THE YEARS OF 1870 AND 1871 -- WINTERING CATTLE ON THE RANGE -- OPENING A CATTLE DEPOT AT NEWTON, KANSAS -- ABOLISHING CATTLE TRADE AT ABILENE -- WHO DID IT AND THE EFFECT THEREOF -- THE EDITOR AND STATE SENATOR -- HIS DUPLICITY AND DOWNFALL -- YE LOCAL EDITOR -- OPENING A CATTLE TRADE AT WICHITA -- DURHAM STOCK -- ANDREW WILSON -- "ROUGHING THROUGH."
The year of 1870 witnessed a drive of fully three hundred thousand head of cattle from Texas to Western Kansas. From all points North the buyers came flocking to Abilene.
As if to help out and complete the climax of success, all the railroad companies east of the Mississippi River engaged in a fierce war of competition for the carrying of live stock freights. The price of freight per car from Chicago to Buffalo, Albany and New York was but a trifle, sometimes as low as one dollar only per car. Indeed it is alleged that in several instances whole trains of cattle were carried from Chicago to New York for nothing. Rather than miss doing the business, they would pay the shipper something as an inducement, to permit his stock to be shipped free of charge. Of course this state of affairs had the effect to put up prices of cattle at Chicago, and correspondingly at other Western points. It was practically bringing ordinary New York prices to Chicago, and better than Chicago prices to Abilene. Hence it was not uncommon for a drover to realize a profit of fifteen to twenty-five dollars per head on his herd. The greatest possible activity prevailed, and there was a multitude of live stock operators in the field. Heavy train loads of cattle were shipped daily, mostly going direct to Chicago.
No drover whose stock was good for anything, had any trouble to find a buyer at good prices, and the season closed with the most satisfactory results to all interested. Many "through" or fresh driven herds sold at thirty to forty dollars per head, and from fifty to sixty dollars were realized for wintered herds, of which there were quite a large number. The season was dry, the grass was rich, and the cattle became very fat.
The following year, (that of 1871) the largest drive occurred ever known in the history of the trade. Fully six hundred thousand head of cattle arrived in Western Kansas. Indeed for miles North, South and West of Abilene, you could scarce be out of sight of a herd, and when upon a commanding hillock, overlooking any considerable amount of territory, often thirty, forty, or fifty thousand head of cattle could be seen at one view, grazing, herding and driving about like large columns of human beings.
But the season was a rainy, stormy one, and the cattle stampeded badly, besides the grass was coarse, washy and spongy, and would not make tallow. Again, the Railroads had adjusted their differences, or exhausted their belligerent proclivities, and had agreed upon a high freight tariff on live stock from Chicago east. There seemed to be an entire change of feeling in regard to cattle; a complete reverse of those existing during the previous year. There seemed to be but comparatively few buyers. The cattle daily grew poorer in flesh instead of fatter. So when any were put upon eastern markets, they brought low prices and weighed very light, thus discouraging further shipments. A great number of the herds were held until fall, hoping the later markets would be better, but when fall came there was but little better demand. Multiplied thousands were sent forward. In consequence of the number and poor condition of the cattle, the markets were over supplied and many shippers met disaster, and not a few financial ruin. Finally shipping had to be entirely abandoned, and other sources of disposal looked up.
It has been estimated that fully three hundred thousand head of cattle were put into winter quarters during the fall of 1871, mostly on the drover's own account. Of course there could not be found a sufficient amount of hay for so many cattle, and most of them were driven west on to the plains, where abounded plenty of buffalo grass. In regions where the tall blue stem grass covered the ground, the fire had swept over and left nothing to sustain animal life. The cattle had been held in most instances upon the coarse, dry, unnutritious grasses, hoping to find a purchaser, until they had become poor in flesh and weak from sheer starvation. Finally, when the last hope of selling had expired, or passed, they were put upon the Buffalo grass regions, and when suitable locations unoccupied were found, put thereon into winter quarters.
