of the cattle at or near Abilene, it was sent through to Chicago via St. Louis, eliciting a great amount of attention and newspaper comment. Upon arrival at Chicago, the buffalo were turned upon the enclosed commons of the stock yards, and afterwards presented to Prof. Gamgee, an English veterinary surgeon, who sent their stuffed hides to London. This advertising feat was followed by an excursion of Illinois cattle men to the West. The party was taken to the end of the railway track, and upon returning to Abilene, was taken upon the prairies and shown the many fine herds of cattle. Several excursionists were induced to invest, and in a few clays the market assumed its wonted life and activity. Indeed it seemed to rebound from the depressing effects of the Spanish fever excitement, and long before the cold weather Set in, the last bullock was sold. The year of '68 closed with Abilene's success as a cattle market of no mean proportions, assured beyond cavil or doubt. Indeed Texan cattle became suddenly very popular and in great demand for packing purposes, and those of suitable size and quality outsold the shorthorns of the same weights. It was held that a fat Texan was better for packing purposes than a native; that their meat was "marbled," that is, the fat distributed in alternate layers with the lean fiber, and when cut presents the appearance of variegated marble.
The fall of 1868 afforded the first brief season in which a dollar could be made by shipping Texan cattle to market; during which time the parties, who had expended so much labor and money at Abilene, and had sustained such great losses, were able to cover a small portion thereof.
The speculation in buying and shipping cattle was not their chief source of profit, but there existed a written contract between the Kansas Pacific Railway and themselves, wherein the Railway Company agreed to pay them one-eighth of the gross amount of freights that they would procure to be shipped over the Railway, east from Abilene. It was upon, or in consideration of the guarantees of this contract, that they had made such lavish expenditures of money and labor to establish a permanent cattle market end shipping depot at Abilene. The contract was not limited as to time, but was by its terms, as perpetual and binding as the charter upon which the road was built. The Illinoisans very naturally thought that if they could but establish, beyond competition, Abilene as the place to sell and ship cattle, no matter at what cost in 1868, that in future years they would have but an easy time, and but little effort to reap great profit. Not dreaming for a moment but what the Railway Company would stand up manly and honorably to its part of the contract. But in this they soon found they were in great error. When the Railway offices at St. Louis were visited for the purpose of settling up for the first season's work, in which about twenty-five hundred cars of cattle had been loaded at Abilene, they were blandly informed by the executive committee of the Railway Company, that the committee had concluded that it had made a mistake in making such a contract, and had determined to demand the cancellation thereof, and until that demand was complied with the Railway Company would pay no part of the amount or sum already earned, and in future years would not furnish a single car to any parties desiring to load at Abilene. This was the style and character of honor, the recompense, the honorable treatment (?), the little piping President, had assured, in the beginning would be accorded to such parties as would load their trains with eastward bound freight. It was honesty and honor indeed (?) with a vengeance. It was idle to remonstrate, or point out the labors, losses and expenditures which had been incurred to open up and establish the cattle trade. It was futile to show them wherein they were acting in mean, bad faith, or how their proposed course would bring financial ruin on the heads of their best friends and servants. To all such appeals the committee was as deaf and callous, as mean, dishonest, avaricious men could be.
Rather than to cancel that contract, the Illinoisans offered all the establishments for the convenience of cattle trade at Abilene, for one-fourth of their cost; but this the committee would not accept -- nothing but cancellation would it have. To obtain this, it proposed to make a contract at a lower rate, such as it claimed the Railway Company could afford to give, and the Illinoisans afford to work for, but without cancellation of the original contract it would do nothing; but fight and seek to ruin the very men that in the beginning it so cordially pledged itself to uphold and sustain. After several ineffectual efforts to adjust matters, and obtain the money so dearly earned, the Illinoisans decided, rather than to enter into a legal contest, to accede to the committee's unjust demand for cancellation, and then for two of the three brothers to withdraw from any connection with the Abilene enterprise and leave the younger one (who had first conceived the project), to continue its operation. When this was done -- the contract cancelled -- the money was paid; an amount not equal to one-third of the expenditures incurred by the Illinoisans previously in establishing the cattle market and shipping depot at Abilene.
