STOCK RANCHING IN THE WEST -- WYOMING, NORTHEASTERN COLORADO, AND NORTHWESTERN KANSAS -- SELECTING A LOCATION AND ESTABLISHING A STOCK RANCH -- J. P. FARMER -- JOHN HITTSON -- A GRAND "ROUNDUP" -- COLORADO STOCK-GROWERS' ASSOCIATION -- J. L. BAILY -- THE NARROW GAUGE -- THE K. P. RAILWAY -- TEXAN CATTLE DEPOT -- VICTORIA COLONY -- W. K. SHAEFFER.
The business of breeding and handling live-stock in the west is one of deep interest. Most young men, no matter where living or what doing, think and feel that if they were west engaged in the live-stock business, they would wake up some fine morning to find themselves wealthy. Just how it would be accomplished they scarcely know, but nevertheless that such would be their happy lot they have a profound confidence. How the business is conducted they do not know, yet are anxious to learn. If by perusal of this volume their information is increased, or corrected, a part of its objects will have been accomplished.
Cattle or sheep ranching in the west does not differ materially in manner from the same vocation in Texas.
There is an immense belt of country along the Rocky mountains and extending eastward about four hundred miles, with a length of near two thousand miles which, from its character, climate, and comparatively rainless seasons, is pre-eminently adapted to sheep husbandry and the breeding of cattle. This vast area is covered with a fine species of grass known as buffalo grass, which is equally nutritious in winter as in summer. Either cattle or sheep not only live well but fatten fast so long as they can get an abundance of buffalo grass. No matter how cold the air may be, so warming and nutritious is this grass at all seasons of the year, that cattle or sheep do not care for hay or other feed in winter.
Running from the mountains eastward are various small streams of water which falling together form rivers whose numerous tributaries from either side, water and drain the whole country sufficiently for stock purposes. Numerous rivers, such as the Republican, Saline, Solomon and Smoky Hill rise in the midst of the plains, many miles east of the mountains, upon whose tributaries many eligible locations for extensive live-stock ranches can be found.
The great Platte river has unlimited stock country tributary to, and drained by it. The North Platte, or black hill country of Wyoming is excellent for cattle and famous for its nutritious bunch grasses, which are unexcelled for stock purposes.
The Territory of Colorado has a deserved fame as a stock country, to which it would be difficult to add. Within her bounds are forty thousand square miles of grazing lands -- lands that are well fitted for grazing, and fitted for nothing else -- lands that cannot be irrigated or made available for agricultural purposes--lands upon which grows the rich buffalo grass, covering its entire surface like a soft velvety carpet. Many extensive live-stock men from all parts have been attracted to her border. Within her limits can be found immense castle end sheep enterprises in successful operation. Some of the largest operators in cattle are from Texas.
But just what a man may expect to do and endure if he attempts to establish a live-stock ranch, especially if his capital is limited, may be of interest to the reader whose eye and mind is upon the west with thoughts of making it his home, and the business of live-stock growing his vocation.
It may be assumed that he has not only decided to go west but is already there and in the act of locating a stock ranch. His first care will be to select a location that has living or running water, as much timber and other shelter as possible, with a large tract of unsettled and untillable country surrounding it. It is important to choose such a location, that when he has purchased a reasonably sized tract of land he will own all the water and tillable land in the vicinity for miles around, otherwise he may have agricultural neighbors in such near proximity as to interfere with the free ranging and grazing of his stock.
When the location is finally made one of the usually first undertakings is the construction of a place of abode, which is generally a dug-out, an institution in the construction of which little lumber and much dirt is used, and the principal tool employed is the spade. It is simply a covered excavation on the bank of some creek or ravine, resembling an outdoor cellar for the preservation of roots and vegetables. The dirt taken out in excavating the room serves to form the roof, which, is supported by rude strong pieces of timber, mere round logs or poles. The front is formed of cut sods laid up like blocks of rock, or is made of split boards or posts much after the fashion of a stockade; a flue is cut in the back wall and often terminates upward with an empty salt barrel for a chimney stem. The cooking utensils are few and primitive. The dry condition of the ground renders the dug-out entirely free from dampness, and not only warm and comfortable, but entirely healthy.