The buffalo grass is so short that prairie fires make but slow progress consuming it, but are easily extinguished. Before the herds had scarce arrived at their destined wintering ranges, a great rain storm set in and a keen cold wind sprung up at a brisk rate from the northwest, freezing the water into ice soon after reaching the ground. The whole surface of the earth had become thus encased to the thickness of two or three inches, covering and freezing the short buffalo grass up solid with sheets of ice. Then the furious gale of piercing wind continued, accompanied with sleet and snow, and lasted for three days and nights. Many men and horses froze to death; and as for the cattle, they perished by the thousand, or it might be truly said, tens of thousands. It was impossible to hold them in any given bounds. They were driven before the storm, or, in cattle man's parlance "drifted" with the gale. Wherever the poor brutes stopped to rest, and laid down, many were found frozen stark stiff, and dead; often in just the position that they had taken when they first laid down. It was wholesale death to the stock, and widespread ruin to the owners. Many drovers lost more than their all; others, who previously regarded themselves as being worth seventy-five to one hundred thousand dollars, found themselves suddenly made bankrupt. It was a disaster amounting in the aggregate to millions of dollars. Perhaps one-third to one-half of the dead animals were skinned, after the storm abated and the weather moderated, the balance were permitted to rot unmolested, save by the hungry wolf or wild varmint. At one railway station twenty thousand, at another thirty-five thousand, at another near fifty thousand hides were collected and shipped east. A single firm placed upon the Republican river over thirty-nine hundred head of cattle, and in the following spring could muster only one hundred and ten head of living cattle. Numerous other instances of equally disastrous loss could be cited.
The winter of 1871 will long be remembered by many drovers as one in which they met reverse, loss and financial ruin. It has been estimated that fully two hundred and fifty thousand cattle, and many hundred cow ponies perished. It gave a great check to the business of wintering on the range, or for that matter, upon hay, for the feeders lost heavily also. In the spring of 1871 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company completed their line as far west as the sixth principal meridian. At a point on the cattle trail sixty-five miles south of Abilene, was located the town of Newton. Early in the spring the Railroad Company, through its general manager, made arrangements with a cattle man, living near Topeka, Kansas, to erect and run a good stock yard, near Newton, and establish a shipping depot. He in turn employed the Illinoisan to do the work for him, agreeing to give him the earnings of the yards for his services, there being other considerations in the trade with the Railroad Company, of which the Topeka cattle man was to have the benefit. In pursuance of this agreement the Illinoisan set about stopping the incoming cattle herds near the new town of Newton, and succeeded in locating more than one hundred thousand head. After about three month's work a fine shipping yard was completed. When about one hundred and fifty cars had been loaded, and it was probable a good fall's business would be done, the Topeka cattle man began to devise means to break up the arrangement with the Illinoisan, and possess himself of the shipping yards. He was not long in finding a man who was willing to be a pliant instrument in his hands to accomplish his dishonorable scheme, being too cowardly himself to face the job. By securing the co-operation of the general manager of the railroad by false representation, they accomplished their dishonorable purposes. An amount of deceit, lying, and mean, underhand collusion was resorted to, to accomplish this feat of repudiation and bad faith, that was anything but creditable to the parties engaged in it. Indeed the whole affair was one beneath the dignity of decent, honorable men, and one that would have been least and last expected of the parties engaged in it.
A moderate business only was done at Newton, which gained a National reputation for its disorder and blood-shed. As many as eleven persons were shot down on a single evening and many graves were filled with subjects who had "died with their boots on."
The year of 1871 was the last one in which a cattle business was done at Abilene. The trade was driven away by the schemes and concerted actions of a trio of office seekers. Just how this was done or brought about will require a retrospect to the year 1868, in which Abilene was visited by a brace of town-site seekers, forerunners of a band of ministering angels who came from the far off land of Mendota, Illinois. Finding the proprietors of Abilene in a selling humor, they were not long in deciding to purchase, and in closing a contract for the entire town site.
Soon after this was accomplished they desired to establish a weekly newspaper. After casting about for a suitable person to publish a journal, not finding one in Illinois, they sent to northern Ohio and procured a biped of the genus editor; although but a feeble and doubtful specimen. Soon after the necessary contributions were made to defray the expense of shipping the editor and his press to Abilene, he arrived; then the villagers were as proud and put on as vain airs over the new acquisition, as they did when the Railway Company whitewashed the "ample depot accommodations." The editorial oracle had been duly installed in his new quarters, but a brief space of time before he affiliated with certain county officers, and they soon formed a ring or clique, which with consummate presumption undertook to manipulate all public matters, even assuming to dictate who should, and who should not have public offices, or in any manner have ought to say about matters of a public nature. Any one who dared act, or aspire, without first consulting them, would be denounced, maligned and slandered in a malicious manner. The sacredness of one's family circle would not be regarded or respected, but inuendoes and dark hints of a base nature, always wholly untrue, would be manufactured and published in the newspaper, or otherwise industriously circulated.