During the pending of the controversy between the railroad company and the Illinoisans, the Legislature of Illinois met in regular session. From the Danville Senatorial District which included Tolono and most all that portion of country which had suffered losses by the introduction of Texan cattle via the Mississippi river, came a State Senator, elected and specially deputed to secure the passage of an act totally prohibiting the introduction of Texan cattle into the State of Illinois. And in pursuance of this purpose he introduced a bill, the provisions of which were absolute prohibition of long-horn kine, no matter where raised, wintered or fatted. It was impossible for language to convey or express stronger proscriptive provisions, than those found in that bill. It was not only sweeping in its provisions as to Southern cattle, but at all times of the year, and under all circumstances, even proposing to debar Southern cattle from passing through the State by rail, or otherwise to the eastern markets. In short its provisions could not have been made more prohibitory, nor its penalties for violation scarce more severe. Inasmuch as the State of Illinois extends from Lake Michigan to the Ohio river, every car of freight from the West, whether dead or alive, must pass through it, in order to reach the eastern markets. There being no available practical routes either south or north of it, to the eastern cities. Therefore the success of that measure as introduced, would have been, not only ruin to the Southern cattle trade and all those engaged in it, but absolute ruin to the Abilene enterprise.
To defeat the measure, or at least modify it, absorbed the undivided attention of the younger Illinoisan, who held the Abilene enterprise so near his heart. During a session of seventy-two days he could have been seen watching and resisting that bill in all its various stages of passage. In the Senate where the principal fight was made, the bill had some active enemies, and often could the young Illinoisan have been seen in earnest consultation with them, discussing or devising plans to defeat or modify the measure, or so amend it, that wholesale ruin would not be entailed upon him. It was plain, that unless there was some place where Texan cattle could be unloaded, no one would care to load or ship any of them, and if none were shipped nothing could be made out of the Abilene enterprise. That measure did not go before a committee, that he did not there meet and fight it direct, or by delaying action upon it. It was perfectly unaccountable how the clerk of the committee would forget the manuscript of the bill at his room, always too far off to permit him to go and get it in time for that session of the committee. Then the next meeting, a part of the committee would be unavoidably absent, attending the sessions of some other committee, or off on a big drunk if nothing else. No quorum being present an adjournment would occur. When its consideration was had, a great effort was made to secure the adoption of a substitute, which provided ample guarantees and provisions, a thousand times better calculated to be regarded and enforced, to protect the short-horn cattle from disease, than all absolute prohibitory measures ever enacted by legislatures. But the famous convention of experts had recommended prohibition, and no other idea or principle could be successfully presented. It was found impossible to defeat the measure, outright, but upon its final passage in the Senate, an amendment, permitting wintered Texan or Southern cattle to come at any time was adopted. The evidence that the cattle had been so wintered, should be the certificate of any officer "bearing seal." This amendment was adopted by one majority only, but that was enough. The Illinoisan was satisfied to have the bill (with the amendment) enacted; and to guard it, and prevent the amendment from being stricken off by the author of the bill, became his daily care.
The Senator from Danville swore terribly, charging that the very vitals of his pet measure were cut out by the amendment, and that he should see that the bill was restored to its pristine provisions. To prevent this, resort was made to the tactics of delay. It was astonishing how long it took the public printer to print the bill, and then it took the public binder at least a week to accomplish what he might have done in a few hours. When the bill went before the lower house of the legislature, it was after an inexplicable delay, referred to the proper committee. It seemed next thing to an impossibility for that committee to get a quorum at the sittings, at which that bill was to be considered, and then when it finally got together, the clerk thereof, who had in custody the bill, was reported at his room, fully a mile away, too sick to attend; so another series of adjournments were had. Finally, near the end of the legislative session, the committee hastily considered the measure, and unanimously decided to report it just as it was without alteration. It was feared that if the Senate amendment was stricken off, the time would be too short to pass it. Then the amended bill -- although it was plain, so far as its prohibition clauses were concerned, would be a dead letter on the statute book -- would perhaps satisfy the enraged populace of the Danville district. So it was passed on the last day of the session, just as it came from the Senate, and was signed, although reluctantly, by the Governor, and thus became a law.
Perhaps no severer struggle against overwhelming numbers, was ever witnessed in the history of the legislation of Illinois. Where one man, an inexperienced lobbyist, a mere cattle man without means, and almost unaided, successfully combated a measure of which nine-tenths of the lower house and a majority of the Senate were in favor; he practically defeated it by securing the adoption of such amendments as made its principal and objectionable clauses entirely inoperative and worthless.