The dug-out done, the next job that would engage the attention of the new beginner, is the construction of a corral, a large, strong, rudely built affair, with a small subdivision for branding his stock, that is, his purchases, which process is called counter-branding. When the dug-out and corral are done, the ranchman brings his herd of cattle and the necessary number of cow-ponies upon the grounds, and after branding them, begins the work of getting the stock attached to and contented with its new home. But this is not a difficult task, especially if the weather is fine and feed is plenty.
But let no one delude himself with the idea that cattle ranching, either breeding and rearing, or only wintering and fatting, or handling live stock in any manner peculiar to the west, is a business wherein the poetic or sentimental aspects of life or labor abound to any alarming extent. Indeed, it is a life and business which, aside from its phase of independent freedom, has few other aspects than those of diligent labor; watchfulness, care, and risk, combined with great self-denial, privations and lonely hardships. He must be the servant of his herds, to attend to and provide for their every want. When the weather is stormiest, and a comfortable seat in a snug corner by a warm fire would be most congenial to feelings, and perchance health also, then is the very time the would be successful ranchman must be out with his herds and to them give double ordinary attention with extra feed and shelter. Any one can attend live stock in fine weather, when the sun shines out mild and warm, and the stock can and will feed and care for itself; but when the cold, driving storm sweeps across the plains piercing the animal world by its chilling blasts, then is when it requires the "man to the manor born," or one adapted, by nature, and stimulated by a love of the vocation.
A man must have a natural adaptation and taste for the business and the life, to succeed. It is not a vocation wherein starched shirts, fashionable cut broadcloth, polished boots, faultless set mustache, or latest style of hair-dressing, will flourish or scarce be in order for a single day. But long-legged stogy boots, huge spurs, strong corduroy pants, a thick colored woolen shirt, a leather belt around the waist, no suspenders, a Sombrero, or other broad-brimmed hat, a soldier overcoat, and a pair of heavy blankets constitute the make up, the necessary habiliments, the usual personal outfit of the practical ranchman, or cow-boy.
And the daily fare, almost of necessity, is meagre, and of the commonest varieties of food, cooked in the simplest style of the art, usually by one of the men who knows but little about culinary matters, and is not over anxious to learn more than he already knows, be that ever so little. However death from dyspepsia is never feared by the ranchman, for his daily labor and exercise give him a sharp appetite and a vigorous digestion.
If a young, energetic man, one who desires to make a name and a fortune for himself, and to be one among the substantial men of the new and great west, can make up his mind to endure the privations, hardships, and lonely life of labor and exposure, incident to a ranchman's life, there are great opportunities offered and to be had for the taking in the broad free west. Lands are cheap, the climate mild, the natural advantages good and great. The stock with which to begin is abundant and at reasonable prices. The process and means of improvement in blood as well as in numbers, are at hand. The plainest and best of results invariably attend every effort made in crossing Durham bulls with Texan heifers and cows. An improved animal is obtained of nearly or quite double the value of the Texan. As a paying, reliable, certain occupation, there is none that is more so than stock-ranching; but it requires time, labor, patience, energy, grit, and perseverance, to make the beginning, and to carry it through to profitable fruition. But there are few vocations in any new country, or old one for that matter, that does not require the existence and exercise of the same qualities in order to achieve success. When it is remembered that annually more than two hundred millions dollars changes hands for live-stock for purposes of consumption alone, it must be potent that the production of the live-stock is a staple, money-making business, full as much so as is the production of cotton.
That the reader may have a glance at the appearance of some of the sturdy men who have made a success of stock-ranching in Colorado, the portraits of Mr. J. P. Farmer and others, with illustrations, are presented.