If any person was thought to be, or probably would be in the future, in their way, or was likely to indulge a desire to hold an office no matter how humble, who did not bow to them or acknowledge their assumed authority, he was assailed in the most malignant manner. And if the people chose, as they occasionally did, to elect such one, he was the object of their special malevolence, and no matter what he did, whether good or bad, he was weekly denounced, misrepresented, and slandered in unmeasured terms, and in the most vindictive spirit. This trio were as unscrupulous about the means by which they made money, as they were about acting in an indecent manner. They thought they could blackmail the cattle business on a large scale, as they had already done on a comparatively small one. Accordingly they hit upon the plan of publishing a notification, signed by themselves, to the drovers not to come back to Abilene, as they would not be tolerated in the county. They had a double purpose to serve by this; one of which was to cater to certain farmers who had suffered small grievances from the presence of the cattle trade, and thus secure political strength; the second object was to place themselves in open hostility to the cattle trade, expecting the following spring to be bought off. But the drovers took them at their words, and turned their herds to other points farther west, on the line of the Kansas Pacific Railway, or stopped at some eligible point on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. But few months elapsed in the following spring before the suicidal effect of the step taken by the politicians was painfully visible in Abilene. Four-fifths of her business houses became vacant, rents fell to a trifle, many of the leading hotels and business houses were either closed, or taken down and moved to other points. Property became unsalable. The luxuriant sunflower sprang up thick and flourished in the main streets, while the inhabitants, such as could not get away, passed their time sadly contemplating their ruin. Curses both loud and deep were freely bestowed on the political ring. The whole village assumed a desolate, forsaken and deserted appearance. The remaining inhabitants betook themselves to sueing each other, with a vigor equalled only by the famous Kilkenny cats. Some of the best citizens became entirely bankrupt from the sudden stagnation of trade, while others, with cadaverous cheek and weird eye, watched any ominous ripple in the sunflower, to see if perchance, a homesteader was making his entrance into the dead village, bringing farm products which could only be bartered off at very low prices if sold at all. It would be difficult to describe the revolution, -- the waking up to a realizing sense of where their former great prosperity had come from -- that occurred in the public mind. During the summer of 1872 petitions were freely circulated and numerously signed, praying inviting, begging the cattle men to return with their herds, but alas! it was too late. The trade had been turned to Western points, which were only too glad to profit by Abilene's suicidal folly. The editor busied himself with making excuses for the decline of Abilene's business and pretending that the cattle trade was of no benefit. He was an adept at making pretensions as well as insinuations. There was nothing so sacred or profane that he would halt or shrink from assuming or pretending to be, if it but promised him future political preferment.