For it was astonishing the following summer how many "wintered cattle" arrived at Abilene. In fact it was found difficult to get a steer or cow, four or five years old, without it having been "wintered" somewhere.
And as to those "certificates under seal," there was no trouble to procure them in abundance of a hatchet-faced, black headed limb of the law, a veritable notary public, at Abilene. He was one of those unprincipled, petty demagogues, whose highest idea of professional honor was to disclose the secrets of his client's business to any one who would give him a pittance therefor; one who never failed to betray his employer, or engage in any low, scavenger work for which he could get pay, no matter how small the sum -- who to this day is more widely known for his infamy than his ability. He had been for months oscillating between beggary and starvation, and was only too glad of the opportunity to "manufacture" certificates by the dozen, or the cart load, for a small consideration. Thus he became a convenience to enable cattle shippers, to evade Illinois' high sounding prohibitory legislation.
Indeed the long protracted effort of the legislature of Illinois, in bringing forth that great abortion, only served to again advertise Abilene, and Texan cattle, much as did the Convention of Experts, and create an increased feeling in favor of Texan cattle, and a wide-spread desire to handle them. So that when the season of 1869 opened, more buyers than ever before put in an appearance at Abilene, and trade was decidedly lively, at astonishingly good prices. Many herds of good beeves were taken at from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars per head. A brisk demand sprung up for Texan stock cattle for ranching purposes in the west.
Before the opening of the cattle season, the young Illinoisan visited the railway general offices at St. Louis, and made a contract with the Executive Committee of the K. P. Ry., and then proceeded to Kansas, and put all things in readiness for a good season's business.
However, since the Executive Committee had acted in such bad faith, not to say dishonorable and mean, concerning the previous contract, the Illinoisan decided to dispose of the Drovers' Cottage, and such other real property, except the shipping yards, as he held at Abilene, so that he would not be so completely at the mercy of the unprincipled avaricious Executive Committee. For it had already been seen that so long as much money was invested in large buildings, which, without a cattle trade, would not be worth three per cent. of their cost, the Railway Company had a great advantage with which to work oppression.
No one would care to own a hotel, with capacity to accommodate one or two hundred guests, located in the midst of an unsettled plain, where, without a foreign commerce, it could have no adequate paying custom. This state of affairs constituted the advantage that the railway executive committee held the Illinoisans, and the committee well understood it, and did not hesitate or scruple to take advantage of it and thus compel the cancellation of the original contract made with the Illinoisans. It was plain, that without a cattle trade, the thirty-five thousand dollars invested at Abilene in necessary accommodations for doing a large cattle business would have been almost a total loss.
Before the first of May, 1869, the advance herds of a drive of one hundred and fifty thousand head, began to arrive, and soon many buyers were in attendance from every northern and western territory, even California, Nevada and Washington Territory buyers were in attendance. Cattle changed hands at very satisfactory prices to the Texan drovers. The lately passed prohibitory law deterred for a few months the usual quota of Illinois buyers, for they did not know, and it took a little time for them to learn that so many "wintered cattle" were at Abilene. But they too soon became initiated, and were out in full force, to swell the number of buyers. Indeed it seemed that Abilene was destined to survive in spite of the Spanish fever, conventions of experts, and hostile legislation.
If it did not fail it was not the fault of the Kansas Pacific Railway's executive committee, and their Superintendent, who was a cold, calculating man, not over scrupulous, and one in whom it was absolutely impossible to inspire or awaken the smallest particle of warmth or enthusiasm. Indeed he well merited the appellation of "old frigidity," from his near resemblance to an iceberg. But he was like his employers, not over scrupulous about repudiating contracts. It was a day of general rejoicing among the attaches and employees of the railway when he took his departure, and gave place to another, in whom a little blood, and the "milk of human kindness" could be found. Instead of the railway company co-operating with Abilene, as they had engaged to do, and as any one would naturally suppose they would have done, to make it the shipping depot; the cattle point; and by such concentrated effort build up a permanent cattle market on the line of the road; instead of this, they began to intrigue, and devise plans to divert as much of the cattle trade to other points on the road as possible. In pursuance of this plan, they repudiated every former engagement made, and spent many thousands of dollars in building shipping yards at Brookville -- a town laid out and owned by the railway company or the managers thereof -- and at other points west of Abilene, and gave lower rates of freight per car, per mile, than was given from Abilene.