Mr. Farmer is a son of the Emerald Isle from whence he emigrated at an early age, and after attaining years of manhood, he went to Colorado in 1861, and established a stock ranch on the Bijou, a small tributary of the South Platte, near which the K. P. Railway has established a station of the same name. His herd of cattle was very small at the beginning and was Texan stock. Indeed it may truthfully be said that he began at the foot of the ladder and by industry, perseverance and determined labor, climbed up round by round to a substantial annual income and a competence that might with propriety be desired by any one This he has attained by energetic application to business, closely studying the situation and by taking advantage of the great opportunities afforded in the new west. He gives his stock business close personal attention, and constantly labors to render his herds more numerous and valuable. He now owns a tract of six hundred and forty acres of land, covering all the water in the west Bijou, upon which and adjoining lands he keeps a herd of stock of twenty-seven hundred head of cattle and fifty head of horses. Of his cattle one thousand are steers of three years of age. Of the remaining seventeen hundred head of cows and stock cattle, the half are grades or half breeds; that is, a cross between Texan cows and Durham bulls. Mr. Farmer regards Colorado not only a good cattle country but as par excellence a good horse country. He takes great pride and pains with his horses, of which he has many good strains of blood. He keeps superior blooded stallions as well as good grade bulls. It is his constant effort to improve his stock in blood as well as numbers. He feeds neither cattle or horses, except his saddle ponies, which are used in looking after the stock. He does not herd his cattle but designates certain bounds within which the employees permit the stock to range at will. This manner of holding stock is termed "outriding" the country.
Mr. Farmer has put upon the Kansas City market some of the fattest grass fed cattle that has ever entered that mart, for which he obtained the highest market prices. He is a solid, matter of fact, every day style man--one who has fine business judgment, and takes great delight in his live-stock --one who has laid the foundation wall of a substantial fortune, the full realization of which will be his at no distant day. He is among that class of self reliant, hardy ranchmen that have done much to develope and demonstrate Colorado's superior facilities and advantages as a stock-growing country, and by his faithful persistence and enterprise, won and merited golden success.
But perhaps no live-stock man in northern Colorado is so widely known as John Hittson, who went from Tennessee, the State of his birth, to Texas, and settled in the county of Pilo Pinto, on the frontier. He located a stock ranch and began in a small way to gather the nucleus of a stock of cattle which at one time reached the number of one hundred thousand head. His brand was put upon eight thousand calves in the year 1873, but the Indians continuing exceedingly troublesome, he sold out a part of his stock and his ranch, and proposes to make his home in Colorado. At the close of the civil war he began driving largely to Colorado, where he has annually marketed about eight thousand head of cattle. In sending his herds from Texas to Colorado direct, the Pecos trail, which runs through New Mexico and crosses the Arkansas river not a great distance below Pueblo, is traveled, instead of the trail via western Kansas. In order to facilitate his immense trade, he purchased a ranch on the middle Bijou, known as the six spring ranch, which is located at a very eligible point for extensive live stock operations, and is near Deer Trail Station on the K. P. Railway. It was only necessary to own one-half section of land in order to possess all the water existing for many miles in all directions. Upon this tract of land are temporary buildings, corrals, etc.; but it is his purpose to place thereon a good class of improvements mm at an early day, and to make it his permanent home instead of a mere trading post as heretofore. During the year 1873, eleven thousand cattle were driven from Texas and placed upon the ranch to be followed by about twenty thousand more the succeeding year, and when fitted and stocked up according to his plans, it will be one of the best and largest stock ranches in Colorado, if not in the West.
As has been stated, Mr. Hittson is one of the most widely known stock men, both in Texas and the west. He is a man of commanding appearance and great experience--a man who has lived long on the frontiers and has acquired habits of bold self reliance. He was largely instrumental in breaking up the predatory thieving incursions from New Mexico which had become so intolerably frequent in western Texas. Wit a party of men, and armed with authority from the Governor of Texas, he went into New Mexico, and recaptured many thousands of stolen cattle and drove them to Colorado, where they were disposed of for the benefit of the original owners. He is a man of great energy and determination, and one altogether capable of taking care of himself in any country, and in a land that abounds with opportunities will make money fast, which, when made, he will freely spend for the benefit of his friends. Few men are better calculated to open up and develop a new country than he, and yet there are few men engaged in the live-stock business more social, jovial and hospitable than John Hittson. Like other extensive Colorado ranchmen, he outrides the country instead of close herding his stock. Of course occasionally a small squad of cattle will escape or stray beyond the designated bounds whose trail escapes the vigilant eye and Indian cunning and proficiency of the herdsman or outrider. The stock will not wander far before it finds such place as will tempt it to stop if it is not met and turned into some neighbor's range. In many instances when great storms occur, as is sometimes the case, the stock will be driven from its proper location and scattered over a vast scope of country and hopelessly mingled with neighboring cattle which have been scattered by the same causes. In such cases little or no effort is made to regather them before spring, when by concerted efforts of all parties interested, a general round-up is made. This accomplished each ranchman cuts out all bearing his own brand and returns them to his ranch.