Every secret society that would receive him upon any terms, he joined and sought to place himself at the head thereof. In fact there was nothing he would hesitate to prostitute to his own selfish purposes--that of aiding himself to get an office. It was his thought by day and his dreams by night. The rule by which all his acts were squared. The overshadowing, all prevailing ambition of his being. No stone was left unturned or unplaced that would, no matter how remotely, aid him to obtain an office. As to talent, or even average ability, he had little or none. Low cunning, shrewd wire-pulling, and cheeky presumption, coupled with loathsome flunkyism, and vindictive, unscrupulous hatred of all whom he could not manipulate, constituted his make up and capital. A closer inspection of the personal appearances of the editor, caused the gravest discussion and doubts in the minds of the villagers, whether he was a real human, or only an extremely well developed specimen of the ape family. The disposition and degree of manhood, or rather lack of manhood, that he soon developed, fixed the conviction that if at some time in the distant future, some enterprising phrenological Darwin should chance to exhume his cranium, it would be regarded as a rare specimen and as conclusive proof of the soundness of the "Darwinian Theory," an undeniable connecting link between the animal and human race. However, as the cranial formation would show but little brains before the ears, and still less above the eyes, but an enormous development behind the ears, where the bump of self-esteem and ambitious proclivities to seek office are supposed to be located; it would doubtless be classed as of doubtful origin or classification and labeled "A what is it." He spent many years in Ohio, unsuccessfully intriguing, planning and scheming to obtain office a kind of standing candidate. After practising diligently, his well learned tactics in Kansas for three or more years, he came forward for the office of State Senator from his district. On the meeting of the nominating convention he found that he was in the minority, but not to be daunted or defeated in his predetermination to serve and represent the people, whether they desired him or not, he, aided by the political clique or cabal, set about influencing the delegates by promises of future promotion or by threats of vengeance and political ostracism. By such means in connection with his misrepresentations and falsehoods concerning his opponents, he succeeded in securing the nomination by a bare majority. He freely used whisky and other unfair and indecent means to secure votes. His majority was near fifteen hundred less than that of his ticket A Presidential campaign only saved him from utter defeat. Soon after his election he became suddenly interested in a little town site, laid out near a water mill, built by a little Dutchman who had just previously held the office of County Treasurer.
It is surprising how, after holding the office of County Treasurer for one or two terms in Kansas, even a pauper can build expensive mills or palatial residences. But the public were at a great loss to understand of what earthly use a State Senator would be to the owner of a water mill.
But soon after he took his seat in the Legislature, he quietly introduced a bill, (No. 151) which was for an act, the provisions of which would have practically and completely placed the entire milling privileges of the river and county in the hands of the little Dutch miller, thus creating an oppressive monopoly. This measure was quietly passed through the Senate, the Senator making a naming speech in its behalf then tried to prevent his constituents from getting hold of it, but without success. The leading citizens of Abilene sent one of their number to the Capitol to look after the mysterious Senate bill, No. 151. Before it had passed the House and become a law, the delegate extraordinary from Abilene arrived, and lost no time in privately showing the members of the house the infamous intent of the measure, and they made short work of it. Thus the Senator's nice little scheme not only failed, but was ventilated and exposed to the eyes and understanding of his constituent. A more disgusted, exasperated and enraged people are not often seen. All over the county public meetings were held, the Senator denounced and called upon to resign.
When the Senator found his nice laid plans to sell out the farmers' interests had miscarried, his anger and furious passions knew no bounds. Upon returning to his home at Abilene he was publicly hooted and hissed, by a host of boys, yelling milldam in his ears. He was demoniacal in his rage, and frantic in his wrath. He denounced everybody connected with his exposure and humiliating downfall, especially the delegate sent down from Abilene, was the victim of his special vindictive malice. But the people had got their eyes thoroughly opened, and understood the animus of his vindictive malicious charges, and the object of their publication. A few of Abilene's leading business men established another paper which fast supplanted the Senator's. The community loathed him as a traitor, and corrupt dishonest legislator. The following fall the people of Dickinson county elected Dr. J. M. Hodge to the House, greatly to the disgust of the Senator; the very man whom he had villified so monstrously. This they did because the Doctor was a good able man; the one most capable of watching the Senator and protecting the peoples' interest from the Senator's dishonest schemes; and for the additional purpose of rebuking the Senator in unmistakable terms. Finally the Senator sold out his paper and home and left the district in disgust, but entirely unlamented. The tedious notice of the Senator has been somewhat prolonged that the reader could see what an unprincipled hypocritic scalawag can get into office in Kansas, and how he will try to enrich himself at the expense of his constituents and how, in time, he meets his merited downfall. This great ex-editor and ex-Senator had a soft-brained son, out of which he tried to make a local editor, but the boy's mental imbecility, in connection with his inordinate love of whisky, made the effort prove a failure. Which under the influence of his daily quart of inspiration he could write locals of one to three lines in length, but the habit of "inspiring" grew too fast and he failed totally as a local editor, but he became a profound success as a whisky guzzler.