Great efforts were made to induce the company to withdraw such lands from market as they owned, in the west half of Dickinson County, and hold them as a reserve for grazing purposes, and to secure such Congressional legislation as would have established a national highway on or about the sixth principal meridian, over which the cattle commerce of Texas, could and would have flowed on to the line of their road for many years, undisturbed by State legislation.
But no such enlightened and intelligent policy found favor with the railway company. Theirs was one of narrow selfishness, such as induced them to hazard the loss of the cattle trade, by dividing and diverting it to points where they owned, a part at least, of the town site.
Indeed it was the custom of the Junta, who built, and first operated the Kansas Pacific Railway, to compel the owner of any town site along their line, to give them one-fourth to one-half the town site. In penalty for refusing to comply with the demands, no Depot accommodations would be furnished -- no matter how much business was done at the station. Thus the proprietors of Abilene gave the Railway Company the right of way -- a strip of land, one hundred feet wide, through a section of land, a distance of one mile, and for the distance of one-fourth of a mile, gave an additional strip of two hundred feet -- all in consideration that a good Depot should at once be erected. The deed conveying the land was made and recorded; but what was the surprise and chagrin of the proprietors of the town when they saw, after tedious delay, a shabby clapboard shanty, twelve by fourteen feet in dimensions, put up on blocks with a pent up platform, as "the ample Depot accommodations." The whole structure could not have cost over one hundred and fifty dollars, and was not as good as a humane man would provide for a donkey stable. In it was to be found accommodations (?) for freight arriving and departing; a freight office; a telegraph office; a ticket office; a baggage room; a gentlemen and ladies' waiting room. The balance of the enclosed space we suppose was devoted to the agent, in which to practice the art of gentility and politeness; at any rate he was a rare gem illustrative of all those graces. When the Railway Company was remonstrated with, it coolly demanded one-half the town site -- both of the land laid off in lots and the balance outlying. This modest (?) request was declined, but as a punishment no better Depot was built for four of five years. This may be taken as an index of character of the Junta and its manner of treating other towns along its line. In fact, its tactics and practice were to induce men of energy and means, by fair promises and advantageous contracts, to locate and invest their money and labor at some point on the line, and then remorselessly crush and financially ruin them. It did not scruple to repudiate contracts, or act in any manner that would accomplish its mercenary purpose. It is as fortunate for the welfare of the public, as it is for the interests of the stockholders of the Railway, that the administration and management of that line have been changed, and men installed in power who respect the rights of private individuals; and who by pursuing an honorable course have and are making friends for the Railway as fast as its former management made enemies, which is at a rapid rate.
The cattle season of 1869 brought to Abilene many, local traders and shippers, men who bought and sold on the prairie, and men who bought and shipped to the eastern markets. The latter class are commonly called cattle shippers, and such as appeared on the western markets were usually young men of energy and more or less good judgment, who made it their special business to keep posted on the condition of the eastern markets, and especially just where they could profitably place a car load or two of fat cows or butchers' steers. The local dealers and shippers were ever wide awake, looking for chances to invest their usually small capital in a little herd or bunch of cattle such as they would know just where to place. Of this class of shippers, perhaps no better type could be found than Charley Strausenbach, a veritable Dutch boy, as his name would indicate; one who came to America in his extreme youth, and has spent many years roaming over the North American continent, and has tried every clime and business, from sailing as ship's butcher on a Pacific Mail Steamer, to driving goats from Lower into Upper California, and even into British America, and retailing their carcasses to the miners, as mutton, antelope or venison, just as suited the whim or taste of his customer.
If there is any corner on the continent he has not been in, it is not now known. He is one of those "stubby, pluggy," irrepressible Dutchmen, that is always doing something be it much or little; always ready to have a good time; to go any where, to see anything. In business he is shrewd and honorable; loves very well to make money, and full as well to spend it. He would as soon buy a thousand cattle as a dozen, but never takes the blues if he can't buy one. He is full of energy and get up, always looking for a chance to make a good speculation. Annually he is found on the frontier market, and there are but few drovers who do not know Charley, and have for him a hearty welcome. Perhaps the entire list of local cattle shippers of the West could not produce a more eccentric character than he, and certainly none has wider acquaintance with the drovers and cow boys.