When one section of country has been thoroughly overhauled and the cattle gathered and sent to their proper ranges, another section is surrounded and another round-up is made, and so on until the whole country has been thoroughly searched. By this means a great amount of labor and much hard riding is saved, for a single animal or small number thereof is hard to drive without much racing which, of course, fast uses up the cow ponies.
Perhaps in no State or Territory in the Union are the stock men so wide awake to their interests, or so completely organized, as in Colorado, where there now exists the leading State or Territorial organization of stock-growers, the President of which Association is Joseph L. Bailey, of Denver. The Secretary, by whose exertions more than that of any other man, the association was formed, and is kept alive and in effective beneficial working order, is William Holley, of Denver, a man of fine energy and abilities, and one who takes special delight in performing all the duties and kind offices which his position or opportunities place within his power. He has rendered great services to the live stock men and their interests in Colorado, and deserves well at their hand. The Association and the live stock men's interest are largely promoted and benefitted by the Colorado Farmer, and also the Colorado Agriculturist and Stock Journal, two neat enterprising weeklies, published in Denver.
The President of the Stock Growers' Association, J. L. Bailey, is one of the recognized leading stock men of the Territory, in whom all stock dealers have the most explicit confidence. It is at his office that you can see in a brief time every stock man in Northern Colorado. For a visit to Denver without seeing and exchanging items with Mr. Bailey, is not to be thought of, much less practiced, by any stock-grower. In 1865 he established a number of corrals and named the place "Bull's Head," and it is there that the largest live-stock market of the Territory exists. There the various railroads centering in Denver receive and deliver their live freights. By fair dealing, and close attention to business, he has gained the patronage and confidence of his fellowman in a marked degree, and has acquired a substantial fortune. He has held various positions of credit and trust, and regards the live stock interests of the Territory as paramount to all others.
Mr. Bailey hails from Philadelphia, and after spending a few years in Kansas went to Colorado, and was one of the pioneers of that rapidly developing and marvelous Territory. Personally, he is an affable, courteous gentleman of great business energy and activity, whose fortune is pleasant to contemplate. He has ever been closely identified with the history of Denver, and is regarded on all hands as one of her most substantial, worthy citizens, and has from the first organization of the Stock Growers' Association held the position of President thereof.
Colorado abounds with many unoccupied locations for stock ranches; many millions of acres of its grazing lands are still untrod save by the migratory buffalo. Within its borders may be found locations for vast herds of common cattle and sheep. Eligible situations abound in great numbers for fancy or fine stock breeding. Along the base of the mountains from whence comes rivulets of pure cold water, are many picturesque locations admirably adapted for thoroughbred stock ranches, where one could spend life in daily view of craggy peaks and beneath the shadow of lofty pines. It is more than worth the price of a ride over the Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad to behold not only the grand scenery, but also the beautiful lovely landscapes through which the road passes. Certainly no road in the United States passes through and near so many desirable situations, and what will astonish the beholder still more, that comparatively so few are occupied.
Of all the delightsome locations in bewildering profusion seen on the American Continent, none will excel those found along the line of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, which speeds along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, from Denver to Pueblo, and destined soon to reach the Rio Grande River, if not the City of Mexico.
To the amateur live stock man, the breeder of thoroughbred stock, the country along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, presents the most desirable, charming location, no only for the business itself but for beautiful, romantic, healthy homes, also.
Colorado for a Territory is well supplied with Railroads. The principle one of which is the Kansas Pacific. It was the first line built and the first one to do a large traffic in live stock freights. Under the present practical management, which is the antipode of its predecessor, the live stock traffic is great and flourishing. From the beginning of their administration dates a new and better era in the live stock affairs of that line; an era when a live stock man was recognized as having rights which a railroad company might, with profit and propriety, respect; an era when a business man is regarded other than legitimate prey, to be ruthlessly crushed and his substance devoured.