Early in the spring of 1872 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was extended west from Newton, up the Arkansas River Valley; also by a branch road in a southerly direction to Wichita, a thriving frontier town of near two thousand inhabitants, located on the banks of the Arkansas river. It is favorably situated for the cattle trade, and when the branch railroad was nearly completed to it, many of the citizens became anxious to have the cattle trade centered there. Accordingly a well known Texan drover who had remained over winter in the county, and the Illinoisan, of Abilene, were employed; one to stop as many cattle upon the good grazing lands near Wichita, as possible, whilst the other put forth every effort and put in practice every advertising method with which he was familiar to draw cattle buyers to the point. The success attained was beyond the most sanguine expectation. During the first season nearly four thousand cars, containing nearly eighty thousand head of cattle, were shipped. Indeed there are few towns better located to do a good cattle business than Wichita.
During the same year (that of 1872) the cattle trade of the K. P. Railway was done from a point west of Fort Harker, fully sixty-five miles west of Abilene; a point with a grazing country inferior to that surrounding Abilene. Indeed time and experience has proven that no other such point as Abilene for the accommodation of a large cattle trade has, or can be found. The folly of permitting, or aiding it, to be driven therefrom, is yearly more apparent. We doubt not that the stupidity and bad faith of the old management of the K. P. Railway has cost the road the loss of more than five thousand cars of freight, worth near a quarter of a million of dollars, resides placing it at a serious disadvantage compared with what it once had, and might have maintained in the western cattle trade by an upright, judicious, honorable line of conduct and manner of dealing.
It is the purpose, or intended scope of this work, to give due notice and attention to every prominent cattle interest in the West, and not to be specially devoted to what is often termed the "long-horned," or Texan cattle interests, which although of very great magnitude, both in numbers and value, is by no means the only valuable or large cattle interest in the West.
The Durham or "short-horned" cattle raised and fed so extensively and profitably throughout the Northwest and West, are in almost every respect more valuable and profitable stock to breed and handle than any other throughout the entire West. The Durham blood is sought by breeders, and of late years, shrewd, enterprising Texan ranchmen have been sending young graded Durham bulls to their ranches, for the purpose of improving their stocks in blood and quality. They plainly see that Texas must improve her cattle in blood and quality, if she would longer compete successfully and profitably in the beef markets of the Union. It is beginning to dawn upon the understanding of the Lone Star ranchmen, that his only hope, as well as imperative duty toward himself, lies in improving the blood of his stock even at the expense of numbers.
While it is a well established fact that Texan cattle can be fatted upon corn, yet it is not so easily or successfully done as with the Durham, although it is quite as well established that Texan cattle will fatten better upon grass, than the native or "short-horn." Now, inasmuch as corn-fed and corn-fatted beef invariably brings better prices than the grass-fatted, it becomes a matter worthy of note to the producer, to secure such grades of cattle as will make the most valuable beef. It is also an item worthy of consideration to the ranchman, to breed that class or grade of cattle, which the corn feeder desires, and for which he will always pay good prices.
In Colorado it is made by statute, a punishable offense to permit a Texan, or scrub bull, to run at large, and ranchmen are authorized to shoot down such whenever and wherever they may meet them upon the commons. This law, in connection with the private enterprise of her ranchmen, is fast changing the form and appearance of Colorado native cattle. Indeed, it is astonishing, as well as highly encouraging, to note the marked improvement in color, form, and weight, arising from a cross of Texan cows with Durham bulls; although the latter may be common Grades only. In many instances the ordinary observer will scarce believe, or recognize that the cross, or half-breed, has any Texan blood in it. But little trace of the mother is transmitted to her offspring. which sell upon the eastern markets quite as well as other Durham grades of equal fatness, bred in the northwest.
There is nothing else which holds out the hope, and sure promise of so great reward for the investment, to Texan ranchmen, as the crossing of their cows with grade Durham bulls. If the cattle men of that State would import one car load of yearling bulls, of Durham blood, for each one thousand head of cattle they export annually; the lapse of time would be brief before a marked difference would be seen in the quality of their stock and the prices realized for Texan cattle. It is to be hoped that the ranchmen of that State will speedily realize the importance of improvement in blood their herds.
The great number of Texan cows and heifers that have been placed upon ranches throughout the west, coupled with the irrepressible desire for improvement, has given considerable impetus to the breeding of thoroughbred and grade bulls throughout the northwest, and especially in the country adjacent to Kansas City. The interest in thoroughbred short-horn cattle continually increases, as is plainly indicated by the sales that have occurred during the year of 1873. The demand from Colorado and Western Kansas, for superior bulls, has been, and still is, large.