But there is another class of shippers who do business on a different scale -- those who buy of the largest, fattest herds of fresh driven cattle, or such as have been wintered in the Northern States, and are maturely fatted. Usually this class of shippers send their consignments to eastern markets, often to the Atlantic cities. This class of operators require a much larger capital than the local shipper or he who sells his stock in the first market he reaches.
There are many good young men engaged in the perilous, or hazardous, business of cattle shipping. It requires a man of more than ordinary good "cattle sense" and business judgment, and prudence, besides considerable capital, to be able to continue the business of cattle shipping for any great length of time without becoming bankrupt.
Every western cattle market annually ruins a full score of young, ambitious energetic cattle shippers, who begin with a few thousands, or perhaps only hundreds of dollars, and essay to take the city of good fortune and great wealth by storm; or attempt to climb the slippery pole of speculation, and thus avoid the slow, and long plodding way of constant labor, and small annual profits. But, "alas! poor Yorrick," they are numbered soon among the operators that were, and moodily meditating upon the mutability of things earthly; feeling very much like joining some Church, teaching Sunday School, or going as Missionary to some far off isle; drop out of sight and give place to their successors who are crowding close upon their heels, more than over anxious to plunge into the inviting waters of speculation, only in turn to be swallowed up in the inevitable malstrom of ruin. Strychnine is not more certain death when swallowed into the physical system, than is persistent cattle shipping to the financial body. It has been truly said that whatever Deity may have made, or ordained, He has not yet created the man who can persistently ship cattle upon the system the business is usually done in the west, for a term of ten years without an aggregate loss greater than his gains. Usually in half that time, or less, the losses are greater than the gains and capital combined. One of the principle reasons of this is that the cattle shipper becomes reckless, loses his wonted caution and buys to receive in the future, by which time the markets are often much lower than the one upon the basis of which he made the purchase. Again the market is quite liable to decline between the time of shipment and arrival at destination The cattle market is one of frequent violent and sudden fluctuations, and shippers generally meet more downward fluctuations than any other kind. But we introduce our reader to Thomas J. Allen, a cattle shipper who is fast becoming well and extensively known throughout the west. He is of that florid complexion and impulsive temperament, well calculated, if not necessary, to constitute a cattle speculator and shipper. Born in Illinois, on a farm, and closely drilled in that staid avocation from which he gradually deviated by feeding live stock for four or five years, annually shipping it to market, and just taking along "a few of his neighbor's to pay expenses," which of course they do. The first ventures were nearly always successful, and the money seemed so easily made that he finally decided to leave the slow-plodding ploughman's life, and go west and try his hand exclusively in the great faro game of cattle-shipping. Not content to stop at Kansas City, or the near west, he entered the very recesses of the Rocky Mountains, and brought from the far famed valleys of San Louis, Wet Mountain and South Park, fully five thousand head of fatted cattle, climbing with his herds over the snow-clad peaks in mid August's hottest day. A more inspiring, beautifully picturesque scene was never beheld than the long drawn out line of fat bovines following their leader up the mountain gorges, over vast snow drifts, up among the ancient peaks where Old Boreas and hoary winter hold perpetual sway over loftiest realms. But Mr. Allen is not the man to be daunted by obstacles or serious difficulties, and more than one herd of cattle listened to the echo of his voice of command among the granite peaks and yawning canyons of the snowy range. He had the distinguished privilege of shipping the first train load of cattle from Denver, Colorado. He is a young man of fine energy, affable address, and one who has many friends in the West. It matters little whether dame fortune smiles or frowns, he is ever up and doing. His persistent perseverance will always lead him into business, and the great, broad, new West affords ample opportunities and facilities for men of his type to lay well the foundations, and build strong and high the superstructure of great wealth, and Mr. Allen is just the man to improve well his great opportunities.