A Railroad official is, in a certain sense, a public servant, and as such is generally well paid for his services, and when he has done well his whole duty, does not merit particular commendation on that account. Nevertheless, it should be recorded that the present practical management and operation of the K. P. Railway is a decided improvement upon the former. This company has other minor lines leased, the most important of which is the line from Cheyenne to Denver, beginning in and passing through a fine stock country; and the line lately constructed from Carson to Las Animas on the Arkansas River. This also begins in and passes through a fine stock country. Further east it has other short branch lines, all of which contribute largely to increase the business of the main line, especially in live stock freights.
The main line passes for near four hundred miles through what may be truthfully termed a live stock growing country, if not such exclusively. Upon either side of this line for an indefinite distance, most suitable if not superior locations for live stock ranches can be found. Locations with nice running water, timber in limited supply besides other natural shelter, and grazing in unlimited abundance are to be had for the taking and occupancy.
In the more easterly portion of the live stock belts, and within the State of Kansas, the creek and river valleys afford great abundance of blue stem natural grasses, furnishing an unlimited supply of hay. Those regions will be preferred by many, as affording the means to provide against the contingencies of storms that may occur during the winter seasons.
It is upon this belt the railway company have established, at a point west of Fort Harker and distant over two hundred miles west of Kansas City, its shipping depot for Texan Cattle, and here annually many thousands are driven, and if not sold to go otherwheres, are, after being grazed a few months, shipped eastward. The line enjoys the advantage of being the only one reaching out into the buffalo grass regions and terminating, without change, at Kansas City. The grazing facilities along the line of this road are very good and great, and so are the facilities of the company for transporting live stock. No pains are spared to accommodate an immense live stock commerce, both from Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.
The cattle from Colorado and New Mexico going east on this line are provided with a comfortable resting yard at Ellis, midway distant between Denver and Kansas City.
There the cattle are rested, watered and either fed hay or grazed on the buffalo grass, as the shipper may elect. The run from there to Kansas City is easy and two-thirds of the distance is down a nearly level valley devoid of grades and sharp curves.
The country for two hundred miles west of Kansas City along the line of the K. P. Railway, is adapted to agriculture and mixed husbandry, and better adapted to raising grain and fatting live stock than to its exclusive growing. The next of third hundred miles west comprises some fine stock country, as well as occasional good sections or belts of farming lands. Within that area and along the line of the railway, extensive schemes for colonization and settlement of the country are on foot. As such none are more worthy of note, both from magnitude of design, extent of country embraced, and liberality of plan, than that known as Victoria Colony, the center and headquarters of which is Victoria Station on the K. P. Railway. The originator and promoter of this enterprise is Gen. Grant, Esq., a retired London (England) merchant, and a Scottish gentleman of reputed substantial wealth. He has purchase of the railway company the odd numbered sections of a tract of land twenty miles in width by twenty-five in length, each section containing six hundred and forty acres of land. The even numbered sections belong to the government and were subject to homestead and pre-emption. This tract of land is finely watered, sparsely timbered, and is covered with a vigorous growth of buffalo grass upon the up or rolling lands, and an abundant supply of natural hay on the broad rich valleys found along all streams in Kansas. A vigorous little river named the same as the Colony, runs from west to east through the entire length of the tract, and frequent tributary creeks put in from either side, thus affording good drainage and an abundant supply of living stock water. The soil of both valley and upland is good, rich and deep, and will produce all the cereals common to the latitude. The tract of land taken as a whole is exceedingly valuable, especially for the purposes of live stock and wool production. The uplands are gentle, undulating, and the valleys smooth and wide. The timber, which is abundant for that portion of the State, is good for fuel and the construction of temporary buildings only. It is also ample to shelter as much stock as would depasture the lands. It would be difficult to find in the State, noted for fine appearing lands, a more beautiful and withal naturally valuable tract of lands than those of Victoria Colony. It is unquestionably a healthy country -- no malarial diseases prevail -- indeed no swamps or pools of stagnant water exist. The winters are mild, the climate temperate and sunny. The tract of land lies on either side of the railway, which company is disposed to extend every facility to encourage and aid the enterprise.