No one has been more fortunate in establishing a large fine herd of short-horn cattle at the opportune time, and at just the right locality than Andrew Wilson of Kingville, Kansas. Few cattle men comparatively so young, are so widely known as he. Few have had the experiences, the successes, the failures, the advances, the reverses, the ups, and the downs that have fallen to his lot. He is widely known throughout Kansas, Colorado, and the west, alike for his eccentric character, as well as for his fine herd of short-horns, and his extensive operations in Texan cattle.
Mr. Wilson is a native of Ohio, but was reared in Central Illinois, where he early imbibed the notions and ideas of live stock speculations. In war times, when money was plenty, there was no difficulty in commanding as much money as was desired, and he sallied forth to Western Missouri, and essayed to try his hand in live stock operations. Within the space of three years time, he made a series of ventures, such as only a bold, almost reckless operator could, or would make, in which he was remarkably fortunate. Indeed the profits were so large that money ceased to have value in his estimation, and he scattered it as freely as he had made it. There existed no kind of an operation or investment, from a faro bank, to a purchase of ten thousand head of live stock, that he hesitated to invest in. Everything was advancing at a rate commensurate with the abundance and depreciation of the currency. It was only necessary to buy and hold, or buy to receive in the future, and a large profit was sure to be realized. It only required nerve, and of this he had more than a supply; indeed he was all energy and nerve, and had no caution or fear of results whatever.
It has been said with truth, that to be successful in the first speculation is infinitely worse in the long run for a young man than a severe reverse or heavy loss. Be this as it may, success was not a blessing. unless one in disguise, to Andrew Wilson. However he probably could not appreciate it as such.
In a series of ventures he had made near one hundred thousand dollars; but he was caught with twelve or fifteen thousand hogs, in the shipping pens, on line of the railroad. by one of those terrific winter storms occasionally experienced in the West; wherein men and animals freeze to death in great numbers. His hogs froze to death by the thousand, and for weeks the Railroad Company was unable to put through a train of any description. This unforeseen disaster swept away his former profits, even more rapidly than they had been acquired. When the storm abated and the weather had moderated the frozen animals were disposed of, realizing but a trifle compared with their cost.
After spending a few months in sour, blue meditations, in which he took a careful and accurate reckoning of his whereabouts, condition, and standing in the business world, and the causes that had most contributed thereto, he resolved to make a change of base, and at the same time leave behind him the dissolute reckless habits that had contributed so surely to his downfall and ruin. Accordingly he gathered his meagre effects, and crossing the Missouri river, set his face toward the capital of Kansas, near which he has ever since made his home. Soon after arriving in Kansas he was most fortunate in obtaining the co-operation of a stock-man who had credit and means. In a short time he began to make himself known in the State of his adoption, by his live stock operations. However, not so much on a line of shipping and speculation, as in his Missouri operations; but more on a basis of legitimate business transactions.
Soon he began to form the nucleus of a herd of thoroughbred short-horn cattle. This herd he has steadily increased by purchase and breeding, until it holds rank as the largest and best in the State, and has repeatedly taken many first premiums at Kansas State Fairs, as well as at various other competitive exhibitions. As a successful breeder of fine pure blood cattle, he has shown great skill and good judgment, and that peculiar fitness or adaptation to the business; that keen sense of fine points and good qualities so necessary to a successful breeder. All admit and accord him merited success. His herd became so large, that a public sale during the summer of 1873 was determined upon, and such as could be spared were sold, also a number of graded animals. The venture of a public sale of thoroughbred cattle in Kansas had never before been made, and was regarded extra hazardous by many, but the result of this one proved, that new as is the State, and poor as are most of her citizens, yet there is money to pay for, and appreciation of fine stock. The gross amount of the two day's sale, aggregated over $24,000. Single animals sold for over one thousand dollars. So great and growing is the demand for blooded bulls to place upon cattle ranches, with Texan and Indian cows, that the business of producing the full bloods and grades, is becoming very large and lucrative. In the foremost rank of breeders, Mr. Wilson has established a reputation and a herd second to none in the West. After securing a long lease upon one of the largest and best improved farms, of two thousand acres, in Central Kansas, he has spent many thousand dollars in erecting improvements, such as pastures, yards and barns, for the complete protection and care of his thoroughbred cattle. He purposes in the future to make his the largest and best herd of cattle in the West, and to furnish annually large numbers of grade bulls to ranchmen. This line of business will in the future be profitable and pleasant, and in pursuit of it a man can confer great benefits upon humanity, besides securing lasting fame and fortune.