Few men gain national reputation as cattle shippers, for but few men's money will last long enough; or in other words, few can manage to weather adverse markets, bad purchases, and occasional mismanagement for any considerable length of time. Perhaps there is not a better specimen of a persistent live stock shipper in the United States, if in the world, than John B. Hunter, of Illinois, which is the State of his nativity. A man of near three score years; and since his earliest manhood, has been engaged marketing live stock. At first, his capital being quite limited, he was able to buy not above twenty-five head of cattle at one time. These he would drive to the St. Louis market, then the principal, if not the only one in the West, there being no such thing in the West as a railroad. In this small way did he begin his trading life, and by diligence, energy and persistent application to business, never shrinking from doing the most irksome portions of the necessary labor with his own hands, lay the foundation of a substantial fortune. Indeed, there has been times in the last twenty years, that he could have retired from business with a handsome competence, if not actual great wealth. As year by year passed away his business steadily increased, his droves became larger and larger, until he: be- came to be recognized as the largest operator in the St. Louis live stock market.
In his early business years, when the season arrived for moving the hog crop of the country, he was among the most active, often driving thousands and sending numbers of teams loaded with hogs, such as were too fat to travel on foot, not hesitating if need be to drive a team with his own hands. In later years, when the live stock trade of the Mississippi Valley developed into larger proportions, his growth in business was commensurate therewith. All the while he was devoting his attention to the live stock traffic, he was not unmindful of his farming interests. His first purchase was a small tract of scarce more, than forty acres of tillable land, to which he added such other tracts as time and his improved circum- stances would permit. Finally, after a series of successful operations, he purchased a fine large farm near Greenville, the finest tract of land in the county. Upon this he made his permanent home. During the war he furnished many thou- sands of cattle to the Union armies. At its close, he returned to cattle shipping, generally to the Philadelphia market, but lately to New York.
There are few departments or phases of the live stock business of the Northwest or West that he is not familiar with, and of which he has not a practical knowledge, obtained by actual experience therein. From his earliest manhood he has been a feeder of live stock, often on a very large scale and in every known manner of feeding. In yards upon corn, and in pastures, hay or corn-stalks, and in the stillhouse, he has been an extensive and successful cattle feeder. He was among the first to full and successfully corn feed large lots of Texan cattle, at which he has had extraordinary success. By an extensive and liberal series of experiments he demonstrated the superiority of shelled corn, as being the best food upon which to fatten Texan cattle, and by that manner of feeding has produced extraordinary good fat cattle in short periods of time.
A small herd of Texan cattle fed by him were successfully exhibited at Kansas City, during the Exposition of 1873, and were pronounced the fattest ever seen.
During 1870 he extended his operations west, and was among the heaviest operators and shippers from Abilene and other western points. But few Texan drovers do not know his familiar name, and but few have not had business transactions with him. His cattle shipments reached the enormous aggregate of from forty to sixty thousand head annually. The capital to conduct so large a business must necessarily be very large, and the men in his employ, clerks, shippers, drivers and assistants, were little less than a formidable army.
Of course in a business of such magnitude, the losses or profits must be large, for so large a game is never an even draw. Previous to the great panic of 1873, he was the only man in the United States who had managed to ship live stock constantly for a score or more years, without meeting such severe losses as to compel a suspension of business. But when that great panic came, the men who were doing the most business -- consequently were the most extended -- were the ones that suffered most. Indeed it was safe, and correct to conclude, when a man, firm or bank, boasted that they did not feel the effects of the crisis, that they were doing little or no business. John B. Hunter stood at the head of a firm, or house, which at the beginning of the panic was in the midst of handling a large number of cattle, amounting to many thousands of head, which had been bought at a previous time, when no human foresight could have seen the impending financial storm which wrecked so many of the strongest men and business institutions of the United States. His losses were very severe, this coupled with the persistent continuance of the financial stringency, compelled a suspension of the house which many hundred friends sincerely hope and believe will be but temporary. The event cast a deep gloom over the entire cattle business of the West; and precipitated events of a disastrous nature, from which it will require years for Kansas City and the western cattle trade to recuperate.
Mr. J. B. Hunter is a man of quiet turn and but few words -- a solid, substantial man, and one who has ever borne a high reputation for honorable, liberal dealing -- one who commands the highest respect of those who know him best -- a man of steady, temperate, business habits, and one of indefatigable energy and fine, sound judgment in all matters pertaining to live stock -- a good financier -- in short a genuine upright, self-made man, who has done great good to his fellow man, and deserves to be entitled a benefactor.