Although the soil is ample for the production of all needed grains and vegetables, yet it is evident upon reflection, that the growing of cattle and horses as well as sheep and wool, will yield the greater profit. This is evident for various reasons, among which might be mentioned its distance from market, the uncertainty of rainfall, which is always ample but often occurs at such times of the year as prove too late to save the crops of grain, especially corn, from drouth; although wheat, oats, rye, barley, millet and hungarian grass can be grown with a reasonable certainty every year. Again, the lands are already well and closely set with buffalo grass on the uplands, and blue stem grass in the valleys, and stock can be kept in good condition of flesh during the entire year with but little greater expense than that herding.Cattle can be cared for the entire year, when held in moderate sized herds, for two dollars per head per year, and sheep in proportion. Indeed the State of Kansas offers no finer location for profitable, easy and abundant production of mutton and wool, than at Victoria. The dry nature of the soil, its freedom from mud and standing water, the purity and dryness of the atmosphere, the excellence and adaptableness of the buffalo grass to the wants and nature of the sheep, both in winter and summer, all conspire to make it pre-eminently a sheep and wool growing country unsurpassed. Horses and mules can be easily and profitably raised at an annual expense scarce above that of cattle.
It is believed that the man who gives his exclusive attention to live stock, and particularly sheep, will grow rich much quicker than he who devotes his exclusive attention to farming; of this there can be no intelligent question. Although an energetic agriculturist will soon make himself comfortable and above want by tilling the soil.
The purchase of Victoria Colony Lands has been consummated scarce more than a year, yet their proprietor has made commendable progress in preparation for extended experiments with all kinds of live, stock. To this end he has imported many thoroughbred sheep, cattle, horses, and hogs, besides buying largely of superior blooded animals both in Canada and the United States, with which he is placing Texan heifers and proposes to place Mexican ewes and native mares.
Among the rare noticeable importations are a number of black hornless bulls of pure Galloway blood, which have all the beef qualities of the durham, maturing fully as early, and possessing in addition habits of industry, and are extremely hardy and thrifty. They are expected to prove a valuable acquisition to stock growers on the plains. Among his extensive importations of thoroughbred sheep are some remarkably fine specimens of Shropshires, Leicester and Lincolnshires. The latter are very superior and of great promise in the future. Besides the above he has put upon Victoria Lands, several thousand sheep of common or native blood, and proposes to test thoroughly, the adaptation of the locality for wool and mutton growing.
No intelligent man at all cognizant of the situation, doubts for a moment, the successful issue of the experiment. It requires no great tax of the imagination to forecast the situation of affairs at Victoria Colony half a score of years hence, when the lines of industry as well as the kinds of stock, that experiments now being made will have proven to be the most lucrative and best adapted to the locality, shall have been pushed into the highest development, the situation will admit of, which will in no respect be inferior to that of any other point or section.
It is easy to foresee that a happy, prosperous people, rejoicing in their new homes, abounding with all comforts and many luxuries of life, will in future time gratefully remember the man through whose munificence and enterprise they were induced and enabled to enter Victoria Colony. Mr. Grant has undertaken a laudable, and in a certain sense, a benevolent enterprise, one in which great permanent good can, and doubtless will, be done many of his countrymen who through his aid and encouragement will be assisted and directed to a land in which a home of their own and manly independence can be attained in a goodly country beneath a temperate, healthy clime, where the most ordinary economy and industry will bring the fatness of "a land of milk and honey." It is no mere land speculation upon his part, although his own interests are not lost sight of, but it is an honest commendable effort to so invest, and use a large capital in such a manner as will confer substantial lasting benefits upon a large number of worthy, enterprising persons who unaided could never raise themselves above positions of dependence, much less to the ownership of lands and homes of their own. No young able-bodied Briton who has energy and ambition to do something worthy and good for himself can fail to better his condition materially by joining Victoria Colony. Its founder is animated by high motives and with his great wealth is prepared and willing to do a great good work for a large number of his countrymen. He is like many of his own isle, a lover of finely bred live stock. He demonstrates by his liberal purchases of elegant thoroughbreds in this country and Canada, as well as by his importations of superior animals, his entire willingness, his earnest purpose, to enable his colonists to have the advantage and benefit of the best obtainable strains of blood, and all this, too, at little or no expense to the colonists It is his purpose to substantially aid all deserving colonists to establish flocks and herds of their own at an early day. Certainly no greater advantages, in fact none half so great, has ever been offered the sturdy Briton to seek and establish a home of his own beneath a sunny sky upon the richest of lands, where obstacles are so few, the advantages so great, the aid so substantial, and so easily obtained, as are offered in Victoria Colony. Its founder and proprietor is a shrewd business man and knows what he is doing, and although the remainder of his life might have been spent in ease and luxury without knowing an unsupplied want, yet he prefers to use his fortune in developing an enterprise the intent and inevitable result of which cannot be other than substantial benefit to all who choose to avail themselves of his magnificent scheme and investment in Kansas lands.