This branch of business, although large and important, is but a fraction of Wilson's interests. From his first entrance into Kansas, he has been interested in large live stock operations, principally stall-feed big, wintering grazing and fatting cattle, both native and Texan.
Notwithstanding the great financial embarrassments under which he entered the State, he has ever had the good fortune to meet with men of credit and means, who have stood by and sustained him in carrying to successful issue, many large operations; and it matters not what the fate of any one, who is interested with him may be, so soon as he steps aside, another comes forward to tender his aid. Thus it has ever been, so that each year has only witnessed larger and larger operations, until long since he has been accorded the position of Kansas' heaviest feeder. During the winters of 1872 and 1873, he "roughed" about five thousand head of Texan cattle through the winter, and fatted them the following summer on grass. Not content with the magnitude of this operation, the following fall season he formed new business alliances, and bought seven thousand five hundred head of Texan cattle at panic prices, and put them into winter quarters near Topeka. His chosen method of handling Texan cattle is to winter them principally upon corn-stalk fields, which he buys in great abundance at low prices, usually from twenty to fifty cents per acre, after the corn has been gathered therefrom. Upon these fields the cattle are turned in herds of one to five hundred head. As soon as one field is depastured, another is provided, so that the labor of feeding or care for the stock is small and light. When the approach of spring is near, it is found to be good practice to feed corn for several weeks, so as to strengthen up the stock and start it to improving in flesh and heart, so that when the new grass comes in the spring the cattle fatten rapidly and without delay or loss from death, as is often the case when the animal is weak and poor in flesh. This style, or manner of wintering cattle, is called "Roughing," and the feeding of corn in the spring is termed "Warming up." It is one of the most successful and profitable methods of handling Texan cattle. Inasmuch as little or no loss by death ever occurs, it is economical -- especially when the corn crop of the region has been good and, as a natural result, the stock fields abundant, good and cheap. It Is claimed that by roughing through the winter, the cattle can be made fat upon grass at an earlier date, and be ready to go to an earlier and better market than by any other method of wintering.
In Central Kansas by far the larger portion of the corn crops are harvested by husking, or snapping the corn from the stalk, leaving the immatured ears and nubbins on the stalks with the fodder. These make good feed for the stock steer upon which he thrives nicely, so long as he is able to get sufficient thereof. When spring comes and the natural grasses become abundant, the cattle are taken from their winter quarters and, in herds of five hundred or less, are herded until fat, which requires from two to five months time. Cows and young cattle get fat much quicker than aged steers. A great gain both in weight and value is thus secured.
But many feeders prefer to full feed their cattle with corn, and make them fat by the opening of spring, when beef is scarcest, and hence commands the highest prices.
There are few methods of handling cattle Mr. Wilson has not tried, in all of which he has won the name of being an able, efficient cattle man, and a good feeder. As a man, he has few equals in energy and natural resources. Indeed it has been said that it was impossible to conceive a difficult situation, or complicated or adverse circumstance, which he could not surmount, and from which he could not extricate himself, and always to his own advantage. His business principle seems to be, that the end justifies the means, hence he is not over scrupulous as to the means adopted or resorted to, in order to compass his purposes. He is shrewd, deep, cunning and unlimited in natural resources and expedients; abundantly calculated to take care of himself, and to make his own way through the world; is entirely honorable in meeting and paying his written obligations, but his verbal agreements are held at his pleasure. Nevertheless he has unlimited energy, liberal ideas. and comprehensive plans, and is capable of undertaking and carrying to a successful issue, large business transactions, and seldom fails to bend everything, and everybody to his own purposes, and thereby further his own schemes. There are in Kansas few better judges of live stock than he, and none will outstrip him in the race for fortune and honorable distinction in business.