Mr. Geo. Grant is a quiet, retiring, dignified gentleman, whose kind, hospitable manner inspires one alike with respect and confidence. But a few brief hours in his presence will suffice to impress one with his courteous manhood and his keen appreciation of the really good and deserving, as well as how completely his heart is rapt up in the welfare and success of his colony.
The belt of country in which Victoria Colony is located, is for a hundred miles in width from east to west, and stretching across the State of Kansas, regarded as unsurpassed for stock purposes, and has attracted some of the shrewdest and closest observing ranchmen from all sections of the Union, even from far famed California. Among whom is Mr. Shaeffer, who at the full years of manhood went from Ohio, his native State, to California. After successfully trying his fortune at mining, packing or freighting, he finally settled down and established a live stock ranch in Northern California. But after a brief time he began driving live stock to Idaho, also to Nevada, which he followed with success for four years; then after operating in quartz mines for a short time, he turned his face eastward, after spending nineteen years on the Pacific slope, and selected central Kansas as a desirable place where he could engage in his favorite vocation--that of stock ranching. However, before he made a final location, he went to Texas, and from that State drove a large herd of cattle via. the Staked Plains, Ft. Sumner, Ft. Union, and the Ratton Mountains to Nevada, where after a lapse of eighteen months from the day he started after the herd, he sold it at $52, gold, per head. Of course this operation made money -- his ventures always do, for he directs his affairs with consummate skill, and is seldom at fault in judgment about when, where, and how to plan, begin and execute a speculation, or live stock operation. Indeed he is often termed by the unobserving and unthinking, the lucky operator. At all events, success seems to crown his every move. He seldom fails to make money upon everything he handles.
After looking over and experimenting in various parts of central Kansas, he selected and purchased a location and established his ranch. It is a tract of about four thousand acres of land, situated upon the Saline river, and one or more of its tributaries. Here he has running salt, and fresh water, besides divers springs affording an unfreezing supply of water. Timber and abrupt bluff lands constituting shelter in abundance. Upon the Valley lands of his purchase an unlimited amount of hay can be annually put up, costing only the cutting and labor of saving it. But upon the uplands the buffalo grass abounds in the greatest profusion and of the most luxuriant growth.
Upon this ranch he annually winters about twenty-five hundred head of cattle, and keeps about forty head of ponies, which he uses for saddle purposes. The cattle are fed nothing other than the buffalo grass, unless it is when a protracted storm occurs, and then hay is given them, often only to be tossed about and played with, instead of eaten. So long as the stock can get the half of a supply of buffalo grass, although they may have to root in the deep snow to get it, they care but little for hay be it ever so good an article thereof. Of the horses none are fed grain, save those that are under the saddle daily.
For location and all essential conditions and surroundings, Mr. Shaeffer's ranch is a model, unexcelled for extensive stock handling. He does not put forth any effort to raise cattle or horses, but buys fresh driven Texan cattle every season, and after wintering, grazes them the following summer upon the range, of which there is an immense supply, until fat, then they are sold and the operation repeated. In this line of business he has been successful, and has made no losses, for his plan takes little or no risks, and by purchasing his cattle when they are thin, and consequently very cheap, he cannot but make a profit by increasing their flesh and condition, then selecting a propitious time to place them upon the market, he never fails to get remunerative prices; often very profitable sales are made. He estimates by actual expense accounts kept, that it does not cost him above two dollars per head, actual outlay, to winter a bullock and fat it fit for the New York Market. It is easy to compute the transaction. If he buys, say, 2500 head of fresh-driven Texan cattle at two cents per pound or $20 per head, they amount to $50,000; to this add $2 per head expense of holding, or $5,000; also add $10,000 interest on money invested; then allow $2,500 for supplies in camp, loss and incidental expenses. The fatted herd has cost $67,500, but it is worth three cents per pound and will weigh 1250 lbs. on an average, and bring $37.50 per head, making a total, for the herd, of $93,750, a net gain of $26,250; or something near fifty per cent. on the capital invested. It is safe to count on receiving one cent per pound gross advance on purchase price, when the cattle are made fat. Texan cattle of proper age become very fat upon the natural grasses of central Kansas, especially after having been wintered. He keeps four men at an expense of twenty-five dollars per month wages, board not included, who are sufficient to attend twenty-five hundred cattle for the stock is neither herded or lotted, but simply kept within bounds by outriding the country, and the time is brief before the stock becomes contented and "homed to the locality and lose all disposition to ramble or stray off. Stock held in this manner does far better than if close herded and confined nightly in corrals. Mr. Shaeffer is a man of superior judgment on all matters pertaining to live stock operations and is a man of convivial jovial habits, one whom success does not elate; one who has many warm friends among stock men. Who does not if but fortunate in his operations and the name of successful is bestowed upon him?
One set of yards and one market. There are, undoubtedly, .....
It is a proposition upon which cattle feeders differ whether it is most profitable to full feed Texan cattle on grain or ''rough them through," or "range" them upon the plains during winter and fat on the grass the succeeding summer.
The advocates of each method can offer substantial, and to their own minds, conclusive reasons in support of their favorite method.
We apprehend that locality is the key to the correct solution of the problem.
Very profitable operations are made corn-feeding Texan cattle, when the feeder is a practical man and thoroughly understands his business, and gives it his daily attention. Such a cattle feeder is George Groves of Williamsville, Illinois.
At Chicago, Illinois, is the largest and most complete live stock market in the Union. It is an unanswerable argument in favor of union and concentrated effort, whereby three quarters of a million of cattle and nearly five million hogs with other live stock in proportion, are annually brought into great advantages, both to buyer and seller, gained by this concentration. Perhaps at no other point in the United States are so many commission merchants located as at Chicago. Many of them do almost a fabulous business in the aggregate, and most of them are good live stock men of excellent judgment, and well adapted to the business in which they are engaged. In some cases they are of the most substantial cattle men of the country--feeders, grazers, traders, and shippers. Of such is Mr. Groves, senior of the firm of Groves Brothers, who is known in central Illinois as a large land owner, a successful farmer, an excellent feeder, and a genuine good cattle man. He is a native of Pennsylvania, but came with his father to central Illinois at the age of fourteen. This occurred in the year 1836, when that State was comparatively new and lands therein cheap. He early saw and believed in the future value of the rich soil of those regions, and spared no honorable effort to acquire a goodly number of broad fertile acres, which he owns at the present time. He began life poor and worked himself gradually into the possession of a princely estate. From his earliest manhood he has been engaged in handling live stock--seldom shipping, but annually feeding, often several herds, or lots of cattle and hogs. His reputation as a superior and successful feeder, is unexcelled, especially as a feeder of Texan cattle. Some of the finest and best fatted corn-fed Texan cattle that were ever received at Chicago, were from his farm. Few men understand handling and feeding that class of stock better than he. Indeed, no one will excel him as a judge of that class of stock.
In the fall of 1872, he decided to go to Chicago and establish a commission house for the sale of live stock, greatly to the pleasing of his many friends, and to the cattle dealers of central Illinois, to whom he is well known. As a man, he is plain, old-fashioned, matter of fact in style, and possesses a cool, correct judgment, with unquestioned integrity of character; besides, he is substantial, reliable, brimful of "stock sense," and altogether responsible. He bids fair, at no distant day, to rank among the most successful of Chicago's live stock men.